Paying To Work For Free

Last week VFX Soldier exposed a scheme by Digital Domain to offer students at their taxpayer-subsidized university program the opportunity to work for free on their commercial production. In a November speech to investors to raise money for an IPO, Digital Domain CEO John Textor explains their plan this way:

30% of the workforce at our digital studio down in Florida is not only going to be free, with student labor, it’s going to be labor that’s actually paying us for the privilege of working on our films.

Now I know that you are shocked, absolutely shocked! by these sort of goings-on in the movie business. But the horse has left the barn. The cat is out of the bag. The fat lady sang. No amount of collective smacking our heads, moaning and groaning and rage as we sit in front of our computer screens will stop this from happening now. Digital Domain has already convinced Florida State University and The Department of Education that somehow this is NOT “taking advantage of the students,” and they’ve gotten an $80 Million subsidy from the City of Port St. Lucie and the State of Florida — all on their promise of high-tech jobs.

But does anyone really think that this is the first lesson we should teach future film students?

Some more info:
The Animation Guild: DD Finds New Revenue Stream … Students!
Cartoon Brew: Digital Domain’s John Textor Brags to Investors about Exploiting Animation Student Labor
Canadian Animation Resources: Editorial: Working = Money, right?
Occupy VFX: Shame on Digital Domain
Scott Benson: Paid Internships … The Other Kind
LA Times: Digital Effects Firm’s Partnership With College Draws Artists’ Ire
NY Times: The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not
US Department of Labor: Internships Under the Fair Labor Standards Act


Tom La Rock

Back in my day it was called “interning”

Sean Kelly

interns are not part of a government subsidised program 


 Nor do they pay the company they are interning for.


Check the last two links in the article as well. Internship programs can be rewarding and educational, but unpaid internships are in fact, illegal in the US. 

Mark Bortolotto

High-tech job = rotoscoping for stereo conversions

But hey those lucky students will finally be a part of the glamorous world of the movie industry…just remember to brick up the windows from that distracting Florida sunshine.

Brendan O'Brien

Extremely Frustrating. Leaving school I couldn’t help but get sucked into “interning”. Maybe time to re-up our commitment to make ourselves available to students so we can talk about the ups & downs of unpaid internships?

Brian Berneker

I know I would have eagerly joined myself, but it does make me cringe.  People deserve to be compensated for their work.

Elliott Cennamo

It’s awful.  It devalues the work and keeps the artists that would otherwise be being paid to do it out of a job.  Additionally, since the interns who are working there, no matter how passionate they are, still need to eat and a place to live, they have to have some other revenue stream– often mom and dad.  It’s probably not their intent, but in practice what DD is saying is “only kids from rich families can work for us”


Yep, it is exactly what there saying, and apart from the obvious unfairness of that its also means that you end up with a team of people all from the same backgrounds which in tern effects the richness of its work, shame. But I suppose company’s paying less a month than the cost of rent for a place is the same thing too…and that we get alot in the UK.

Neto Berola

absolute rubbish , there should be laws against this sort of thing. this better not catch on!


 Fortunately there actually is. Thanks to another source I learned of the follwoing.

They have to meet the following  points according to federal law. Also, at 100k for an education I would imagine some of those kids would have Lawyers as parents.

1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;

2. The training is for the benefit of the trainees;

3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;

5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and

6. The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

I can see much of this being dificult for them to do, especially since their claim to investors has been the opposite. I personally think this is a bad idea. Either make a seperate school and recruit (paying) jobs from it, call it what it is an internship, make it free and pay them a little bit for it.

Terry Evans

Psyop LA in Venice makes you sign a paper where you aggre that they DO NOT pay overtime…they also pay through something like Yurcor as well, but I don’t see any of the editors in Motionographer writing about it…

Stephen Kelleher

Incorrect –

Everybody working in the industry choses how they are willing to be treated by accepting (nee signing) the terms by a prospective employer. If you accept such terms, don’t cry about it – boycott said studio instead. Lack of experience is only tantamount to exploitation if you accept it as such.

