Monday, July 12, 2010

We Have Met The Enemy ...

... and they say "It's not us, honest!"

Gnomon top-kick Alex Alvarez explains that Gnomon is innocent of exploiting student labor:

...Gnomon is NOT a vfx vendor marketing our services to producers. We do not have a website or a producer trying to bring in work ...

Regarding Green Lantern and Fringe, these two jobs were flukes that represent about six weeks of work over the past nine months. As we had just started the studio to work on Plus Minus, I figured I'd put the job through the studios so that students there could get some exposure to the kind of work I do. This was really just a few weeks and the students who worked on it have since graduated and are now at Digital Domain, Sony Imageworks, ILM, Gentle Giant, etc. Fringe was the same thing as I have a relationship with Bad Robot. Another fluke that just lasted a couple weeks ......

So we got that, everybody? Alex doesn't run a studio where Gnomon students work for free, except for when he does. If the work, you know, drops into his lap.

(Frankly, this long-winded explanation of how Mr. Alvarez is not in the business of "doing this kind of thing" while confessing that he does indeed do this kind of thing, is bewildering.

You can't say "I don't rob banks!" if at the same time you're admitting that you knocked off a small Wells Fargo branch in Panorama City because it was A) just kind of there and B) was really just a "happy accident."

Where we come from, that still counts as a bank heist. Or are we missing something?)

But it's certainly good to know that Gnomon Studios doesn't exploit student labor.


(Add On: Alex says students won't be doing any more production work. Let's hope that's correct.)


Hueboxx said...

Let the students work. Just pay them while they do it. Come on guys. We've all been there and know that students need experience but at the same time they have to pay to live.

Steve Hulett said...

I have no problem with people being paid for their work.

I have a big problem with people not being paid for their work.

Anonymous said...

And of course, the studios claim ignorance and welcome the footage, no matter how it was made. The whole ordeal smacks of politics. After all, the (best) students who did this are all working at big name studios now. As if there are not enough qualified unemployed people who aren't paying tuition at that school. Hah! Caught ya!

Bruce Wright said...

The guy talks about having an unpaid internship at Alias back in the day.

But DUDE, it's not just that he was running an unpaid internship.

It's that he was allowing the students the opportunity to PAY him to have an UNPAID internship.

If that's true, then he was taking in money in both directions.


He needs to stop this, like yesterday, and never do it again.

He should make it up to those students. Comp them some classes.

I used to teach there. He really shouldn't do that.

Anonymous said...

Good ole Sony Imageworks. Class act all the way.

Bruce Wright said...

I guess he's not going to do it anymore. So he clearly gets why it's not cool. He's basically undercutting his own graduates.

The folks at Gnomon are good folks. I do believe they'll do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

yeah, like take more money....

Steven Kaplan said...

Let Gnomon take more money! Gnomon takes great artists and makes better artists from them. They have a long and well respected history of that.

However, I'd like to believe Bruce and think that what happened with the Fringe and Green Lantern work was a "one off" or "fluke" and that Gnomon Studios will work on non-paid and for educational work only.

Anonymous said...

Wow so the students paid him for the work he was getting paid for?

Gnomon has just lost a customer.

Anonymous said...

"he was allowing the students the opportunity to PAY him to have an UNPAID internship."

"Wow so the students paid him for the work he was getting paid for?"


Anonymous said...

I was looking into taking classes at Gnomon. Thanks to this blog post, I'll be taking classes somewhere else ( the least I can do as an employed artist/guild member ).

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:40:00 PM, consider Digital Tutors. I just started using it, but I think it's a good service.

Anonymous said...

Steve, Nice way to post only the parts that promote your agenda! You could have posted a link to the full post, but chose not to.

Here's the full post that it was clipped from:

Guess that last bit doesn't support your witch hunting crusade eh
When Green Lantern came in, I wanted to pay the students and was told by our compliance officer that we were not allowed to. I find this strange but it has contributed to why we are not doing any more production work. As I get more production work for myself, if I choose to ask a student to work with me on it, it will be done outside of the studio internship program so that I can pay them.

I know this blog isn't the most even-handed in reporting issues all the time, but this entry is pretty ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Oh, so it was the compliance officer's fault. That changes EVERYTHING!

Anonymous said...

I don't see how the "full story" changes a thing. The fact is, students were paying to go to Gnomon, and Gnomon was using their labor in a money-making, production operation. Who cares if it was Bruce's decision or someone else's.

It's really pretty comical--a guy running a 'school' is surprised that he's not allowed to use students to do outsourced production work. Who'd a thunk it!?!

Anonymous said...

Contact Eric Huelsmann at Associate Arts

That place IS the competition for Gnomon. And great artists make great things through there too. Plus they dont get finangled into slave labor.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I read the entire article too. I think Steve did a good job of editing it. I mean really all the rest of the article does is give the impression he had good intentions and that he wasn't purposely trying to take advantage of his students. But that doesn't change the fact that people were exploited and what he did was wrong.

