Putting Education Reform To The Test

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


Frank Patterson, Dean of FSU film school

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.


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