Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An Exciting New Concept, Except Not Really

We've talked about these kinds of deals before. Here's yet another another that doesn't sit too well with us.

Gnomon School of Visual Effects ... today revealed that it has established Gnomon Studios, where advanced Gnomon students prepare for professional careers by working on short films in a studio environment under the guidance and mentorship of production professionals. Gnomon Studios is currently working on Academy Award-nominated Director Shane Acker’s new short film, “Plus Minus.”

Maybe we're misreading this completely and jumping to horrid conclusions, but this sounds remarkably like viz effx students paying money to work on somebody's professional film for zero or minimal wages ...

Short films such as Acker’s ... will be the core production focus of Gnomon Studios. Alvarez also expects Gnomon Studios to contribute to the occasional feature project when opportunities arise, as was the case with the facility’s recent contributions to the 2011 film “Green Lantern” and the popular TV series, “Fringe.”

The advanced students? Doesn't it ... uh ... seem like they're paying hefty tuitions to help somebody's feature film or television series keep costs down? (I mean, you can buy yourself a whole lot of labor when the going price is zip.)

Or are we being unduly suspicious, cynical and paranoid?

48 comments:

tbrunojr said...

Yeah, that would suck to get real-world practical vfx experience on big budget Hollywood features while actually still in school...

Anonymous said...

Another Craigslist-like ploy. Except under the guise of the students being there for a good grade, they dont have to go outside of the classroom to attrition free labor. If any of them are worth a grain of salt, they'll have the sense to produce their own project. Unless Gnomon intergrates code into their software that anything produced by the students remains property of Gnomon. Just another way of taking advantage of dumb kids.

vfxsoldier said...

I gotz an idea.

How about giving paid internships to work on those films?

Working on features is great while in school but there are boutique studios that prey on interns who will work for free.

Anonymous said...

Didn't I hear somewhere that Chucky Z did that at his school once ...?

Anonymous said...

>Or are we being unduly suspicious, cynical and paranoid?

Not at all. I actually find this pretty pathetic.

Not only is Gnomon getting money from their students, but also making money as studio. Oh yeah, their also taking work away from other studios by their fire-sale bids. Further contributing to the downfall of the visual effects industry.

Anonymous said...

Bruno, don't be so disingenuous. You can get paid for that experience.

tbrunojr said...

I been paid handsomely for that experience over the last ten years (since I received my certificate from Gnomon). Better the work goes to the students, than to India or Thailand.

Anonymous said...

Jeesh, at least they pay the India and Thailand artist more than zip.

Anonymous said...

if the shorts make money and the students get a cut of it.... then it is a GREAT idea!

Anonymous said...

By cut, if you mean "valued experience", than no doubt they'll get a "cut."

Steve Hulett said...

Yeah, that would suck to get real-world practical vfx experience on big budget Hollywood features while actually still in school...

Bruno, I don't doubt that students would love to get real-world, big-time experience.

But there's the small details of ethics, legality, etc. Things like that.

But of course I'm being silly. This is Hollywood we're talking about.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, that would suck to get real-world practical vfx experience on big budget Hollywood features while actually still in school..."

Yeah--that's what you want to pay to go to school and use your time for: working on someone elses crap. I guess the class "Stress 101" would be pretty popular.

Instead, why not create your own film and make that? Seems like that's what you're paying to go to school for.


Gnomon students that are interested are already talking about Union participation, though. That's a good thing.

Steve Hulett said...

Working on features is great while in school but there are boutique studios that prey on interns who will work for free.

Must be great to break laws and exploit young employees when you're confident of not getting caught.

Anonymous said...

What did they do for Green Lantern? I'm slated to start on that in a few months and had no idea it was being farmed out to students. I think the real world experience is invaluable for them but if Gnomon is getting paid for the work, then they should be as well. Just another example of "I'll do anything to get my foot in the door" - great for beginners, doom for the veterans.

Anonymous said...

conclusion jumping seems to be your forte.

Wouldn't it be logical to assume that the students would intern at the Gnomon Studio for class credit? Similar to how some college programs require 1 or 2 professional internships during their last terms. Where you enroll in a "professional internship" class while doing your internship at a company.

The only thing I've found wrong with that setup at the more expensive institutions you're basically not paying to gain experience from an actual class - although the schools often have an extensive program in place to help place students at top companies. And as far as I know, not only is that setup legal, it's very common.

It seems that many students who come out with that required real world experience have a distinct advantage over those who don't.

Anonymous said...

if the studio is making money, they should invest in a render farm for the students.