I'd like to add that the above is diregarding the money situation. I would like an explanation of if he wasn't able to pay the students, what happened to the money that he was paid as a freelancer?

Anonymous said...

I shook my head when Alex mentioned the "compliance officer".

On a broader level, it's common for vfx facilities to use some bureaucratic excuse not to appropriately pay a student out of school.

I fell for it when I came out of school. Alex fell for it too. That doesn't mean every student should have to do it too.

Anonymous said...

And the question remains... Did they use educational software for these productions? And to the commentor bashing Imageworks, what do they have to do with this aside from a mention along with several other facilities?

Anonymous said...

Here's my response to Alex Alvarez.

Steve Hulett said...

Steve, Nice way to post only the parts that promote your agenda! You could have posted a link to the full post, but chose not to.

Dear Anon:

The link was at the top of the post. Maybe you missed it; it was high-lighted in blue.

(You can use the mouse thingie to click on it; really easy to do.)

As to Alex's "The compliance officer made me do it!" Uh, no. When you have individuals work on professional projects for no money, there's the question of legality under state and federal laws.

They sort of trump school accreditation, don't you think?

Bruce Wright said...

Clarifying. It looks like some people upthread are confusing my name with Alex Alvarez.

Folks, please get the players straight:

I am Bruce Wright. I am a guild member and DO NOT work at Gnomon. In addition, I'm hoping that Gnomon does the right thing going forward.

I am not Alex Alvarez.

I chime in in agreement with what VFX Soldier said in his post.

Jeremiah said...

If they cant pay the students for the work, at least they could apply the money towards the tuition.

Anonymous said...

use the money earned to reimburse the students somehow.. get a proper network running with a render farm ... keep all the labs current and upgrade computers and monitors.. fix broken computers.. provide the student an iPad to keep... just some suggestions.

Anonymous said...

Alex Alvarez is a class-A Douche. Always has been, always will be. Always looks for ways to cut corners and make a quick buck off the unsuspecting and desperate. Doesnt surprise me in the least he's exploiting students in this manner. Its bad enough with the prices you gouge them with in your so called "School". Now you have to take advantage of free labor as well?
Once a Douche.... Always a Douche.

Anonymous said...

I had students miss my classes to go work for free on that short. Now they regret it because they have nothing for their reels and the work they could have done for me in class would have gotten them a job. What a joke. Are they running a school or a studio that doesn't pay people?

Steve Hulett said...

Are they running a school or a studio that doesn't pay people?

Already answered by Mr. Alvarez:

"We're good guys. We don't have students work on projects for free except the few times we do.

But even this is okay because we wanted to pay so our heart's in the right place, except the compliance officer said we couldn't pay so we didn't.

(So it's HIS fault.)"

That covers it, I think.

Alec said...

It sounds as if the whole thing could have been handled better, but when I was a student, 10 years ago, I would have killed to work on a game or movie or film, so I think the opportunity to get the experience is valuable. It should be done within the realm of an internship related to graduation, though, where payment is nice but not necessary.
There's no way a real studio could be built around students. Have you met students before? Inexperienced and largely unreliable. But that doesn't mean they should be given a chance within a school context.

And calling Alvarez a class-A Douche while remaining anonymous is a Douche move by itself, so grow a backbone and think about what you're saying and, if you're convictions and courage allow, use your name.

Anonymous said...

Alec, you seem pretty anony yourself...follow the links leads to nothing that can hold you liable for anything.
"It should be done within the realm of an internship related to graduation, though, where payment is nice but not necessary."

Well. There's a lot of schiesters that would like to take advantage of YOUR POV. That makes you AND Alvy both doucheez!

Anonymous said...

Imageworks...Has yet to hire anyone from New Mexico. Yet...their tax dollars keep being pumped into helping them do business like this...Shame on Sony Imageworks.

Anonymous said...

"And the question remains... Did they use educational software for these productions?"

WHOA! actually, this would make the school liable for software license violations - which i find hard to believe that they didn't think about to begin with.

all the relevant graphics apps companies except for adobe disallow the use of EDUCATIONAL LICENSE software for commercial endeavors.

i'd say green lantern and fringe count as commercial endeavors no?

any answers to this most interesting of questions?

Vukster said...

Hey Steven,

Marko here from DWA, while I agree that it does us NO good and that Alex should really know better, I really think it does not help the cause when we call one another the ENEMY. It's very harsh and accusatory and does not address the problem simply shifts the blame onto the artist. The ENEMY is poor communication and lack of leadership. If we go and pin the blame between artists and management the studios will continue to rule and dictate how vfx is produced.
If we are to stand together we need to stop throwing bricks and use our resources for constructive collaboration. I agree that free labor is the enemy but I will never pin the blame on another artist. We need more solidarity otherwise we are so screwed.

Site Meter