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Comment of the Day: Everything is Better Free

Today we learned that some animation executives believe, “Free labor is much better than cheap labor.” Cartoon Brew commenter Jody Morgan pointed out though that it’s not just megamillionaire businessmen who like free stuff:

“And seeing a movie for free is better than paying the matinee price.”

See, now you can enjoy Digital Domain’s first animated feature The Legend of Tembo, while still respecting John Textor’s business philosophies.

  • Tak

    *Wild Rampant Applause from the Crowd.*

    Make Films for Free & offer Free Tickets to e’m!
    Hey Hollywood, scared yet?

  • Sarah J

    Oooh, BURN! I don’t condone digital piracy but I’m not gonna feel sorry when the studio execs behave like Mr. Textor here.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Free labor already sums up my life. :-(

  • Szech

    I think it’s funny when people say that we have become a society that doesn’t respect our elders. Why should we respect our elders when they set us up to fail?

    Pretty soon there will be a group of hard working, enthusiastic students working for free on a film that stands to make millions of dollars in profits. If these students don’t deserve to be paid, then who does? DD shareholders? John Textor?

    These students will eventually learn that that “having their name in the credits” and “being able to tell mom and dad that they are working on a film” won’t pay off their student loans. They are in for a lifetime of working long hours for marginal pay.

    Meanwhile, John Textor’s offspring will inherit this money and sense of entitlement. They won’t have to work a day in their lives, which will put them in a perfect position to sit on a board for another company and approve more decisions like this one.

  • Mark Sonntag

    Now I know why I never heard from them again, I’m too expensive. Boycott their films is all I can say to stop this rampant explosion in exploitation.

  • BL

    you know… if i CHOOSE to work for free, i CAN do that, but I dont want to. So the guys at Digital Domain works there free or not, its THEIR CHOICE, right?

    yes, i can understand you thinking John Textor is an asshole business man making people pay to work there. Taking adventage of student and all. You know, some people DO wanna work there, and even it sounds like total slavery, hey, its not you to decide, right?

    if you were a student, wouldnt it be hard to choose between a credit in a feature movie, learning the industry standard, and going no where with a student loan? at least they aren’t making sneakers in india, (yeah of course it could be worse, but look on the bright side.) its a free country.

    • Technically you are correct, but this correctness only benefits from the short term and ruins the long term.

      Example: sure we could cut down all of the existing forests and give ourselves lot’s of cheap paper and wood now, but in the long term this will have detrimental effects.

      So while this may seem like a good idea at the time for the first or second generation of students, this will evidently lead to detrimental effects in the industry.

    • We live in a society.

      That means our choices have ramifications for others. Sometimes millions of others. “In a free country”.

      This is why we have things like child labor laws. “Hey, this 8 year old WANTS to work 70 hours a week! It’s a free country!”

      This is why universities have a traditional system of ethics which discourages faculty from personally profiting from the work of students.

      This is why we have legal rules surrounding what constitutes a legitimate internship.

      So “it’s a free country and I can devalue the market and create unfair working conditions if I want!” is not a valid position. The very fact that we live in post-Enlightenment society precludes this as a valid action. You can make that argument in an anarchist state, or place where might makes right but if you’re fortunate enough to live in a thriving culture of fairly legislated laws, you are bound to your fellow citizens to abide by those rules.

    • Dino

      Exploitation of the students is only half the picture here. Sure, a student may choose to work for free, but by doing so he eliminates a paid studio position. That student graduates thinking that all his hard, unpaid work will land him a paying gig in the industry, only to find that the entry-level jobs are largely staffed by (surprise!) unpaid students. It’s all a bit Ponzi-like.

    • Sarah J

      But people are still being taken advantage of. Take minimum wage laws, for example. Take away minimum wage laws and you can say “Well, people CHOOSE to work for $4 an hour!”, but when you really think about it, they might not necessarily HAVE a choice. Maybe they can’t find work that pays them more. It’s similar to this situation. Maybe the students working for this company can’t find any other place.


        Ok, lets get one thing straight, receiving some form of “work experience” & a better understanding of a job and the operations that you might be required to do as part of that job is not a get out of jail free card as far as fair monetary compensation goes. And here’s why…

        The Core Concept of :
        The fair & open exchange of currency in return for services, products or time & assistance is that if any; time, effort & ideas of yours go into helping generate further revenue or stimulate future growth for a company or person, then you are entitled, at the very least, to a small but fair & equitably amount of that gain, because of the two simple facts that…
        1.) You will never get any of your time, effort, or ideas back once given to another party.
        2.) Those gains or that level of growth would not have occurred without your contributions.

