Gnomon School of Visual Effects Unveils Gnomon Studios


In an American context, this stuff is illegal.

The slaves were cotton interns.

We have all of the laws in place that we need, they just aren’t being enforced.


But it still if the end result looks like Hoodwinked (or much worse) will Shane Acker really stand behind it? Or if it takes forever to get up to a quality standard thats weird too. Remember this is not some overzealous ‘school-driven’ production here-there is a pretty big name involved.


I dunno, I think producers know they get what they pay for. They also know what kind of quality they can expect from well known studios as opposed to free student interns. And in the world of feature film fx, I just don’t see “passable fx” working in most instances.


The thing is though the money people are not the creative people most of the time and sometimes money and not quality is the deciding factor. And quality is always a matter of degrees. Sometimes passable has to be enough.

But again…when the price is free people will accept a lot…and will wait the extra time. And when this happens our industry suffers.


Gnomon is basically using students … who paid for the high-level education Gnomon can impart … as a labor force without any compensation. Its one thing to have Shane Acker there and film material and use it inside a schedule that mimics a production schedule. FXPHD uses this model with great success.

What Gnomon has done is create a new Vfx Studio and will be competing with the mid to high level companies for work on Film and TV productions.  And, they're going to use students to do the work.  Students who've paid to be there and are eager to get "big name" credits on their resumes and reels.  Since they don't have to pay the students, they will undercut studios who do.  

Now, lets speculate.  They will be awarded a lot of new projects and will do great work.  In the process, other studios will have to try to match the bids Gnomon will be making.  Some will fold and some will scale their workforce back.  Students at Gnomon will create remarkable imagery, load their reels with said art and go into the field to find there isn't work to do.

Is it illegal?  According to what Cyndia wrote in the [LA Times]( , it sure seems to be:

[i][…] pitfalls lurk for both students and the places they work when it comes to unpaid internships. Even well-meaning small-business owners can run afoul of labor laws regarding these temporary positions

[/i] [i]Many small-business owners know that unpaid internships should offer  training and supervision. Most, though, are unaware of the six criteria  the Labor Department highlighted as guidelines for for-profit companies  in April. 

[i] Basically, those  criteria say training must be similar to that given in an educational  environment and must be for the benefit of the intern. The interns must  not displace other workers and must be closely supervised.[/i]

I see two solutions:  

*  Pay those that work.  Class credit is great, but nothing would teach the students the value of the hours and skills more than a paycheck.  

*  Create your own work and leave the production work to production facilities.  It seems to be the right thing to do for the students, as well as the industry as a whole.


But I’m doubtful too. “9” and the short that spawned the feature looked really great. Storywise maybe not the best. Maybe Hollywood might settle for crap (they usually do as far as story is concerned) but would an Award Winning CG director directing his own story settle for cheesy looking CGI?! Especialy one with hands on production experience (he made the predecessor short film [font=Calibri][/font]to ‘9’ himself as a student). If so - he might as well retire now.

Usually those money bags that ‘settle’ for less are ignorant of how good CGI can get let alone the details of a production pipeline. So more commonly producers and other studio executive types.


If he’s not in control of the money he will settle/compromise. Otherwise his movie won’t get made.


Fine. But if he could technically make it better himself (alone, budget = himself+hardware+software, over years)-would he still?!
Would you-if you cared about it?


Who cares what someone does on their own in their free time…you want to spend 10 years at home making your own movie be my guest.

were just getting into semantics. The topic is a school that people pay to go to and that school using its students to provide free work for a job that anyone else would/should get paid for.


I guess the job-seekers’ lament of “I’d pay them just to work there” is going to come true for some.

Part of the problem here is how this is being presented. If it were simply students going off to various fx houses to intern (for little or no pay), that’s pretty normal. Setting up an actual business office filled with equipment and students so that any producer or director can hire them as a studio for professional work seems pretty dodgy, and maybe illegal.

I keep wracking my brain to think of another profession that does this, but they all require diplomas or certificates or guild/union membership or bar exams or whatever to be able to operate as a business. However, a field like Anthropology has students going on dinosaur digs with professors and such, and they might make a great discovery or write an important paper while still paying for the opportunity, so it’s not without precedent. Still seems stinky, though.


All schools do this, you don’t need to rack your brain much. At art schoos an instructor will lead a project for a local museum or business, magazine, poster, etc… whether it is fashion design, industrial design, photography, interior design. Every science, mathmatics, etc… work on research which is in partnership with large corporation who pays the school. Software companies do this with computer science programs where they have the researchers working on problems and ideas for them while doing their Doctorate(Adobe, The foundry, 2d3, Autodesk, etc…). This is school sanctioned partnership, not the person being employed by the company.

On top of all this there are many hospitals that schools have under their wing where their students work as free interns. University of fill in the blank hosipital.


No thanks, the grass in Holland is better!


There’s a lot of angry responses here, and rightfully so. However, I feel like it’s misdirected. I am currently teaching Maya at a visual effects school and our program does not offer anything as attractive as being able to work on a feature film.

I think Gnomon has actually set this up with their students’ best interests in mind. The opportunity to work in a real studio environment (for little or no pay) is worth the tuition that they charge. There are many schools who charge similar or more than Gnomon and can only offer their graduates random emails from the Career Services department.

Anyone who is protesting Gnomon Studios should keep in mind that Gnomon is offering a better experience for their students. Other schools (mine included) should make a stronger effort to get their graduates into the industry. The students will either be spending time in class or time working on a feature…as long as they’re learning, in my opinion it’s a legit deal.


Eh, what? If they’re good enough to be working on someone’s film, then they’re good enough to be getting paid for it. Simple as that.


Most professional studio internships ARE paid - fairly well too.
Some studios have unpaid internships, which can be worth it since it usually leads to full-time employment.
But if you can show me a studio that CHARGES YOU to work on THEIR project, I’ll eat my hat.

You show me a talented student paying to work on a project that isn’t their own, and I’ll show you a sucker.


I agree, but it’s not unheard of to do an unpaid production-level internship for a few months to get some IBDb credits to their name. Having real production experience even before graduating is kind of a big deal.

Though yes, they should be paid, or at least get some of their tuition fees knocked off.


But paying for it isn’t.


Everyone should have the same opportunities to learn to get their feet into the industry, not just the ones with rich parents, imo.


But medical interns get paid. My point was that this is being set up as a business for hire. A hospital does not operate under the same economic model as an fx house. I participated in a few industry sponsored projects while in design school, but they were “blue sky” concept stuff, not production items, and even so we had a donated budget for materials, supplies, food, etc.


I remember Steven Stalhberg wanting to set something like this up but it was a little different.

First the student would have to under-go an evaluation before being admitted into the class. They would submit a portfolio to show whether they had some form or artistic ability. Once they pass. They are taught whatever subject and afterwards work on projects for a certain amount of time.

These would be commercially paid products that fund the school.

The nice thing is that the tuition fee is cut dramatically because successful students keep the school alive. You can see now why it is important that the attendee’s must have some sort of artistic ability.

So if Gnomon cut their admission fee then i think this is a good idea. Otherwise i could see this failing, as “Advanced students” will simply leave to get paid.

edit:// I should also add. That if it’s the students’ choice whether to go on to work at Gnomon Studios for a stint after graduating, then yeah i think why not. Might be good for some students to prepare.