Shame on Digital Domain.

I would like to take a moment to thank VFXSoldier for bringing Digital Domain’s exploitative hiring practices to everyone’s attention. Much has been said on this topic already, but as I repeatedly beat my head against a wall, several thoughts keep coming to mind.

Let’s call a spade a spade here. Digital Domain is making use of indentured servants to complete visual effects work. The definition of an indentured servant is someone who works for free, in exchange for transportation, lodging, meals, etc. for a set period of time, like 3 or 7 years. Here, the reward is a diploma, and the dream of employment working for a major studio. Not a promise, but a hint. However, what DD has done is worse than indentured servitude, because the servants here have to pay for the privilege.

An Indian colleague of mine pointed out that this process has gone on in India for the last decade. So, that makes it OK for it to happen here? John Textor justified this to the Department of Education by saying that this is the only way to keep these jobs from going to India. So, if we can’t beat them, join them? Is that the idea?

When Wyndcrest Holdings bought Digital Domain several years ago, the first thing that they did was take the pirate flag down off the roof. That may have been the beginning of the end. The executive management of this company, specifically, John Textor and Cliff Plumer, have consistently paid themselves well over $700,000 a year, while the company has nearly continuously lost money. In 2010, DD lost nearly $45 million. In the process, they have all but destroyed the heart and soul of this once great company in Venice. I know that margins in Visual Effects are thin, and that owning your own content is key to success. However, just how greedy do you need to be? When is enough, enough? Is it not enough to own your own content? Do you need to now have slave labor to complete your projects?

This behavior is shameful and despicable, and should not be tolerated.

9 Responses to Shame on Digital Domain.

  1. oryh says:

    I work over 50 hours a week, often pulling overnighters to make television commercials. I cant afford to change the oil in my car but my boss owns a ferrari. I am sick of this too.

  2. exefx says:

    Textor is so worried about losing jobs to China that he (DD) is opening a studio in Beijing… and Abu Dhabi.
    DDMG’s 10k was just published…. http://secfilings.com/searchresultswide.aspx?link=2&filingid=8518709….

    John Textor received in 2011 base comp of $791,372, bonus comp of $407,000, awarded stock options of $8,351,210 and other comp of $6,525,461 or a total comp of $16,075,044.

    DDMG had revenues in 2011 of $95,611,000… and an operating loss of ($75,109,000)…

    WOW….

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  4. Cat Stevens says:

    “I work over 50 hours a week, often pulling overnighters to make television commercials. I cant afford to change the oil in my car but my boss owns a ferrari. I am sick of this too.”

    if this is true…you’re doing something wrong, or not asking for enough money- furthermore has nothing to do with DD opening up a college that directly has students work on films.

    I honestly don’t get why so many people have issues with this. Does it affect you? Are you a student? Let’s say you have about 5-6 yrs experience under your belt. Do you really think companies are going to lump you in the same category as they would these “dd students?” If you say yes, then you need to go home and brush up on some skillset, or you fucked up so bad at a company where your reputation has followed you – because that’s horrible. If you’re worth 2 shits, then I don’t see why anyone would have to worry about the DD school.

    Are you mad at DD for taking advantage of a situation to make a profit for once? If so…why? They’re a huge company. They’ve just figured out and pulled the trigger on something any other studio would of done if they had the chance and the right setup. You really think the students are going to think they’re getting taken advantage of? Shit, if it was around when I was interning (working for free…on movies, (willingly)) I would of done it. Better than going to SCAD or CAL ARTS or ART INSTITUTE or BROOKS or any other of the 30 cg programs out there. I know if I was hiring a junior artist, I would definitely hire someone that has worked on movies, rather than made a shitty character on a final project at an art college.

    Again, have you asked yourself what you’re really angry at?

    Outsourcing our jobs? plaguing the industry with junior artists? wake up…Artists are going overseas willingly. This, in itself is more damaging than another art college popping up. Junior artists are everywhere, big deal. Again, if you’re at a senior level then, obviously companies aren’t going to hire a junior artist to replace you…and if they do? It was probably for good reason.

    Something has happened in the last 6 or 7 years I feel, and maybe this DD school is just going to add to it, but there’s a lot of students that just think they’re owed the world because they have some massive amount of debt and a certificate from some college that says they’re worth something. Everyone has their own path. If you’re not making enough…quit, find a company that does pay you. can’t find one? look harder, learn another skill in the pipeline, make yourself valuable. Trust me, if you’re valuable – companies notice. No benefits? work on getting into a company that does have benefits- make that your goal, and yes, there are companies that have benefits. Great ones.

    Good luck and buck up. Maybe watch fight club.

    • Dave W. says:

      “if this is true…you’re doing something wrong, or not asking for enough money- furthermore has nothing to do with DD opening up a college that directly has students work on films. ”

      Yeah… TRY to do that when 30% of the workforce will be students. TRY to do that when they can just tell you forget it, they will replace your “high-paid” salary with two students. Give me a break.

      “I honestly don’t get why so many people have issues with this. Does it affect you? Are you a student? Let’s say you have about 5-6 yrs experience under your belt. Do you really think companies are going to lump you in the same category as they would these “dd students?”

      It WILL affect everyone in the industry as it devalues workers and underbidding grows. Apparently you cannot see where this will lead.

      “Are you mad at DD for taking advantage of a situation to make a profit for once? If so…why?”

      This is probably the silliest of your questions. Why are we mad? Really? A financial pencil-pusher comes in – one who makes a HUGE OVERINFLATED salary – all while the company loses money and they find yet another way to get MORE cash out of the system so that they can pay these overinflated salaries. Why would anyone be angry? Unbelievable.

      Once again the wealthy are taking advantage of the system and the system is letting them. I guess there’s no reason to be angry as wagers decrease and industries fail. Perhaps you should take a moment to look at the BIGGER picture here and see where all of this will lead? Just because it MAY not affect you now doesn’t mean it won’t affect you in the relatively near future. If these financial heads in the VFX industry can make MORE money without you, you will be replaced by someone who can do an ADEQUATE job and get paid much less. If you don’t believe it will happen…. just sit around, do nothing and/or rail against those who ARE speaking up.

      Then we’ll see.

  5. Cat Stevens says:

    Again- you are what you make yourself. Sony offered me a 2yr contract a couple months ago to come back and I just got contacted from DD a couple weeks ago to see if I was available to come back. – not too worried, and you know why?

    Because I don’t complain. I come in, fix problems that students can’t, make my rate and I’m done. You gotta realize something. If you’re good and you have a good track record…companies come to you. The whole students replacing experienced artists is a cop out (in any field) it’s just bullshit and an excuse. Instead of whining on a blog( like every new artist these days) man up and make yourself an asset if you’re not happy in the position you are in. I started at the bottom and worked my way up. I didn’t have the luxury of being recruited from a company straight out of school. (thank god) I can work in any software you give me, including their proprietary software. You know how I can do that? Because I worked my ass off in my spare time and learned all of it. What a concept. …..

    Since this article has gone public. Now the whole Sony thing is going on. It’s hilarious while this group of people are trying to unionize people that AREN’T complaining are signing longterm contracts.

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