John Textor John Textor
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Digital Domain’s John Textor Brags to Investors about Exploiting Animation Student Labor

Digital Domain CEO John Textor (pictured above with his wife) envisions big things for his company’s new feature animation studio in Port St. Lucie, Florida called Tradition Studios. While we’ve written about the studio’s ambitious feature film plans, what wasn’t known until recently is how Textor intends to create the films. His plan is to convince students to pay Digital Domain to work on its films for free.

The blog VFX Soldier has obtained a speech that Textor gave last November to investors in which he revealed how the company’s new animation school Digital Domain Institute will be integrated with the Tradition studio. Textor told the audience:

Classes starting in the education space, what’s interesting is the relationship between the digital studio and the college.  Not only is this a first in a number of ways that we’ve talked about, but 30% of the workforce at our digital studio down in Florida, is not only going to be free, with student labor, it’s going to be labor that’s actually paying us for the privilege of working on our films.

Now this was the controversial element of this and the first discussions with the Department of Education, ’cause it sounds like you’re taking advantage of the students.  But we were able to persuade even the academic community, if we don’t do something to dramatically reduce costs in our industry, not only ours but many other industries in this country, then we’re going to lose these industries .. we’re going to lose these jobs.  And our industry was going very quickly to India and China.

Students, in other words, will pay up to $105,000 for the “privilege” of working on Digital Domain’s features, the first of which will be The Legend of Tembo. As VFX Soldier points out, “It’s one thing to work for low pay, it’s another thing to work for free, but it’s unfathomable to be expected to pay to work for free.

If all of this sounds a little fishy, that’s because it is. The Animation Guild in Los Angeles is exploring whether Digital Domain might be in violation of state and federal labor laws. They’ve tried to communicate with multiple Florida government agencies, including the state’s Department of Education, with no luck yet. Federal labor laws, however, would appear to be in favor of artists as they clearly stipulate that interns cannot “perform productive work” (i.e. work on the production of a film) without being compensated with at least minimum wage and overtime pay. (Minimum wage, by the way, is $7.67 per hour in Florida.)

As animation education programs proliferate around the United States and competition intensifies for a finite number of jobs, studios find themselves in a position to exploit young artists more aggressively than ever before. Whether it’s Titmouse relocating its studio nearly 3,000 miles away to avoid paying its employees union wages or Digital Domain making people pay to work on its films, there are plenty of legal loopholes that studios can exploit to save a buck on the backs of their production crews. And some studio CEOs are so proud of themselves that they’ll publicly boast about how they’re getting away with it.

UPDATE: John Textor’s “Free Student Labor” Comments Have Staying Power

UPDATE #2: John Textor Made $16 Million In 2011 While Digital Domain’s Revenue Dropped

UPDATE #3: Digital Domain CEO John Textor Caught On Video: “Free Labor is Much Better Than Cheap Labor”

(Photo of Debbie and John Trextor via

  • If this is true, I hope it’s shut down fast! Job creators my @$$

  • Gary

    John Textor said, “’cause it sounds like you’re taking advantage of the students.”

    Yeah, that’s probably because they are.

    • Hector Lazaga

      Here in the Philippines, the same system has been done and it really killed the industry. the government has to do something about this if it is not to annihilate the industry. Maybe they just copied from here.

      • Leonardo

        They want to destroy the industry. No doubt he was paid off by the globalists who are intentionally destroying the world wide economy in order to push through their world government. When everyone is scared, desperate and poor they’ll promise world government as the solution to the problems they created in the first place.
        there’ll be minimal opposition. similar things are happenign as companies close prematurely, no doubt the owners were paid off to do this citing ‘economic downturn’ as an excuse despite the record number of blockbusters being pushed through.

        No ‘you’re a conspiracy theorist’ moronic comments please people. I’m right, I always am.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Agreed. Open your eyes, people.

  • Rod Tejada

    This is just outrageous! Words cannot express my frustration…

  • Sarah


  • Well, animators, students and fellow artists, I hope you’re paying attention because THIS is what the industry heads really think of us!

  • Sally Port

    As if it’s not bad enough in the Animation industry in the US at the moment. You are lucky if you have a job that lasts longer than 3 months! Not only are the majority of feature film jobs moving to India/Asia, but now starry eyed 19 year olds will be paying to work on films in the States? This is just sickening and frightening for the future of the industry.

  • ryan

    aaah, the real world… it’s all about making a buck no matter who ya $*%#! Wow, that line sounds like it could almost come straight out of the heavy handed & unsublte mission statement for the Lorax feature.

  • wever

    Okay. Bye-bye, confidence in Digital Domain.

    And FYI, Titmouse still has an operational studio in California.

  • You don’t have to exploit students to keep the industry from moving to China or India. What about using some of your influence to lobby for tax credits.

    • David Larson

      dude== they’re paying to work fro free ON TOP OF the company getting tax breaks.

  • Marie

    Another fine example of American greed.

    • Jason

      Well greed is sort of the basis of capitolism. If you follow the labor movement back through the beginning of industrialism you will see this happening non-stop throughout the history of America. I’m only surprised that people are still surprised when they see this stuff and act like it hasnt been going on under thier noses in almost every facet of thier lives for as long as they have been around.

      How many cheeks do you all have to keep turning?

      • Let’s Stereotype, Exercise and Mix Drinks!

        Capitalism is not based on greed. Greed is an “intense or selfish desire for something”. Capitalism encourages and rewards greed, but it does not require it to function.

        There’s a difference between obtaining money by offering someone a nice product/service that they want, and finding ways to cheat more money out of them by being dishonest or unfair. The latter is greed; the former is simply trying to make a comfortable living.

        Since everyone inherently likes the concept of fairness, you shouldn’t act as if we should be unaffected by the more blatant examples of greed or poor treatment of workers. How will things improve if we just go, “Oh well, that’s capitalism for you”?

    • MissConception

      I’m not so certain it is about “greed” as of right now for a lot of studios. Maybe for Digital Domain, but other studios are just trying to stay afloat in the horrendous economy. The government isn’t on their side, so they have to cut costs and try to operate with as few resources as possible.

      I’m not defending Mr. Textor. I’m defending the other studios out there trying to produce the same high quality product expected of them under financial stress.

  • After stealing my idea they’re still acting in a not very clean way. Fantastic!

  • I want to yell and scream, like I know I’m supposed to, but other countries have been doing this for quite some time now, right? For example, animation training programs — “certificate” programs — in southern Asia do this exact same thing by enlisting part of its senior-most students to participate on TV or film productions, only to be compensated in credits or experience.

    I’m not saying it’s immensely widespread, I don’t have the current research to back up if it is or isn’t, but what I am saying is that this illness of sorts has long since manifest itself elsewhere… and persisted.

    (Perhaps south Asia isn’t the best example, considering the number of fly-by-night animation schools there are that rob students of their money… but the point remains the same: some companies, very profitable companies, use inexperienced labor at little cost because they are legally designated as paying students.)

  • Jody Morgan

    Can’t wait to see Digital Domain’s response to this information going public.

    • You and me both!!

      • mj

        you me and that guy together both as well!

      • David Spinsky

        That makes four.

        Oh, this is gonna be fun.

      • Cath

        makes me want to punch someone in the face.

  • Toonio

    Son of a bitch. Abraham Lincoln declared the end of slavery for a reason and now has a picture of John Textor on it.

    Guess it’s time to boycott every possible studio which uses Digital Domain work, even it that means stopping going to the movies.

    What a douche, guess by association James Cameron must be a douche too.

    • James Cameron has been disassociated with Digital Domain for years. That’s not to comment on his actual level of Douche-Ness, but for clarity on the subject.

      • John

        I thought Michael Bay owns Digital Domain?

    • Ryoku

      “even it that means stopping going to the movies.”

      I quit that years ago, and stuff like SOPA haven’t encouraged me to go back.

    • akira

      slaves? WTF? nobody is forced to go do this thing at digital domain. study history and slavery please. next thing people will be comparing digital domain to a concentration camp…

    • Jj

      James sold his stake and has nothing to do with DD for the past 10 years. Good
      Uck oh toting every film they do as that will cover a whole lot of films – from Tansformers and Tron to the Social Network. Al’s there commercial work covers everything from Nike to Jaguar.

  • Florida, aren’t you the state where the Fleischer studio moved so they could hire non-union labor? And aren’t you the place that helped get Bush elected because of a confusing ballot? And aren’t you unable to arrest a man who shot and killed an unarmed man because of your “stand your ground” laws?

    Florida, you’ve got some splanin’ to do.

    • My home state of Florida is a stain. And it will always be so. The retirees who vote in force want only to preserve their nest eggs. So they never vote for more education or infrastructure spending.

      Ergo, Florida.

    • The_Animator

      To be fair, they also made Mulan and Lilo and Stitch, two of the best modern features Disney has ever put out.

      • Doug Nichols

        Who’s the “they” here you’re referring to?

      • The_Animator

        Disney Florida…?

    • DJM

      Zimmerman had a good reason. His head was being bashed into the ground.

      • B.Richards

        Recent Police surveillance tapes from 30 minutes after the shooting show otherwise.Needs to go to trial to prove Zimmerman’s claim. What does this comment have to do with the topic? Florida’s weirdness?


      As someone close to DD and what they’re doing in FLA, I have a couple of thoughts to add in this discussion:

      1) I know for a fact DD is committed top quality animated films — students or not, they want to get the best on screen. The quality of any Pixar, Disney, DW or Blue Sky films. Look at the online art work for The Legend of Timbo if you’re doubting it — stuff looks amazing.

      2) From what I’ve heard… currently, they’re offering competitive wages with all the top studios (maybe slightly adjusted for a lower cost-of-living, but still top wages) — AND having trouble getting industry professionals to move to Florida! There’s dozens of unfilled jobs. If they won’t move here, train them here. At least it’s still a US job.

      3) I pretty sure the tuition is for a soon-to-be fully accredited, liberal arts education — that’s the same at any higher education institution . FSU is one of the top 5 film schools in the country — more student emmies in the last 5 years than NYU & USC combined. In their new animation program you can either work on your own project in your junior or senior year (like any other anim school) OR work in the industry on a major release film. It’s YOUR choice. How bad of a delima is that? Some people may actually have to work as cogs in the wheel to get their chance on the big films. They’ll be graduating students that are actually hirable to fit right in, instead of a class full of directors. And at the seminar they gave the studio they said they hoped it would not only be DD films, but maybe ILM, DWs or other films you’d have a chance to work on.

      4) What it does to the industry… it’s a new world. You adapt or you die. If things continue status quo look for more and more work to go overseas. How’s those Trader Joe jobs look now? If student and intern labor help offset the rising costs of productions and we can continue to make films in the US, more power to them.

      DD is a business, not a charity. The job of business is make money… in this case, hopefully by making great art as well. If students want to be associated with that, they have the option to go there or not. You have the option not to work there. Isn’t more choices for both students and employers a good thing? They’ve come up with a new way to work in the industry. Don’t judge them too early. This country was founded on capitalism, hate to blame them for that.