        The difficulties in quantifying this and setting it in stone however, comes from the fact that internships often operate for a variety of different reasons, with different motives and at different times in a students early quote “career” unquote. Studios intern on what is mainly a trail & review basis, where graduates or current students can either be…
        A.)…hosted by & spend time in the studio during a production, where they are able to talk to & watch their [internship mentors] and other staff work. They are encouraged to ask questions, interact & closely observe. They are often also set on mock tasks in their chosen fields which are supervised and reviewed by the artists at the studio. They are also encouraged to show their own personal work and get further feedback on W.I.P’s & their short film development. It may be best to consider this type of internship happening early on as something like a “summer internship” while the student is still enrolled at and [preferably] covered by their university/college as far as travel & other legal liabilities are concerned. Students are not part of the studio staff & never work on studio bread & butter work directly [or indirectly]. These kinds of internships are more for the 1 on 1 interaction with professional working folks at the studio; primarily for the reviews, personal critique & mentorship that they can offer the current student with their own work & development… and for them to gain insight into the working experience within their chosen department & or areas of speciality. For lack of a better description, it’s an immersive & experiential internship.
        B.)…sent to the studio as something of a Jr or part time assistant to staff working on production, and under the supervision & direction of the staff. Jobs & tasks can be varied and the student or graduate needs to be adaptable & hopefully cope with the pace of the studio. Since they’re working as a Jr Assistant to staff on real projects or assisting to produce real content [which will hopefully act as the catalyst for their learning by being directly involved in the production & hopefully proving that they’re capable & employable to the studio.] they should ideally be given a relevant intern and task related level of pay, or at the very least some basic coverage for their time & assistance. This type of internship is very similar to A.) but is more hands on & would be ideal for both graduates & summer student interns alike.
        C.)…thrown in the deep end, for a period at the studios discretion. It’s sink or swim & they either live up to expectations & fulfil their duties or they don’t. It’s basically a shotgun hire & review candidate on the job policy by the studio. These kinds of internships should be fully paid & treaded like a short term contract at the studio. This policy is mainly for the studios own benefit in scouting for any talent that they may wish to hire while also having some extra hands on the production. These graduates get to add the work & company to their resumes, and they get paid for their time & inputs. From the studios point of view this kind of internship all about business & helping manufacture their products. The additional ability to review the interns & scout for possible longer term staff is simply a bi-product of this arrangement. This is a Graduate level “Professional Internship” at a company as short term staff member on equivalent staff wages.

        In summary:
        A.)The light or casual internship. Mock or intern training sample tasks only. Interracial learning & the opportunity for staff to review student work both that done in house or at college/university. Part of the University or college curriculum & associated with attaining their degree & counts as course credit.
        B.)The involved assistant or perhaps part time style internship in a junior or underling/assisting type role. Much like in A.), but learning the ropes directly & actively on real tasks rather than passively on mock specifically created intern tasks. Chance to prove that they are competent & might have what it takes to preform tasks fully.
        C.)The Full “professional” or “Graduate entry level” Internship. Short Contract style full employment of outstanding candidate. Thrown directly in the deep end on real work with real expectations & standards of professional polish creating real product. Hire/[extend contract] or let got based on a series of performance reviews & the studios own current ability to take on new staff.

        The other obvious problem is Studios & their Money. Not all Studios are Pixar [The house $teve Job$ Built]. Most are smaller, less cohesive & on tighter budgets mainly doing service type work for or in conjunction with other studios for clients/channels etc & might not have the time or finances to facilitate internships of these nature. So instead they seem to like to go by some half measure, which usually revolves around cutting whichever options minimise cost for them the most, leading us to this whole unpaid internships debacle. [Interning simply for the experience. For the privilege & opportunity to work with & meet studio folk, wink wink nudge nudge *cough* handshake type stuff] which all stems from the real world problems & financial purse strings of the studios themselves running under a level of duress due to bad or misguided management or simply the strains of production on a tight timeline & budget.

        So please understand the core concept of pay regarding your direct involvement & your own personal responsibility to push for clarity with the terms your employer or studios is offering you. No studio should ever be DIRECTLY associated with a university or college. This may sound like a good idea in theory, but in practise it clouds legal issues & adds conflicts to the running of both institutions as the two overlap in a morally grey area which is ripe for exploitation [done with the best intentions, right Mr Textor? >;-P ]. You can tell that I’m being as pedantic as possible about the basic principles & details covered in this rant, can’t you? I just hope the core of it is clear enough by now & there’s less wool pulled over your eyes because of it.

  • Luke

    One day, artistz will be completely sick of being walked all over in the industry, and hollywood big budget studio animation will completely die, atleast in America. The internet is our future.


    I’m personally going to have students Illegally download a torrent of the Legend of Tembo for me.

    Thanks for the great idea Mr. Textor!