Questions raised over film school future in West Palm Beach, school says program will go on

City officials unsure if film school will be built

On the day Digital Domain said it was closing its doors in St. Lucie, question marks remained over the future of its film school recently opened in West Palm Beach.

Officials at Digital Domain and Florida State University - partners in the effort - insisted the school's curriculum would be unchanged.

"The film school is moving ahead as we planned. Our operations are unaffected by this," said Dr. Andrew Syder, a professor at the school.

But there are questions over whether a planned 150,000 square foot building to house the program would eventually be built.

35 students are working in what had been labeled a temporary building in the middle of Okeechobee Boulevard across from CityPlace.

The plan was to move them a few hundred feet down Okeechobee, near Dixie, by 2015 into a new building.

The city donated the land for the school and even set aside millions of dollars in cash for Digital Domain, all part of an effort to spark a film industry in West Palm Beach.

"There is a large part of money set aside for Digital Domain. At this point, they have gotten hardly any of it," said West Palm Beach spokesman Elliot Cohen.

Digital Domain had to earn the $10 million taxpayer dollars by showing designs, starting construction and enrolling 250 students.

None of that happened, so they've only gotten $2 million out of $10 million, for opening the school in the first place.

"It was a very high-reward, low-risk deal for the city," said Cohen. "We're talking about an interesting venture we wanted to undertake with them, and it may or may not happen."

It's an early lesson for students at the Digital Domain Institute, a hard lesson in the realities of working in media.

"I asked them if you want to take a break, think about things, or do you want to dive into what we were scheduled to do today, and they all said let's dive in, and the rest of the day we were out making movies," said Syder.

West Palm Beach mayor Jerri Muoio siad that she would be, "surprised," if the building for the new school went ahead as planned.

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