      Give it a chance, hear the details before you throw stones. I’m proud my home state for Florida is involved in this.

      • VectorVictor

        Wow is this an early “April Fools” article?

        “If student and intern labor help offset the rising costs of productions and THEY can continue to make films in the US, more power to them.”

        Fixed it for you, Give it a Chance.

        To me that’s like saying you’re happy a factory full of robots is here in the good old USA instead of overseas. Seriously, if most of us are working on the project and NOT getting paid for our hard work, who gives a damn where the production is? This is keeping work in the states, but it’s not keeping JOBS in the states. See the difference?

        Wow man, you’ve got a rude awakening coming for the time when you start wanting to actually “make a living” in this business. To all the green young talent yearning for their first gig in the anim biz at any cost-let me correct one huge assumption right now:


        Talk to veteran artists and animators if you don’t believe me. I know guys that kick ass and have demo reels that would make your head spin. They are TEACHING students and they now can’t get in these studios anymore because their former students are landing the jobs.

        First we get people on this site defending making 400 to 500 bucks a week at titmouse…. which may or may not be acceptable for people starting out.. granted… but now we get people on here actually defending the fact they will be PAYING to work on a “job”??

        Man, these MBAs are seriously gonna rip you kids apart.

        “They’ve come up with a new way to work in the industry.” Haha- not really…… but we haven’t tried this since 1865 or so…….


        TALENT LANDS JOBS. By the time most of these kids figure out there’s not dozens of directing jobs waiting for them based on their partially finished, eclectic short films, the handful of students who sucked-it-up and took an entry level job are moving steadily ahead in the industry and demonstrating their talents.

        Trouble is most kids coming out of college don’t have work that applies to production. You gotta weed thru hundreds of Mary Blair or Frank Frazetta wannabes to see if they model, or thru horribly rigged and modeled characters doing Joe Pesci imitations to see if they can animate. Maybe you see 1 in 100 that may work.

        This program gives the students A CHOICE to start showing APPLICABLE TALENTS earlier — on production quality software, characters and content. (Honestly people, is having that choice a bad thing? Look at the comments, some people see the benefit in this)

        BTW, there’s plenty of “veterans” out their with crappy reels. Guys that have labored away at low-end video games, badly conceived and executed commercials, 2D guys that never really made the conversion or guys simply who still don’t know how to put a reel together. I get a feeling these are the guys doing most of the belly-aching on this topic. Industry pros worried about losing their jobs in a changing environment.

        And a good time to be worried. Maybe it’s time we all upped our game rather than trying to hold back options for the next generation.

      • VectorVictor

        Talent lands jobs.. sure. Except at studios that now are starting to value cheap labor OVER skill. You’re right… the veterans are probably the ones belly-aching… rookies are just desperate to get their foot in the door at all costs. Been there, done that. Belly-aching industry veterans want things like 40 hour work weeks, real health care coverage, time off to bring their sick kids to the doctor, a roof over their heads, friday evenings free for dinner with the wife, weekends free from unpaid overtime work, the ability to stop working for a few minutes to step outside and make an important phone call. They want to eat lunch WITHOUT a cintiq pen in their hands. Stupid stuff like that. Things young artists don’t really don’t give a damn about when they live alone in their parents basement and they’ve got blue balls for their first real job in the business. Who would you want to hire? Personally, I’d wanna hire the best talent on my shows, but I’m not the one who watches the bottom line. The money men just want the cheapest labor that can come up with something reasonably ok. Enter John Textor.

        That quantity-over-quality mentality used to be the norm only at bottom-feeder studios. Not anymore. Its changing fast. If every company would rather hire someone who is cheaper than you just because they will work for less, there is no long term future for this business for almost ANYONE with experience. Thats my point… increasingly, studios are willing to put up with LESS SKILLED labor just because its cheaper for their bottom line. Have a few talented and crusty old vets to fix the mess the kids make. End up still having saved tons of money in the end.

        All these students who did whatever it took to get into the business are gonna be stunned when they want to start making real money to pay down their student debt. That company wont hire you back now because you will wanna actually be PAID a living wage for your work. Why would any company pay for labor when the labor force would pay them for the honor to work? Every year there’s a new crop of fresh young suckers waiting to be exploited just to get their chance at the “big time”.

        Conventional wisdom has it that knowledge and experience will get you other jobs in the future. Industry veterans are howling because we know the business from many years of experience working with producers and executives, and we know this ultimately will only hurt ALL OF US in the end.

        Sorry for the rant… but this is an important and challenging time for the US animation industry right now… and it doesn’t look good……


        Now you’re making big jumps and rants to bolster your argument. You’re speaking from emotion not logic.

        No one said anything about lowering quality — in fact just the opposite. The notion DD is proposing is to give younger people coming out of college a chance to demonstrate and grow to that level of quality.

        And there’s nothing about lower wages. The jobs are there — in friggin’ Port Saint what-ever. And they’re offering experienced veterans (like yourself I assume) a chance to work there. But they can’t fill all the jobs with QUALITY people. This is a way for them to grow the talent in their backyard.

        As far as quality of life, if any studio puts you under those pressures you listed above, leave. No one should have to put up with that. It is indeed despicable that that happens in our industry. But also leave those points for another argument. No one has claimed those are DD’s working conditions now or in the future.

        You’re making big, false assumptions just to try to prove your point. And that’s the trouble with articles like Amid’s. He’s trying to stir the pot. His view is already slanted without any facts or feedback from DD. All he quoted was a small excerpt from a speech and the OUT OF STATE tuition costs from Florida State University. Surely a “reporter” (?) can go deeper than that.

        Lots of vitriol from you people who don’t know all the facts. And you guys with all your emotions and slights you’ve felt from industry just jump on the bandwagon without thinking.

        I get the controversy with anything new, but please try to be objective and think first.

      • Vector Victor

        Well I’d be the first one to admit that this is an emotional topic… but I would argue that I speak not purely from emotion but from personal experience and from working closely with artists and executives in this business for nearly 20 years. I’ve watched plenty of young artists far more talented that I get chewed up and spit out by studios that do not have their best interests at heart. Funny thing is, the kids are always so blindsided by it…….

        I see paying to work at a for-profit company about the same as a pharmaceutical company jacking up their prices on critical medicines. They’re just taking advantage of people who don’t have very many options.

        So the reason Digital Domain is gonna get people with no work experience who are willing to actually pay to work there, is because the studio really only just wants higher quality work? Hmmm…. Of course the studio will not talk about it- has anybody EVER heard a Producer or CEO tell you they expect lower quality work?

        When you teach people animation you can show them a shortcut they can take to learn something quickly and save themselves lots of pain and wasted time. Sometimes, however, you just have to sit back and let them try it for themselves. Once in a while they school you on a new technique you never tried before and we all learn something new. Other times, the student just has to do the heavy lifting themselves before they figure it out. For some artists, this is going to be a very expensive experiment. Lots of people on this comment forum see a train wreck on so many levels with this “new way of working” that Digital Domain is proposing. Some people don’t see any problem. Like you said, we don’t have a full story yet. Guess we’ll find out soon enough.

        Look, Give It A Chance, nothing would make me happier than for there to be a new way for young talent to get a kick-start into a healthy, lucrative animation and visual effects industry and begin a long, gainfully-employed career in the business. I have nothing against you and your enthusiasm or optimism. All I can do is say proceed with caution. Nothing I can possibly say can add anything more than we and others have already mentioned here, so I will step aside here. I sincerely wish you the best of luck.

      • Scott Squires

        Good points Vector Victor. Seems like GIVE IT A CHANCE is likely an employee or investor with DD since he seems to know a lot of the ‘facts’ the rest of us don’t.

      • this_guy

        Look, it’s one thing if this was an unforeseen byproduct of a quality education. It’s another thing when it’s a scam to to sucker kids into paying you to work. Dude was talking to his investors about his sweet ponzi scheme. He wasn’t talking about how it was hard to get talent to move there so they were gonna start a school to grow it and hopefully get the talent they need to make an awesome product. He was straight up talking about how they would start a school where kids would pay ‘for the privilege’ to work on their movie and help their bottom line.

        What i suggest is the school instead have the students working with DD to create shorts that air before the movie. Shorts are awesome, usually not for profit (well dvd sales and what not) and fun, full production projects that will both show DD the new talent and give the students production experience. In addition, there’s less chance your 30% student workforce will fuck up your movie.

        I’m not against studios giving students the chance to work in a studio environment. Pixar, Disney, ReelFX (and plenty more) all have internship and apprenticeship programs that offer students and new grads the opportunity to work on (or at least in) a studio environment. The difference is YOU GET PAID. Even if it’s minimum wage (not like minimum wage is high in fricking florida.) If you’re a for-profit company making a for-profit product you need to pay the people making the product. Period.

      • Jessica Lohse

        “you adapt or you die”, “this is a business not a charity” and “you have the option not to work there” all seem like pretty good reasons for me to AVOID AVOID AVOID DD films and Tradition Studios films. I’m the talent, I DO know how to make a showreel and I’m not a veteran. I find Give It A Chance to be insulting and biased. The STUDIOS are to blame for the bidding system and the VFX houses need to stand up to them, not encourage them. Come on Digital Domain, show some backbone! Sell your soul, your human integrity to Hollywood, but don’t swindle students out of tuition money in a devil’s bargain, because that’s all it is. There is plenty of good, local talent that would do the work cheaply if it meant experience. Give artists a chance and give students the time to learn what they need to know, not just how to do 2D or 3D only for the duration of whatever flick you have them working on as mere roto or matchmove artists. How will they know what they want if they aren’t taught a bit of both and then deciding from there? It’s not really about them, though, is it? It’s because Hollywood is riding the Digital Domain pony harder and harder until they can’t afford to pay artists enough to keep them. Like I said, Backbone. At least Disney animators have a union.

  • Atrocious.

  • Stuart Bury

    How ridiculous! I don’t think I will be able to support anything Digital Domain does if they continue with this plan.

    And to threaten the “academic community” that the animation industry will be outsourced to other countries is so foolish it is hard to fathom a CEO believes it himself. It goes to show that Mr. Textor ignorant of how great films are made. Great films are made as a labor of love by artists, not by slave labor of the uninformed.

    I feel very sorry for any student who decides put themselves under the wing of Digital Domain.

    • Umm .. Great films are made by studios who employ people who love to make great films. The important distinction lies in the money flow. Studios only labor out of love .. for money.

  • Agathorn

    This sounds harsh but you are looking at it from the “investor spin”.

    But take a step back and look at it from an unbiased position.

    You go to a college, let’s say to study game design.  You pay that college money, and in turn they teach you how to design games.  In most colleges however you aren’t getting any real-world hands on experience.  You are learning to create games from an academic point of view.  You probably would design some small games as a student project, but you aren’t going say get the hands on experience of working on the next assassin’s creed.

    But stop and think for a moment how awesome and beneficial to your career that would be if you did?

    This is like if you went to a school that partnered with Ubisoft to give you hands on experience in the creation of a real upcoming release.

