katzenfortune_s katzenfortune_s

Tips From Katzenberg On Keeping Artists Happy

Jeffrey Katzenberg

The latest issue of Fortune has a short article in which Jeffrey Katzenberg offers a few tips on how he keeps his artists happy. There’s also a sidebar that lists perks that DreamWorks employees receive and a quote from animator James Baxter about why he works at the studio. The article isn’t online but if you click on the image above, you can read the entire piece.

  • ovi

    hook me up with a job JK.
    i like free cookies.

  • This really sounds like a fantastic place to work in. The environment is one of the most important things for artists. There are some studios who should follow this example. If you can keep your people motivated you get their best. Lucky DreamWokers !! :o)

  • Sounds pretty good to me…What’s the catch?

  • He’s just borrowing a page from John Lasseter’s playbook. And I wish more executives would do that.

    Tom Pope: Children is a pretty apt description. Let’s face it who’s more creative than children.

  • dan

    “We only can succeed when what we do is original”

    *cough* ANTZ *cough*

  • Rodrigo

    As a recent hire, I can attest to the validity of this article.

    This place is pretty swell.

  • Justin

    Does that mean that James Baxter is back at Dreamworks? Is that why his studio’s website doesn’t exist anymore?

  • Killroy McFate

    Justin: Yes.

  • Tom

    AUGH! I’ve been unemployed so long it’s making my skin hurt. This is like seeing gold just over the horizon that you’ll likely never reach.

    Nice to see that someone treats their employees well and values their contributions. I could tell you some stories, bwah…

  • Brad Constantine

    I also work for a company that values it’s employees and offers many of the same sort of perks as Dreamworks.(movies, meals, snacks, profit sharing) Sometimes when you are working long hours, it is the little things that can make all the difference. Although there can be a down side as well…when they offer you free car washes on Saturday, be prepared to trade 8 hours for it…hehe.

  • The Obvious

    “We only can succeed when what we do is original”

    “We invite teaching staff to see what we’re doing with the idea that their curriculum can be fitted to our needs.”

    The single greatest threat to originality in industry is the gradual turning of our colleges into glorified trade schools. In an ideal society academia should be a place of exploration where professors encourage students to explore and innovate. The place for indoctrinating future employees into how you do things is within an internship program.

    Unfortunately, what has happened is that many visual arts colleges are locked in a competition to see who can be the biggest whore for the studios. Over time, all an art college can provide a studio with is a less competent and experienced employee, because colleges are so focussed on learning what the studios want that they aren’t educating students to have creative capacity to augment their technical proficiency.

    I don’t blame studios or fellow readers of this site for doubting such an ideal is realistic or of any value. Many of us have had the alternative to a trade education in the form of a burnt out hippy desperately trying to use their classroom to validate an MFA thesis of little relevance to anyone other than their MFA review committee. However, there is an ideal wherein genuine innovation is possible and academia can actually inform industry through collaborative research laboratories that are give AND take.

    At any rate, I find it laughable when executives enthuse about how wonderful it is to shape higher learning to suit current industry needs that may not be valuable throughout the life cycle of the student learning them.

  • gman

    JK talks the talk, and seems to walk the walk! Good on ‘im!

  • Daniel M.

    I’m sure glad I’m not in art school.

  • The Obvious

    “I’m sure glad I’m not in art school.”

    Sorry. Didn’t mean to put you off the entire concept. ; )

  • Buddy D

    After a couple of years you get over the free cookies and ping pong.

    But steady work is always appreciated.

  • Mike Fontanelli

    I remember when “creative” was an adjective, not a noun

  • Lindsay

    Why the awkward photo shoot? Katz looks distinctly uncomfortable. O_o

    The blurb of an article sounds very cool, detached, and – dare I say it? – corporate. Doesn’t make the artists sound like human beings so much as plants in a greenhouse – what with their “vulnerable” constitution and all. Or maybe a curator of a zoo discussing its collection of fauna. “In order to keep the animals lively, we utilize ‘behavior enrichment’ tactics like placing treats in their exhibits or giving them toys to examine and play with.”


  • Robiscus

    Even though I’ve been in the industry for nearly twenty years, I always felt that one of the most loathesome aspects of the animation community(and what makes them so hard to deal with) is how “vulnerable” many of the artists are. I’m glad Katzenberg said it.
    Vulnerable usually goes hand in hand with passive aggressive.

  • Matt Sullivan

    I LOVED working at Dreamworks. One of the best and most fun jobs I ever had. Would love to go back someday.

  • matt

    Yeah Mike F, and I remember when it wasn’t used as a derogatory term by marketing people to derisively describe those people that make their life ‘difficult’ (even though those people give them a reason for being there in the first place). Often “creatives!” is accompanied by a nasal snort…

  • matt

    And I know I should read that linked article, but considering how full of garbage Katzenberg usually is (remember he was one of the two who made the “2d is dead” a self-fulfilling prophecy, and now he’s doing the same with non-stereo 3d), it’s hard. Even people on the boards here seem to believe him without questioning the reasons. And watch it peter out when the 45% drop in profit and the catchall economic downturn make it “financially unfeasible”. You reckon he’d be crowing about this if Pixar hadn’t already got so much press for their breakfast bar with cereals and whatever? Bah Humbug!

