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Artist RightsBusiness

Douchey Digital Domain CEO John Textor: “Free Labor is Much Better Than Cheap Labor”

VFX Soldier has dug up its pièce de résistance: a video of Digital Domain CEO John Textor gloating about how not paying people at all is better than having to pay them even a little bit of money. It’s every animation studio executive’s wet dream come true:

  • Free labor is better than cheap labor??? And somebody must feel honored to work for these people??? Hahahahahaahahah

  • Mac

    His point is that they’re enthusiastic suckers, not depressed wage slaves clocking in and out. He’s an idiot because he’s concerned with “chasing cheap labor around the globe”, but this isn’t a long term solution to anything because it’s just going to degrade the value of the talent and no one who is talented will want to work at a studio that doesn’t pay them anything. They don’t need you to participate in a film, and they don’t value the old distribution channels. Eventually high salary and the funding to specialize and explore minute elements of the craft will be the only reason to work in a big place.

    This guy is a moron who’s studio and studio model has no future. But he’s already rich and no one can take that away from him.

    • Tak

      Globalisation of Corporate Empires is Wealth Masturbation.
      Globalisation of Society, Empathy & Thought is Human Progression.
      How long will the concept of currency last I ponder.
      Money Makes the World Squirm.

      Some anonymous internet autodidact jerk

    • someone

      [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, “It is OK to post with a nickname or alias, but your email address (which we will NEVER share publicly), must be a real, permanent email address. Comments with fake or non-permanent emails will be deleted.”]

  • This guy is so screwed. Video evidence is impossible to deny.

    • Tak

      If that’s your ethos John Textor then I’m sure you would also be thrilled if someone where to hold you down and rape you repeatedly in the @$$. Money makes the world turn John, it feeds people, clothes people, allows them to eventually buy homes & have families of their own etc.

      Why the hell are you and your fellow Fat Cats allowed to suckle at the teats of $revenue$ sourced from the labour & time expenses of others? We live in a monetary based society John, people at any level of experience or training are entitled to wages and a percentage of the gross income that their expense of time & labour helps to generate. Don’t want to pay them? Well then give them the benefit of autonomy & full-self-ownership of the work that they create while in their studies the way the higher-education system usually works. No one should ever pay for the privilege of giving or helping YOU get a Big Fat Cheque!

      I am constantly surprised how blatantly oblivious the wealthy seem to be about the core concepts of the monetary system. You guys Fffking invented the concept, remember Mr Rothschild? Pay people for their time & effort if it adds any amount of gain to your assets You over privileged over leveraging exploitative Fffks!

      On an unrelated note:…seriously America, if someone like Mitch Romney becomes your next President then you are all royally screwed… well, 99% of you are anyway. 2012 might not be the apocalypse, but it’s certainly shaping up to be catastrophic in some ways, that’s for sure.

  • Marie

    Another word for it is “slavery.” I’ve always felt that deep down, these uber-capitalists would love to return to the good ole days of paying people ZERO for their labor, as long at they’re in charge. This guy adds some validity to my suspicion.

  • People like this make me feel like a genius.

  • Someguy

    This may seem a bit like trolling, but he’s right.

    1. Free labour IS better than cheap labour.

    2. Students who work on DD films will have stronger resumes and demo reels than many others who just go to school and do their own short films and later try to get a job at these very same studios.

    3. The point of animation school for the overwhelming majority of students is to get a job at one of these studios. If they can go to school, learn and get hands-on experience, then where’s the downside?

    4. If schooling (animation specifically, but also more broadly) is essentially to prepare you for a job…excuse me a “career”, then isn’t the next logical step for employers to just cut out the middle-man and school their employees themselves? How many kids would choose a high school created by hospitals to train future surgeons? The line would form around the block and likely never stop.

    Now you might argue about the supposedly broad aims of high school, but between the standardized testing and the factory-production style that we are pushed through, it seems that school’s aims are largely to produce a homogenized population likely to obey the laws, pay taxes, and take their parents’ place as a largely docile work-force.

    Now all that aside, what is it about this model that suddenly is causing all this internet indigestion? Oh…you’re concerned about them being economically exploited?


    Few seem to mind about sweatshops in China where workers PAY to live at these compounds where their paid just above subsistence wages for the glory of churning out the ipad you’re reading this on. How many people would turn down a job at Apple over it, or an animated-commercial directing gig for Nike because of their labour standards overseas?

    Didn’t think so.

    The truth is those kids are damn lucky. Companies are merging with colleges in almost every field. These are not some shadowy associations, these are their selling points! These kids will INVEST their money into their animation vocational training and like all investors they hope that over time they will make a higher rate of return as a result.

    Does anyone complain when they buy Microsoft stocks, that Bill Gates gets richer? No, because they’re hoping to cash in on that rise in wealth through capital gain.

    I’m very curious as to what about this story has captured the internet’s imagination? Animation sweatshops in China, Korea and Singapore are presented as COMEDY and satire in Western cartoons, so what’s the difference?

    If you can say one thing about the corporate machine, its entirely fair in its treatment of those who can be exploited. It’s like a twisted vision of Martin Luther King’s Dream (entirely overrated, but that’s a whole other point), that men will be judged by their “value returned to investors” and not by the colour of their skin…or the countries of their birth.


    • Joel

      Now, John. How often have i told you to stay away from this blog :P

      • Chuck DEEZY

        Couldn’t have said it better myself….

    • Ben

      I can see some of your points. The problem is that it’s not sustainable. Where will the income come from to pay for the schooling, and privilege of working for the studio? If they aren’t paying the, and the student is incurring all expenses, how are they expected to earn a living? I suppose they are taking a gamble that they will get a well-paying animation job at another studio and hopefully repay all that debt. It’s not realistic though, especially in this industry.

      • Evan

        As much as it sounds like it is a scam, it could be realistic and sustainable. 30% may be a rough number but I would assume that this would be the dirty work, the work that you need less experienced and younger animators to do anyway. Also how many schools that you are already paying thousands of dollars for, require you to get internships for your senior year anyway? I think we should see how it works out and make a decision after.

      • Anonymous

        FYI, They’re getting a Bachelor’s degree at the finish of the program since it’s accredited through FSU. It’s not just a certificate. Bachelor’s degrees are becoming more and more worthless, but that’s still better than what even some of those fancy animation vocational schools can offer.

    • Lib

      Your logic follows the disturbing premise that ‘since things are wrong, let’s not even bother to make them right’. Bringing Apple, Nike, the warlords of Ivory Coast and Darth Vader to the conversation doesn’t make this situation any less unfair and reprehensible. It’s a conformist perspective that only adds fuel to the fire, because by accepting this kind of garbage, not only you don’t just keep the world as it is, you make it worse.

      From what I’ve read, and now see and hear, this Textor guy is taking companies’ usual malpractice one step further, to such extent that I’m surprised he doesn’t end his speech with the trademark villain evil laugh. In a system where people are still fighting non-paid internships, the lunacy he proposes is completely out of the question and simply insulting.

      Why not just let us into his company, allow us to just sit there eating chocolate ice cream while getting paid 3K a month, so Digital Domain can later on brag about creating new jobs in the animation industry? It’s the same stupid reasoning he’s using, where one of the parties gets an enormous reward while the other barely benefits from the whole deal, if at all.


      “Someguy” Do you seriously believe the words that are falling out of your mouth? “those kids are damn lucky” ?????
      Lucky to PAY TO WORK for this Douchebag to Roto 3D on their films???
      Where the hell do you get off?

      You’re worse than he is.

    • Actually, his primarily point is as far from “right” as possible.

      And he’s not so wrong he’s right again, either.

      He’s clearly a guy who’s never dealt with students. They’re far less manageable than any professional operation, whether it be in India or Indiana.

      Their work takes -literally at least 5 times the effort (in calendar days) for results which are usually well below that of even the lowest level professional. Why? Because they’re students.

      Not only is this ethically bankrupt from an educational standpoint, it’s horrible business.

      • Sarah J

        I would have to agree. Having a studio where most of the work is done by students with little experience of their own, well, the work probably isn’t gonna be that good.

      • glenn_g

        Ditto – I just started the Computer Animation program at Full Sail and I have seen the work put up by those in the last stages of the program, and while they’ve learned a bunch, it’s still not up-to-par with what would be expected out of a pro. Textor is not worried about saving the industry, just his own wallet.

    • abc

      This was clearly written by a DD Marketing /PR person!!! Nice try :-) !

      • Someguy

        Interesting responses…

        No, I’m definitely not a DD Marketing/PR person. I’m just a guy not so blinded by nostalgia to see that the world is changing. Raging is pointless. Much better to understand the logic of those people who you may disagree with. Always assume the other guy is at least as smart as you are and maybe smarter.

        And, that post was meant to be somewhat facetious.

        Oh and the comment about student work taking 5x as long, I would disagree vehemently. I’ve worked in a student-studio partnership that went through very well. These are students but they’re not children. In many cases they can be mature students with art backgrounds who are upgrading their skills. How many fresh out of school graduates can do professional quality work…a lot. They may be raw but they have talent and drive. If you think that makes for a horrible business model…

        In short, what I was getting at is that we can’t just pick and choose what kind of exploitation is good in a system that is based on exploitation. If you suddenly care about exploitation of American kids, but don’t care about Vietnamese kids, then where is the high ground?

        I’m not interested in striking at branches, this is about hacking at the roots.

        If the point of animation school is to get a job at a studio like DD, then he’s right.

        That’s not easy to hear, but it’s true. How many students are in school to get a job at Pixar? Would they not pay to be trained BY Pixar to work AT Pixar? Of course they would.

        And that’s the point.

        We have turned art and animation training into just another vocational program like small engine repair or computer programming. It’s just a means to an end, where the end is EMPLOYMENT.

        People are getting bent out of shape, but they’re not addressing the real issue: What is the point of going to animation school? If it’s to become a critically thinking and creatively expansive individual, or is it to work for some studio?

        The students are making their choice and the world of tomorrow is being shaped right now. You may disagree but I would hazard these students are anything but young and dumb. They have looked at the world and they realize that corporations make art. They control what people see, hear and read. They dominate the internet and own all the television stations outright. So yeah, you could train students to be independent artists and do passion projects with meaning and intellectual honesty and curiosity, but unless corporations are interested, those people will be unable to make a living by and large.

        The artist is being replaced by the technician. Just smart enough to make it look amazing, but just passive enough to not care what these films are about. I’ve worked in large 3d studios. By and large, people don’t care what they’re working on. Yes, they’d rather it be great than shize, but so long as the fluid effects container they set up look good, or the rig they built works well, that’s it. It’s just demoreel material for their next job.

        A means to an end.

        A paycheck.

        A job.

        Which brings us back to the point of school in the first place…Disagreeing is not the same as providing a viable alternative.

      • HM

        You keep saying ‘the point is a job’, but I don’t know anyone who uses ‘job’ and employment’ without the underlying implication that it’s for fair pay. No, people do not go to art school just to work in a studio. Just because the animation industry is what so many people consider a ‘dream job’ does not mean you don’t have to pay people for work they may or should like.

        So yes, you’re right. Students go to school to get work in a studio. By all definitions, a ‘job’ and being ’employed’ imply being PAID. NOBODY says job without meaning they expect to be paid for their work.

        If you aren’t being paid, THEN IT’S NOT A JOB. IT’S NOT BEING ‘EMPLOYED’. No student says their going to school is the same as being employed.

      • Tak

        Sorry Someguy, HM has you.
        Check & Mate.

      • Someguy

        No. You are talking about two different things.

        This isn’t about these students having a job that pays them versus a job that doesn’t.

        Of course a job is one that pays. Those in the DD 70% are all making money. The students eventually want to be part of that 70%. That’s obvious. However these students DO NOT HAVE JOBS at DD. They haven’t been HIRED to work there. They are simply getting their credits for work experience there.

        This is about whether or not these students should pay to learn and work at a studio that then uses their product to make money without ever compensating them.

        Work experience vs. Exploitation?

        The confusion is coming from the fact that you are conflating two different things. Again, these are not people being HIRED for no pay, these are STUDENTS who are paying tuition to get an education and work experience so that they can get a paying job in the industry. The fact remains that there is a kind of sick logic to not paying them:

        The company gets more profitable, the kids get an invaluable learning experience, the industry begins to adopt a similar model and the use of free student labour creeps up, until you have industry wide 70/30 (paid vs. unpaid) averages and hundreds if not thousands of students fighting to be part of the 70%, this drives down or suppresses wages for everyone, corporate profits increase…and the cycle continues. There is a lot going on here, not just jobs=paid.

        Chess not checkers.

      • gravel

        I see your point and agree. It’s essentially an apprenticeship which can be seen as an extension of schooling. Students are getting exposure to and experience in their chosen field. The bottom line is, nobody says they have to take these positions and they are not mandatory. Apprenticeships benefit the student greatly in the long run in things like networking and making it easier to find a job, so in a sense they are getting paid, it’s just delayed gratification. Students take these positions to learn, not to get rich.

        I’ve been in the design business about 20 years and teach at the college level. I can tell you honestly that student work is by and large nowhere near professional quality (there are exceptions, but they’re quite rare). I don’t have a problem with companies taking students under their wing to teach students how to become professionals. In many ways, the things students learn in an apprenticeship will benefit them much more than the education they’re paying to receive.

      • gravel

        If you’re a student voluntarily doing unpaid work for the school you attend, is that considered exploitation? Many times, student work is used to help sell the school’s product: education. Do they make money from your labor? Of course. They’re not in the business of promoting your personal projects.

        When you’re a voluntary intern for a company (that is likely making donations to the school to support your education) you are that company’s student. You are not yet a professional artist. You are learning to be a professional artist. Your work is being used to help sell their product. Do they make money from your labor? Of course. They’re not in the business of promoting your personal projects.

        Where’s the difference?

      • Lib

        A basic problem with your argument is that it’s based on the assumption that students chosen to participate on this scam already have a strong skill set, so they can be profitable for the studio. The skills required to get an internship at a major film studio are definitely not the same as the skills needed to get into an animation school. And that’s why you get paid for the former and pay for the latter.

      • There are advanced students who can keep up with professional standards, but by and large they can not.

        This is a fundamental truth which nearly every experienced producer and educator will agree upon.

        Even the difference between an entry level employee (recent graduate) and a student is big, just as the chasm between an experienced professional and a novice is fairly great.

        There are wunderkinds out there, sure, which is why I only estimate 5 times and not greater. Take the average student, give them a scene that would take a pro one day -you will get the results in a week, and chances are the quality will not be as high.

      • As for “picking and choosing …exploitation” –yes we can.

        We decide these with laws.

        You can not conflate this “business plan” with traditional internships simply because they’re using the same language. There are laws which apply to internships.

        This scam may be legal, but only because they chose Florida -the one state out of the 50 where they could possibly get away with it. Even so, it’s highly possible that the Sunshine State won’t take it as too bright an idea, especially if the Department of Labor gets involved.

      • I doubt anyone will hold onto a job in a company that can charge people to work for it. ‘You want a raise? Go stick it up your pipe here are 3 guys paying us to sit at your desk’. To award wage paying jobs at the end of the ‘schooling’ would be akin to chopping down the money tree. Just keep the same supervisers and roll on another wave of paying players to create the content

        Am I oversimplifying this?

    • me

      1. For the studio maybe but not for the employe. It’s not a healthy relationship and can not last.

      2. I disagree, a strong short film will do a lot more then a couple quick shots from a production. It’s not like the studio is going to give big character moments to a bunch of untrained students. Students are more likely going to be doing cleanup work. Internships would look better on a resume.

      3. True most students just want a job. But schools are there to teach them to be artists not assembly line slaves. Ask the student do they want to be Glenn Kean or mo-cap cleanup employee #246 when they finish school.

      4. I don’t have a problem with this one, schools designed by people and companies are great. CalArts is one, so is Animation Mentor. But there’s a big difference between a high school built by hospitals and a company looking to take advantage of unsuspecting students.

      Look it’s tough to get that first industry experience on your resume, but it’s tough for a reason. You have to prove you are worth it. Your demo reel needs to look good enough for a studio to take a risk on you. People know that and will be able to see though this experiment.

    • someone

      [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, “It is OK to post with a nickname or alias, but your email address (which we will NEVER share publicly), must be a real, permanent email address. Comments with fake or non-permanent emails will be deleted.”]

  • four letter word!!! four letter word !!!!…. what a complete four letter word!!!

    your name in the credits? build your resume? These are time honoured tricks to illicit free labour from young and dumb artists. Now, and you have to admire his audacity, he wants you to pay him for the worthless rewards he’ll bestow

    anger rising……….

    on another note, where are the actual jobs for the hordes of eager certificate clutching beavers pouring out of colleges across the world???

  • Jody Morgan

    And seeing a movie for free is better than paying the matinee price.

  • Toonio

    It’s only when the Taxman gets no money from free labor that laws against this triple D (Digital Domain Douche) will become a reality and then we’ll see whose laughing.

    The entertainment industry, like many others, have a knack for killing the golden eggs goose. Else how can you keep the capitalism model when people get no income?

  • Gary

    I love that he’s actually trying to talk down about cheap labour while extolling the virtues of free labour.


    Unfreakin-believable. This man is the devil.

    • Thomas

      nah, the devil is more righteous than this guy.

  • HM

    Of course! It all makes sense now! Why screw over people over seas by paying them unfairly (because that would be unfair to them and us) when we can screw over our OWN people by paying them nothing! Brilliant.

    No one likes losing jobs overseas, but I’ll take SOMEONE being paid SOMETHING over this.

    • wever

      Money is supposed to circulate. What this guy is doing is hemmoraging it.

  • Steven M.

    What a ball of shit. I never heard so much garbage fowling the air like that.

  • Jennifer

    That about does it for him.

  • Joe

    John Textor is bringing to animation what the L.A. club scene has known all along. Countless artists will do anything for a gig. So why not have them pay to play? The next step is to get students to promote and sell tickets.

    • Kurt Blintz

      The colleges already have filled the role of pay to play. Cut out the middle-man by submitting a reel to an animation house if you’re that good, and they may choose to bring you in as an unpaid intern, or you might even get a real job with them. if you’re worth as much as you think you’re worth, you could also just start your own boutique animation shop and start bidding on real work… but I doubt the biggest complainers here are as talented as they imagine they are.

  • purin

    Yeah, he’s a real saint, offering these students the chance at resume-building…

    … just like pretty much the whole world of employers offering spec/unplaid work, because they just don’t have the budget to actually pay for artists, you know, even though they have the size and money to pay for so many other things. Besides, you’ll get exposure, so it’s already a very generous offer!

    Seriously, though, learning and working in a studio and having a bit part in a real movie production would be a great experience, and I WOULD be stoked, but when said studio proudly relies on those students as free labor making up a third of work force? Nuh-uh. That’s not about teaching, no matter how you spin it. That’s using them.

  • Adam

    If there’s any justice in the universe he’ll get what he pays for.

  • it reminds me of when i was about to graduate college some years ago in dublin ireland.
    the students were offered to get experience by working/ learning in a studio environment (without pay if i remember correctly, but paying their college fees) and receiving their college degree in return.

    the setup was poor and i could not see the benefit of the learning experience. furthermore i felt that this would undermine the possibility of decent paying animation jobs in the long term (i walked away from this after a day and so did a couple others.) the schools principle was very upset with me, but our (american) head of the program supported me (thanks larry!) and i still received my degree.

    to participate in a program like this you (the student) must be 100% certain of the benefit. there is no such thing as free labour. it just does not exist.

  • Pedro Nakama

    This is going to drain creativity out of industry at a time when it’s at an all time low. Students will be working on Hollywood movies instead of creating their own movies.

  • cro

    So, what are we going to do about it? More screaming on the blogs? Do you people care enough to actually do something?

    • I think posting this helps give artist, a question to ponder in terms of a choice, given the oppurtunity to be in a place to make a choice which may or may not effect their career.

  • Trevor

    They’re not even going to be animating? They’re doing stereo conversion? That’s busy work, and impossible to show in a reel.

    • Adam

      No, no. All you need to show in a reel is your name in the credits. Your name in tiny tiny font with 250 other dopes who fell for this. Your potential employer will feel so sorry for you they’ll hire you out of pity.
      Everyone wins.

  • I know may roto people whom have turned to doing conversion work since roto had been out sourced, it means alot to a person close to retirement or whom needs a gig to pay the rent.

  • Why do rich people always get things for free?

  • euripedes


    I’m curious what the loophole is here. Can someone articulate what separates an “Unpaid Internship” and what violates minimum wage laws?

    After all, this is production work.


    • We have unpaid interns where I work. My understanding is Government money linked with State colleges so that students get hands on experience during their final years in college. You can’t have a full time non paid intern for 5+ years. It’s supposed to be curriculum based.

  • I love what HM said. Great point. We already fight a non level playing field not only with India and China but with Canada as well. Do you think that as an American I can simply work in Vancouver where all the work is? No. I can’t. And now we have this!

  • dbenson

    What’s really needed is a way for someone to use Digital Domain’s services without paying Digital Domain, and lure away DD’s backers with the promise of even less overhead. Or to sell his personal assets out from under him, much as Wall Street predators drain corporate equity.

    Mr. Textor, of course, would benefit from exposure and therefore count himself as blessed.

  • John

    Makes you wonder what happens if your boss grants you a raise. Do you owe more?

  • Geo

    Let me get this straight – they want free labor to create the content. But — when people watch that content for free via the internet, they call it piracy and sue for a few hundred thousand.

    The system is very, very broken.

  • Max

    Do students pay DD on top of their tuition to FSU, or does FSU fund DD with their students’ tuition? Now if students pay tuition AND an additional work-study fee, that’s a problem. What DO they pay, by the way?

    Although… what if this were a trendier studio? Would any of you animation students out there pay a tuition rate to study at Pixar for your 4th year, instead of another year of your own school’s animation coursework?

  • I think as long as he and no-one else got any financial gain from this model then by all means, it would be like communism for animation. But his plans are to get RICHER, along with his INVESTORS. He wants to MAKE MORE MONEY. End of story. The only way this will happen is if they’re successful in fooling the students (and their parents, more likely) to part with their cash for the privilege.

    • Someguy

      The infinite growth paradigm strikes again…

  • The title of this post is so accurate, I smell vinegar

  • Oz

    The outrage to these strikes me as mere semantics. This can be illustrated by the following scenarios.

    -The school you pay to attend offers no internship at all. You still pay for your time at that school and gain no real world experience, only classroom time.

    -The school you pay to attend allows internships but to outside companies (the normal internship model). You still pay the school for that “credit hour” that you are not even at the school but rather working for a company, sometimes unpaid.

    -The school you pay to attend offers an internship at their sister company that does the work you are studying to do. You still pay for the “credit hour” like all other scenarios but gain real work experience that will translate into actual film experience thus gaining you better access to future jobs.

    So that leaves us with the alternative to what he is calling for. Paid class hours that provide (often non real world professor) teachings only and no real world experience. And everyone is ok with paying for that. This could easily be worded as “Paying students are better than non paying ones.”

    I will agree his wording is rather tasteless and possibly even his motives, but that doesn’t change the facts that most students will indeed pay to attend a school like this that offers the ability to work on a feature film or real world project, will probably better their chances as an employable artist, and will probably agree on the whole that it is worth it. Call them stupid if you like, but my bet is they will be employed afterwards quicker than a student out of a program without this opportunity.

    • Mac

      My school is based on a charter and run by millionaire trustees who pay to run an institution based on their own higher ideals of philanthropy. That’s why it was founded, and that’s how it is run.. Any outright greed is just illegal, and incompetence is supposed to be checked by the watchful eyes of our rich trustees who pay to run the place, and internal politics in general. Public school is supposed to be similar, not for profit stuff. The ideal of education for a better world. Not a better workforce.

      For profit school is for chumps, and high risk. Your relationship with the place will always have an element of you getting fucked over for you to pursue your dream. You can’t trust these people. Make education distinct from work.

      • Oz

        I agree with wholeheartedly, and that is the distinct difference between profit and non-profit schooling systems. This is essentially a trade school so you can’t really blame them, there for it is not distinct from work. If one wants an education, learn a field, learn concepts, learn the ideals and philosophy behind a field. Don’t learn a task. This can simply be equated to a trade school for mechanics or a beauty school in which your entire final year is essentially do work on/for customers…not for free, but you pay to do it.

  • Kaishu

    If an unpaid job was my only option, I’d be better off refusing and work on my own stuff, maybe getting some friends together. You don’t get the benefits or networking with a big studio, but at least you can still go through the experiences of producing your own film.

  • DC

    Who’s going to be teaching the students? Leads & Supervisors, or teachers from FSU? If it’s the first, heaven help the L’s & S’s as they try to do their job and teach at the same time. Good luck managing that dynamic. And on another note, where’s Jerry to talk about Charles Mintz having aspiring animators pay to work on Scrappy cartoons? The ’30’s are back! Only you get a degree. But wait! What if you don’t do well at the job? Still get a degree, but no credit? More importantly, can you still cut class and go to the beach? College student, after all. Will they get spring break instead of crunch? Maybe this is synonymous with an unpaid internship, but bragging to investors or other business people about students paying to provide a portion of your labor force seems a completely wrongheaded means of exciting your larger audience and potential actual employees about moving to Port St. Lucie. How is this playing to the people who already work there? You know they’re reading about it. Are they already putting out their resumes, or has it been explained to them in a way we haven’t heard that actually makes it ok – not just seem ok, but actually BE ok. The people already there are workers just like many of us reading and discussing this and most will probably share the same values as other artists who go from one job to the next. I can’t reconcile what I’ve read in a manner that makes me imagine sending them a resume, but they’re already staffing. What up, Tradition folks?

  • d. harry

    okay, a student gets good enough to have his work included in a production. He realizes that his professional counterparts are making $1000+ a week. WILL he be given a proper job if he asks to work full time as a full time employee, thus dropping out of school??

    I dare to predict that NO student who actually starts getting their work used in productions will stay in college for 4 years to actually get their Degree.

  • A Joke

    Q. What’s the difference between an artist and a large pizza?

    A. A large pizza can feed a family.

    • A Laugh

      Such a morose sense of humour.
      Love it…
      *Cries onto the Pepperoni*

  • @ Someguy:

    Well I can’t read all of these comments but I happened to read yours and forgive me for ‘trolling’ back (I had to google that term hehe) but I feel the need to remind you that animation is an ART (with all due respect to the science behind it) so why are you comparing an animator to a surgeon?? And by the way you are completely contradicting yourself in your comparison of sweat shops. You’re implying that this is similar…so why are you defending it?

