Digital Domain won notice for its work on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” among others. John Textor wants to bring an offshoot of it to Port St. Lucie.
Hobe Sound deal maker John Textor runs in elite circles. The du Pont heir and former pro skateboarder was a frat brother at Wesleyan of filmmaker Michael Bay (Transformers and Pearl Harbor). The principals of Textor’s Wyndcrest Holdings include Dolphins great Dan Marino. Textor co-chairs — and Wyndcrest owns — California visual effects company Digital Domain, which worked on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Titanic.
Textor’s latest deal is bringing an iteration of Digital Domain to Port St. Lucie — an animation studio-game developer funded with a $20-million state grant and $10 million in local incentives.
The deal has caused a stir both in Port St. Lucie and Sarasota, the city left at the altar in the competition for his envisioned 500 to 1,000 jobs. “I’m hoping everybody takes a good hard look at this thing,” says Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, who helped get the project the $20 million. Bennett says Sarasota delivered the package Textor wanted but got stiffed. Bennett’s ire isn’t shared by all on the Gulf Coast, however. State Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, wanted Sarasota to get the studio but says, “I’m happy to have it in the state of Florida.”
Textor, 44, says Sarasota didn’t act in time. Meanwhile, in St. Lucie, he’s defending his “very good” track record from criticism on area websites that focus on the local incentives. (That track record includes website developer Jester Digital, online retailer Babyuniverse and Virtual Bank.)
Textor says his outfit will spend $50 million on the project. Meanwhile, FSU’s storied film program has agreed to locate a satellite with Textor’s studio. “We’re excited about the possibilities,” says dean Frank Patterson.