John Textor Defends Digital Domain
The VFX industry continues to debate the recent revelation that Digital Domain CEO John Textor intends to fuel Tradition Studios, the company’s new feature animation studio in Port St. Lucie, Florida, with student labor.
As Daily Variety reports, Digital Domain has set up a college degree program in conjunction with Florida State University, and as part of that program, students will do CG work on some DD projects for college credit. Textor was caught saying that tuition-paying students would pay "for the privilege" of working for DD.
The CEO’s gaffe prompted a statement from the Visual Effects Society (VES):
“As a professional honorary society, VES has become aware of some unsettling comments from Digital Domain's CEO regarding its employment practices. We were shocked to hear how DD hopes to utilize interns to accomplish professional visual effects work. If the reality matches the remarks of DD's CEO, then we believe DD is not only denigrating the value of artists who do incredible work under trying conditions, but are also unfairly taking advantage of a difficult job market and will ultimately harm the ability of visual effects artists to survive in the future if such an imprudent business model became the norm.
However, and equally important to note, if DD's internship program is merely the same as those that exist in many schools across the country, and they're only guilty of having their CEO use ill-advised, self-boasting rhetoric that happened to be caught on tape, then we hope the recent loud reaction and unified voice of visual effects artists around the globe has caused DD to be more sensitive and appreciative of the plight of those artists who struggle to endure in an industry that is constantly redefining itself yet always seeks to maximize the ways it uses their art and magic to produce record profits for the entire industry.”
Textor responded to critics in an email sent to employees on Monday:
From: John Textor
Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2012 16:22:37 -0700
To: John Textor
Subject: My Comments On Our Education Program
I want to take a minute to speak to the discussion happening around the industry that started with comments I made about our education program. I chose my words poorly and the industry took me to task. More importantly, though, my remarks threw a negative spotlight on Digital Domain that the company doesn't deserve, and I want to apologize to all of you for that. I regret if I have tarnished in any way the reputation you have built over two decades with your amazing work.
I do want you to have the facts about our education model because it does a lot of good. It's a four-year program. Students dual-enroll in an accredited BFA program at Florida State University and a diploma program at the Digital Domain Institute. In their third and fourth years they have the opportunity to intern on real projects in a real studio in exchange for college credits.
We're still in the early days. The first BFA class starts this fall. The studio on the DDI West Palm Beach campus where students will have a chance to intern will open in 2015. The internship program will also expand as other companies and studios come on board.
I understand where people's reactions are coming from. It's not the program, but my glib comment. I wish I could take that back, but I can't. I can just apologize to you for it, and assure you that I know interns can never take the place of skilled artists and production professionals. What first attracted me to Digital Domain was your work, and when I came here in 2006, I realized that it was your pride in that work and in each other that makes the place special.