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Lifestyles of Animation Executives: Bill Damaschke

In the mid-1990s, Bill Damaschke was a struggling LA actor who found a job working as a PA on Pocahontas. Today, he is the Chief Creative Officer of DreamWorks Animation. He also owns a classic Modernist home in the Hollywood Hills.

The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece about how Damaschke and his partner, John McIlwee, have restored the home. The article comes complete with a quote from Jeffrey Katzenberg.

The architect of the house, John Lautner, also designed the UPA studio in 1949, that sadly was demolished a long time ago. Damaschke and McIlwee purchased the Lautner classic in 2002 from actor Vincent Gallo. They paid $1.3 million for the home, and have spent another $1 million on renovating it. The article doesn’t mention that a few months ago, Damaschke and McIlwee also bought President Gerald Ford’s Rancho Mirage retreat for $1.675 million.

  • anon.

    I mean no sarcasm when I say this:

    Good on you, Amid, for not editorializing.

    • dbenson

      Imagine how many more houses he could buy if he could animate, too.

      Sorry. Somebody had to snark. But at least he’s restoring and not replacing with a McMansion.

      • Mac

        Every dreamworks animator I know lives in a crappy little suburban mcmansion house in valencia, 2 miles from where they went to school.

  • Bobby

    I bet Bill Damaschke was an intern before he got his PA gig in the mid-90’s.

    Who’s saying we should get rid of internships as we know it?

    Getting rid of internships will only reward mediocrity and punish the one’s who should be succeeding in the first place.

    Good on ya Bill!

    • Drew

      I don’t think internships reward excellence; seems to me they exploit passion.

    • Herbert Hoover

      “Internships” as they exist today didn’t exist in the 90s.

      Likely he was hired as a PA -the entry level “grunt” position making minimum wage or thereabouts. This has been replaced by your precious internship.

  • Great to see these modernist classics being restored and cared for.
    They are a part of LA history and architecture not seen on the East Coast.
    The “future” architecture and design from Art Deco to Wright’s ” Hollyhock House” in Barnsdall Park and the design concepts of the 1939 World’s fair to this 50’s example is such an amazing aesthetic period and deserving of the costs and care to guide it into the next century. Stewardship of our culture. Fabulous.

  • Dave

    This is one of countless examples of why one should always be nice to the PA’s on a production.

  • Mac

    Amid doesn’t need to editorialize, this speaks for itself. It begs the question, what kind of house does Nico Marlet have? James Baxter? The industrialized animation process doesn’t reward the artists the best, does it? Those PAs who pin up your storyboards or organize your files have more earning potential than you, even if you’re a world class talent.

    • Daniel

      It’s the old adage of it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. A PA rubs shoulders with producers, executives and upper management. Sure, they may be fetching them coffee, but they know their name and not yours, even if you are the one really “making” their movie. So when an opportunity to advance presents itself, who are they going to think of? Not one of the faceless LCD lit drones in the trenches, that’s for sure.

      • Toonio

        And Daniel knocked it off the park!

    • Big Brown

      Well to answer your question, both James Baxter and Nico Marlet have really nice houses. I’ve have worked with these guys for over 16 years and to tell you the truth good artist get paid very well, bottom line. Obviously, we don’t get paid like the executives. It is true that PA’s have more earning potential and I’ve seen many of them rise through the ranks, heck I was at DreamWorks when Bill Damashke was just a department coordinator back in 95′ on Prince of Egypt. Unfortunately this is how it is, success in animation is a huge political game, some fail upwards while others have to work extremely hard to get to where they want. It’s the never ending battle of Creative vs Executive….and oh yeah, be nice to those PA’s, they do remember how you treated them. 5 of them have become my Producers and Production Managers.

      • Ermy

        So, fetching coffee and pinning up storyboards qualifies a person to become a Producer or Production Manager? That’s very depressing.

      • Big Brown

        Why is it depressing? Like any position in a company, entry level people are mentored or managed by the person(s) in the next position above them. Most Producers and Production managers aren’t made over night, they are groomed for years. I’m not defending those who decide to pursue the executive side of the animation industry, but you need to understand that this is first and foremost a business and people aren’t just exhaulted to such positions without a few years of training. However, there are a some who just shoot straight to the top, and it is what it is…This is how it’s been done for years and it will never change and like I said before this is the never ending battle of Creative vs Executive.

  • don

    Can’t imagine they have much time to use those houses.

  • Wow thats dope. Vincent Gallo use to own it as well!? He’s Hip Hop for those that don’t know go check Graffiti Rock.

  • jens

    Beautiful house!

    If this is a post about architecture it’s well appreciated. But please no moaning about execs earn so much vs. artists earn so little.

    It’s a career choice to make. No need to complain about it later.

    If you want the $’s maybe don’t become an illustrator or animator or blog editor…

    • “If you want the $’s maybe don’t become an illustrator or animator or blog editor… “

      If everybody did that, then I wonder… who would be left to come up with things like those execs’ pretty houses?

      I’m an interior designer BTW, and I really don’t care if I never have the chance to afford one of the residences I design for my clients. I would on the other hand like to think that when I retire I won’t have to put a bullet inside my skull because I don’t have a pension that could afford me the bare necessities.

      • Tak

        RPJ, didn’t you get the Memo from Mr & Ms Rothschild. The novel concept of “a retirement” is over. Why do you think upper management has been paying itself so exorbitantly… because they know this and they’re simply stuffing their own pillows so that they can ride out their life expectancy in comfort despite the financial institutions, markets & government funded retirement schemes [based on groth & the markets] slowing down or breaking.

      • That’s why everybody’s rooting for a Zombie Apocalypse nowadays.

  • Karl Hungus

    There is a bit of a revival of John Lautner architecture these days. I am a huge fan of his and find his homes more compelling than those of his mentor Frank Loydd Wright. Other notable Lautner homes are Sheats Goldstein Residence (which was made famous when it was used as Jackie Treehorn’s house in “The Big Lebowski”), and the octogonal UFO house from the film “Body Double”. Its a bit of a pedigree in Hollywood to own a Lautner home. Courtney Cox and David Arquette had one on Carbon Beach in Malibu and later sold it to the repugnant McCourt family that ran the Dodgers into the ground. Kelly Lynch and her screenwriter husband also own a Lautner.

    The other thing to take form this post is how much money there is in animation today. But not for the artists. Their union was just offered a nothing deal from the studios and has since walked away from the negotiating table when they were informed that what they make is not “real content”, its just for kids.

    Perhaps CartoonBrew could do a post on that….

  • Mapache

    Fancy people and their fancy hollywood houses. Do you think he’ll pay for my studies if I ask politely?

    Anyway, I love John Lautner. The house is gorgeous.

  • Good for him!

  • Bud

    The decor looks so lonely and sad, as if they live in an entombed museum. It must reflect their personalties, or lack thereof.

    • Nick

      Interiors are ‘styled’ before photos are taken – hence the sterility. It’s not candid – so probably wouldn’t look like that day to day.

  • Braik

    Good for him if he worked hard for it.

    • GW

      Maybe he did, but there’s no way to work hard enough to justify being a millionaire.

      • DC


      • GW

        Simple. Take the example of one person who has a menial job and only makes 50,000 dollars a year. Compare that to somebody who makes 1 million dollars a year. Am I to believe that the millionaire works twenty times harder than the person with the menial job? Of course not. The difference between their earnings cannot be justified by how hard the millionaire works.