    The only difference here from the standard school model is that 1) The school you are paying money to is a division of a film company and 2) Instead of doing “made for school projects” you are instead getting real hands on experience working on a real film by the parent company.

    You are getting the education you paid for AND real world experience to put on your reel, experience that will make you a lot more marketable.

    I would have jumped at such an opportunity when I was getting started.

    As a disclaimer, no I don’t work for this school, but I do own a VERY small amount of stock in the parent company.

    • What you’re not seeing is how this practice effects the market. If all studios could turn to “free” (or revenue generating) labor, what does that do to the student who just spent over $100k for the education once they graduate?

      Also, what’s wrong with doing things like fxphd? The three owners reach out to industry vets, get the latest tech and create classes to teach people the skills needed .. to be employed by studios working on the latest feature films.

      The difference? The pay to the student turned artist. Go with the Textor/Gnomon model, and you can kiss your job goodbye.

      • Jon

        Not to mention the value of the education.

        Who ever the lead artist on the project happens to be decides the education plan AND the look of the film for the next 2 years? Sounds like inbreeding to me.

    • Rajesh

      Yes, that’s great for investors in the short term. In the long term, not so much. Because the company, so used to getting free labor, will decide never to hire anyone because it’s more profitable to charge people to do the work. I mean, why hire lawyers when you can charge law students to write contracts and get real world experience.

      Spending money on labor (the way other profitable companies do it) would harm its bottom line and stock price. Because movies that look like Gnomeo and Juliet or Hoodwinked aren’t gonna attract audiences and big box office numbers.

      If no one wants to watch your movies, you can’t survive as a studio. Ask MGM. I bet investors love them.

      It’s all moot though, we’ll all be replaced by robots anyway, and money will be a thing of the past.

      • akira

        wow people here have so little faith in veterans’ abilities!

        sorry to say, but if you can’t do better work than the nubies it’s time to start looking for a new career.

    • If I found out that the college I was paying to attend was turning around and selling my work at a profit, I would be livid.

      That’s where this doesn’t sit right with me. Its not as if they’re doing charity work here, they’ll be working on films that rake in millions and millions of dollars.

      And what about after their “training” at this place? After this kind of precedent, what employer is going to PAY their workers after they find out they can be paid BY their workers?

    • Ryoku

      This is a studio, not a college.

      Back in the day you could work in animation studios for free, doing little things and learning what you need to learn.

    • TKK

      What happens when the student is no longer an intern and is now an animator with experience… Does this turn into now there’s no job for that now highly trained person, possibly with a high student loan debt, who had to PAY to do an internship and work for free?

      And the CEOs and top management will continue to pay themselves in amounts that most people can’t even really imagine, and report “highest profits for the company ever”…

      I think I’m done with going to the movies.

      Would you be able to “hire” a cook, plumber, electrician, contractor to work in/on your home with the offer of “pay me to have this job and you’ll have something cool for your portfolio/resume…and a letter of recommendation. Otherwise I’ll just have someone in China or India do the work.

      Artists, and people with high demand craft skills are often expected to work either for free or at their own expense (taking a loss to get a job), and it’s about damn time that stopped.

    • VectorVictor

      How beneficial it will be for WHAT career? What makes you think any company would actually be stupid enough to PAY for YOUR experience when you’re done? You’ll just be another out of work experienced artist, just like the experienced veterans who didn’t get the job before you.

  • Trevor

    I’ve been following this story, but I have not seen anyone else use the $105k figure. Where did you find that?

    • Tuition fees are on Digital Domain Institute’s website. Be sure to add up the Florida State University base fee plus the additional amount that Digital Domain Institute is charging.

      • Trevor

        That’s insane…I was thinking this would be more in line with an Animation Mentor tuition, not a full college degree program.

      • Toonio

        Guess the platoon of self taught animators making six figures must be laughing at those tuition fees pretty much.

      • :- .

        Woah, Trevor looks like he might be interested…

      • Trevor

        I’ve already broken into the industry, but thanks for lookin out :)

    • Animation School Graduate

      Just FYI, $105k is very cheap for an animation/VFX program, especially one offering experience opportunities like this. The school I graduated from costs students close to $200k for 4 years these days.

      • Zabbot

        $200k is absolutely ridiculous for anything short of a medical degree..

  • Skip

    I guess he can kiss his film goodbye now.

  • “I feel very sorry for any student who decides put themselves under the wing of Digital Domain.”

    If they’re content, who are we to judge?

    I personally think people who smoke are killing themselves, but it’s their choice, just like these students can choose to pay for an experience. Not much different than what schools do, really. You give them money, they get rich, you get an education and they turn around and use your work done in school (and well after) to publicize their programs and get more students/money. We don’t feel sorry for the lawyers who fork over tens of thousands of dollars to get a law degree…

    Anyway, the proof will be in the pudding, as always. If they make good entertainment, they’ll be successful and more companies will follow in suit. If they make crap, other people will realize the importance of hiring people with some experience to do the major portion of the work. At the end of the day, it’s in consumers’ hands.

  • You get what you pay for (or… don’t pay for). Will be interesting to see how this affects the quality of their films compared to wage-paying studios.

    • Which is probably why Mr. Textor claims to limit the work to 30% of the total labor force on a project. Still, I think that’s ridiculous and illegal and I aim to prove it.

      • Ashes

        Good luck with that. Tons of colleges and universities in the US have professional internship programs. You aren’t getting paid, but getting college credit. These students are paying DD to work on a film. They are paying tution to get a BA after 3 to 5 years of school and they have choice of doing a professional internship at DD Florida.

        Do I think Textor’s attitude sucks? Yes, but what he’s actually doing is being done all over US in lots of businesses.

      • Scott Squires

        No, what DD is doing in Florida is not what lots of US businesses are doing.
        Other businesses don’t run the schools and charge the students.
        Other businesses are required by law not to allow interns or others do productive work without pay.
        Sure, some companies probably take advantage of the last one but has any company committed to using students for 30% of their work force for free publicly?

  • Honestly, as a student, things like this scare the crap out of me. While I’ve always been willing to do an unpaid internship for the experience, the thought of being exploited financially while in an educational environment is just disturbing.

    • Gold Standard:
      Paid internship – Experience and income = GREAT!

      Common Solution:
      Unpaid internship – Painful, but the precious experience = GOOD!


      You PAY $$ for your internship and you PAY in unpaid hours FREELY given to a corporation and you receive NO RESIDUALS for your work in addition to no pay = PAIN + PAIN + PAIN = MAJOR FAIL!

  • Devils Advocate

    I’m just throwing this out there.

    Is this ethical as it stands…that’s debatable. Personally, I think I need to see a few more facts before I start boycotting anything.

    I think that to in order to keep this out of the devious and diabolical territory, DD would need to fork over some cash if the students work is “usable.”

    But, lets face it, most student work wont be usable, and as a studio, why would you pay a student for work you can’t use??? But if it is, they should certainly be compensated monetarily.

    From an educational standpoint, it does make sense. Most schools that claim to have an animation program, frankly suck. I went to one of those schools where you would drop down 105,000 and receive barely anything in the way of an education much less have the experience to hit the ground running.

    At least in this case they would indeed receive real world experience. Which is something that, as someone who works with young professionals on a regular basis, is something that is desperately needed in the American side of the industry….its too expensive to train up to par these days, especially in smaller studios. Students need to be able to plug in go.

    I’s like to see the contents of the actual program before I jump to a conclusion.

    • Hulk

      When I was a student, this would’ve been an education I would’ve gladly paid for. Still, investing that amount of money in a commercial film usually earns a person co-producer credit or some sort of back end benefits. People get more for investing way less on kickstarter projects. If buying in to the film gave these students not only animation skills but some sort of residual package, that would be fair.

    • I think DD has the right idea to offset cost they are just going about it the wrong way. I think having a studio run a school to offset their balance sheet is a good idea. Should the students be used to offset 30% of the production staff, no. I think that if it was treated as an in house internship for a semester near graduation and that you would get to help with interning duties on the production, that that would be fine. The devil is in the details.

      I always felt that studios are one stop solutions and need to diversify their interests. The idea along of running a education component to a film company makes a lot of sense.

  • Gerold

    Ken Harris began his tenure at Warners by paying Leon Schlesinger each week for the privilege of learning the craft. Eventually Harris got so proficient that Schlesinger proudly told him “Good news! You don’t have to pay us anymore!” So he worked after that point for free until eventually (and finally) getting paid. Harris became one of the best and fastest animators that Warners ever saw yet it all began with the same old story.

    At Disney in the 1930s beginning artists were contractually bound to pay back a percentage of their salaries because they were learning a craft.

    Both of these examples took place in an era before the existence of an animation union.

    • And produced a lot of animators who are way better than today’s, too. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, either. I think those folks had more passion for the craft since they were willing to pay to learn it, instead of be paid to do it. A lot less “Eh, I get a paycheck either way” nonsense as well. Different times, though, I’m sure.

      • Great

        Definitely, if you really love animation you should be doing it for other people, for free.

      • Hmmm

        I hope that was sarcasm, Great……

      • If you really love animation, you SHOULD be doing it for other people. Aka the world. Why would you make animation just for yourself? That’s a pretty gigantic waste of time, never showing years of work to another living soul.

      • Jason H

        Heck yeah! All animators should work for free completely. Whatever profits that are made should, no, NEED to go to the producers and executive board. 100%.

        Might as well hop on the troll train. Toot toot!

      • Funkybat

        I don’t think anyone gets into this industry to get “rich,” but people do need to be able to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, and if they went to any kind of accreddited school, keep up with some rather hefty student loan payments. These are not trivial expenses, and artists who spent years working and studying to hone their craft deserve at least a living wage for the area they are living in in exchange for their work. These kinds of trends are disturbing, as are the comments from people who would seem to defend people “paying to work.”

        And citing the hiring practices of 1930s Termite Terrace hardly seem to be good examples of how a modern-day student should break into the industry. As someone said, this was before the animation union. It was also the middle of the freakin’ Depression. Can you say “desperation?” Do we want to recreate that kind of world?

    • You are pointing out one individual stand out(case in point Jack Kirby ended up quiting work in animation, and not saying he would have had an profound effect to not derail the conversation) but not properly examining this point by researching the overall effect of everyone else whom worked for free during this time, and the overall effect on the people and the industry.It’s not a sound argument.

    • Jason H

      Disney was unionized though.

      I really don’t get the hatred of unions when they have pretty much zero political power in this country. I guess people just like kicking dead dogs around here.

      • gravel

        You must not live in the USA if you think unions have zero political power.

    • It was wrong then, and just as wrong now.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Wait until this college student work force decides not to show up because there’s a party somewhere or doesn’t show up because they’re hung over or decides to head off on spring break. They’ll never be able to manage them. It may look good on paper but it’s not going to work.

    • Here’s hopin.

    • Hyacinth

      It doesn’t look good on paper because it’s a dick thing to do. :\

  • Crazy Horse

    This is mind boggling. Let me get this straight, are these students school leavers who get to pay to train and work at the studio ( because I can kind of comprehend why someone would do that instead of going to collage) or are these students people who have all ready paid for a collage degree?