Anonymous said...

it sounds like any real world unpaid internship in the industry;
though one has to ask if SHane's movie is funded or will be sold, then did Gnomon do this work on educational software licenses - in which case Autodesk & co. should become very very interested

Anonymous said...

ADVICE TO STUDENTS: Watermark your shots. Make them unusable until you are paid in full.

Amber said...

This is a great opportunity for most students. True they probably won't be payed in the sense of money but this is real-world experience and knowledge they are gaining from it (sometimes a better source than actual money). From someone who has gone to a tech school during their high school period I know how much it means to students to work on projects for professional companies instead of doing simple and sometimes mindless school work tasks. At least they will be able to put that work they do on their resume and portfolios. For young students that can be gold. There is nothing wrong than helping students. And the fact that companies used schools or tech schools for their work without paying students happens more than you think. Anyway if this continues most likely internships and fellowships will come with it in time. So stop complaining there is nothing wrong with giving students a chance to work on their talent and succeed in the future.

Anonymous said...

So stop complaining there is nothing wrong with giving students a chance to work on their talent and succeed in the future.

Until those students stop becoming students and can't find any work because all of the junior positions in the industry are being farmed out to the next generation of students willing to work for free.

This will basically create an even wider divide between those who are already established in the industry, and those who are trying to get it.

Anonymous said...

>>So stop complaining there is nothing wrong with giving students a chance to work on their talent and succeed in the future. <<

You're an idiot. You obviously can't see the negative impact this has on other studios or people working at those studios.

In a job market that is already stressed by outsourcing, this will only dig a deeper hole.

This makes Gnomon look bad to the rest of the industry. And if it becomes common place at other schools. Well, then we might as well turn every production house into a school and equal the playing field. Oh wait, then no one would make a living at this.

Anonymous said...

Hey, here's an idea...

Did anyone contact Gnomon to find out if these students were getting paid?

Let's find out the specifics.

Steven Kaplan said...

Most of my gripes/points have been made in this thread, so I'll keep my post brief.

There is two solutions to what I see going on here:

a) Indeed if the Gnomon students are working on properly funded, "high end" production work such as the up-coming Green Lantern or the TV show Fringe, they should be paid a wage. I'd be glad to help set that up with them.

b) Do what FXPHD does and shoot original footage using the latest technology (ie. Red camera), establish a "real world" timeline and hold their students to the same standards as would a production Visual Effects Supervisor.

Neither I, nor the Guild as a whole, have a problem with the Gnomon students getting practical experience while finishing their education at the school. What we do have a problem with is "indentured servitude" dressed up in coat and tails under the guise of altruism.

Anonymous said...

Shane Acker apparently has no job offers, so he's parlaying his "oscar nominated" status into some leverage against those not familiar with show business.

Why don't all those people who worked with him before just work for free now?

Because they know better.

If he's so awesome, why doesn't someone hire HIM?

Anonymous said...

Alex Alvarez and Gnomon have been money grubbing monkeys from day one. It doesnt surprise me one bit that they would take advantage of students and using them for Free Labor.
And somebody brought up a good point... Aren't they doing commercial work on Educational licensed software? Autodesk and others I'm sure would be interested....

Its an overpriced Hack school with sketchy morals...
Save your money.

r said...

Same situation as Chris Landreth's "Ryan" some years ago. It was done using the services of the students at Seneca College in Ontario. I don't remember any of you complaining back then. But the precedent was set.

One thing that I want to point out, is that, many, many shorts are produced by animators donating their time for many reasons, including their friendship with the director. And the fact that shorts hardly make any money. And that an Oscar nomination is a long shot anyway.

r.

Anonymous said...

A Professional donating his time to a friend or for a the chance to work on something interesting is worlds away from students paying money for a school and then being used as free labor on a film that would normally have to pay a company for the work just so the student can get 'real life experience' and a good grade.

I'd be curious if that wasn't illegal in some way...

Anonymous said...

Overpriced? Like.....Animation Mentor, for example?

If the students will be working on shorts, there will probably be no profits from the films and barely any budget. The least they can do is "pay" the students with royalties, however, in case the films are marketed or developed in the future.

Anonymous said...

I lost my very first internship to the union because the production did not pay the minimum. I luckily gained a union job from it after some time, but the experience was not one I would want to repeat. The process was swift, unfair, and performed without consulting me, the person that earned the job. Neither side contacted me or had much time to devote to my predicament. I was not a priority to either party. It was an education, and I neither credit the union nor the employer for any of my successes today. You are on your own with these endeavors, students. Like most things in life. I recommend you do not piss off either the union or your prospective employers. You will have to work for both over the long term. They both exist for their own self interest first. You will have to find a balance between the two institutions. They are both asylums.

Anonymous said...

"visual effects" school?

cough...cough...

Steve Hulett said...

I lost my very first internship to the union because the production did not pay the minimum. I luckily gained a union job from it after some time, but the experience was not one I would want to repeat. The process was swift, unfair, and performed without consulting me, the person that earned the job. Neither side contacted me or had much time to devote to my predicament.

Let me detail how these things usually go down.

I get a complaint from a guild member at a union shop that a production assistant or intern is performing guild work.

I call the studio and say "if this activity is going on, you gotta knock it off." Most times, they knock it off.

OR a studio (like happened just today) calls me up and asks me "hypothetically" about interns doing guild work. I tell them they can't.

In both cases, I'm reminding the studio of what is or isn't permissible and giving them the opportunity to follow through.

Usually I don't have specific names of interns. I'm simply reminding the company about what's permissible.

Nevertheless, I'm sorry that you became collateral damage to a studio breaking contract rules and me catching them.

Anonymous said...

isnt this what DD are planning to do in their new florida facility?

Anonymous said...

Yes you are all unduly suspicious, cynical and paranoid, as usual.

From what I understand. the studio operates as a separate entity from the school, like the workshop. legally legit.

Working at the studio is voluntary. Graduates also work at the studio. The computers used for the work produced by the studio are in a different building from the school. I am pretty sure they also have licenses for all the software, as does the school.


Often times, these students having been turned away from studios due to not having feature work on their resumes need a resource such as the studio to gain the necessary experience. With growing competition for paid internships it's not a bad idea.

That said, the work produced by the studio will be expected to maintain high quality work... we'll see.

Anonymous said...

Yep, it's a great idea ofr Gnomon. They can undercut everyone else's bid because they don't have to pay their workers. And great idea for the company that takes advantage of this cheap bid

Every studio should offer this great opportunity. Come work for us for free to get the experience you need to know that this was the stupidest thing you've ever done in your career. Then, no matter how littel you get offered on your next job, you'll feelo like you've hit the jackpot.

Anonymous said...

so what you all are telling me is that it's wrong to do an internship for class credits???

I thought it was wrong to do an internship for no pay and no class credits...

is this a union thing or a state law?

Paid internships are very hard to find, most companies only offer internships for class credit only. Has been this way for decades in most creative industries.

Anonymous said...

>>Yes you are all unduly suspicious, cynical and paranoid, as usual.

From what I understand. the studio operates as a separate entity from the school, like the workshop. legally legit. <<

What the *#&@ does this have to do with Gnomon undercutting other studios and getting a free workforce?

Gnomon is double dipping. 1) Getting money from students, 2) getting money from the vfx work.

Pathetic.



Maybe you should look at this way...

Gnomon is going to piss off other studios by doing the undercutting. Guess what.. These studios are going to stop hiring Gnomon students.


You don't think studio owners aren't going to be peeved? In an employer market (which we are), they may very well ignore the Gnomon students because of this. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.

Anonymous said...

Well seeing how hard it is for a new artist to break in and from what I've noticed the union really doesn't help people get in in favor of helping those already in studios I don't see a problem with this.

Anonymous said...

It was already explained here...unpaid interns are not allowed to do real work. They can do scutt work like filing and copying, etc. Many also allow you to try things on your ownfor training purposes. If a studio has you doing REAL work you need to be paid for it.
Even the cheapest studio I've worked at understood this even to the point where if an intern was found to be working hard and even if they were still only being used for scutt work they still started paying him.
Gnomon sounds like it's in a class of it's own

Anonymous said...

Well seeing how hard it is for a new artist to break in and from what I've noticed the union really doesn't help people get in in favor of helping those already in studios I don't see a problem with this.

Then you are blind.

Anonymous said...

Ignoring and punishing all Gnomon students for having the Studio available for them to utilize as a class credit, or not, is petty.

Remember people, the Studio is a voluntary option to gain class credits. Not all the students choose to do this, and there is some AMAZING talent and resources at Gnomon.

If the students choose to participate in the Studio, that is their choice, it may be a bad choice, but it's their choice nonetheless. I probably would not have opted into a class had it been available when I attended Gnomon, I was concentrating on my own personal work and reel and the studio would have taken away from that.

Punishing all Gnomon students is not the answer. Rather we should try to educate them about the ramification of their actions... and the unintended consequences of doing cheap / free work..

