Lights, camera, SKG
If raw talent were a measure of prestige, DreamWorks SKG would be the most respected entertainment company in the world. DreamWorks SKG first grabbed headlines in 1994 when acclaimed movie producer Steven Spielberg, music industry force David Geffen, and animation producer Jeffrey Katzenberg (who was responsible for revitalizing Disney's film department) announced that they were joining forces. Each partner contributed $33 million to the company. The resulting company has since moved at breakneck speed into the multimedia production of movies, television programming, interactive software, toys, and records.
Life unlike the movies
In the beginning, the company scored a series of coups: a 10-year, $1 billion licensing agreement with HBO; a $100 million programming partnership with ABC; a $50 million animation studio co-founded with Silicon Graphics; and a $30 million joint venture with Microsoft to produce interactive software. But then the company started churning out some weak-performing products, turning the dream into something less workable. Its first three movies, The Peacemaker, Mouse Hunt, and Amistad, were mediocre performers at the box office, though they were successful compared to DreamWorks' TV programming. TV highlights include High Incident, Champs, Ink and Arsenio, none of which are still on the air. Moreover, the DreamWorks-produced George Michael album (his first in five years) was a bomb, and the company's interactive software has received less-than-rewarding notice.
The DreamWorks SKG deal with ABC has been murky since Disney acquired ABC. Further troubles on that front stemmed from Katzenberg's $250 million lawsuit against Disney, though after a rocky period, it has settled for an unreported sum. DreamWorks has been further distressed by the constant delays in the building of Playa Vista, intended to be the first new movie studio in Los Angeles since the Great Depression. In July 1999, DreamWorks scrapped plans to build the 100-acre set and is currently in merger talks with Seagram's Universal Studios. The plan is more in tune with the current state of the Hollywood economy. Seagram-owned studios have distributed Spielberg's movies in the past.
Not a star vehicle
After putting out such summer 1998 hits as Deep Impact, Small Soldiers, and Saving Private Ryan, DreamWorks SKG appears to have finally hit its stride - perhaps due to the reemergence of the old Spielberg magic. Pledging to put money into the style of films rather than just the stars, DreamWorks SKG proved true to intent with the production of the animated film The Prince of Egypt. An enthusiastic audience welcomed this not-necessarily-for-kids animated work that had been intensely researched for accuracy by the DreamWorks SKG staff.
Dealing away debt
Working with Imagine Entertainment, Dreamworks unveiled Pop.com in October 1999, which acquires the rites to short films and animation for online distribution. Success in the 1999 and 2000 box offices have spurred a series of other promising partnerships for the people at Dreamworks. The claymation "Chicken Run," one of the company's chief summer releases for 2000, prompted a continuing partnership with Aardman Animations, the British studio responsible for the lovable Wallace and Gromit shorts. And after working in conjunction with Montecito Picture Company to produce the Tom Green comedy "Road Trip," the two companies decided to continue their relationship over the next three years. When "American Beauty" brought Dreamworks five Oscars this past year, the company has proved it was not a fluke picture: "Gladiator" is already one of the largest grossing films of the year. It will take more pictures like these to save Dreamworks from its seemingly endless debt.
Because DreamWorks SKG is growing at such a rapid pace, new positions become open regularly. Unfortunately, few people are hired for entry-level positions, and the competition is fierce. The best source for DreamWorks hiring information is the company's job hotline, which applicants can request after calling the company's main phone number. Dreamworks accepts resumes at its corporate headquarters - operating in the Amblin building on the Universal Studios lot - and the company also hires for its recently opened New York office.
One recent interviewee for a software engineer position says: "I spent five hours meeting with various people on my team, as well as key people on other teams. Some were technical, geared at gauging my technical abilities. Some were 'higher-level,' geared at judging whether I'd be a good person for the company, and if people would be able to work with me as well as if I would be able to work with people."
Labor of love
DreamWorks SKG is a "very young," "exciting" company where every one strives to keep up with "current Hollywood gossip" and "the latest innovations in technology." No one complains about the "lackluster" salaries, because the "dazzling" prestige of the company and its founders leaves even the "media-savvy" employees "constantly starstruck." Says an insider: "Pay is average because so many people want to work here. If you want to find to job with the highest bidder - it won't be us." While employees boast about the "laid-back" lifestyle of Los Angeles - with a dress code that is "very casual" - they also say that it takes "dedication" and "careful planning" to move ahead in this "talent-rich" company. Says a source: "It's hard work because the company's growing very fast and there's a huge amount of work to get done." For members of the production staff, 10 hours a day is "not unusual" and "pressure can be high." Perks include stock in the company, movie screening, and food and beverages that are "stocked in the kitchens." Adds an insider: "The people are great and 'S,' 'K,' and 'G' are truly motivational, down-to-earth guys."
Produces films, TV shows, records, and interactive software
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