    Does everyone here know the main reason ad agencies started providing in-house catering and so on DECADES ago? So they wouldn’t lose their employees to long or liquid lunches and not have them turn up again unproductive or not at all. “Client meetings” and so on. Yeah I’m obviously cynical about this – but on the other hand you SHOULD treat your employees this way. I just don’t believe JK’s motivations. And talk of originality from the Antz and Shark Tale guy? What. Ever…

  • Jorge Garrido

    Mike, “creative” was nouned. Noun is now a verb. “Verb” of course, is used as a noun.

    “Remember when access was a thing? Now it’s something you do! It got verbed!”

    Katie Rice once mentioned on a blog somewhere that there was some DVD all executives had to watch on how to deal with “creatives.” Apparently it showed how to deal with their mood swings, autistic tendencies and irrationality. That has got to be one hilarious video.

  • Creepy

    There really is a great story here about Jeffrey and the way he treats his team. Most people that go to Dreamworks stay at Dreamworks. There is a lot of respect and loyalty at the studio.

  • Mike Fontanelli

    [Katie Rice once mentioned on a blog somewhere that there was some DVD all executives had to watch on how to deal with “creatives.” Apparently it showed how to deal with their mood swings, autistic tendencies and irrationality. That has got to be one hilarious video.]

    Production people that hate “creatives” are like fleas that hate dogs! They must breed like fleas, too, since they’re a dime-a-dozen in the animation industry.

  • Sean

    “Katie Rice once mentioned on a blog somewhere that there was some DVD all executives had to watch on how to deal with “creatives.” Apparently it showed how to deal with their mood swings, autistic tendencies and irrationality. That has got to be one hilarious video.”

    That’s terrible! I’m sure it’s funny, but I guess it makes me feel like a fool for working in this industry, like to almost everyone in the executive world, I’m seen like a toddler in adult clothes.

  • DanO

    I don’t want to work with people who are “vulnerable”. I want to work with people who have endured the slings and arrows of life’s trials. Every artist I’ve worked with who has been plucked from school and pampered by a studio like Dreamworks has turned out to be a complete prima donna. Children are “vulnerable”, your coworkers shouldn’t be. Every brilliant “creative” that Jeffrey’s company keeps happy is a person that they keep in a box.

  • matt

    Jorge, that’s exactly what I was talking about (the video)! Did they do the nasal snort?!

    Another one from the other side of the coin is the Simpsons episode where (from memory, not verbatim) the artist asserts that ‘edge’ is one of those generic words marketing people use when they don’t know WHAT they mean/want. He probably got fired. See also: More CHARACTER! Or MORE ATTITUDE! YOU know, ‘TUDE!

    Of course an animator draws glasses and a backwards baseball cap and they’re happy…

    And Creepy, I think the real question is whether they have a Tiki Room like Pixar too!

  • Oscar Grillo

    What does he mean by “Artists”?…He wouldn’t recognise one even if he gets stabbed with a pencil in an eye by Van Gogh!!!

  • Free cookies, breakfasts, lunches and dinners; plus free DVDs and screenings.

    And they play Ping Pong.

    Whereas I work in a place where I have to pay for my own coffee; there’s no bathroom, the pay sucks and my retirement plan will consist on purchasing a gun to blow my brains off when I turn 60… why I work here you may ask? Because it’s the only place where I can actually do what I studied for (To design, instead of selling other people’s designs).

    Please stop posting this kind of articles on the Brew, it’s too depressing to some of us :-/

  • Annie-Mae

    Great working conditions, you just have to live with yourself making mediocre movies. I mean really, is it worth having Shark Tale on your resume?

  • Yeah Dreamworks has a beautiful studio and while I understand the resentment towards this type of article, its great that he’s praising the creative staff. Though maybe the problem is it sounds like he’s praising the environment more than the people who make the movies. It reminds me quite a lot of what Ed Catmull has been saying for years: http://videogsb.stanford.edu/?fr_story=13ae9d4f1a13e4c68f6c87bfe6a15598d9f16c39&rf=bm
    I’m also a little confused by, ‘Tell people a story about themselves.” Is that a quote from JK or a typo from the author? I think better lines to use are, ‘this is a director driven studio’ or mentioning how its not the technology that will capture lasting appeal.
    I wish him best the luck with this plan and it seems like its on the right track. Have to admit too, I enjoyed my free lunch :)

  • Jeff P.

    I worked at DW Animation in a support capacity back in the late 90’s, when “Shrek” was in its infancy stages. It was a wonderful place to work, even if I don’t agree with everything Katzenberg says or does. As to someone mentioning earlier that this sort of situation breeds prima donnas, there were a lot more of those in the production/executive ranks than there were among the artists, in my experience.

  • Jess

    working at DW is truly a dream come true!

  • If it WASN’T a good place to work, would we hear it from someone
    currently employed there, using his real name?

  • Andrew

    They should write a follow up article on how to indoctrinate your talent into believing they are actually pursuing an artistic venture, when they are in fact just assembly line workers who churn out irritatingly vapid content with a great technical polish which makes you and a few others enough money to do really interesting things with your lives.

    We get free lunch! How about that! They’ll even give you free dinner when you spend ALL DAY AND NIGHT working in their beautiful air conditioned prison, god bless ’em.

    But don’t come in late or offend anyone or become mired in existential doubt or live freely in any way because so help me lord they’ll fire the crap out of you, and wouldn’t that be just absolutely terrible for some reason?

    And then we die.

    Thank you.