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Artist RightsBusiness

John Textor Is (Kind Of) Sorry

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

Hi everyone,

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,


  • A Writer


    get rich. forget everyone else.

    thats the motto John lives by.

    can’t complain about that.

    Don’t like it…..quit.

    • Jonah Sidhom

      People who only live for themselves are the most miserable.

      You’re right, can’t complain. But we can pity.

  • Adam

    It’s the program, the glib comment, and the idea of slavery in general, John.
    The people I feel the sorriest for are the actual professionals, who, if they’re sensible, have sent out reams of resumes by now.

  • Jason

    I love how he just doesn’t give a crap and believes it was his rhetoric that set everyone off.

    Insert mealy mouth comments like ‘I believe we’re part of the solution — not the problem’ and away we go!

  • Tired of hearing about this

    FYI, it’s a distribution deal for Tembo, not a co-production deal (as it clearly states in the article). You’re allowed to have your opinion, but please don’t post false or misleading information, Amid.

    • Digital Domain put out a press release yesterday calling it both a distribution and co-production agreement, and the company specifically refers to it as “The Legend of Tembo co-production and distribution agreement.” Here’s the release:

      • Toonio

        Somebody shoot the cannon!

    • It’s called ‘news’

      the prosecution rests

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    All his Email’s missing is “I was drunk.”

  • That is one ambitious piece of dissembling.

  • Rufus

    In other news: Slave labor returns to USA and women lose their right to vote!

    Somebody should hang this clown by his suspenders from a lightpost. I’m boycotting Legend of Tembo.

    • Zabbot

      Seriously, be sure to tell all your friends how awful the film is even before they even wrap production. Send this demon spawn of a movie back to the fiery pit from whence it crawled.

      • axolotl

        Nah, they should just pay us to see it.

      • anonymous

        No, we should pay them for the “privilege” of watching their film.

  • Toonio

    He gives with the right hand and takes with the left one. A privateer in the whole sense of the word (and his picture is worth 1000s of them).

    So this was all part of the big American CEO fire sale: Everything must go! (technology, jobs, pride and economic growth). Just sugar coated with the tired speech of I’m human, I’m one of you and you misinterpreted my words hundreds of PR scoundrels feed into the pipelines every flipping day to make everything look ok and dandy.

    Gotta love the hypocrites out there saying they love their country, when all they care is their own pocket.


    The only thing Jon Textor is sorry about is GETTING CAUGHT saying that statement.
    He doesn’t deny it.

    If any poor, unsuspecting soon to be FSU student is thinking about enrolling, or already enrolled in this SCAM of an animation program… PULL YOUR MONEY OUT. Go to a reputable school, that doesn’t associate themselves with Scumbag companies like DD, and furthermore, put you into a Slave worker condition under the guise of “industry experience”

    Hopefully you’re too smart to fall for FSU and DD’s song and dance. There are PLENTY of other schools and programs that you can attend. Many of them are tried and true, not some fly-by-night quick money making scheme dreamed up by these Pirates.

    I mean honestly… Who ever heard of anybody attending FSU for Animation or VFX? They’re trying to cash in on an ever growing market of students paying big bucks to go to school.


    • FSU alum

      um, not to defend the Textor/TEMBO situation in -any- way, but .. FSU has a widely-respected Film School which has placed many of its alumni into professional film/TV careers for over 20 years. And at least a few FSU grads have found some success in the Hollywood VFX and animation fields. I’ve been working here in L.A. for 16 years after leaving FSU, and have earned two Emmy Awards for VFX during my career, thus far.

      That said, it saddened me greatly to learn of this arrangement between FSU and DD. -_- I cannot bring myself to wish it any success.

  • Skip

    We need a Facebook page dedicated to Boycotting the Legend of Tembo.

    • kyle maloney

      That would be a good idea…but don’t those kind of things get taken down pretty quickly?

  • Potverdomme!
    What an incredible greedy asshole
    that he can get away with this…
    Nobody should give him a dime!

  • Mac

    This is global capitalism. What did you expect?

    • Stephen M. Levinson

      What does capitalism have to do with one bad business man? Capitalism is the best economic system known to man.

      • Mac

        Global capitalism naturally leads to exporting of jobs around the world, it inherently is about getting the most profit and paying your workers the least you can get away with in accordance with your goals. I’m seeing a lot of people complaining that the kind of craft they admire, “animator”, in the context of feature production businesses, continues to be devalued. In this case, it has negative value for the person being exploited. But they’re all being exploited, which only means, the corporation is always getting much more money out of their work than they pay to them. To cross that threshold possibly makes John quite good at business, possibly not.

        What do these commentors expect? The skill of a businessman in capitalism is to maximize his return on investment. Why would he pay his workers anymore than he can get away with? I see people who say this is bad business, but many people are using the word slavery and complaining on ethical grounds.