    Also, how the heck could anyone afford to live like this? Is the studio providing free food and accommodation for these students?


  • Milo Thatch

    I won’t even rant about the content in this article. It speaks for itself and Digital Domain should be ashamed of themselves.

    What people are also forgetting is that the merging of school and business removes a very important social-development stage in a young person’s life. I attended one of the big online animation schools AFTER graduating from a 4-year brick and mortar school where I learned more about life itself than academia. Students who already think it’s a good idea to go straight from high school to a work-from-your-bedroom type institution like Animation Mentor, iAnimate, etc, are already risking a loss of important social maturation from adolescence into adulthood.

    What kind of people are we creating by taking essentially children (in mindset, if not legal age) and turning them overnight into professional worker bees? Personally, I’m very happy with my choice of online animation education (it’s the reason I’m working in the industry today!). But I’m even more happy I chose to pursue this field AFTER living the college life with friends, parties, relationships, homesickness, travel, and more.

    Working on “cool” movies is not worth sacrificing your own development.

    • Hmmm

      True, the exposure I had in art school to various types of artists, students, cultures, and history has deeply influenced me and permanently enriched my life. I don’t think my art, creativity or intelligence would have been as expanded as it is now without this valuable time.

  • jj

    It’s just an iteration of a Ponzi-scheme. There will be a continuous stream of revenue and labour force for the studio from the students. If a few don’t work out, so be it… there’s another dozen waiting for the privilege of their parents forking over their hard-earned dollars so the kids can have a chance to do good work that will put money in someone else’s pockets. It’s just business, right? It’s how the animation industry in China survives now. Guess we couldn’t stop this tsunami from coming at us. This is, sadly, the annihilation of the industry as we knew it.

  • O

    Contrary to popular opinion, I think it is a great idea worded badly.

    Students pay for education and the studio gives them experience. Experience is invaluable. I commend Textor’s efforts to keep the work in house as opposed to outsourcing. In terms of costs, yes, it may be free but there is still going to be a price to pay: quality and turnover rate. Generally, professionals are more skilled in their craft than students. Professionals also tend to work a 9 to 5 where as students produce work much slower due social cravings and juggling other classes (the diploma with Digital Domain Institute is in association with FSU so students can be taking liberal art classes alongside the homework/work for DD). ALSO, the quality of students’ work is not guaranteed to A-quality. Some students work is below satisfactory. Few may be studio quality.

    I appreciate the gamble Digital Domain is taking with their own studio. If I were a student straight out of high school I would jump at the opportunity. Not only is going to an public school cheaper education than going to art schools (which I have been to both) but I would have an opportunity to contribute work for a studio when I would otherwise be under-qualified for an internship.

    I think he has the right idea. He wants to keep work in-house, reduce expenses, give students an opportunity to work professionally, and at the same time receive a college degree! This may not be the best avenue, but I like the direction the executive board at DD is driving towards. The idea of overlapping student with studio may go through several revisions while the DD Institute is in its infancy.

    • Baffoon

      [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.”]

    • Again .. you’re missing the deleterious effect on the industry.

      Take a look at the fxphd model. Textor and all the money Florida is giving him and DDI could easily scale that up and switch it to in-class and turn out better students than with using them to pad his DDMG profits.

    • Josef

      No way this is right. The only education the student is getting here is how to be duped. You can learn that lesson outside of school and at a much lower price.

      If students want experience, they should work on their own films. I think it’s far more impressive that a student finishes their own short film than to see that they have a short scene in some feature film, especially from an unreputable studio.

      If you’re talented enough and you have examples to prove it, experience will be overlooked.

    • One glaring point which is being missed, is this eliminates the growth potiental of any small studio in the area.
      Many students can work on low budget and freelance(where you learn to build your buisness skills as an artist) to build the their reels for the opportunity. It’s easier than ever with the web now.
      You are pointing out a problem most students have, which is they want to immediately work on grade A stuff.
      To your point of art school and college, I went to both as well, and it’s a nesscesity to better undersatnd your craft. Many 9-5 proffesinals are working their craft after work as well, so it doesn’t change much after college. In the end we are still artists.

  • Tony McCarson

    I wonder if John Textor has the same personality as the Disney corporate guys that rename “Rapunzel” to “Tangled”?

  • As an instructor I can tell you 80% of the student animation work will be unusable (unless they want to make a crappy film). And the other 20% will require a huge amount of supervision by a seasoned professional (one who could have done the work himself, faster). Since we’re talking about CG here, there is also a good chance that a shot that looks good will still be full of little invisible errors which will make corrections and changes much more time consuming later. Textor could also be referring to using students to build and rig models, in that scenario all the little mistakes will be carried down the production line, requiring costly fixes. All in all a bad idea, which my not even be legal.

    • Feel The Love

      [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.”]

      • Well, let’s just say they are not ready for prime time, yet.

        And my students could make a perfectly fine film for themselves, but if trying to mesh with a big production, most of the work will come out, well, crappy. That is unless the studio is willing to spend a huge amount of time tweaking the shots, which is not a very economical move.

        I teach animation, and some of my students will become storyboard artists, or modelers, or something else in the arts, but not feature animators. Some will become animators for games or TV, which has different standards than feature films (I have a lot of respect for those fields, and worked in them myself). Then there are others who are excited by the prospect of working in film, but ultimately will end up in a completely different field, still they needed to find out if they had what it takes.

    • Jason H

      Pretty much. Digital Domain’s work has been going down the toilet in terms of quality and this will be the final death blow.


    I for one, will be BOYCOTTING “Tembo”, and any other DD/Tradition studio Film.

    Spread the Word.

    • Jeff

      Publicize the boycott….Get some press on it

  • Clown

    [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.”]

  • Hyacinth

    Say it with me, people! B-O-Y-C-O-T-T

  • take it up the shving-shving 4eva

    Hmm…. let’s see. The animation industry is now being propped up by willing slaves.

    So, ask yourself – why are you still working in it??

    • wever

      Because I either do my own thing, or work for clients who agree to pay me.

  • DW

    So this is where it’s all heading? Paying to work? I love the outrage’s well deserved. You know what else deserves our outrage? Ghost hours and all the artists that contribute to that problem. It’s a huge issue! Producers pay attention…they know you will work off the clock to get a shot done…they know you want your name on the big screen and that motivates you. DD knows this too! For me…this is just a logical progression of ghost hours. Stop working for free!

    • Jim J.

      It’s a vicious cycle. People work overtime because

      A.) They think they’re gonna get fired (even though legally they can’t)

      B.) They think that their gonna get black-listed from whatever studio they are at (unfortunately true, but usually a blessing in disguise)

      C.) Pack mentality. Have you ever worked at a studio where EVERYONE stayed late, & you are the only one arriving on time and leaving on time? Talk about daggers!

      I’m not excusing working for free, I’m agreeing with you 100%

      Don’t spend all of your life making someone else’s dreams come true!

      • DW

        And let’s not forget:

        D.) A supervisor that rewards anyone who puts in those free hours.

        Any good supervisor will understand and work with the balance that must exist between the producers and the artist. They will manage expectations both ways and do what’s best for the shot, but also look to the bigger picture.

  • me

    Whatever, this can’t work. Paying to work isn’t going to look good on the Resume no matter how you word it. And if a student is any good they’ll be snatched up by a real paying studio anyway.

    I’ve been teaching for years, usually 10% of my class produces quality work,50% are OK, 40% are not trying. I’ve talked to a lot of other teachers at other schools and that seems to be the standard everywhere with some variance year to year.

    That means at least 90% of the work these students produce will be unusable in the final film (that’s assuming there is quality in the film). You might get one or two good shots out of the 10% and then they will go out and get real jobs because who can pay to work for any length of time.

    In the end it’s going to bust. But it’s a reel egg in the face for DD for even trying this. The fact that it’s legal should be up for debate.

  • Appalling and sick.

  • While I fully support paid internships and work placements this is clearly not that. If studios really respected artists, what they do, what they have the potential to do then they will pay them properly & help grow and support this industry in a direction that we can all be proud to be a part of.

  • Skip

    This is the first article that has ever been posted at Cartoon Brew that has made me livid. What’s the logic here, make students pay to work on a project, so that they can develop a skill in a trade that they have to pay to do. Is he trying to gut the industry. I will actively campaign against this film.

  • Mike

    Sounds like one more good reason to be an independent filmmaker.

    Cue Frank Sinatra:
    “No, no, they can’t take that away from me.”

  • The Obvious

    Where did everyone think this ‘vocational school’ approach to art and animation education was going to lead, exactly?

    “Digital Domain Institute” is the logical next step to what ‘post-secondary’ industry-focused schools have been doing for the last few decades, and that is exactly what students have demanded them to do: teach them to be a cog in a big machine. Some of the most lauded institutions for aspiring animators are merely a studio-employee factory that: advertises the presence of industry professionals as “professors”, flaunts its connections to the industry, and its ability to get students into it.

    There seems to be a misunderstanding in this discussion of who is failing these students as well as future and current animation artists. The problem is the fault of a narrow academic pedagogy (driven by many professionals, students, and their parents) that adheres to the belief that: the duty of educational institutions is to teach the technical skills a fickle industry needs from its employees (for the moment).

    Forget about the humanities, psychology, anthropology, and every artists rich heritage dating back to the cave paintings, and focus on “squash and stretch”, “turnarounds”, Maya, After Effects, Flash, and an art history that begins with “The Nine Old Men”. Why study Henri Matisse’s cut paper work when you can study Mary Blair (whom, were she still with us, would most likely prefer you study Matisse).

    This is the system that is being held up as the ideal: Students learn skills from former/current industry professionals that serve an industry system with very narrowly defined objectives, students graduate to work within the industry system, students apply their skills in the industry system as employees at a studio (if they actually get in), these employees come back to teach the system, and the infinity-loop goes on.

    This “septic focus” makes you less interesting as an artist, less distinguishable from younger recent graduates (who are cheaper and less expensive to insure), and creates an industrial craftsman whose curiosity has been starved for so long that, by the time the industry is done working them into the ground, realizes that: “They’ve reached the ‘top of the ladder’ and it’s against the wrong wall”.

    Protecting yourself begins with making sure that your college/university/school of art or design is nurturing your mind and helping you to broaden, not narrow, your perspective and future options. The goal of an educational institution (and your goal as a student) should not merely be to create a “reel” that looks as close to a studio’s work as possible, and that checks off all the little technical boxes they need to see.

    Lastly, don’t buy into these executives’ fear mongering that: India, China, and the rest of the world are only coming for YOUR jobs. They are coming for these executives’ jobs too, and with these executives’ poor stewardship (and the current trends in education), it will be sooner rather than later. They have business and art schools, in Asia and elsewhere, too.

    • It’s actually a good point about art schools in Asia and elsewhere. When it comes to price many businesses will still go with a lower bid for quality work. DD’s solution at best would be a temp bandage on an ongoing problem. Think about it is Florida 7.47 minimum wage a competative salary vs outsourcing (check the currency of us dollar vs Chinese Yuan Renminbi or the Indian rupee). It would only lower the value of the services which an artist renders for a company.

