Québec Premier Pauline Marois visited visual effects house Cinesite last week to announce that Cinesite is opening up in Montréal, greatly expanding their capacity and international presence. Cinesite is of course one of the world's leading and most respected VFX companies. The first project to be completed at the new location will be the Guy Ritchie film, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., for Warner Bros.
The new, high specification facilities at 250 St-Antoine West cover 26,000 sq ft and have capacity for 250 artists. The facility will operate under a unified pipeline between London and Montréal, with connectivity provided by Sohonet.
“Over the past few months Cinesite has been looking at several opportunities for international expansion. Montréal has a thriving gaming, software and technology community, which has been making a natural extension into visual effects. This burgeoning creative hub, combined with the investment support offered by the government of Québec, makes it the ideal location for us. Cinesite’s growth within the region will also attract local and global creative and technical talent.
“Visual Effects have become an increasingly global market. This move will allow our clients to leverage local fiscal advantages along with Cinesite’s world-class reputation for visual effects and animation. Content creation in animation is also an important part of our future growth strategy.” - Cinesite Managing Director Antony Hunt
fxg: Antony, thank you for agreeing to talk to us, in the press releases the gaming market is mentioned. Does Cinesite Montreal have an agenda to do more than VFX - and perhaps more into games or game cinematics?
AH: Clearly Montreal is one of the best places in the world to make a game. It has spent 15 years’ investment in the gaming industry, and the games and visual effects industries are getting closer together. Our focus currently is in visual effects and animation, but we recognize the legacy of the games market in creating huge creative and technical talent in the region.
fxg: Given the strength of the London office, will work be separately bid and managed from each location - or will the company operate as one - with projects seamlessly spanning both locations?
AH: We will be working seamlessly between both locations. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. for Warner Bros. will be our first project, split between the UK and Canada. The pipeline between locations, through our Sohonet connection, means we can utilize the creative and technical expertise at each location for standalone sequences.By offering two locations we are giving our clients greater choice in where they want their work placed; we will be offering greater flexibility, capacity and an international resource.
fxg: Does this increase of 250 approximate jobs in Canada sync with any reduction in the UK?
AH: We have rebalanced our business across both territories to fit with current market demands. London remains a very important centre for visual effects; however, the growth of the Canadian industry cannot be ignored. We have no plans for reducing our UK office. We’re currently growing our business internationally and look forward to continuing to develop in both regions.
fxg: Is the expansion funded from current investment and cashflow or is the UK company expanding or changing in ownership?
AH: Our growth is being funded by current cash flow and private investment within the UK, with additional financial assistance from Investissement Québec.
fxg: Clearly you are hiring now for the Canadian arm, is there are particular skill set or specialization Cinesite would like to see in the hiring of staff for the Montreal company?
AH: We are looking to fill a variety of positions, which are advertised currently on our company website. Like our London office, our Montréal location will be delivering all manner of visual effects, so we are looking for a wide range of skillsets.
Antony Hunt commented at the launch with Pauline Marois, Premier of Québec, “We’re opening up in a new location, with a new award of work and a talented team of home grown and international visual effects artists. It’s a very exciting time for the company.” Marios added that "In fact, with Cinesite, Montréal is now home to three of the world’s premier visual effects studios. This will further consolidate the cluster and broaden the synergy between industry stakeholders.”
Canada is certainly the new Hollywood as far as effects is concerned. The Cinesite expansion comes the same week as Sony Corp's debt is downgraded by Moody's Investors Service to "junk" level status. The Moody's report was quoted in the Hollywood Reporter as stating, "While Sony has made progress in its restructuring and benefits from continued profitability in several of its business segments, it still faces challenges to improve and stabilize its overall profitability," Moody's said. "Of primary concern are the challenges facing the company's TV and PC businesses, both of which face intense global competition, rapid changes in technology, and product obsolescence."
As part of Sony's ongoing efforts to cut back the size of its workforce, Sony Pictures Entertainment closed down Sony Pictures Technologies. The new cuts were also felt at Imageworks, (SPI), which is also moving staff to Canada and its northern operation in Vancouver, B.C. Perhaps this is not surprising, in Canada, the equivalent of 58.42% of the qualifying salary of a BC resident VFX artist is being 'paid' by the government in the form of incentives, tax breaks and film industry funding. This is only roughly 60% of salary - not of all costs. Montreal offers an even better deal: "They offer competitive labor subsidies and on top of that, are willing to pay 25% of non-labor production costs," according to Daniel Lay.
SIGGRAPH 2014 is also going to be held in Vancouver, Canada this year.
Cinesite is recruiting for the new Montréal studios at www.cinesite.com.
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