Last week Digital Domain CEO John Textor conducted an interview with FXGuide’s Mike Seymour on the DDI controversy. Here’s his email to employees. Variety’s David S. Cohen comes to his defense. The VES released a statement and it sort feels like a slap on the wrist that turns into a pat on the back.
On the other hand, The Animation Guild and Cartoon Brew both refer to the response as a basic non-apology apology: He’s sorry for what he said and while he’s clarified and back-tracked on his original intentions, he is still going forward with plans to utilize student work on production. In the end, who verifies that all of this follows labor law?
The employer that provides the training must not derive any immediate advantage from the activities of the intern
The Broken System
However the purpose of my piece was to point out the much larger problem for the VFX industry. As VFX NYC pointed out in his post, Mr. Textor acknowledges the core VFX work-for-hire system is dead and I agree.
Many attempts to try to transition out of that system without fixing the core problem have been done before. Rhythm has done co-productions. Imageworks has tried military simulation and while we all wish these are solutions, the latest attempt by DD is a bit incoherent to me.
In the interview Mr. Textor says the VFX industry is broken with jobs all going to India and China. He argues against diploma mills like Full Sail charging 100k in tuition and resulting in no jobs for graduates. Yet DDI is really no different. It’s going to charge and train students in VFX where they will graduate and apply for work in an industry that in his view will have no jobs for grads because it’s all going to India and China.
In the same interview he expresses reluctance to go to places like India because of quality issues. Other facilities owners have also agreed that chasing work to cheap locations is not the solution. Look, if the solution was going to India and China it would’ve happened long ago. At what point do we acknowledge it’s not going to India and China. It’s going to locations with huge subsidies.
He also admits that they don’t save any money from subsidies and cheap labor as the client demands it. He expressed interest in the US taking a stronger stand on trade issues. A few facility owners have expressed interest on this. Why not join forces on this lone issue and take it to the USTR?
Scott Ross had advocated for the formation of a trade organization yet it seems no one has called him back. In the interview Mr. Textor says the VES should be fixing these problems. Look if the recent events are any indication of how the VES intends to fix the industry then members need to stop giving that organization money. It’s becoming a hinderance to fixing industry problems.
People have said this industry needs leadership and I agree but it’s also missing something very simple: stewardship. You have to give Mr. Textor a lot of credit for admitting he was wrong and allowing himself to be available to questions. I think its great that Mr. Textor is offering staff positions to employees but even companies with the most successful track records like DreamWorks Animation hire on a project basis.
At the end of the day all we can do is “trust but verify”.
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