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.