        The only thing you can accuse him of is being a bad businessman, but even in that you would need to define your terms. He’s walked away with a quite a compensation these past few years, so John is definitely good at taking care of John. John is great, maybe the Digital Domain board of directors or shareholders, or however the company is owned, are the real morons for hiring someone who is defrauding them by not actually caring about their long term needs. Obviously this path of exploitation of the base of human capital in the field of “animation” will lead to no one wanting to pursue such a career, as it’s only going to be done in Somalia, or some such place, after India and China are too rich. It might not be a good long term business strategy, but maybe John isn’t in it for the long term. John is going to die a rich man.

        None of these issues have anything to do with treatment of employees on ethical grounds. In this system in which we both live, which we call “capitalism”, employees are just another capital expense, to be paid for by writing those salary checks. It’s called “Human Capital”. John Trextor is human capital for the board or the shareholders, a very expensive one, possibly a bad investment.

        Treating your employees like gold is just like taking care of your computers or your plumbing. Tell me if I got anything wrong about “capitalism”, which you say is the best expression of the human condition known to man.

      • Stephen M Levinson

        You have a very skewed and false belief of how corporations work, their function and purpose. Capitalism isn’t perfect and there will always be people like John Textor, but taking a knife away from a killer won’t stop them for killing. The system isn’t the problem, it’s the greedy and sleezy business men.

        Corporations exist to generate profit. That’s #1 for every single corporation in the entire world. Secondly, to do so, corporations need to provide value ie provide supply for demand that exists. If a company isnt generating value, it will not generate revenue and will need to file Chapter 11. No corporation can survive without generating profit. If the cost to produce supply is high, corporations must decrease costs to increase revenue and grow the business.

        For corporations to exist, they need to hire employees to produce value the company requires. The more and better they produce, the more they are compensated for doing so through promotions. Employees of corporations are generally NOT being taken advantage of. Any smart business man knows the employees are the heart of a successful business (look at Katzenberg.) Employees are not forced to work for corporations and can leave at any time.

        We have the HIGHEST standard of living in the history of the existence of the humanbeing, and that’s categorically because of Capitalism and how effective it is. Globalization increases efficiency around the world, and not necessarily through outsourcing. Globalization allows companies to build all over the world allowing them to provide their services and products to people who are demanding them. Globalization also increases competition globally and increased competition benefits everyone, as the end product is improved constantly and substantially. Competition drives innovation, and if th whole world is competing, the better.

        Capitalism isn’t perfect but it’s the best system we have and there will always be a few bad eggs, but the benefits outweigh all negatives this system has.

      • Buck

        A few ‘bad egg’s ruin the bunch. I don’t know why people use that saying as a good thing.

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        @Buck, a few bad eggs doesn’t mean we should stop eating eggs.

      • Mac

        Whoa, why do you think capitalism isn’t perfect? You’re awfully defensive. I don’t think you understand what capitalism is. I think your faith is lacking. I’m not trying to point this out as a form of rhetoric against capitalism, because I’m all for capitalism, much more than you apparently. Because when I wrote about what it actually is, you get defensive. But I don’t even see those things as “bad”. They just “are”.

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        Your incohesive statements are not worth responding to.

      • Mac

        How do you define “worth?” You’ve got to accept that right now you know almost nothing about economics, but its pretty easy to learn textbook stuff. I’ll stop not because I don’t think you’re worth responding too, its all incredibly gratifying, but this is cartoon brew dot com, not dialectic dot net. No one cares, least of all you. Sorry for wasting your time, Stephen.

    • Jason

      @Buck, a few bad eggs doesn’t mean we should stop eating eggs.

      It does when they’re in the same bunch unless you want salmonellosis. Sorry but it’s a stupid analogy that’s as bad as ‘only a few bad apples’. They ruin the bunch if you know anything about farming and hard work.

      That’s why you clean up the whole thing.

  • In the end, the “Legend of Texto” is all that people will actually remember.

  • Jody Morgan

    Just in case anyone should wonder, I’m not the Jody referred to in John Textor’s email. I’m just your average animation fan wondering how his $16 million compensation is helping create jobs in North America.

  • Interesting note: “In their third and fourth years they have the opportunity to intern on real projects in a real studio in exchange for college credits.”

    Personally, I think he should have expanded on this more, for his own benefit. He should have clarified if, as an “internship,” whether students are/aren’t obligated to work on “real projects.” I’m more interested in the compulsory nature of the internship, which seems to be lingering around this topic. (No one should have a problem with the dual enrollment as long as Digital Domain has the appropriate academic accreditation, right?)

  • John Textor:
    “I Tactlessly Revealed My Appalling Nature Because I Love America Too Much”

  • Just wanted to say, A student who pays for an internship, is not a job.

    We need real jobs, something Textor is clearly not interested in creating.

  • Anon2012

    [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, “Be considerate and respectful of others in the discussion. Defamatory, rude, or unnecessarily antagonistic comments will be deleted.”]