Recent graduates of ALL schools who take internships and jobs for low/no pay are hurting all artists across the board... this is not just a problem with Gnomon its a problem everywhere.

Anonymous said...

"interns are not allowed to do real work. They can do scutt work like filing and copying, etc. "

so what's the point of interning then? If the students are only doing scutt work, and have no opportunity to gain real world experience doing work that actually relates to their focus, then what's the point?
there is none.

I think we need to reinvent what it means to be an intern.. and allow students to not be ass wipers but rather part of the team.

Anonymous said...

Hey doofus, interns gain valuable studio time and actually see and experience what goes on during a production as opposed to the fantasy they're fed in school. Not to mention the valuable face time they get with real professionals and not those that can't earn a living other than through teaching.

If you don't think those reasons aren't enough to be an intern then don't apply for a position. But if you think that an intern is going to be allowed to do real creative work and take work away from a professional then you're a candidate for Gnomon's 'program' of abuse.

Anonymous said...

Anon June 26, 2010 10:03:00 AM:

You are assuming that the teachers at Gnomon are not full time professionals... I hope you realize that the majority of the teachers at Gnomon work full time at studios and teach because they want to.

I have been in the industry for over 10 years, have two degrees and have done my part interning. Let me tell you, interning is a JOKE! As an intern, IF you happen upon a decent studio, the chances of getting to see "what really goes on" is very limited due to the fact that they have you "running" for coffee, lunch, ass wiping, dry-cleaning ... Isn't that the PA's job?!?! So why are you not crying out for all the poor PA's who have their work taken away by interns???

How internships should be handled is quite simple. Give the interns a mock assignment related to their craft and give them a mentor to get feedback from. TADA! the interns are doing creative work and gaining valuable experience without taking work away from the paid artists.

Anonymous said...

LOL...sure the teachers at Gnomon work 40+ hours aweek and still have all the time necessary to teach. If you say so...

Interns don't take work away from PAs because interns are used as a resource and an aide to the PAs. If you actually were a professional you would know that there are never enough PAs to do all the work necessary on a production, but you obviously feel that during the course of a production the directors or the heads of departments have plenty of time to give mock assignments to teach the interns. But I gueess that makes sense since you feel that professionals can work fulltime and teach as well.

My guess if you weree only getting coffee and asswiping when you interned maybe that's all they felt comfortable letting you do...
In over 30 years in the industry I've never seen PAs or interns utilized for any of the things you've said you were made to do....

If you're so interested in giving interns hands on creative experience feel free to have them join you on your lunch hour...

Many of the interns I've been around seem to gain quite a biut from their time interning and move into real positions after they graduate and sometimes before

Anonymous said...

What did they do for Green Lantern?

They did Pre-Vis. that is all.
it's not in the final film.

Anonymous said...

Anon June 26, 2010 10:26:00 AM

You must be loosing your sight in your old age, or you have very poor observation skills.

You really think that interns don't get abused fetching coffee?
I'm sure this doesn't happen everywhere... but it happens way more than it should.

So please tell me, how does filing , copying, and assisting a PA help a student who wants to be an animator?

"directors or the heads of departments have plenty of time to give mock assignments to teach the interns" You are right , the director and leads don't have the time... but some of the seasoned artists do... This mentor-ship idea is being utilized with great success at some of the largest studios.

Anonymous said...

Ignoring and punishing all Gnomon students for having the Studio available for them to utilize as a class credit, or not, is petty.

welcome to the real world.

Anonymous said...

I don't know where some people have had their internship experiences, but mine were all quality internships. One was at $24/hr doing production work with a credit and the other was $14/hr doing production support work. Both were at top non-union studios and both led to contract based work following the internship.

If you are only qualified to as an intern to a PA then fetching coffee may be the least of your worries on the job.

Some studios are smarter and better equipped than others, and I have been at places where top leads and supervisors take a few hours a week offering critique, talks, and presentations. There are also departments at the same places where other interns may sink into complete obscurity (usually the coffee runner internship positions).

No two internship positions are ever created equally, not even at the same studio.

But internships are still excellent opportunities for students as they provide an easier foot in the door (skill and reel requirements are much, much lower compared to actual non-internship positions), future professional contacts, and a chance to prove oneself as well as a chance to find out if the studio atmosphere is a good fit for the student.

As for full time employees who also teach, it can be tough but there are those who do it. They either take a brief sabbatical / leave for 3 months, or they teach night classes after work. These days with online-only mentorship programs like animation-mentor, the instructors don't even have to leave the comfort of their own homes.

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