High School Students Express Excitement Over Digital Domain Institute
“I think tomorrow’s post on my blog is going to make some jaws drop.”
That’s what I said on twitter when I was sent the audio for my post on Paying To Work For Free. There’s been a huge reaction:
As animation education programs proliferate around the United States and competition intensifies for a finite number of jobs, studios find themselves in a position to exploit young artists more aggressively than ever before.
Calls in to the Florida Department of Education haven’t been returned yet. One can guess there are loopholes that are being exploited there as well. The FLSA documents seems to claim that in order for DDI to be compliant, all they have to do is pay their students minimum wage and overtime. Is that enough?
It’s making people angry, and we’re going to talk some more about it after you’ve read the piece.
If this is true, it’s disgusting. It’s outright exploitation but the saddest thing of all is that kids will be queuing up to apply. If you’re good enough to be working on a feature, you’re good enough to be getting paid. Paying someone in addition to earning them money is morally indefensible.
Newsflash: this happens all over the world.
And it happens not only because of unscrupulous companies, but also because of people who allow themselves to be exploited. There have been so many threads on this exact same subject here before – do we really need another one?
Um yeah I think we need quite a few more of these if you ask me.
Speaking of which there are a few things I came across:
Can A Trade Organization Stop This?
As you know I’m for the formation of both a labor union to represent VFX professionals AND a trade organization to represent VFX facilities. However many feel a VFX trade organization should be the only entity since healthier VFX facilities will lead to better labor practices.
Well at the beginning of the audio I heard a name that rang a bell: Ed Ulbrich. His name came up when I was doing some research for an unrelated post on AICP Digital: A trade organization for commercial producers which Digital Domain is a part of.
Mr. Ulbrich is the President of Digital Domain’s Commercials division and also helped form AICP Digital which one of it’s goals is to help give advice to improve labor practices. Given this information it would seem the AICP would have recommended against creating a school to get free labor.
I’m not surprised or offended that the AICP isn’t involved in preventing this. The members are in it to advance the facilities they are a part of. The same thing can be said of the VES.
It’s great to see those organizations put out memos that advise on labor practices, but lets get serious folks, not much is going to get done by these organizations that are largely run by VFX facility producers. They aren’t our enemies, and they aren’t going to be our allies in many cases either.
Can The Law Stop This?
I commend Steve Kaplan and The Animation Guild for contacting the Florida Department of Labor on this but let’s be clear: The Florida government isn’t really going to do anything about this.
Why? Well many legislators who helped win Digital Domain millions of dollars in subsidy money also receive campaign contributions from the company. Go to this website where you can search political donations. Do a search on Digital Domain, Wyndcrest (the entity that owns DD), and John Textor. What you’ll find is that many who awarded the subsidy money to DD received up to a total of $70,000 in campaign contributions in the last year. There is probably more if I took more time to search around.
This is the problem with subsidies, they allow companies to raid taxpayer funds and get around laws by giving generous kickbacks to the legislators. Do you really think politicians fell for Mr. Textor’s excuse that if he didn’t get subsidies and paid free labor that he would be forced to go to India and China?
It was just a cop out. Even after the agreement was made DD opened a facility in India and China. What’s funny was I found an older article where DD made the same argument to the state of Florida demanding subsidies or else they would have to open a facility in Vancouver instead. Campaign contributions were made, laws were changed, money was given and bam: the next week DD still goes forward with the opening of the Vancouver facility:
Ambler feared an investigation of Textor’s project would take too long and possibly risk losing the visual effects company, which Textor was threatening to move to Vancouver, Canada
“If we hadn’t interceded, Florida would have lost this transformative industry. We’ll worry about fixing the existing mechanisms later,” Ambler said.
Last week, Digital Domain announced that, even with the green light for Wyndcrest, it would open another studio in Vancouver.
But the subsidies are good! They help create jobs! No, they just allow companies to take advantage of government officials. First they come for your taxpayer money, then they come after your laws. Similar thing happened in New Zealand: