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January 10
2022

ISSUE

Winter 2022

Montreal Revisited: Riding the Canadian VFX Wave

 By NAOMI GOLDMAN

Philipp Wolf, VES Montreal Section Chair.

Philipp Wolf, VES Montreal Section Chair.

VES Montreal leadership and members.

 VES Montreal leadership and members.

VES Montreal members enjoying their festive annual Super Mega Party.

 VES Montreal members enjoying their festive annual Super Mega Party.

Pub Night at 4 Origins microbrewery.

Pub Night at 4 Origins microbrewery.

 The VES’s international presence gets stronger every year, and so much of that is because of our regional VFX communities and all that they do to advance the Society and bring people together. During the challenging last two years, the Montreal Section exemplified the spirit of community and adapted to deliver compelling online experiences and content to replace live events and keep the tether strong among the membership – thriving at about 180 members – and the local industry. 

Throughout the pandemic, the Section Board of Managers focused on producing and collaborating on diverse virtual programming, featuring an array of networking events, industry educational programs, resources and roundtables. These included an ACM SIGGRAPH webinar on the challenges of working from home and a comprehensive COVID-19 Resources web page for members; an interactive “Virtual Production 101 and Green Screen” conversation; a virtual spin on the annual Super Mega Party; Fortunato Frattasio presenting a forum to give students the opportunity to meet and network with industry professionals; Marine Lelièvre hosting a networking event featuring a VFX portfolio review to provide resources to the next generation of artists and practitioners; and online hangouts for casual chats and networking. 

The programming roster included a dynamic session about Foundry’s vision for AI and machine learning and how CopyCat assists artist workflows, featuring Foundry’s Director of Product for New Technology Mathieu Mazerolle and Creative Specialist DJ Matias, who demonstrated practical examples of how to build your own neural network; and a panel discussion “Inside the Brain of VFX-Animation Hiring Managers,” with a deep dive into human resource decision-making around hiring, from technical to human skills, including speakers from rhum – humans and resources – as well as DNEG and Squeeze Animation Studio. 

“We hosted webinars and virtual screenings for our membership to keep a sense of camaraderie and reinforce that we are there for one another, and the events were well received. In conjunction with a number of our sister sections, the East Coast Netflix Parties were a lot of fun and very successful to help keep everyone’s spirits up – and as an opportunity to network and invite in prospective new members, even while people were hungry for live contact. We took our VES mission to heart and worked to keep our members connected and feeling supported however we could,” says Philipp Wolf, Montreal Section Chair. 

Once the Section returned to a “green zone” COVID status, they started pivoting back to in-person events, including their first pub night in more than a year at 4 Origins microbrewery; and more recently, a much-anticipated return to live screenings. “I really feel that our community grew even stronger during the pandemic, and the situation pushed us to create new events on our own, and in collaboration with our fellow Sections,” says Wolf.

“As we head into 2022, our Section Board of Managers plans to channel this momentum as we develop programs, advocate and build our membership and alliances, and find a meaningful and festive way to properly celebrate the Society’s milestone 25th anniversary,” continues Wolf. “There are about 6,500 VFX professionals in Montreal, so there is a lot of room for growth and many opportunities to share our collective knowledge and support this industry. And we have the energy and vision to achieve our goals.”

Wolf also points to a source of pride in the VES’s new global Health and Wellbeing Committee, which he co-chairs with Emma Clifton Perry, VES 1st Vice Chair, and the support for these vital efforts in the Montreal community. “Last summer, the Health and Wellbeing Committee launched “Reignite Yourself – Instruments to Face Daily Life,” a five-part webinar series around mental health to support the worldwide visual effects industry,” says Wolf. “This VES initiative to destigmatize mental health was the result of strong collaboration with the Québec Film and Television Council and funding from the City of Montreal, and our shared commitment to making the fast-paced animation and visual effects environment a safer, healthier and more equitable space for artists and practitioners worldwide. As the producer/creator of the series, I’m particularly proud of that genesis and backing here in Montreal. This investment in our community’s mental health, along with the amazing new VES Member Assistance Program providing 24/7 access to counseling services to our members worldwide, is such an important direction and really speaks to how we care about our members as people.”

“Let me add a love letter to Montreal,” Wolf concludes. “Our Section operates in the heart of the city. As a worldwide hub of VFX, Montreal is a great place to work. And with our diversity, quality of life, amazing culture, beautiful surroundings and a relatively low cost of living, we have a wonderful quality of life here. Montreal is so special and our Section is proud to thrive here at the center point.” 


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