    Anyways…these kids are paying a lot of hard earned money to be given this time to explore their creativity and really find their own style which will hopefully make them a valuable, creative contributor to any number of productions. Most of them likely haven’t found that yet and are thirsty for some real animation experience, therefore when a snake like John Textor comes in and convinces them that it’s a privilege to essentially have this pivotal time taken away from them they really don’t know what they are sacrificing. And they won’t realize it until they are done school and think to themselves..oh jeez I wish I had time to create some of my OWN animations but damn..I gotta keep a roof over my head now and pay off my student loans. Or what’s even more scary is that the thought won’t enter their heads at all and what we are left with is a world full of animation machines producing cold lifeless junk with a synthetic voice.
    I do think that in many cases schools are lacking in real studio pipeline scenarios(at least mine was), but this is not the answer. This really is taking it too far to the point of exploitation.

  • animProf

    One of Anita’s points in the previous comment is really important here:
    “these kids are paying a lot of hard earned money to be given this time to explore their creativity and really find their own style which will hopefully make them a valuable, creative contributor to any number of productions.”
    The main reason people go to college for a BFA should not be to get a job. The job will be the means to an end once artists discover their talents, skills, style, voice, etc. An student artist will not have that opportunity as a “student intern” playing a small role on a large production. The key word Textor used was “labor” in description of the student work force, and type of work is not that valuable for a student who needs to find, and then learn, a craft.
    From the posts I’ve read, many people are forgetting what an internship is supposed to be, and the studios that provide that service the right way don’t use the students’ work directly in the production of shots. Students work in support roles and get valuable insights, advice, and experience in return that will guide them in the learning process. The professional mentor even critiques the personal work of the student in many cases.
    Anyone defending Textor’s approach is promoting the exploitation of students and taking jobs away from entry level artists. Many of them have just graduated from academic programs that cost a great deal of money.
    The point is that this model of film/animation production has the potential of damaging the industry in this country more than outsourcing.
    I was very hopeful about new studios producing animation in a way that would provide more opportunities for animation artists right here in the U.S., but this is not the way to do it.
    Also, I was really excited about sending my students to Tradition Studios until I starting hearing about this controversy. I’m not so sure now.

  • Art school fail

    At least DD lets you know they’re going to f*ck you over when you apply. What about the crime of so many art and animation schools that charge students $60K+ and never teach them a quality education or training? “Hey thanks for your $60K now have fun never working in animation because you’ve got no skills and we never told you so, we just kept cashing your checks, have fun working at OfficeMax now trying to work off that debt”. I’ve seen so many reels and portfolios with this story it’s sickening.

    • VFXguy_who_teaches

      I totally agree. This is a crime that no one is outraged about, and MY GOD they should be! I started an Animation/VFX school in a major US city that became very successful (in my eyes) when our first grad started work at Rhythm & Hues right out of school. We were FINANCIALLY successful after that, but I measured success by seeing one of them get a real, paying, highend job. That, by the way, was the goal of this student, who came to our school after going to another school and graduating with a degree, but no job. He wanted skills that would lead him to a paying job, so he PAID to go to school at our school and the result was getting a PAYING job after graduation. So many CG/VFX/ART schools have people teaching in them who never worked a day in the industries that the students will be feeding someday. That crime is far worse, in my opinion, because there you have students paying to learn from people who are not experienced (and usually not capable) in the very industry the student is paying for an education IN. How come none of us are rising up about that?!?! That is an insane crime, and made me hate teachers when I was a student. I only agreed to become a teacher once I vowed to myself to never be THAT type of teacher, and I have stayed in the industry ever since (while I continue to teach). It is the only way I can help right the wrong of so many who didn’t have teachers like that who came before me (including myself, when I was a schoolboy).

      I hate career teachers who never had the careers they teach about. They are lying to the students, and to themselves…

  • Pay to play? Wow. Wages are getting so low in this country, they’re going into negative numbers.

  • DaveP

    “Much better to understand the logic of those people who you may disagree with. Always assume the other guy is at least as smart as you are and maybe smarter.”

    In my experience in this business, this was the first assumption I learned to get rid of. And the sooner you do, the better.

    Sorry guy, this biz is not overflowing with brainpower when it comes to producers. Quite the opposite. Anyone who tells you different is, well, probably a producer.

  • sebhary

    Excuse in advance my crude langage.