    • Sarah

      The Obvious, this is the most intelligent and helpfull thing I read in the many years I have been coming over to the brew! Thanks for the effort, I could not agree more…

      • The Obvious

        That is very kind of you to say.

        Thank you, Sarah.

        I am truly grateful for Jerry and Amid’s work on this site, as well as their commitment to offering an opportunity for these kinds of discussions.

    • Daniel

      go to calarts, they teach you to be filmmakers!

      • The Obvious

        Just to clarify, that is the antithesis of the point I was trying to make.

        Not only because it promotes a specific school (a bit “rah-rah”), but also because I disagree with the idea that any school should be the director of your education. My premise is: An educational environment should feed a student’s curiosity, nurture a student’s intellectual/technical growth, and introduce a student to entire frontiers of study that they didn’t even know they would come to love.

        American visual arts school students are always comparing their schools or promoting the merits and ‘success rates’ of their schools, but which of the schools that are typically at the heart of these debates did Akira Kurosawa, Georges Méliès, or Winsor McCay graduate from? More to the point, the individuals who created these schools and the artists whose work the first students of these schools studied, never attended them.

        Every student should be wary of any school that attempts to entice you with the promise of only teaching you the things that you want to learn (particularly when you are 18-25), that defines ‘success’ with the attainment of a narrow career objective, or that takes too much credit for past graduates’ successes.

        Mark Zuckerberg was accepted to Harvard because he was a brilliant person on his way to creating Facebook. He was not a brilliant person who created Facebook because he was accepted to Harvard.

      • anon

        DD also has a $100mil grant to bring VFX to Abu Dhabi. See #3 below.

      • Daniel

        “: An educational environment should feed a student’s curiosity, nurture a student’s intellectual/technical growth, and introduce a student to entire frontiers of study that they didn’t even know they would come to love.”

        .. and I think calarts is that!

        no one is saying art schools are the directors of your education. What I am saying is that calarts doesn’t fall under this:

        “The problem is the fault of a narrow academic pedagogy (driven by many professionals, students, and their parents) that adheres to the belief that: the duty of educational institutions is to teach the technical skills a fickle industry needs from its employees (for the moment).”

        .. sounds like you have a pretentious opinion on all art/animation schools without naming any.. (or any facts by that matter) yet you sound like you have been to them all.. and thus sound like an authority about it!

        how do you know that calarts isn’t that? or art center? or sva? or RISD? …etc

        please stop overgeneralizing all art schools, especially ones you’ve never been to..

        and on a side note, most of the directors in this animation industry are from calarts~ I think amid can confirm that!

      • Mac

        CalArts animation is a part of the CalArts School of Film and Video, which teaches it’s students how to be filmmakers, if they want to listen. It’s totally broad and open and what you make of it. I wish there were other animation schools like CalArts but there aren’t that I know of.

        If the commoditization of character animation is the future, then I’d say go to CalArts, or go to a reputable film school and take animation mentor or iAnimate or whatever. If the mechanics of motion and timing and spacing is not worth very much in the marketplace, you’d better have something interesting to say.

      • The Obvious


        If you will reread what I wrote, I never said anything negative about CalArts. The point of my comment was NOT to make a list of schools people should (or should not) attend, it was to offer a perspective on the way we approach a visual arts education in the United States. I’m glad you think that CalArts teaches you to be a filmmaker, but you could have said any school’s name and it would have been counter to my point.

        That is what I was clarifying in my response to, “go to calarts, they teach you to be filmmakers!” That’s not the type of paternalistic point I was making, and mine was the comment you were replying to, so I felt the need to clarify.

        My reply did not attack CalArts, you, or the idea of visual arts schools, as you suggest. I do find it incredibly disingenuous for you to assert that your concern is protecting “all art schools” from my “pretentious opinion”, though. Protecting CalArts from an imagined attack (a school you seem to see as the focus of this discussion) seems to be the main concern you have.

        My interest was in a conversation about the way in which we view and approach educating artists (a practice which predates visual arts schools and this country) in the U.S.. It’s a frequent debate in academic circles, which I know something about. My comment was not intended to make a point that could be summarized by listing the top 10 visual arts schools from “U.S. News & World Report” or a fact check cross-referencing IMDB and Wikipedia.

        You writing “go to calarts, they teach you to be filmmakers!” has nothing to do with what I wrote, and neither does your follow-up.

      • Daniel

        “My interest was in a conversation about the way in which we view and approach educating artists (a practice which predates visual arts schools and this country) in the U.S.. It’s a frequent debate in academic circles, which I know something about.”

        and yet you start this conversation by stating…

        ” Some of the most lauded institutions for aspiring animators are merely a studio-employee factory that: advertises the presence of industry professionals as “professors”, flaunts its connections to the industry, and its ability to get students into it.”


        “Forget about the humanities, psychology, anthropology, and every artists rich heritage dating back to the cave paintings, and focus on “squash and stretch”, “turnarounds”, Maya, After Effects, Flash, and an art history that begins with “The Nine Old Men”. Why study Henri Matisse’s cut paper work when you can study Mary Blair (whom, were she still with us, would most likely prefer you study Matisse).”

        .. and better yet…

        “This is the system that is being held up as the ideal: Students learn skills from former/current industry professionals that serve an industry system with very narrowly defined objectives, students graduate to work within the industry system, students apply their skills in the industry system as employees at a studio (if they actually get in), these employees come back to teach the system, and the infinity-loop goes on.”

        .. how is that not a attack on animation schools?

        What I want to know, is which animation school are you talking about? You talk in generalities yet you don’t have any actual facts to back it up.. (which I’m sure you won’t because if you did people would argue with every inch of the above statements) If you do work in “academic circles” you would know that all art schools are very different from each other, and its very presumptuous to even state the above three quotations unless you have either taught at every animation institute or been a student of all of them..

        and calarts is the MOST lauded institute for animation so it isn’t presumptuous of me to think that you are talking about that school in particular..

        what’s obvious to me is that you are simply venting yet are afraid to back it up with any evidence~

      • The Obvious

        “… how is that not a attack on animation schools?”

        It’s an attack on an approach that not all schools or all teachers espouse, and no school is all one thing or another.

        “what’s obvious to me is that you are simply venting yet are afraid to back it up with any evidence~”

        Yes, because venting is when you use words like “pedagogy” and not when you personally insult people.

        What is your position, exactly?

        “all art schools are very different from each other”

        As innocuous of a position as that is:

        “…its very presumptuous to even state the above … unless you have either taught at every animation institute or been a student of all of them..”

      • Daniel

        [Comment removed by editors. Further comments in this back-and-forth will be deleted. Both sides have had a fair chance to make their points. Please keep it on the topic of Digital Domain.]

  • I worked at Digital Domain in Venice. This is the most disturbing thing I have heard of lately. Bad enough to ask people to pay to work at your company, but then to not provide them with any housing, food, or fair trade benefits is just flat out disgusting. I run my own company now, and I would never ask people to pay me to work for me. VFX people are treated like slaves as is, do they not see how this is making it even worse? ZOMBIES ARE REAL, THEY ARE VFX KIDS PAYING YOU TO WORK ON FILMS.
    They sit in cubicles in the dark, don’t socialize, have no interaction with each other, and basically should be considered DRONES in humanity.
    Oh, and all the talented 40 yr olds are losing jobs to these 18 yr olds. The 40 yr olds have lives and families people! How do you expect them to feed their kids?

    • Re:
      “They sit in cubicles in the dark, don’t socialize, have no interaction with each other”

      Now you’re making it sound appealing

  • Mike

    No wonder they didn’t choose Sarasota for their studio/school location, they would have to compete with Ringling.

    • SSR

      Damn right!

  • Joseph

    Of course studios have no respect or appreciation for Animators. Anyone who’s been in the industry for a while should know that. Honestly being an animator is a terrible goal. In terms of the hierarchy of things its like being on the same level as the guy flipping burgers at McDonalds.

  • amy

    This doesn’t really worry me. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was still in school learning CG, I took an ‘internship’ for a company whose ‘business model’ was hiring almost exclusively interns to work for free. Amazingly, the studio owner had managed to attract some real, paying jobs from actual clients, so I did work on those as well as his pilot idea for a children’s TV show (who doesn’t have a pilot for a children’s TV show, seriously..). A lot of the other interns I worked with there were pretty talented and as some of the other commenters noted, as soon as they got a better opportunity they split, and most are set up pretty nicely in the industry today. The studio folded not too long after I left, and I used the experience and projects I worked on there to help find better jobs.

    In any case, an 18 yr. old with potential is never going to be a substitute for a 40 yr old with 22 yrs experience in terms of quality, not to mention an 18 yr. old who is just trying out animation and won’t end up sticking with it, and it’s hard to see how a studio as experienced as DD hopes to use this as a viable way to make a feature film.

  • Chris

    This is the first step to putting the American workforce on par with India. Granted I am new to the industry but its this kind of garbage that puts the economy in the shape its in. It also brings a tear to my soul to watch amazing companies like Cafe FX and Asylum close there doors and then read articles like this. I am quite fond of Florida and understand that the company opening there can be great for the economy but this is just an unspeakable crime against the industry that gave DD the opportunity to be what it is today. I feel we should be writing our congressmen and women and getting other VFX Shops around the US to put an end to this before it becomes a growing trend. It would be different if it were a short term unpaid internship with the opportunity of a position after school.

  • The problem is, there is no one to warn these students that they are making a terrible choice. High schools do nothing but advise students to attend some kind of college, so the kids think they are making a good decision. It really is criminal to take advantage of that.

  • Senor Verde

    I’m sure the students are well paid, “in knowledge.” This is by no means unique. All major studios do something to this effect, although not as offensively as asking students to pay to work on a film. I’ve worked (work) at a few high profile studios and they are all the same. They love students because they are so hungry and naive, and they tell their experienced staff “there are a million kids out there that would kill to do what you do for less money, so don’t think you can’t be replaced.”

    In the end, the studios put their experienced employees in the position of fixing student and outsourcing mistakes, effectively nullifying any benefits gained by the lower cost workers. When the bottom line is the end goal, you get what you pay for.

  • Every student needs internship/co-op experience, but this is taking things way too far.

    If things are like this are comon in the industry, no wonder the industry is in such sorry state lately.

  • Van

    Ah, the love for money strikes again. I think Alex Alvarez and Textor were separated at birth. You know what would be a great movie scene? It’s seeing them both stand in front of a judge explaining why it’s ok to exploit students like that…especially Alvarez, since students are the ones that help launch and build his school.

  • Kony

    We need our own Joseph Kony style online movement, starting with John Textor

  • It’s a very simple policy, if people pay for an education, you teach. If you want to have people make a movie for you you pay. The “threat” of India and China isn’t going to change the motion picture industry much more than they already have. I’ve spent a few years in the Indian game and animation industry, there is a solid base of talent that deserves recognition, and a huge amount of people who will never have what it takes to make art for the western audience. It’s the same in China, though the skilled workers do seem more numerous. Still, this is a straw man argument. If the best talent in the world was there that’s where Pixar would be. They aren’t. This guy is a worthless hack and hope people don’t associate with this scum.

