Q&A With FSU Film School Dean About the Digital Domain Bankruptcy

September 14, 2012 | 11:03 AM
By Gina Jordan

Florida State University’s film school welcomed more than two dozen students to its new digital media program in West Palm Beach this month.

The new Bachelor of Fine Arts program costs $28,000-a-year.

Students join the program after spending their freshman year in Tallahassee. They are co-enrolled at FSU and the Digital Domain Institute, where animation is taught.

But the program is tied to Digital Domain Media Group, a company that just filed for bankruptcy protection and shut down its primary facilities in nearby Port St. Lucie.

For now, the institute is still functioning with a handful of employees and classes.

Frank Patterson, Dean of the College of Motion Picture Arts at FSU, said the new degree program was designed to carry on without the animation studio if necessary.


“We have a BFA in Animation and Digital Arts that we’ve been working to build for the past few years,” said Patterson. “Our first class began coursework this semester.”

We spoke as Patterson drove back to Tallahassee from a visit to the facilities in West Palm Beach.

Q: What happens now? Will these students be able to continue the program even though Digital Domain is in bankruptcy?

A: Sure. Anytime you go into collaboration like this you have to be prepared to continue if your collaborator fails. Of course, we don’t know yet what’s going to happen to Digital Domain’s various companies because it’s in a reorganization process. But in any case, we’ve prepared for our students to go on through the program and succeed.

Q: Tell us about the facilities where these students are studying and working.

A: The Digital Domain Institute created facilities in West Palm that we (FSU) are sharing with them. So, the students are co enrolled in Digital Domain Institute and Florida State University. So, they are working in both programs in those facilities.

Q: You made plans for students to continue in this immersion program regardless of what happens to your business partner. But the sudden situation with Digital Domain must have been surprising and disappointing.

A: Well, listen, we’re sad and sorry to hear about what our friends and colleagues are going through at the various Digital Domain companies. And we’re certainly hoping they pull out of it.

But the College of Motion Picture Arts at Florida State University — according to various sources including the Hollywood Reporter – is one of the top film schools in the nation.

The reason we are one of the top film schools is because we have a faculty that’s composed of industry professionals, leaders of industry, Academy Award winners, people who come straight from industry to teach our students how to prepare for industry.

The thing that we were able to do with our animation program in West Palm was to be able to partner with a local studio where those professionals work right up the street from our program.

But we also knew that regardless of having a studio up the street or not, our faculty is going to be composed of top-notch professionals from the industry, one way or the other.

That’s how we built our reputation; that’s how we’re going to succeed in the future, with or without a local collaboration.

Q: Are there plans at this point to move the new program back to the main campus in Tallahassee because of the situation with Digital Domain?

A: No, we’re moving forward in West Palm as planned.

Article Source:  http://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/2012/09/14/qa-with-fsu-film-school-dean-about-the-digital-domain-bankruptcy/

1 thought on “Q&A With FSU Film School Dean About the Digital Domain Bankruptcy”

  1. Questions remain about Digital Domain/FSU West Palm Beach film school

    By Evan Axelbank WPTV NewsChannel 5
    Published Friday, September 7, 2012

    On the day Digital Domain said it was closing its doors in St. Lucie, question marks remained over the future of its film school recently opened in West Palm Beach.

    Officials at Digital Domain and Florida State University — partners in the effort — insisted the school’s curriculum would be unchanged.

    “The film school is moving ahead as we planned. Our operations are unaffected by this,” said Dr. Andrew Syder, a professor at the school.

    But there are questions over whether a planned 150,000 sq. foot building to house the program would eventually be built.

    Thirty-five students are working in what had been labeled a temporary building in the middle of Okeechobee Boulevard across from City Place.

    The plan was to move them a few hundred feet down Okeechobee, near Dixie, by 2015 into a new building.

    The city donated the land for the school and even set aside millions of dollars in cash for Digital Domain, all part of an effort to spark a film industry in West Palm Beach.

    “There is a large part of money set aside for Digital Domain. At this point, they have gotten hardly any of it,” said West Palm Beach spokesman Elliot Cohen.

    Digital Domain had to earn the $10 million taxpayer dollars by showing designs, starting construction and enrolling 250 students.

    None of that happened, so they’ve only gotten $2 million out of $10 million, for opening the school in the first place.

    “It was a very high-reward, low-risk deal for the city,” said Cohen. “We’re talking about an interesting venture we wanted to undertake with them, and it may or may not happen.”

    It’s an early lesson for students at the Digital Domain Institute, a hard lesson in the realities of working in media.

    “I asked them if you want to take a break, think about things, or do you want to dive into what we were scheduled to do today, and they all said lets dive in, and the rest of the day we were out making movies,” said Syder.

    West Palm Beach Mayor Jerri Muoio said she would be, “surprised,” if the building for the new school went ahead as planned.


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