This past Monday, John Textor sent a letter to Digital Domain employees, saying that he chose his words poorly, but didn’t make any indication that he was backing away from his plan to charge students to intern at his studio.
Textor’s rationale for making students pay to work at Digital Domain is that he felt strongly about keeping jobs in North America. That’s why yesterday he announced a co-production deal with Chinese company Beijing Galloping Horse Film Co., Ltd. which will serve as co-producer and distributor of Digital Domain’s first feature The Legend of Tembo.
It’s easy to understand why Textor is so enthused about China. The Chinese government is giving him free land and Chinese investors are handing over $50 million for Digital Domain to build a motion capture facility. With a deal like that, students will have to pay Textor a lot more money to work for free if they want those jobs to stay in North America.
Keep reading for the full text of Textor’s email sent to Digital Domain employees.
From: John Textor
Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2012 16:22:37 -0700
To: John Textor
Subject: My Comments On Our Education Program
I want to take a minute to speak to the discussion happening around the industry that started with comments I made about our education program. I chose my words poorly and the industry took me to task. More importantly, though, my remarks threw a negative spotlight on Digital Domain that the company doesn’t deserve, and I want to apologize to all of you for that. I regret if I have tarnished in any way the reputation you have built over two decades with your amazing work.
I do want you to have the facts about our education model because it does a lot of good. It’s a four-year program. Students dual-enroll in an accredited BFA program at Florida State University and a diploma program at the Digital Domain Institute. In their third and fourth years they have the opportunity to intern on real projects in a real studio in exchange for college credits.
We’re still in the early days. The first BFA class starts this fall. The studio on the DDI West Palm Beach campus where students will have a chance to intern will open in 2015. The internship program will also expand as other companies and studios come on board.
I understand where people’s reactions are coming from. It’s not the program, but my glib comment. I wish I could take that back, but I can’t. I can just apologize to you for it, and assure you that I know interns can never take the place of skilled artists and production professionals. What first attracted me to Digital Domain was your work, and when I came here in 2006, I realized that it was your pride in that work and in each other that makes the place special.
I have no intention of replacing workers with students and I can talk to you more about that in person. I hope that one Joe Biden comment doesn’t erase a lifetime of caring about people. I acknowledge that my ideas are different, and I can’t promise you that I won’t say something crazy again in the future. What I can promise is that I will keep trying to help. In early 2006 Digital Domain employed about 400 people. Today, with your help and some different ideas, Digital Domain employs 933 people in North America (669 in the US) and we’re growing. I believe we’re part of the solution — not the problem.
I owe you answers to your questions. I know that the public discussion has gone beyond internships to issues of overseas expansion, investment in our existing studios and company finances. I’ll be in Venice at 11:00 on Wednesday. Jody will follow up with an email letting you know where we’ll all meet together. I’m not going to present anything or give you a speech, but I’ll address whatever you’d like to discuss. I think I’ve demonstrated that in this company, it’s OK to speak your mind. Please bring me your questions and let’s talk.
Hope to see you Wednesday,