  • PaleAnimation

    These types of shady business tactics provide a model where DD can fill their entry level ranks with free talent, thereby allowing them to underbid other vfx/animation studios, leading inexorably to an adoption of similar tactics by these studios in order to keep pace. As soon as a project is finished, these student-workers can be let go, and the next semesters bunch can come in and fill the gap. Aside from the despicable idea of paying to have a job, this also floods the market with talent that no one intends to hire. The reality is, there are only so many entry level jobs, and there are less and less jobs as you move up the totem pole. If we have institutions that continually spit out worker bees, but don’t actually intend to hire any of them, all we are doing is supporting an employer biased culture where talent is cheap and abundant.

    The overall problem as I see it, is tactics like these create cheap talent and lots of it.

    My argument is this: Anyone who is in the industry now, particularly film and games, can see that this is already happening, thanks to institutions like Animation Mentor, iAnimate, and Animschool.

    These institutions flood the market with hundreds of cheap studio cogs every few months and the studios, realizing that it is cheaper to hire and fire this talent every few months than to invest and nurture talent, keep their salaries and budgets low by hiring these students.
    Why should Sony or Dreamworks or Bluesky spend 45$/hour paying an entry level animator with 2 years of film experience, when they can get an animator fresh out of AM to do the same work for 25$/hour and then let them go in 3 months? And the worst part is, this poor student becomes LESS hireable after their first job, because now they are worth more money, and therefore most studios will opt for a new student fresh out of the mill so they can pay them less. The retched cycle goes on and on.

    Now, why am i picking on AM, iAnimate and Animschool, rather than local colleges that do the same thing nationwide? Because these institutions are currently teaching foreign animators how to do what American animators do. The reality is, animated films are a product that we sell to the world and for years America has been the chief exporter of that commodity. But programs like these allow foreign workers to learn the craft, open studios and charge significantly less for production. Studio execs say “Hey, why pay American animators to do this when China will do it for 1/10th the price.” Its happening now. Dreamworks has a studio in India which they currently outsource significant chunks of their animation to, and they’re opening another studio in China. Rhythm and Hues and ILM also outsource their work to overseas studios. TV production has been outsourcing to Japan for years, but over the past 5 years a lot of that has began to shift towards China and India. The reason is, the quality of their work is rising, but the prices stay the same, and the quality is rising because we are teaching them how to do what we do.

    The sharing of knowledge is a wonderful thing and its what makes human progress and expression possible, but make no mistake about it: Animation is a commodity and it employs tens of thousands of American workers. To keep it that way, we have to stop giving it away! A chef wouldn’t teach chefs from other restaurants how to make his world famous dessert would they?

    And not to mention the fact that these schools do not provide any type of art background whatsoever. If animators want to be treated and paid like ARTISTS, then they need more than a cursory 18 month, heavy-handed instruction to a small sliver of the art world. I can say, as someone who has had to watch hundreds of reels to pick candidates for animator positions, the work that comes out of these schools tends to be formulaic, homogenous and gives no insight into who the animator is, whereas students who spend time embracing a more all encompassing study of art tend to have more expressive and unique points of view in their work, and THIS is the kind of thing that separates you from the crowd.

    We need to stop giving our methods away to the competition.
    We need to stop feeding studios cheap disposable talent.

    • justsayin

      I think that “we need to stop giving our methods away to the competition” is true, HOWEVER I think that is also an insult to the more talented people in the business. Just because you learned how to use maya doesn’t mean you can animate, that’s partially a natural talent – cultivated, but not created.

      If you are referring more to the methods or the thought process behind animation, learning to see rather than learning to draw, then I’ll play devil’s advocate for the sake of debate. If everyone does have the capability to learn, then should it just be reserved for those that can afford to go to school for $50,000 a semester? I have no problem with these online schools existing for a lesser fee than going to a full time, well rounded college like CalArts or Ringling or wherever else you end up, but I just think that, perhaps, the solution would be stricter (or any) entry guidelines, more impressive portfolios, higher fail rates. Keep the talent talented. Limit the number of students and we will have a higher quality crew entering the workforce and fewer threats to the existing animators in the business.

      (Of course, none of this has anything to do with the original post. Just to retain some sense of relevancy I’ll say the original post is completely f’d up, DD is being spectacularly douchey by trying to pull this off.)

    • Toonio

      Very nice comment PaleAnimation. It really provides lots of details you don’t get to know. Mostly in the hiring and lay offs cycles.

      Just don’t forget Korea that does much of the work for Chinese and Japanese firms.

    • me

      The genie is out of the bottle and your not going to get it back in. If Animation Mentor and all the others closed its doors 10 other shops would pop up to take it’s place. This is the new reality.

    • Mac

      More people can write in their vernacular language than in any time in history. That skill in and of itself once had tremendous value. Scribes who learned this strange skill of recording ideas had a special niche in their society. Now that most people can read and write, professional authors get paid to express ideas that connect with people with the clever use of the same letter forms everyone else uses.

      If a basic level of creating animation is more commoditized, then the people with the best use of the form will come out on top. Raising the bottom of the barrel doesn’t frighten me.

  • Sarah J

    Wow, and I thought being an animator in Japan sucked, where anime artists are paid peanuts. This is just worse! I have nothing against internships, shoot, even unpaid internships can be great for a student as long as they aren’t being taken advantage of. (like having to work lots of hours and do humiliating or irrelevant jobs despite not being paid) But this is just going too far!

  • Mike D.

    This kind of thinking IS the problem with the film industry and practically every other industry.
    The strategy should be “How can we make the best possible product and blow the Chinese and India markets out of the water, and at the same time make hundreds of millions off of a high quality movie”, instead of, “how can we do things just as they do overseas and make a mediocre product that will turn a profit because we did it on the cheap”.
    The way they are viewing this is all wrong, they should be trying to make a great product and let THAT be the reason that they’re profitable, not making something that costs less therefore makes money.
    In a nutshell, they should be trying to MAKE more money rather than SAVE more money.

  • crtoons

    This guy should be tied up and put in a leaky boat and pushed out into the ocean the smug SOB! Of course, to play devil’s advocate, he wouldn’t say those things or even consider them if there weren’t loads of young, inexperienced students that are starving for their opportunity and be willing to put up with this crap just to get their break. That said, it’s still NO excuse for this attitude and thinking and the fact that he just puts it out there so blatantly is unforgivable, but, there IS a reason why they’re located in Florida, and we all know why!

  • Sam

    This is rather similar to a Singapore company called Egg Story that does the same thing. They have tried to exploit fresh graduates to take a pay of SD400 a month but obviously very few took the bait. Eventually they started a school to raise fund on that.

    All these happens for a good reason. The young and aspiring artists are desperate to work in an actual production company, the entire fame and glory, that there WILL be some of them willing to take the bait. Given how hard it is getting to stay in this industry nowadays, and also to even break into. People are more than willing to do anything to get into it, low pay, free internships, etc.

    Quite recently, I’m also seeing an animation school where students PAY money to work on a professional animator’s short film. To me, this is no different than what DD is doing at all, because at the end the Director of the film takes all the credit for all the work being done ‘free’ for them. If the film wins awards, the director gets all of that, while the student gets the smaller credits. Somehow I have yet to see anyone point that school out and stop them from doing it, then again the students in that school are so willing to pay to do it, it’s just plain sad.

    Just saying.

  • Mike Luzzi

    Kudos Amid. Thank you for exposing this disgusting behavior. This guy should be ashamed, but I am sure he is not.

  • Floridian_Animator

    This is a bad idea. A very VERY bad idea.

    And I was excited about having a big studio in Florida again… *sigh*

  • Time to warn all my young animator buddies here in florida about this place. How horrifying.

  • Bud

    “learn from the creatives behind Cars 2…” says the “dd institute.”

    I guess that would be brad lewis. The guy who made Pixar’s worst film. That guy couldn’t direct his way out of a paper bag, and doesn’t have a creative bone in his little body.

  • Wow. This guy is scum.

  • TextorScum

    [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.”]

  • Roar!

    I see a number of people referring to animator’s “big break”. Going to school is not a “big break”. It’s really simple, if you work you should get paid. This experience crap is ridiculous! Someone is making real money off your “experience”. Go to school to learn, not to work. It’s a lot of competition and a lot of talented animators but those who stick with it prevail. If someone else reaps the benefits of your work and then gloats about you paying for it, then that’s terrible. You’re an animator have some god damned respect for yourself! You’re like an actor ready to sleep with the director just to get your “chance”. Pick your head up, keep your mind forward, and put in some god damned work. There’s no easy solution to get in the movies, no reason to buy into thinking it’s a “big break”. We used to work hard in America for our accomplishments. Great animation is produced by great animators who get paid accordingly and never worried about seeing their name “in lights”. A mention in movie credits never put god damn food on the table.

  • Face

    Let’s sing (in tune with Queen’s another one bites the dust)
    duf duf duf..Capitalism bites in the ass..duf duf duf..and he wants more and he wants more and more and more… and it comes back and bites in the ass..duf duf duf..

  • yuma

    No one likes to be used. Personally, the ultimate goal for artist is to become your own boss.
    We have situation where we have too much of pricey future labor force who are good at one thing and drives our value down.

    I know that I’m saying common sense stuffs, but I still want to say it.

    I think it’s smarter to become generalist than specialist. For example, do you have to be hired as 3D modeler when you can expand your sculpting skill for something else? 3D sculpting skill can be translated as toy making skill too. Animator? You can work as graphic interface designer for an internet company. Not everyone can enter the CG animation industry as 3D modeler. If you’re good at storyboards, it doesn’t have to be limited to animation. It could be used on films, commercials, and some video games.

    If anyone went to all-around art schools where they teach multiple art disciplines like painting, sculpting, filming, animating and designing, then chances are better for that person because he or she can apply any of those disciplines for better use. Learning only one discipline relegates that person as simple skilled laborer rather than all-around talent. Animators are edging to that pitfall.

    To me, only way for animation artists has to survive in this hyper-competitive animation and film world is to network with people of different disciplines and participate on any available indie productions. Indie production can’t pay much? Need to pay rent? It’s not shameful to have two part time jobs or a full time job to support yourself.

    It’s how you spend your free time on thinking and devising your next creation matters. REMEMBER: Artists are property creator first, only few will succeed as employee.

    Making good animation is almost always a teamwork. You’ll need trusted colleagues who will go through the hell with you to make a good film.

    It’s better to make things through trial and error and hoping for something better. Having patience and learning from mistake eventually pay off the effort.

    Ultimately, we have things like Kickstarter. When a guy raises thousands of dollars to make a modest film about Lego building, there are chances for all artists to sell their wares without relying on few rich commercial patrons or going through middlemen. What artists has to do is to build reputation for quality so that he or she’ll get democratized sponsorship.

    All of us should strive to become our boss with our modest creations. By doing so, we can help other artists too.