    But men… The things this guy is telling, is that artists should be considerated lucky to beeing ‘fucked in the ass’ and they basically should give money (their salary) to the people that fucked them, beeing very thankfull to them because they had learn how to be fucked very well. So they will continue to be fucked all their lives. (see: never ending story/ the history of slavery).

    Juniors or seniors… It doesn’t matter! Those people need to eat everyday you know?… But perhaps the people that denies that fact are still living with their parents. And they prefer continuing to be fucked all their life, and seeding shitty salaries around the globe, for a quicker empowering of 1%, and more slavery in the world.

    Thank you fucked artists. The New World Order aproove your sheepy mind.

  • Go to and see what is actually going on with Digital Domain.

    The state of Florida and other municipalities have given them over $100 million. In return the company lost $140 million last year on revenue of $95 million.

    You can go on the Florida website and email the Governor

  • Anyone even defending this concept I put forward to you what potentially could happen when idiotic concepts such as this go forward:

    So DD has 30% of their work force as students. That means they can now bid less on available projects. And even though that 30% is entry level they can probably still bid around 30% less because while they’re not the higher paid worker end of production, they are actually putting in their own money towards the project by paying to be there!

    So how do other studios compete?

    They underbid! And what happens then? We have studios going out of business and in the process of getting the work done, just how much of that work do you think is now going to be outsourced? Pretty much everything that can be, right?

    So studios are going out of business, and entry level jobs are becoming less and less prevalent, potentially non existent.

    Where do all these people in entry level jobs go? They give up! It’s either that or move to India or China to do these outsourced jobs.

    VFX artist wages go down! There’s more people than there are jobs because everything’s outsourced. They don’t have to tempt people in with high wages when everyone is just desperate for a job!

    With VFX studios in high cost living areas (London, LA, Vancouver), who can even survive on low wages? It’s impossible!

    Maybe some of the other studios follow DD’s lead in hopes to stay afloat. But at this point, where exactly are these graduates going to work? It won’t be long before they start to realise that there’s no hope for them! Do you think DD are actually going to keep many of these students on? That’d be crazy when they have a rotating door of students ready to pay to do the job! So long graduates!

    How long will DD keep getting students before they clue in that it’s a pointless venture?

    At this point, a low VFX cost has already been established through underbidding wars. Will there even be a way of bringing back those entry level jobs?

    And with the lack of entry level jobs, who sticks at the art rather than get some other job and give up on the dream? So when people move up the ranks or retire, who’s there to take their jobs? There’s no working up the ranks when there’s no entry level jobs. People rarely jump straight into compositing or main VFX production roles, especially in any respectable studio! So what happens now? Do any of these jobs get filled or do studios start taking on inexperienced employees? At this point studio produced work is not up to the standard it once was.

    Basically what I’m saying is that this DD situation could well be death of our industry. And I don’t see that as overreacting! I really don’t. It’s a slippery slope and as far as I can see, it’s not going to end well.

    How can ANYONE defend this move?! How can ANYONE think they’re safe?!

  • The issue isn’t whether or not the students are being taken advantage of. Student life is about plying your craft, not making money and to that extent the students are lucky to have the opportunity to ply their craft in that kind of professional environment. The one’s getting screwed in this scenario are the people who have paid their dues and are now working professionally in their field. This guy is eliminating positions once held by professionals and replacing them with free labor. To my knowledge this is illegal. The Labor Department has guide lines for the inclusion of college interns in business. I don’t have the exact copy of the rules but the gist of it is that it must be an educational experience, the equivalent of vocational school. It must primarily benefit the trainee. The intern cannot do work that would otherwise be done by a paid employee, and must work under the close supervision of a manager. The employer cannot profit from the intern’s work. The employer must not promise upfront a paid job at the conclusion of the internship. It’s OK to offer a job once the internship ends. This prevents employers from exploiting the temptation of free labor at the expense of professionals in the field. All workers should stand up against shortsighted and selfish tactics like the ones Digital Domain and John Taxtor are employing. They are everything that’s wrong in this business incarnate.

  • Once upon a time in America, there was a thriving art industry and it was a well paying career if you had the skills and talent to stick to it. With digital technology, art directors have gone the way of wanting the product good and cheap, knowing full well the starstruck masses of young aspiring artists will do anything that they can to get into the industry, including giving up their best years and time for free with no guarantee of compensation for all of the money that they will spend on schools and materials. Boycott the schools, boycott Digital Domain products.

  • Should I point out that this country fought a civil war on the issue of “free labor?” Or is that too obvious?