The SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference earlier this month included, on August 5, a no-press-allowed address to the SIGGRAPH Business Symposium by Digital Domain CEO John Textor.
According to a report by Variety , Textor told the gathering the future of the industry in the U.S. won't be decided by executives or even studios but by six to 10 powerful directors who can choose whether to work with artists and filmmakers in the U.S. -- or with whoever turns in the lowest bid, wherever they may be.
Textor, an avowed economic nationalist, told Variety: “It's time for the key filmmakers in our industry to decide how important it is for the VFX industry to thrive in the United States. We do what the filmmakers want. They drive the decisions.”
Textor challenged the CEOs of the visual-effects industry to overcome their own fear and stand up for their companies. “We need to have greater courage,” Textor said he told those gathered. “We need to hold the industry accountable for how we're treated.”
Textor also told Variety every conversation he has with a studio executive starts with the exec telling him, “I'm not the guy who tries to put VFX companies out of business, but I need to get this movie made at this budget.”
Such talk reportedly irks Textor. “We're not here to finance their films,” he told Variety. “If you're not the guy who squeezes visual effects companies, then don't squeeze visual effects companies.”
That sentiment led to a surprise announcement in Textor's speech: His pledge that Digital Domain will put up $100,000 to support a visual effects trade association -- if DD's competitors will step up and do the same.
There has long been talk of both a VFX trade association for companies and a union or guild for its artists, but neither has gained much traction to date. A trade association wouldn't be able to set prices, but it could let companies share info about their capacity, so they're not bidding against each other for work they will end up having to subcontract out anyway.
Many artists are skeptical of Textor's push because of his efforts to use free or inexpensive student labor for VFX work and because of the financial rumors that swirl around the company. Textor concedes the industry could do a better job taking care of its artists, and said he thinks a trade association would help.
“Individuals have unique needs,” he said to Variety. “Frankly, I think companies can be in much better positions to take care of those needs if they come from strong companies. Healthy employees come from healthy companies.”