  • John Textor Appreciation Group

    John Textor, bro, you’re not thinking BIG enough! Gotta have the Gordon Gecko mindset, bro! Why stop with the animation students? Go for the whole shebang! I say, replace the entire Digital Domain working staff with law school students to run the legal department, accounting students for the business dept… AND get illegal immigrants to PAY Digital Domain money for the opportunity to work for the company while you dangle a possibility of a working visa in front of them! Come on, bro, think like a shrewd MBA grad! Let’s make some serious bucks for the investors! You know you want that brand new Ferrari soon!

  • John

    In a not to distant future if anyone wants a job in animation they’ll have to move to Asia or Arabia!!!

  • Think About It

    Most of you clowns have such negative comments it’s sickening.
    You’re all basically saying, you came out of a school and immediately started working on a professional job making 60k a year?
    I highly doubt that.
    What Textor is explaining is no different than working an internship. No matter how this article tries to explain it differently to a negative light.
    If all you guys are in LA, I’m absolutely positive you’ve done work for free just to get your foot in the door. At least with this, you’re paying for your education, and then staying with a company that has experience working on movies, thus hopefully getting a couple of credits for more potential jobs in your future because you’ll know a working pipeline and you’ll know how to manage deadlines.

    This industry is cut throat, and if you don’t want a job, someone else will take it for less pay. You’ve got to come to the conclusion that you need to do whatever it takes to make money and give yourself a good name.

    Textor is also right, China and India are becoming very good in all aspects of digital art and it’s not just him trying to make changes. It’s every other company out there trying to cut corners.

    You guys can sit on this website and complain all you want, but bottom line, this is internship type of work. I was in an internship myself before I graduated with my Computer Animation degree…you could say I was paying for that work as well.

    • crtoons

      Obviously YOU are not in LA working in the animation business. Where are you located? If you are out here, you’re WAY off-base with your comments.

      No one knows more about how cut throat the business can be than any of us out here in LA that are working in it. And to say that if any of us didn’t want a job, someone will take it for less pay, doesn’t make that statement exclusive to the animation business – it’s a fact to business IN GENERAL, so there’s no real point being made there!

      As far as what you describe as your internship work being what Textor describes as what students will be doing on their films, well, he can say, and apparently do that, because they’re in Florida. That’s why they’re in Florida, because they can get away with it! But let’s call it what it is, exploitation, and it’s exploitation blatantly made part of a business plan by a guy who CLEARLY has no respect for the the talents of the people he’s going to need to get his company’s films made and made well!

      Some studios pay interns and others don’t, that’s their choice. Internships shouldn’t be viewed, or handled, as a student “paying for experience”! It’s experience for experience’s sake that will hopefully pay the student back in future employment. NOT for them to PAY for their experience. Texton should stop being a cheap SOB and a PIG about it and just do what he should be doing, HIRE them at entry level positions so they can learn on the job, or at the VERY LEAST, pay them to be interns then!

      And we all know about China and India, but this has been going on for years, but one thing that you have to remember, a lot of work is STILL going on here, regardless of what’s happening overseas, and, the main reason it’s going on over there is that they get a huge workforce for pennies a day! I suppose that we could keep that work here too, if you’d be willing to work for pennies a day, are you?

      So what’s truly sickening here are YOUR complaints about all of us who do this for a living and frankly, you’re as big an ass as he is!

      • Think About It

        LOL…take offense much?

        So you’re agreeing with my statements? I don’t think I understand what you’re talking about as I was NEVER PAID during my internship. And my internship was production work.

        I’ve actually done work in LA that I’ve never gotten paid for. Is it my fault? Yes, was it free work? For the people “paying” me it was.
        So my complaints and comments are valid good sir. But at least I got my foot in the door, because I learned and moved on and didn’t burn bridges.

        Maybe you’re 80 years old and back in your day you got paid to be an intern.
        Not anymore buddy. Companies know students will work cheap if not for free. Don’t fault Textor, fault your great American nation for letting it happen over and over and over.

        And if they’re in Florida and you’re saying they can get away with it…what if they were in Ohio?
        How about Virginia? It doesn’t really matter where they are to be honest.

      • crtoons

        Not only do you not know what you’re talking about, you aren’t even getting what you’re supposed to be reading! Again, I say, you truly are a horse’s ass!

      • crtoons

        …and no, I didn’t take offense to anything or much at all, just stating fact….you’re an ass! Simple as that!

      • Think About It

        I am stating fact, just because I have a different opinion than you doesn’t mean I’m not.

        And I am reading what I’m suppose to be reading.

        He’s stating if we don’t do anything than all the jobs will be moved to China or India. That is fact.

        And what he is doing is exactly like an unpaid internship. You’ll be going to school, paying for tuition and on top of that, working on movies that you’ll find as awesome. I can’t even think of a better option for work experience than that.

        Also, let me put it a different way too:

        What’s worse? Having students pay to work on movies and in turn, people at the company having a stable career, or having all the jobs stolen by Asia for cheap and no one can have a stable job?

      • Jason H

        “”What’s worse? Having students pay to work on movies and in turn, people at the company having a stable career, or having all the jobs stolen by Asia for cheap and no one can have a stable job? “”

        Having students pay to work on movies does not make a stable career. Your first job’s rate actually dictates how much you’ll make during your entire career. Paying for your first job doesn’t set a great standard and just makes you known to be a cheap tool with little to no negotiation skills. Instead of an artist.

      • Think About It

        Oh well, fact remains it’s still considered an internship with no pay and the students will be paying tuition.

        It’s no different from any other school out there. Tough cookies for the era we are in.

    • Jason H

      I’ve never worked for free.

  • B

    I think this article is a perfect example of the writer arranging the wording for us to think a certain way. Love how he says you’re paying 105k to work for DD. Not once does he mention that is MAYBE what it will cost in tuition.

    You’re paying to go to college, LIKE ANY OTHER STUDENT, you’re also probably going to be interning at the same time. How is this any different then law school and being an inter and/or paralegal and working on a massive case for no pay, just for the opportunity to prove you’re up to par. Ivy League schools built in the 1800s are just as expensive, as with most private schools, and dont even steer you in the direction you need to go in or something specific to hone your skills.

    So Textor says the students will be helping to work on the film Tembo. They also happen to be paying tuition to go to college, a state of the art college in the heart of West Palm Beach, LIKE ANY OTHER COLLEGE STUDENT. Open your eyes and dont get sucked into the direction the writer of this article wants you to think.

    I paid nearly 100k for college, still in debt, and worked towards my degree while interning for a company on a big project. Now that I’ve proved myself and worked hard, they hired me and I have my career path. So someone please tell me the difference between what I did and what the students at DDI are going to be doing. I’d love to hear it

  • Baffoon

    “B”, If you believe for one moment that DD would hire you after being foolish enough to pay them to work for the ahem, “Privilege” to work on their film, I’ve got some swamp land to sell you.
    They would drop you the moment you’re out of school, and bring in the next Sap stupid enough to fall for the same “pay for play” scenario.

    Open your eyes.

    • B

      Who’s to say that’s the case. I don’t know much about the company but I do know extreme thinking when I see it. Is it possible they won’t hire you? Absolutely. Is it also possible you bust your ass and then get a job? Absolutely as well. The way the world is growing sucks, but if you work hard and get the appropriate experience then there is nothing wrong with that.

      Obviously any type of internship sucks, but thats what most people go through to get where you want to be.

      You also didn’t address the obvious point in my comment, how is what they do any different then someone going to law school or regular college and interning on a company project? Just because its a big and flashy project involving movies its different?

  • Chris

    Hey B and Think About It:

    Well it looks like some digital domain lackeys finally showed up to the party! If I understand correctly it’s not just an unpaid internship but the students are actually paying Digital Domain to work there on top of their school tuition. So this is far more exploitative than the regular internship system and maybe actually worse than an i-pad factory in China since the workers there don’t have to pay to be slave laborers.

    Most of the social gaming companies in SF rely on a large workforce of intern labor but at least they pay them something. They fork over a measely 15-17 bucks an hour and the student gets his first taste of being paid more than minimum wage, the company gets to actually use the work the student produces in the game, and everyone is happy. It’s a good stepping stone to be sure but they aren’t paying the companies to work there! That would be insane!

    Anyone know about working conditions at Moonbot? It seems like a nice place to work and they actually pay the people that work there. Using a small workforce and little money they made an academy winning short film that I’m sure they can use to secure funding for a feature if they wanted to because they proved that they could make an entertaining film with a good story! Maybe Digital Domain should try a similar path instead of relying on the backs slave labor because they can’t raise the money they need for Tembo.

  • Brad Constantine

    I take a drawing pad whereever I go, especially restaurants. I soon found out that in San Diego, 8 out of 10 of my waiters and waitresses are Art School students or recent graduates. Most of them learning 3d animation and 3d modeling, and most have a hefty debt from school to pay off. With programs like Maya available for a reasonable investment(as compared to tuition), there’s no reason why any of these students can’t develop their skills and portfolios without having to pay a company to do so. My advice to the students I meet is to team up, and produce something better on your own. Internships are great, but your time is worth money,especially if they will be making money off of your work.

  • timster

    I have to wonder about the intelligence of animation students who fail to see the link between an industry so desperate that it must resort to unethical practices to remain profitable, and their career in that same industry. Their free work now contributes to the downward spiral of wages, in effect stealing their own future.

    Textor is right to point out that the post production industry is being moved offshore – it’s been doing that since high speed network connections broke down borders and allowed workers from India and Philippines the grand opportunity of offering their services at $3-$5 per hour. Check out sites like Odesk and elance: here you will find hundreds of north American post production jobs up for grabs to the lowest international bidder, which nine times out of ten is from India, Pakistan or the Philippines, who have economies that allow them to live like a king on $500/month.

    Spare me the pro-business mantra about the free market. Trade barriers and protectionism were originally put in place to equalize wages across international economies. Without them you have a situation that gives business huge advantages where they get to sell product in north America at first-world prices, that they paid third-world prices to produce. Meanwhile the north American workers who have to pay $1,200/mo. rent are asked to compete with a guy from Mumbai living in a shack with a high-end Mac and black-market software.

    Good luck to the whole industry. I’ve been in it for over 20 years and now, in my 40’s, I’ve decided to do a mid-life career switch to the health science industry – increasing demand, can’t be moved offshore and regulated. I had some great times, but man, it’s a mess and I AM OUTTA HERE!!

  • I was always told by my instructors and those in the HR end of business that you shouldn’t ever have to pay for the benefit of being employed. Some of the best arguments that I’ve read in relation to this subject come from an editorial at Canadian Animation Resources, and, because I lack a certain eloquence, I couldn’t express my thoughts any better that they have here:

  • Mike Luzzi

    I have been stewing on this for a bit… this line in particular echoes what I hear alot of politicians saying:

    “But we were able to persuade even the academic community, if we don’t do something to dramatically reduce costs in our industry, not only ours but many other industries in this country, then we’re going to lose these industries .. we’re going to lose these jobs. And our industry was going very quickly to India and China.”

