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News Clips 02/22/2013
Florida university board pulls plug on FSU film school in West Palm Beach
Source: Palm Beach Post 02/22/13
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WEST PALM BEACH — In a setback for the city’s Hollywood dreams, the Florida university system’s Board of Governors voted Thursday to close Florida State University’s film school in West Palm Beach.
Officials from Florida State and West Palm Beach argued that the program should go on without Digital Domain, but Edward Morton, a member of the Board of Governors, said their plans seemed too vague.
“Hope is not a strategy,” Morton said.
Florida State last year opened a CityPlace campus as part of a partnership with Digital Domain Media Group, a movie-animation studio that negotiated $135 million in public incentives to expand to Florida. FSU students would be able to learn from Digital Domain animators and work at the company’s Port St. Lucie studio, according to the plan.
When Digital Domain filed for bankruptcy and fired all of its Florida employees in September, FSU was left without the partner that brought it to town. Three companies offered to take over where Digital Domain left off, but none possessed the Hollywood cachet of Digital Domain, whose animators had worked on such films as Titanic, Transformers and Tron: Legacy.
Florida State’s West Palm Beach campus has 24 students. The university has until May 1 to come up with a plan to relocate the program to Tallahassee, the Board of Governors decided. Students will continue to take classes here for the next few years.
The Board of Governors met by phone and did not hear from students or city officials. At a Board of Governors meeting Feb. 8 in Orlando, Mayor Jeri Muoio called FSU’s campus a driver of economic development, but the board seemed skeptical.
“It’s certainly not a surprise,” West Palm Beach spokesman Elliot Cohen said of the vote. “We saw the writing on the wall when we were up there in Orlando.”
The city will continue its efforts to bring digital-animation companies here, Cohen said.
Only one member of the Board of Governors voted to keep the FSU campus in West Palm Beach. Manoj Chopra, an engineering professor at the University of Central Florida, said the campus here has generated strong interest from prospective students.
“This particular program at West Palm Beach has its own identity, and it’s a strong identity,” Chopra said.
West Palm Beach gave Florida State $2 million to launch a campus. When the city announced the arrangement in 2010, then-Mayor Lois Frankel called it “a game changer for our city.”