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want to read something scary? Sith Lord CEO plots to make students pay to work on movies.

Can someone photoshop some scary lightning shooting from these fingertips?

VFX Soldier posted about this yesterday, and I’m gonna point you guys to it(here’s the link).  It’s making people angry, and we’re going to talk some more about it after you’ve read the piece.

I will break it down for you lazy readers though.  Digital Domain(Florida) CEO John Textor presented a business model to a group of investors that basically breaks down as this: Set up a government funded VFX school offering Masters and Bachelors programs, students pay tuition, get the students to work on your film, unpaid, while they’re paying tuition.  Investors responded positively, with one website actually recommending it as a stock to watch.  Video was actually found of Textor pitching.  Here’s the awfullest/bestest quote: 30{f2e86ea6af82e2bb048871abf045622abf0ed27fb513932dc1ee8c05a54cbefd} of the workforce at our digital studio down in Florida, is not only going to be free, with student labor, its going to be labor that’s actually paying us for the privilege of working on our films.

Students paying for the “privilege” of working.

Digest that for a bit.  We’ll talk more later.



  1. Ashes Ashes March 29, 2012

    I find it funny and ironic that a Canadian website is complaining about this. Your government takes people’s money to pay to work on US productions. Textor’s doing the same thing, but at a smaller level. At least the students are making the choice to use their money this way, unlike the average tax payer who probably doesn’t want to fund US studios.

    Get rid of your tax incentives and then maybe you have a leg to stand on.

    • Mike Valiquette Mike Valiquette Post author | March 29, 2012

      In response to the comments posted by Ashes:
      I’m wary of indulging this thread of commentary, as I don’t want to detract from the issue in question. Ashes, our system is far from perfect, something none of us here are afraid to discuss. We criticize it quite regularly, in fact, and are always seeking to improve it. Personally, I’m a big proponent of a more entrepreneurial approach here in Canada. But the fact that much of the work here in Canada, work that has to meet very strict guidelines regarding Canadian content, and Canadian labour, is subsidized by our tax dollars through stringently-monitored systems and agencies, robs us, as a community, of our right to an opinion? Well sir (or madam), on that we will have to agree to disagree. This Canadian website, which is supported by the community, and is run for the community, will point out when shit like this goes down. We’ll comment on it, and we’ll encourage others to read and educate themselves about it. I apologize if this doesn’t satisfy your own personal moral standards.
      If you’d like to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of our system here in Canada, and perhaps compare and contrast it with that of our southern neighbour, I invite you to do so. You may write to me directly at I invite you to also introduce yourself to our readers, establish a context for your opinions, and present them to us in the most thoughtful and deliberate way possible. I ask this of any contributor here at the site. I will happily print your submission word for word so that we may give the topic it’s own thread for discussion and commentary, and not distract from the topic at hand: a company that is now, according to an American website, Cartoon Brew, has caught the eye of The Animation Guild in Los Angeles, who “is exploring whether Digital Domain might be in violation of state and federal labor laws”.
      Ashes, I welcome your opinions and commentary. That’s what this site is for. And it’s important to me that everyone feel welcome here. Your comments don’t quite tread into flame territory, so I’m not taking it down, but don’t expect you can knock on my door, come into my house, and shit on my floor. We’re a Canadian website, unabashedly so. And while I’m far from satisfied with the system we have, I’m also intensely proud of the work we do and the people who do it. We have two legs to stand on, and make no mistake, they are strong, sturdy, frost-bitten tree trunks, and they are not against kicking you back out that door.
      Warmest regards,
      Mike Valiquette
      Owner and Publisher
      Canadian Animation Resources

  2. jj jj March 29, 2012

    Deplorable! That’s the same business model I witnessed in China, which is one reason making it more difficult every day for North America and Europe to compete in the VFX/Anim market. Next thing they’ll be doing is hacking the software. Exploitation to the nth degree.

  3. Wildeyed Wildeyed March 29, 2012

    Excellent response, Mike. I would also point out to Ashes that his own (somewhat united) states compete for Hollywood production with public money.

  4. Rob Rob March 29, 2012

    From Dec 2011:
    PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla., December 29, 2011 – Digital Domain Media Group, Inc. (NYSE: DDMG), a leading digital production company focused on visual effects, original content animation and major studio co-productions, today announced that it has been approved for an additional $11 million of transferable tax credits by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Such tax credits can either be applied in the award amount to directly reduce the recipient’s Florida state tax liability, or they can be sold for cash to other Florida state corporate taxpayers. The awarded amounts are designed by the Florida legislature to reduce the company’s direct costs of Florida-based visual effects productions and animation feature film projects by amounts equal to between 20 percent and 30 percent. The recent award is in addition to prior awards of $8.9 million that will be used primarily to offset the cost of the company’s first animated feature film to be produced in Florida, The Legend of Tembo.

    Including the recent transferable tax credits, Digital Domain Media Group is the beneficiary of approximately $135.1 million of cumulative and continuing incentives provided by the State of Florida and the Florida cities of Port Saint Lucie and West Pam Beach. These incentives provide meaningful benefit directly to the company’s newest business initiatives:

    @Ashes, just thought you might like to see those numbers.
    About 180 million in Government money if I am not mistaken.

    In Canada, just so you know, the tax break structure is such that the studio actually has to spend the money to get the break. The employee gets 100% of what they are expected to earn. The studio re coupes up to 40% of that salary. Likely a year after spending it.
    we also have certain labour laws here that do not allow for Interns or students to take work away from already established professionals within an industry. If they are on a show they are on a show. No ambiguity. They don’t pay to be on the show.

  5. Doc Savage Doc Savage March 29, 2012

    This is the inevitable result of Capitalism, or more specifically, Corporatism, unrestrained. It ends with a Matrix styled result, where we pay money for the privilage of staying alive.

  6. Rundeep Rundeep March 30, 2012

    Well schools like Seneca’s animation program offers graduates the chance to work at a local studio at a price as well. It’s essentially the same thing as DD.

    When studios realize this, why wouldn’t they market themselves to have mentorship programs because at the end of the day, what gets you the job is experience, film/tv credits, and connections. If we paid what we would to go to school to a studio to hire us for 3-4 years to train us, the end result would be far more beneficial than going to school for that amount of time.

    Well now it’s coming true. It’s the schools that messed this up.

    The good thing is Canadians are a bunch of pansies who will never say a thing. These disgusting activities have been going on for years in Toronto but no one talks till recently about Guru. I have a friend who paid to work at Starz but in the end he got a job at Pixar so he thinks its worth it.

  7. sc sc April 2, 2012

    Rundeep, students who are part of the internship that Seneca offers in their last year don’t have to pay to work at a studio. They are actually paid by Seneca to do this work.

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