    They use it as an excuse to cut our pay, cut our benefits, undermine worker safety, overtime laws, etc. I am sick and tired of this garbage. AMERICA WAKE UP! Invest in yourself, make government incentives to help work here compete with foreign labor. Don’t cannibalize America to feed the corporate shareholders’ greed!

  • Ryoku

    I can see some naive student taking this job, feeling that it gives him a privilege, a purpose in life, and something that he can brag to his friends about.

    But in the end, this student is what they used to call a “sucker!”.

    Between this, Pipa, and some of the going-ons in the gaming industry, its downright crazy what industries are trying to get away with these days.

    And whats sad is that people blindly follow them.

  • akira

    i believe in the free market

    it is not just paying to work it is paying for education

    if someone wants to pay to take part in making a movie then go for it! i’m sure tons of people would pay to be in a scene with some big shot movie stars and they wouldn’t even learn any valuable skills in doing so

    note that they aren’t just training them as apprentices because it wouldn’t be worth it to train animators and then have them hop over to pixar/blue sky, etc.

    • Jason H

      Anyone who actually types out ‘I believe in the freemarket’ clearly doesn’t understand it. It’s not a religion. It’s a system of large corporations taking advantage of individuals with little to no buying power. There is no such thing as a true perfectly running free market just as there’s no such thing as absolute communism. Either could only work if humans were perfect selfless beings.

      Sorry to burst your ideals.

      • akira

        you didn’t burst anything, just acted like an condescending AH. when i say i believe in the free market it is as opposed to believing that the govt. needs to regulate things, taking our away our ability to choose something that a majority doesn’t think is in our best interest(like paying digital domain to work for them).

        and how do corporations take advantage of people with no buying power? that makes no sense.

        i am totally against the govt. giving advantages to select businesses through selective tax breaks or bailouts, but if a business wants to try a plan where they set up a sort of trade school/apprentice program and charge people to be involved in it, they should be allowed to. there’s a very good chance digital domain’s plan will be a bust and a lot of people will lose money who invested in it. by free market principles prospective animators should be allowed as many choices as possible, and for some (maybe who have rich parents and didn’t get accepted to calarts) this could be the best option, and maybe if they worked their buts off, they could make a decent career out of it.

        i don’t get why everyone thinks it’s okey for a college to charge 100k for an education but if you’re involved in making an actual commercial product it’s the ultimate evil. i personally wish MORE college students were educated to be able to actually do a professional job.

      • Buck

        Goodness, all you had to do was type READ ATLAS SHRUGGED VOTE PRON PAUL like 15 times and you would’ve said the same thing.

      • Jar-el

        i’m guessing that’s supposed to be an insult?

        i think akira made good, valid points and didn’t call the people posting here commies or whatever, so there’s no justification for demogoguing him.

        if you have something to say that you’re willing to defend regarding ron paul or the specific comments that akira made, please do so.

    • Don Corleone

      ‘I believe in America’…

  • I am curious to know how much the salary is for the people that are actually getting paid.
    I personally dont recommend school to any animator, because your school and degree cant be seen on a reel.
    If you arent motivated enough to learn on your own, which is SO easy to do nowadays, then you wont be motivated enough to make it in this cut throat industry.

  • Cry foul all you want but you cry in vain.

    In Toronto in the ’70’s clubs paid musicians to play.

    Students came out to those shows and said to club owners, “Can our band play here?”

    “How much?” said the club owners.

    “Nothing,” said the students who packed the place with their friends. Suddenly the clubs made MUCH more money.

    Then, in the 80’s, students came and said to club owners, “How much do you want for my band to play here?”

    I actually saw this happen. Of course, the club owners took the money.

    Today bands pay to play. Not only that, if they do not meet the bar sales limit they have to cough up the cash.

    And students will happily pay to be animators on feature films. Not only that, they will put in more hours than will the people paid to work on the film thinking that if they do so they will get credits that will help them get paying work which is not going to happen because the number one thing is to keep costs down. There will always be eager students willing not only to work for free but also to pay for the privilege of “learning.”

    Artists always get fed from the last teat on the bull. As bulls do not give milk that means artists drink from a particularly dry well.

    • It tells you what type of students are being turned out. Whatever happened to “common sense?”

      • Think About It

        Well, it also tells you how times are changing and how the world is currently working.
        In a way it’s kind of like an episode of “Shark Tank” I saw on Saturday.

        The guy in the episode created a product he wanted to make in America, but the business men (suits) didn’t want to support the man because he wanted his product made in America.
        He didn’t want to make it cheaper in Asia because it would have been inferior and they would have stolen the idea and just undercut him anyway.

        Bottom line, it’s because of the suits. This is all about cutting expensive American labor out of the picture and it’s not really a fault of our own, it’s just the fault of everything around us being more and more expensive.
        It costs way too much money to live decently in America. I could live in the ghetto and save some money, but I don’t want to run the risk of getting shot.

  • *Looks at Textor’s photo*

    Dude forgot the eye patch and the parrot.

  • Being a artist , this is a sad commentary.These young artist think they are going to get exposure, and all they are going to get is used.If one truly has the talent and the business savy there are sites that one can go to and get funding to do your own projects. there is KICKSTARTER for one.
    You work to hard to give your work away for free, none the less to pay someone. if they say India and China will get the work, then let it be. let the Movie be known for its slave labor and unfair practices.Your better than that, YOU DON’T NEED THEM, THEY NEED YOU. you work to hard to be treated like a whore.

  • Vector Victor

    So, if those poor suckers don’t get their work done correctly in a regular work week, do they pay you time-and-a-half after 40 hours to “allow” them to fix their mistakes?

    And, boy, how about that “Golden Time”?! haha

    There are no such thing as “expensive mistakes” if people are paying you to do the work. Think about it- who the hell cares if you even use the shots? The studio is really under no obligation whatsoever to use ANY of the work. You literally MADE MONEY on each and every one of the shots, so really, who gives a damn?

    My god this is absolutely brilliant.

  • CFParks

    Walt Disney set up CalArts as a feeder for his studio and look where it got him. This sounds like a similar thing. The difference is, he subsidized the education in order to get those 9 old men and their followers out the door and into a job.

    Of course, if 30% of DD’s workforce is learning as they go, how much longer is that feature going to take? I bet that’s in the accountant’s spreadsheet right next to the tuition income.

    • Wow, as a calartian, and doing a little bit of work on the history of the graduates also. It’s far from a Cal Arts model Disney set up to teach the students to get ready for the industry.

  • OfCanada

    Digital Domain is just following a model that I’ve seen all over China.

    Ultimately most of those students are going to be very angry or sorely dissapointed after they’ve spent 100k and 4 years only to have their work cut from the feature film as 90% of new graduate work is not good enough quality for feature film.

    What they will probably end up doing it just hire the cream of the crop of graduates for their company .. which will only be 10 out of 100 students.

    I’ve seen lot’s of studios in china that at any given time are making more profit from their training division than their production division. Almost ALL animation studios in China have attached training schools.

  • d. harry

    Does anyone here know the details of the deal DD made with the state of Florida?? I heard that they must have 500 employees by a certain date in order to keep the money that has been given them. Anyone know the deets on this?

  • DD

    Wait, is this an April Fools joke? I think I’ve stayed up a bit too late this time.

  • phredd

    i have just lost all faith in digital domain. their credibility is ruined. their name soiled. their brand tarnished. the notion of ever working there again (worked there once long ago) is now a non-issue. I’M JUST NOT INTERESTED – AND I HOPE YOU AREN’T EITHER.

    don’t be fooled people. sad shame really…. nice knowin ya DD. glad you didn’t hire me recently…i’d have been even more pissed than i am now.

  • purin

    Relying on that big a chunk of unpaid labor (that is paying for such a privilege) only preserves jobs in the US if you define “jobs” as just “working” and not “working so you can pay for expenses.”

    I really don’t like this pressure to prove your dedication through destroying your health. Seriously, what is so shameful about wanting to pay your bills and have a moment to rest? Do we REALLY want exploitability to prove our dedication? Yes, artists do their work because they love it and not because they wanted to be rich, but there’s a difference between making it big and making nothing, between working, and working yourself to sickness and debt.

    I’d really rather there be NO animation jobs in the states and be forced to apply my skills elsewhere than have animation jobs that “compete” with overseas animation through less and less ethical business practices.

    Wait a minute. You know where I last heard someone talking like this? Obscurus Lupa’s special on Scott Shaw and Zen Filmmaking. It’s rotten enough when referring to actors and film crew. Why are animators different?

    • Anon2012

      Sounds like your taking your bad experiences from other studios and piling them on this issue. Are you that threatened in your job? If the industry, which I’ve found to be tough, competitive and largely fair, has treated you so poorly perhaps it is time you left and made room for talent ready to earn their way.

      • Milo Thatch

        Everything Purin said rings true to me as well, a professional in the industry. I don’t see where his “personal experiences” are clouding his assessment of this ridiculous nature to destroy ourselves just to prove dedication. Something is wrong with the industry when people who enter the game purely based on love end up nearly hating the artform because the industry can be so brutal. The lucky ones who snag stable jobs at top companies perhaps cannot relate (or properly remember) what it’s like to chase jobs around the country for arguably less-than-deserved pay only see a major company like DD start to pull this kind of garbage on us.

  • At no point should anyone ever say it okay to do work for free. Unpaid Internships are just as bad as what DD is proposing in Florida. What I find funny is who in their right mind other than some no talent hack would sign up to be a teacher at this school. So when the students act like students and do either subpar work or don’t finish at all, who then picks up the slack of an entire team of amateurs. Answer whichever professional sap signed up to teach there thinking it was an easy way to get their own experience and money. Plus being both a professional animator and a professor i can tell you the feds will never allow this to happen. We have to place students in jobs that pay specific amount to what their degree cost. We have to keep track of their homework per credit hour and document it with projects and grades. Education is not Production and I wish more people would come to understand that fact.

  • Stephen M. Levinson

    I don’t think he’s referring to having these students actually paying… I think he’s referring to the term, Sweat Equity… As in, what the value of their work is (how much should they be paid) but without actually being paid. And that amount is essentially being invested into the company.

    I don’t think they’re going to actually have people pay to work there. Sweat Equity is essentially that without the exchange of money.

  • See, this type of thing is why unions and labor laws are so important.

  • Melissa

    Due to the large amount of comments, I’m sorry if someone already mentioned this, but here’s my student reaction to all this:

    It’s one thing to go to animation school and pay tuition. It’s another thing to go to an unpaid internship for experience.

    But to pay a studio so we as students can gain experience? WITH WHAT MONEY??!?!?!

    If DD is planning on taking recent graduates, they’d be taking presumably SOME people already with some kind of student debt. If they’re taking high school grads aspiring to become animators, they most likely aren’t going to have a penny.

    Frankly, all I’m seeing from this is a buttload of loans coming from a government that is already penny pinching to begin with. Not to mention, if ‘students’ are paying to work in animation, there’s pretty much no way they can handle a second part time job, unless DD is planning on handing out 5 second animation assignments over 8 months.

    It just doesn’t make sense.

  • Jeff

    Sounds like someone should organize a boycott of every film DD does with exploited student labor…starting with The Legend of Tembo….