  • Anb

    Is it me or are we waking up too late? John Textor is just the only guy (in my knowledge) who says openly about a VERY COMMON PRACTICE in the industry. That happened for years and we can even stretch that to decades. I’ve started working in 1998 and it was ALREADY how things where happening. Nobody said anything, we were hungry and there were way less competition than today in the market place. We could afford to let it go. Today, it’s more difficult to keep letting this go. However, the reality is this is where the entire industry is running. And one guy with a serious lack of diplomacy dare to say it out loud. This is shameful. But there’s no way we can say that he is shameful and stop at that. Not before we also clearly point the shamefulness of all the ones who stay silent and do exactly the same thing. Textor is an asshole but unfortunately he’s just the tree hiding the forest.

  • Brian O.

    Amid- At this point, after everything that’s happened, what could Textor do to make you happy?

    • Brian O: It’s not about Textor making me happy. Making this issue about Textor vs. any individual would be completely missing the point of the story.

      Many people believe that Textor is running Digital Domain irresponsibly, and that his actions will have widespread implications for the entire vfx and animation industry. Textor needs to listen to the concerns of those within the industry and address their concerns meaningfully. He needs to begin demonstrating respect and appreciation for the industry that he works in, and mend the gap of ill will that he has created with his thoughtless behavior. No single action will resolve the issue, but a good first step which he has yet to take would be to be honest about his intentions.

  • Principal Dondelinger

    So what’s the root of the problem? Why is it that they are having to exploit students for labor? Is it legislation? Is it Globalization? Is this where the VFX and possibly the animation industry is headed?

    Are we headed to a situation where most productions are outsourced to overseas and then packaged and sold to us 11 dollars a movie ticket? If so, that’s a sad situation.

    • Textor and his ilk are the face of why this country is in the economic position it’s in. And they’ve been at it for years. Look at TV animation. He’s just trying to do to features what they’ve been doing in TV animation for decades.

      They outsource work for cheap to third world countries, thereby creating artificial job scarcity at home where they can drag the US workers down to third world banana republic levels. A race to the bottom.

      Any company that can afford to pay one person 16 million shouldn’t be paying ANYONE crap wages or have students pay for the “privilege” of working for them.

      F**king one percenter!

    • GW

      Well, when you ask what the root of the problem is, you have to take one thing into account. There is a limited amount of money to go around and that money props up a very lopsided market budget-wise. There’s really no reason, other than perhaps technological innovation for movies to cost so many hundreds of millions of dollars. The money from the global market could theoretically be distributed more equally to support a larger number of films of lesser budgets. This would, quite obviously, shatter the glass floor that supports the United States animation industry at its current size, so nobody wants to bring up the idea.

      It might not be feasible to have a fully ethical system that results from the limited global finance available, one that distributes the limited amount of cash equally between over a hundred countries, yet another conundrum, but it’s very possible to have one that’s more ethical than the system that’s in place right now.

  • IMO-

    I believe there should be laws protecting students from this type of thing, work is work.

    Will there always be cheaper overseas workers? Yes. Unless we want to tax companies who send work else where and give tax breaks to companies who keep jobs here. There’s not much anyone can do about it (and I doubt that would make much impact either).

    Only a boss who is actually interested in helping their employees make a good living off their work, could ‘fix’ this. And a board of directors who are equally interested in that.

    Unfortunately, Hollywood in general has a rich and poor pay scale. The few people at the top have all the money and power, and the tons of people on the bottom have no money and no power. And no one has any interest in changing that- at least not anyone with any power. So even with unions, which are the best bet to ‘fight’ this, the powers that be will never ever stop looking for ways to get something for nothing. So everyone else must never stop trying to get them to be responsible.

  • d. harry
    • Taku

      Great, more people that I can call “Suckers!”.

  • When I was in college I got an internship. I got school credit working at a daily newspaper in Modesto. It was real life experience and my work appeared in a real newspaper nearly every day. I also got a real paycheck at the end of each week. I was paid more than many interns do at movie studios today. That was in 1987, and not adjusted for inflation. Nope, I didn’t have to pay the company just to get that real world experience.

    A lot of the people running the industry today are just greedy jerks. Most of you young folk don’t realize just how much these guys are screwing you over.

  • Ha, he’s spewing so much bull he should run for political office. What’s sad is there’s most likely other companies with the same practices, he’s just the first to outright admit it.

    Oh well, viva la independent productions?

  • AlanK

    The Galloping Horse deal might include distribution, but…where besides China would GH distribute the film? It’s hard to see how any major U.S. studio would want Tembo given their likely saturated slate of CG-animated films.

    American animators making features for Chinese consumers? That would certainly be a sort of a twist.

    I dunno, just asking…

  • Stewart

    Pathetic! Digital Domain should be shut down period. It’s very sad that an industry I started working in pre digital vfx boom ala mid 80s, I have now seen go from the highest glory days of ground breaking creative digital Vfx and salary to it’s current low wage, assembly line style, none creative slavery environment. Better to work at mcdonalds for what these idiots get paid nowadays!

    Now digital domain wants you to go indebt for a career ( I use this word loosely) that now pays lower and lower wages every year. I cannot even think of a worst investment to make today. Unless of course you believe housing was a good investment?!