“Contracts allow you to be irresponsible as a company,” says Nelson. “You don’t need to worry about keeping people happy and fulfilled. What we have created here—an incredible workspace, opportunities to learn and grow, and, most of all, great co-workers—is better than any contract.”
Of course, he’s talking about Pixar, where some of the most creative work on the planet happens. Pixar provided the animation for the blockbuster movies “Toy Story,” “Monsters Inc.,” “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles.” It’s also where creative genius Steve Jobs went after he left and before he returned to Apple.
The business strategy behind hiring employees instead of contractors is that an animated feature takes four or five years, with the last 18 months at a dead run.
“The problem with the Hollywood model [of hiring people on contract],” says Nelson, “is that it’s generally the day you wrap production that you realize you’ve finally figured out how to work together.”
Nelson knows about working with creative people. He’s juggled knives on Broadway with the Flying Karamazov Brothers, acted and worked at Apple. Now, he teaches creativity, collaboration and meeting deadlines in courses from filmmaking to sculpture. Every Pixar employee is urged to put in up to four hours a week.
“Why teach drawing to accountants?” Nelson asks. “It teaches them to be more observant. There’s no company on earth that wouldn’t benefit from having people become more observant.”
—Adapted from “How Pixar Adds a New School of Thought to Disney,” William C. Taylor, Polly LaBarre, The New York Times.