Friday, May 8, 2015

Ilion caught cheating on software companies by PIRATING them instead of paying

Everyone has a story to share, and this one is about a promising opportunity turned into a terrible nightmare for both a community of software developers, animators and visual effects artist, and a very large studio (by way of a smaller studio…) … Unfortunately, this story is becoming all too common in the industry, and this visual effects supervisor felt the need to share his with you so that we can start working together to change it. As so many of you have been forced to do, he recently uprooted his life and moved to a foreign country to pursue his craft.

After 11 years of really hard work – and knowing that it could be risky – a visual effects team member, left Blue Sky Studios to work their way up the ladder supervising the effects team of an entire film with Ilion in Spain. For those who may not know, Ilion won the bid to create the film with Paramount – as Paramount's Animation first feature film.  Exactly a week after arrival, this visual effects supervisor found himself in the middle of a completely unexpected ethical dilemma. Ilion Animation Studios was plagued with pirated software. Not only was it a widespread problem, but it was widely accepted by the teams. Ilion has received tax incentives from the government while producing movies including, and they have been pocketing their difference in license costs. This movie was completed with the help of several pirated licenses of SideFx Software. The list of names goes on … Nuke, Yeti, Speed Tree, etc. They put a good amount of resources into getting all sorts of pirated software to work on their farm.

This visual effects supervisor refused to play along with requests of assets from other departments using pirated software, and clashed with R&D about the legality of the software they gave back. Eventually a handful of licenses were purchased (accomplished by the below e-mail to Tripp Hudson - The attached e-mail unfortunately sheds more light on the fact that Tripp was well aware of this legal breach regarding rights and licenses for software. Of course, instead of admitting to their crimes and attempting to reconcile the differences by purchasing licenses for the project and saving their name, they fired the effects supervisor. This came along with all sorts of excuses including stating that this effect supervisor was on a “trial period” to begin with and caused problems among teams (what more of a problem can you have beyond the fact that the entire company you work for is one gigantic liability and fraud? Sleeping at night and worrying about the future should be causing enough problems among the teams all on their own).

Every company that this visual effects team member has worked for, both large and small, has always paid for all software. These companies felt that it was either necessary to pay for licenses or to create your own. Teams at Blue Sky developed their own with the Studio renderer, and they are known to be a company that really fosters innovation in the industry. Blue Sky, Disney, Pixar, Reel Fx, and even small shops spend millions developing original content and playing by the rules.

Before they escorted him out they told him they would write some very nice email to the different companies/universities and multiple contacts he have made on their behalf that he was going to go meet at FMX to leave him in "good standing", as though he had done something wrong. And this is where the story loses its anonymity ... my name is Diego Garzon and this one story happens to be mine.

I still went to FMX on my own dime, to get a feel of the job market and to meet the different people at various companies/universities that were expecting to see me.

Production companies and studios should pay for their software. An artist somewhere created something incredibly complicated in order to help you do your job, and they deserve recognition for their innovation and skills just as much as anyone. It is unfortunate that so many people have had knowledge of this issue, and yet they are willing to risk the reputation of a major Studio such as Paramount simply for their own greed in being the ones one to have their stamp on this film. It is apparent that everyone from Tripp Hudson to CTO Gonzalo Rueda, to CEO Jose San Ramon, CCO Ignacio Perez Dolset, Head of HR Evan Moran, R&D Department Supervisor Raquel Morata, and Javier Romero who is VFX Supervisor, knew that this widespread use of pirated software was going on throughout Ilion. 

What Ilion is doing is a slap in the face to the rest of us in the industry. If Paramount Animation is aware, then shame on them … but if they are unaware, then we hope this opens their eyes. Sometimes things can be too good to be true (i.e. drastically different price quotes for similar quality films). It is understood that Paramount Animation requested three tests from three different companies. Two were American (Ilm and Reel Fx) and one foreign (Ilion). They wound up giving the contract to Ilion. There is a very strong chance that if all companies were to play on the same level, things would have turned out much differently (and it would have brought a lot of American jobs along with it).

After some soul searching with my family and several people in the industry, and after Ilion initiated legal action against me for informing the software companies, I decided to make my small part in this story public. The main story here though is that you don’t cheat systems – and you particularly don’t cheat systems created by your own fellow artists, and expect to profit from their hard work without paying them for the honor of using their creations. This field is full of brilliant people who push boundaries and turn flat things into 3D or ideas into reality. It is carefully crafted magic, in it’s own way, and when you start stealing parts to create your own piece you’re going against everything that this industry stands for and the people that hold it together.

I have had the pleasure of working with so many of you after 11 years of really hard work at so many different and amazing places. From my Giant Killer Robot days, to The Orphanage, Pixar, Image Movers Digital, Animal Logic, Blizzard and Blue Sky Studios. Some of the projects were hard and some of the companies are long gone, but we always played by the rules.

I reached out to different animators across the industry to figure out how best to voice this story, and after a lot of disheartening “’Don’t do it’ s” “You will be blacklisted!”  " It is not worth it!”, several artist from the same very studios I just mentioned (who wish to remain anonymous) and even artists from South America and Europe pitched-in with their skill sets. In the last 24 hours we came up with a way to voice the story through what we do best … cartoons,

I’ve set up a PayPal account if you would like to contribute to my legal and repatriation expenses, which I would appreciate, but what I really want to ask from all of you is to share and contribute to this story. Please help continue to tell this story by drawing and sharing your designs. Like the many artists who have already contributed to tell so carefully the story through their gifted designs and art, draw how YOU feel about this. It does not have to be a pirate, though drawing pirates is really cool.  Draw and share if you stand for the values I am expressing – that pirating software is unacceptable and we will not tolerate being punished for standing up for our fellow artists in the industry. This is not about me against the studios or us against the studios. The studios have earned their success. This is just us, the artists, programmers, designers, and technical directors standing together to tell the world that no matter where you are based, be it New York, California, London, Vancouver, New Zeland or some other place in the world, we do not agree with this and that this #isNotWhatWeSignedUpFor.
We work hard in everything that we do and each one of us deserves to be paid for our work – whether it is via software, visual effects or animation. Please, I encourage you to draw and share how you feel about this. Do not let this story be just one more that stays in the shadows. Please share and speak up, draw during the weekend at lunch, wherever you can but please express how you feel about this.

If you want to see the facts and proof you find them here

Thank you for reading.

‪#‎isNotWhatWeSignedUpFor‬ and the first drawing is in from a fantastic talented artist Juan Rosillo is called "No To abuses"

#‎isNotWhatWeSignedUpFor‬ Another illustration from a great artist who wishes to remain anonymous 

Update May 14, 2015

After hate email, call threats and people commenting all kinds of terrible things about me. I want you to hear my story from me, and make your own conclusions.
This addresses the most important questions about Who am I? What do I stand for? and What I am about? I tried to write it but I felt it just wast enough and I am not the best english writer. I could not write it because it would not show who I really am. I do not need to hide behind words. I have had a great career so far and that could have not been possible with out very key people I've met along the way. People that mentored me, supported me and shaped me into what I am today. I have my share of personal experiences with some of these people and I decided to share them along with how I got here today. There is some Animation and Vfx history in there as well as why is it that I feel so strongly about this.
I hope this will inspire people to not quit just because things are going south for everyone. They are companies and places that do things the right way, and they are always looking for great talent. Maybe some of the people mentioned on my story can corraborate the facts. Some of the stories sound magical and made up, but is all true. Every single one of them.
Please take a time to listen

Update June 12, 2015
Beautiful illustration submitted by anonymous artist