Zack Freeman

right on the money!  But we also need a practical way to protect the talent coming out of school from business practices that will likely only be seen as exploitative, after the student feels exploited

Scott Benson

You also can’t expect Motionographer to address every shady practice/great piece/interesting ad/talented person out there. It’s a big industry.


Hi Terry, please get in touch – Bran

Eric Lampi

Psyop NYC doesn’t do MBO/Yurcor anymore as far as I know, you can be added to payroll or you can get paid 1099 if you’re incorporated with insurance, which is what I finally did. If you don’t want to work someplace that doesn’t offer overtime, don’t sign agreements that stipulate that as a condition for employment. No one MAKES you sign anything, if you’re doing it, you are doing so willingly that’s what contracts are for. If you have a problem with it you bring it up as a part of your negotiations, which may or may not be possible. If it’s a deal-breaker for you, you can work someplace else. The whole Yurcor/MBO issue in our industry is an issue the government can address, until they get off their asses to update the law to account for the way freelancers work, it screws all of us in higher taxes and expenses just to get paid. Another company that will remain nameless, not only uses Yurcor, but even if you’re incorporated they require you pay a 5% fee just to get a paycheck. I have been freelancing continuously since 2002, I don’t work any different now than I had been for years, but it costs a lot more to get paid for the same exact thing, which is more than a little infuriating.

jonathan podwil

why should that company remain nameless?  

Zack Freeman

those stipulations “you” might sign are in themselves illegal.  Its like signing a contract that says you will ignore the constitution but uphold its legality cause you signed it. and anything you sign is legal.

Eric Lampi

I’d also like to add that people in our industry enter into it and are woefully unprepared for freelance. You don’t always have to take everything in a contract, you need to learn how to negotiate. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need. Ha ha. Properly approached, you can ask for anything if you think you rate highly enough to deserve that consideration. In the end, it’s business and it’s not the place for emotions if you disagree with it, you discuss it, after which you have 2 options, sign or don’t sign, that’s it.

Donald Strubler

charge it on your day rate

Maxwell Hathaway

shouldn’t we just propose this to the ‘Student’ section?  Let the student body make up its mind if it wants to pay more, or attend University.

What strikes me, is that this is a response to increased online education.  The institution is scared!  Let them get scared, clever young minds will catch on faster than we did.

I will have faith in our future generations as long as they continue to reach out to industry.  We are here, don’t be afraid to contact us.

Jens Blank

Studying is a chance to try out and do something of your own. Unlikely that will happen in a setup like the above. Also paying student fees to work on something commercial is wrong in my opinion and cannot be compared to signing not being payed for overtime etc.


 Exactly, you have the rest of your life to do work for other people.


Such a good point and it shouldn’t be lost. College and higher education can be a terrific place to explore, learn and find your own voice. Making college primarily about learning job skills or building a resume is perhaps, missing the point. Although with the current job market, I can see why people would feel the need to hone their skills, be competitive and get a job immediately after school – especially with the loans they’ll need to take out to complete their studies. 


there certainly wont be artists that are being trained in that kind of environment.
sounds like a FOOL’s SCHOOL .

Olly Low Poly

Some talented young people might just loose interest in motion graphics.

Diogo Kalil

Back in 19th Century it was called subsidized slavery.


I went on a research bender recently, and returned disappointed to find that there are several overtime exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act for “learned professionals” and “creative professionals.” If what you do requires advanced training or is a ‘creative endeavor’ you are not legally entitled to overtime pay.

Just because it’s legal, doesn’t make it fair—read everything you sign.


I cannot tell you how many companies that are portrayed here and are consider darlings of this website take advantage of workers.
From no overtime pay, extreme long hours to taking forever to pay and abuse of freelancers on pitch work. Add to that producers putting holds on people and not even getting back with feedback.

Our industry it’s a nightmare and it will only get worse with more and more companies joining and our work becoming more mainstream. 

There is no organization (BDA is a joke) and individuals do not get together to set work condition standards, so clients to production companies will keep taking advantage of the work force.

It’s a shame. Sorry for being pessimistic, I had been working for too long in this industry and every time these subjects come along there is a initial outcry to fall into darkness little after. 

Zack Freeman

It generally boils down to Studio owners taking advantage of those of use who consider this work a labor of love, and accepting it as common practice.  The unlucky people who love the job but can not compromise aspects of their life to a job that seeks to take advantage of them (creatively and monetarily), generally lead the parade of people who leave the industry early.

Dominic Amatore

Oh look Florida.

The wang of America.

Garrett Braren

Bran, why do you think outrage by this community has no possibility of effecting change? You seem to be discouraging that outrage which plays right into the assumptions of these greedy jerks that they’ll get away with it. While no change is guaranteed, I feel strong that its worth getting as many people as possible angry about this situation. Spreading awareness on this site is a great start. I’ve seen numerous discussions about this subject online in the last week. The possibility for change very much still exists. Hopefully action will be taken at the top of one or both of these organizations to preserve their image, realizing what a stupid decision this was. Perhaps legal action will arise to prevent it from going forward as planned. Or maybe just a lot more people will educate themselves on the exploitative and predatory practices by many companies in this industry, protecting themselves for the future. Capitulation will just empower DD and anyone else who feels this is a legitimate business strategy rather than the violation of labor and workers rights that it clearly is.


Garrett: I think I’m just weary of arguing for ethical behavior in an industry that doesn’t seem to value it. By all means, let’s make some noise.

Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education:

Wage & Hour division of the Department Of Labor:


I agreed with you. I think it’s great that the issue is portrayed here but like I said in my earlier post, I skeptical believing this will change into a positive situation.
Our industry is mostly based on individuals and companies that in order to compete will not get together for a commom cause that might hurt their bottom-line. $$$$

Leslie Faye Chung

I think if no efforts are made to show disapproval then we have no hope of changing anything.  I think it is great to see so many people rallying to this discussion.

Leif Pedersen

It doesn’t surprise me.
This sort of abuse is coming from a company that pays McDonalds wages for stereo conversion in Florida.
It’s just a bunch of corporate thieves trying to see their profit margins grow.

PJ Richardson

Simply put, the longer you dont pay people, esp. those that need it like interns, the worse it is for your business, their tenure will be short lived, their excuses and stress level higher while they struggle for money or work second jobs, and the seriousness they take the internship with lower. It may look good on paper to say you hire free interns when trying to ramp up the value of your company in an attempt to sell it or go public like DD but for the other 99% its logically and business wise a bad idea. Think of it as a transaction, the likelihood of getting high quality for free doesnt seem that likely.


I cannot tell you how many companies that are portrayed here and are consider darlings of this website take advantage of workers.
From no overtime pay, extreme long hours to taking forever to pay and abuse of freelancers on pitch work. ”  –   leonardo2001

Donald Strubler

because they’re day rate…

D. Ryan Reeb

 It’s worth it in my opinion.  I was an unpaid intern at DD back in 2003 and it helped me get my foot in the door to the industry. College does not equal career. The prospect of having employment after school is remarkable. If you want to work in the film industry you have to relocate out of Florida anyhow so if you don’t like the rate they’re giving you move elsewhere and ask for more money.

Leif Pedersen

Unpaid intern is fine. 
Pay the company to work as an intern is not.


and thats the bottom line.

Zack Freeman

pulled from the Steven Spielberg Wiki, cause it reminds me that yes working hard for free is what it takes to open doors and minds.

“His actual career began when he returned to Universal Studios as an unpaid, seven-day-a-week intern and guest of the editing department”

Now imagine. Steven Spielberg paying to become an intern at Universal Studios.  Does this change who he inevitably becomes? yeah i bet you anything it does.


I would have GLADLY paid DD to gain the skill sets i needed to work in the field instead of paying the college that made a poor attempt and teaching me.


What we, as professional artists should do, is stop working for companies that are actively destroying our industry.  

Yes, I am saying we boycott working for Digital Domain.  

If they succeed with this business model, every other major studio will follow suit.  Let’s see them finish a movie with no help from talented, skilled, professional visual effects artists.  And professionals get paid.

The only way to stop this practice is to drive Digital Domain out of business, and the fastest way to do that is that we don’t work for them


Digital Domain wants to use up to 30% unpaid labor as their workforce?  I say let them.  In fact, I say let them try and finish a movie with no professional visual effects artists.  

 I will not work for Digital Domain as long as they continue this business strategy and I encourage all other vfx artists to do the same.   If they think  professional skill, talent, and experience is that easily replaceable, then let them prove it because they will get no help from me or any artist I know.

You want to save the industry?  Take a stand.  Don’t work for companies that don’t value your skills and talents.  They need us far more than we need them.  You know what you call a visual effects studio with no artists?  Closed.


I’ve been seeing a bunch of schemes going on with this business like Yurcor, The Mill, Shilo, Digital Domain. Companies that are forcing you to get paid by those scams and doing whatever they want to do. It does not make any sense to me that they can still hire people. It does not any sense that we are smart enough to learn a bunch of different softwares and techniques and at the same time I feel like we are unorganized dumbs playing the muppets role and doing nothing.
If you guys remember the Writers Guild back in 2008 made that big strike that put the movie industry against the wall.For how long are we going to be watching this whole scenario and keep quiet?

david espinoza

in argentina is really common to be like that… 


Blah blah bla outrage blah blah.. moral issues.. These kind of practices have been going on for YEARS..and they will continue, why because people get outraged and do nothing about it. I cant count how many efforts to unionize have been put forth without success:

The MGAU only has 150 members

There’s the VES, and somehow they have not accomplished much;

There’s a:


Where I gave a talk on negotiations, salaries and good business practices, raise your hand if you attended that…yeah I thought so..

At one point I launched a space where artists could rate companies, show their work, connect etc and you know what happened? people where too chickenshit to participate, even when the reviews where anonymous.

La3d offered workshops with lawyers and accountants, we did 2 workshops in LA, the first one we had 250 people, the second one 23.

So yes we have the industry we deserve. These abuses will continue.

Having said that though, there are plenty of studios that do amazing work and dont have shady practices.

Just remember that with out VFX there would be no movies or tv shows like boardwalk empire. Without motion graphics….there would probably be no TV commercials and for that matter ad agencies that depend ON US.

How about we stop complaining and start valuing ourselves so we can create the industry we want?

If you want to talk to me aim me @federimanu or gmail me same name.


 Here is another thought, how about Motionographer pay attention to studios with good practices and ignore studios that incur in abuse?


Federale: There’s absolutely no way for Motionographer to do assess that … 

Add this to your list as well:

Zack Freeman

If half the blogs i read out there weren’t skewed and generally one sided, I would agree.  But you CAN maintain a collection of good work, and be a beacon for standards and practices.  If motionographer went away tomorrow, the very studios it helps promote would probably feel the impact.  In fact, I would go as far as to say, Motionographer is at least 1 of a very few Central hubs for us to come together and see how we are doing as an industry. And as working people we could seize this 

With digital domain acting like this, there seems to be no better example of a company in this industry devaluing Creativity as the real commodity.  It is shortsighted, corrupting, and without any sense of self-preservation.

Zack Freeman

tell a lawyer. just like if you were robbed at home. if you don’t tell anyone, they will never face ramifications or penalties forcing them to change their behavior.

Marcin Biegunajtys

One way I see to combat this is for more folks going on their own, starting small businesses that are more accountable for their actions. Smaller boutique shops with great artists = ability to play in big field for less (while still maintaining budgets to support each artist in a healthy manner). I’ve gone out on my own 7 years ago and won’t ever look back. As more and more demand is out there for what we do, we can continue producing high end product and start offering to a wider range of clients. The necessity for video production is only going to grow, so the sooner people realize to get off their arses and start creating their opportunity the better. Textor is only doing what all CEOs do best, generate opportunity, and as long as we continue supporting large (to their fault) companies to run the show, we ought to just deal with it.

jonathan podwil

In NYC there is a google doc floating around where artists can comment on the VFX and motion design studios…all the freelancers have it….it was taken down once but has since popped up again….It outs the studios who who don’t pay on time, who makes their freelancers use Yurcor, which ones are sweatshops or are abusive in some way…and also which ones are great to work for.  This stuff matters…. the best artists have a choice of where to work and word travels fast.  Knowledge is power.

Jonathan lin

I’d really like to get a share on that NY google doc.  I was shared on it before but when it was taken down I lost track of it.  If there’s one for LA I’d really appreciate if someone would share that also.  Thanks!


That Google Doc would be a lot more useful if it were public, IMHO.


 No it wouldn’t. I’d wager that it’s gotten in the hands of people it shouldn’t have. Entries have been deleted and certain others have been talked up. For the most part though, it has really helpful information and I believe the owner, (or other honest freelancers), try and keep the info as true as possible.

Leslie Faye Chung

The Freelancer’s Union has a section that was somewhat inspired by that document.  It allows people to rate companies on a public forum and companies like Psyop and others are listed there.  Perhaps this will be a good place for the same info to migrate there under the ‘protective’ umbrella of the Freelancer’s Union?

It is called the client scorecard:

Of course there would need to be a fair amount of pruning that would need to be done.  I recall seeing comments and accusations on that google doc that were very uncalled for that would appear and disappear.


Digital Domain, The Mill (Yurcor companies) and all those others scams.
Sooner or later I’m sure we will watch them being sued.
As well as we did watch prologue  being sued a couple years ago.

People won’t stop going to those places, motionographer won’t stop promoting them and they will always find a way to screw people up.

Joshua Michie

I hope that students see this and take a proactive approach when breaking into the industry. There are a lot of awesome studios that want to take on fresh talent AND compensate them fairly. Don’t let the “prestige” of the industry seduce you. It’s a job just like any other.

FOR EXAMPLE: Anyone who checks out can immediately get a comprehensive list of studios they can check out. When you research the diversity of this industry, you’ll quickly learn that the big studios aren’t as amazeballs as they seem.

From my perspective, we are so lucky to be in an industry that isn’t as reliant on credit lists and resumes. The portfolio gets you the job, and any studio, collective, or agency worth their salt can see where your value stands out. They don’t need a piece of paper that heralds your best points….a few conversations with the team leads will do that.

That being said, it’s up the employee or contractor to get in touch (in person) and make their own judgement call.

Boca Ceravolo

banoofee byeef

that dude is pure scum, i hope those students dont fall for this scam.


Holy shit. Dr. Spin right there.


Students paying for interning? We are on the way to recovery… This would make some great twisted news for the Colbert Show. 



I agree with the comment about Motionographer not posting ‘stories’ about dubious studios. Celebrating a corrupt company culture.

“There’s absolutely no way for Motionographer to do assess that … ”

That’s because the moderator for this forum works for one of them.

Justin Cone

That’s not why. It’s because it’s impossible for all of us volunteers to police an entire industry.
Please stop bashing on Motionographer. I’ve spent 8 years of my life building this site. Show some respect for that, please. I think we’ve all earned that.

Justin Cone
Typed with thumbs on a tiny screen

Mate Steinforth

tell em, justin. 

Mate Steinforth

Although I gotta say that personally I find that DD think f*king OUTRAGEOUS!


If paying to work is outrageous I must to be living in a wrong planet.


 Hey Justin,

I cant speak for anyone but myself. I think what you have done with motionographer is incredible. You have put 8 years of your life into a project that is now one of the strongest voices in our community. For that I am grateful. I am sure many feel the same way about your project. It truly is a beacon for inspiration. I applaud you for all your hard work.

If anything I would ask you to be open to new ideas and to the fact that motionographer has been so successful and it has grown so much, that it does hold a tremendous power. I have worked with many companies that have “made it” thanks to a post on your site and that is just one simple example.

As things evolve and your project continues to grow, I think its worth entertaining the idea that motionographer can help create a better industry. No one is asking that you do it for free. If need be, through a fund raiser and pay a staff journalist to interview workers. I will put 1,000 dollars to make it happen.

You dont have to police anyone, just gather data, dont bash anyone. If the data is conclusive then dont post work form that company.  Just an idea.

Thanks for your hard work.


No, Matt, because Motionographer is made up of 10 people who all work in the industry and who write this blog in their spare time. It don’t have the resources to investigate or verify the business practices of 1000s of companies in the US alone – to determine who is paying their employees on the books or who is correctly classifying employees and independent contractors, or running an internship program on the up-and-up, etc. Or to create an industry-wide set of standards for what those rules should be.

If there are specific issues you have, there are government agencies that can look into any claims, and that honestly, is the correct way to do it. Unless an industry-wide trade organization or artist organization steps in and standardizes all of our business practices, and all the businesses in our industry actually comply – that’s what we have to rely on. 

Motiongrapher is a blog – one that tries to highlight good work in the industry as its primary mission – and I think, has been pretty good about publishing useful information about the ups and downs of working in the industry. But’s just a blog, nothing more. 

So please don’t attack Justin or the other authors for what you think they are failing to do. Justin’s built an incredible community here.


Stating an opinion based on fact is not an attack or bashing. Nor do I not feel Motionographer is a great site. It is a very valuable resource.

Yet, when one of the bloggers for Motionographer works for a company that employs Yurcor, and this site writes about the Yurcor issue, then a few weeks/months later writes an article about work done by the very same company, that in essence promotes the studio and it’s culture…. it sends out a wrong message.

An article about Mother/Digital Domain was once posted, promoting how wonderful and amazing the studio is…. and now this.

A large majority of the readers on this blog are students wanting to enter this industry. This site is influential. Any blog about any work done whether by individuals or studios is a promotion/hype whether intentional or not. It gains the work exposure to a large audience in this industry. A good thing.

So by choosing not to promote work by studios dealing in scams or dubious business practices does the industry a favor. Not a disservice.

When a major newspaper writes an article on how post production is one of the top ten failing industries in our country because the cost is so cheap and through outsourcing, and companies like Digital Domain almost go bankrupt, it’s not a surprise they want free labor. Just look at the amount of internships by studios posted on this job board.

When work is celebrated by those companies it only helps driving the industry down further. That certain unacceptable practices are the new norm.  Blogging is a form of journalism (and marketing). Wouldn’t it be better if the blogs help promote a healthier industry?


Sure but my statement still stands – Motionographer does not have the resources to independently verify or investigate the business practices of 1000s of companies. Simple as that.

Justin Cone

“Yet, when one of the bloggers for Motionographer works for a company that employs Yurcor, and this site writes about the Yurcor issue, then a few weeks/months later writes an article about work done by the very same company, that in essence promotes the studio and it’s culture.”

So, following your “logic,” when the New York Times writes an article lambasting a company for misconduct, then the New York Times can never post a positive article about that company. Ever again.

Yeah, that makes total sense.

AND, also following your logic, if the NYTimes posted a positive story about a company and three years later that company misbehaves, the NYTimes should be considered at fault for not looking into its crystal ball.

We’re a blog run by disparate voices covering a shifting industry. We’re allowed to contradict ourselves. Just as the NYTimes is allowed to run a negative story about a company one week and a positive story about the same company the next week.

It seems that you guys are so angry that you want some kind of vigilante justice. Fine. go for it. But don’t expect us to join in your lynch mob.


I totally agree with Federale!
I think this whole motion graphics industry owe you for all the stuff you’ve bringing in over the years. I know it has been a lot of hard work and I gave you ALL the respect, Justin. Sincerely!

The problem is: If you believe it or not, Motionographer is the major website / blog in this industry. That means that you guys are responsible for the industry development as well. 

Whatever is posted here become reference for the industry, whatever information you guys bring it to the table turn into a rule for most of the workers and the same students that are now paying to work at these companies. 

We all trust you. NOBODY here is saying that Digital Domain, Psyop, Prologue, Shilo, The Mill do a shitty creative job. NO!
They all rock and we know that. The big point of this thread is: their practices are now destroying the industry and the same respect that Motionographer helped them to build up is being now used to screw artists and students, period.

Avoid featuring them on most of the blogs would be a great start for them to start losing artists interest and respect.

“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed”

Thank you, guys.

Dominique Elliott

Here’s a professor’s viewpoint on this. Internships for our students have proven to be, by-an-large, incredibly valuable. And yes, I have seen the occasional 3 months of rotoscoping internship model as well unfortunately. Don’t think that the students do not spread the word when that happens.

The problem most student face is that, not only do they not get paid for their work is certain studios, they also pay their university tuition for a supervised internship. It’s a bad situation being investigated by congress. The minimum wage was put in place for a reason. What it creates is a culture of the haves and the haves not. Few students can afford to uproot themselves to NY or LA for 3 months, without any income whatsoever, or even basic assistance with travel and living costs. They end up taking out loans to do it and putting themselves further into debt.

As far as Motionographer’s responsibility to uphold standards in the industry: are you insane?! Let’s not be grandstanding folks, and simply recognize what they do do on their free time is nothing short of amazing.


Dear Professor,I respect your opinion!Motionographer communicates to thousands of people in several countries everyday. Not only in the US. I’ve been featured here a couple times and I know it. I got hits from all over the world.I’m not saying they’re responsible. I said they’re responsible AS WELL, as you should’ve read correctly in my comment above.What these folks have been doing for this industry is amazing, impressive and I am sure 99% of the visitors agree with me. If communicating to a lot of people around the world isn’t responsibility, then forget about my comment.Again, these are just some thoughts. The thread is about company with shady practices and what can we do to help this industry to get better.If motionographer don’t want to get involved, then it’s all good. Nothing is gonna change, of course, and we will all going to be facing the same old crap.

Dominique Elliott

 Hi DeadHeadMouse, (love the name!)

I do understand what you are saying. But I don’t think that they want to be in the business of censorship or boycotting. I think that all we can expect is to have a forum such as this one in which to discuss these issues and expose those practices. This industry is small enough that the word goes around very quickly.

Labor regulations are the job of government and, in the States, it’s pretty complex because it’s a federation and states are self-governing. They all have different standards. A form of empowerment that we do have is to stop working for the ‘shady’ businesses as you mention, and stop sending student there.

It was nice talking with you:)


well said Dom! You’re awesome!


You’re right. It’s way better for students to work on fake projects so they can focus on getting a good grade instead of making work that they are proud of and gets published.
Grade-focused fake classroom assignments: thats where I want my taxes to go.

Ben shalom

Digital Domain should reimburse students by paying for their course units. DD could interview students to do work based on skill and pay for their units as an incentive.  Better performance would equal more course units paid for. Course work will definitely suffer.

Surf Strat

Can anyone shed some light what is average daily rate at studios like DD for a compositor ? In Europe those things looks a bit different however I see some not so great opinions about working in UK in this industry. McDonald’s rates sounds really scary. It used to be a great industry, lot of free minds, talents, not so much pressure for just doing the work for client. I’m happy I studied art instead just starting earning money (although I did some paid work during studies), explored many fields and tried to find myself. Greetings.


The main problem here is that expensive schools are pumping out students without any business acumen whatsoever.  Thanks to these institutions of higher learning, this business is filled with highly trained professionals that will work for wages similar to that of a waiter.  Furthermore, they will use illegal software, not charge enough to cover expenses like taxes, rent, electricity, software upgrades, computers, etc

In my humble opinion, until the business end of the industry becomes a mandatory part of the curriculum, the artists will continue to suffer.


This is what all of the studios in Florida are doing (I live in Florida)- because they can get away with it. An interviewer for a web company wanted me to do an introduction video, redesign his web layout and redesign an iPhone app as an intern. I would have done so just for the bragging rights of being the keystone for his entire brand but then I got a paid offer which is what I really wanted. I was taken back at the expectation because his entire team consisted of interns!

To be honest, the caliber of students is not that great (boring environment = uninspired art = students who just do enough to pass) so they are essentially getting what they are paying for. A smart student would get a paid internship in New York where there are better artists to match skills against and to soak up creative inspiration just by talking a walk outside. If you go to the DD website for Florida, they only have career openings for upper lever artists and programmers available. Now we know why. But it is their company.

Sixteen x Nine

I was a paid intern when I first started whats wrong with being paid for your labor?
Its total crap when places are like “Working on cool projects it payment enough” F that cool projects don’t pay rent cool projects plus money pays rent.



recently post an article
that generated a lot of feedback and movement on the VFX industry
blogs. Most of the feedback came saying our blog article wasn’t
supporting the artists and supporting corporate irresponsibility
following the recent statement from Mr. Textor (CEO of Digital Domain
Media Group).

of the workforce at our digital studio down in Florida, is not only
going to be free, with student labor, it’s going to be labor that’s
actually paying us for the privilege of working on our films. John

VFX world is a small industry and the industry is facing difficult
times due to the increase in the number of vendors, the reduction of
equipments and softwares costs and the availability of the workforce.
The 3D and compositing artists represent the core of all VFX
suppliers. Unfortunately, when junior artists comes out of school
with no experience they usually have not much to put on their REEL
(Demo) and this demo represent the main passport to gain attention
and increase the chance for the young artists to get a job. In the
vision of junior artists trying to built themselves a demo reel, The
DD Institute strategy may not be a bad thing for those young artists
after all… gaining experience!!

recent interview from Mr. Textor saying the VFX is broken with jobs
all going to India and China is true. The problem is not the actual
opportunity to study and gaining experience in a real work
environment, it’s the lack of respect toward the artists that are the
key of he’s own success and the key of is own company survival; plus
a bad judgement call from a CEO trying to gain a ”hype” the month
before it’s introduction on the NASDAQ.

“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

you check the DDMG strategy
and the company stock quote on the NASDAQ, it actually plunge during
it’s first months on the market, the recent raise in only due to the
recents announcement on innovative technologies following the TUPAC
Hologram and the joint venture with China’s Galloping Horse Film

be honest, corporate investors are looking for a positive cash-flow,
steady rising revenues and a long term business plan growth and
vision. This cannot be obtain by exploiting students, generating net
loss, gaining access to State lands or subsidies; it’s short terms
solutions that can provide a short term cash-flow relief, but it’s
not the recommended choice to satisfy and to reassure long terms
investors, unless the objective is to quickly reach a stock price
(+/-9,60$) so the founding shareholders can quickly dump their DDMG
company stocks/options.

company is looking to find ways to generate and increase it’s
revenues around the core company values (Visual effects services).
Why do you think all studios (Warner, Disney, etc.) have dismantle
their internal VFX department (except for managers and key creatives)
and are now outsourcing all VFX work? Because it’s cheaper for the
studios. The DDMG CEO should focus on other things than school
fees and put his mind toward innovations, creating intellectual
property with interesting film scenarios, strong project and
creativity management. These strategies to reach financial objectives
cannot be done by a junior workforce… probably after a few years
once they gain work experience…


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