By NAOMI GOLDMAN
The award-winning definitive authority on all things visual effects in the world of film, TV, gaming, virtual reality, commercials, theme parks, and other new media.
Winner of three prestigious Folio Awards for excellence in publishing.
By NAOMI GOLDMAN
The VES’s international presence gets stronger every year, and so much of that is because of our regional VFX communities and their work to advance the Society and bring people together. The Toronto Section exemplifies adaptability, resilience and growth – continuing to thrive amidst the pandemic – as they developed interactive educational and entertainment experiences and bolstered community among their 130-plus members and the local industry. Profiled in the inaugural VFX Voice in April 2017 and now in the magazine’s 5th anniversary issue, VES Toronto is excited to mark this moment and celebrate their evolution.
“We are in a great place jump-starting 2022, poised for a rich year of programming and community-building, says Tavia Charlton, VES Toronto Section Co-chair and Post Production Producer, Originals Marketing at Amazon Studios. “With our recent election, we have the largest and most diverse Board of Managers since the Section’s inception in 2013, with 12 passionate and extremely impressive leaders fully engaged in elevating our craft and supporting our members.”
Filmed entertainment is thriving in Toronto. More film studios and VR facilities are being built every year, and an increasing number of projects are coming into the market for production and then staying for post-production to tap into the veteran VFX workforce. This boom is creating enormous growth and job opportunities for local VFX talent, while attracting international artists and technicians to the region. “And the attraction is not limited to the production arts, but goes deep into the technology side,” says Roy C. Anthony, VES Toronto Co-chair and Global Head of Research at DNEG. “Toronto has a rich research and innovation culture. There is a lot of interaction with universities to underpin technology solutions and develop new ways of generating revenue and IP for studios.”
Continues Anthony, “The Toronto Section has always done intense hands-on, technical arts-focused presentations. A great example is a two-day session we hosted on lighting where we brought in Dave Stump, author of Digital Cinematography. He trained people working in 3D to understand how people light on set and on stage, to break down barriers between digital content creators and on-set creators. We want to help foster that common language and make sure our members are at the forefront of the industry.”
The Toronto Section continues to offer its popular “Tech Talk” series, making skills-building and information accessible for both technical artists and practitioners. Last year they held a highly attended “Tech Talk” on “USD Pipeline Successes and Challenges (Universal Scene Description)” with guest George ElKoura, former Lead Engineer at Pixar Animation Studios, and have many programs in the pipeline.
“The USD event is a great example of the value we bring, as there is really exciting energy around USD to streamline the production process and leverage technologies in a more flexible way,” says Kim Davidson, VES Toronto Secretary and CEO of SideFX Software. “Our Section is taking a leadership role in educating on what is now becoming a worldwide standard for sharing data and scenes across companies, and we will continue to offer hands-on workshops to improve skills and understanding across our membership, which encompasses a wide range of artists, editors, technicians and software designers.”
During the pandemic, the Section joined “the big pivot” to virtual programming, which allowed it to expand its outreach both to prospective members and across the global visual effects community. Events included a “Virtual Production Introduction” webinar to provide members with a baseline of knowledge on emerging VP technologies and how to look at VP in the future and be best prepared.
The Section also served up some Strawberry Milkshakes – online mixers that allowed Toronto to cross-pollinate and connect with other Sections, starting with their peers in the Georgia Section. The meetups were primarily created to connect Board of Managers across Sections to share best practices and understand other markets.
Entertainment also abounded with a steady stream of film and TV screenings, both virtual and in-person (as COVID protocols allowed, with attendees sporting VES-branded masks). Its virtual meetups included a Netflix movie-night screening of Awake with a Zoom Q&A, and a showing of Amazon’s The Boys, followed by a panel with the special effects/visual effects team. Thanks to partnerships with the Paradise Theater and Royal Cinema, the Section’s in-venue events included a screening of Dune and live Q&A with director Denis Villeneuve and the production and VFX team, and screenings of No Time to Die, The Matrix Resurrections and Ghostbusters Afterlife.
“These high-value screenings give our members direct interaction with the visionaries and hands-on practitioners,” says Charlton. “This access provides continuity and connectivity that deepens our understanding of what it takes to successfully move from concept to execution.”
“While navigating during COVID was challenging, we are now hitting our stride,” says Lisa Sepp-Wilson, VES Toronto Treasurer and Visual Effects Producer and Supervisor. “I’m excited to keep reaching out to grow and diversify our membership, develop educational content and help our members see the value of our Section – both the benefits of belonging and what they can contribute to enrich our community and our industry.”
“Planning ahead, we are trying to leverage keen interest in the technical side of our community, as well as access to the research corridor and software development companies to advance new innovations and get people ready for these transitions,” says Anthony. “As a Section, our vision is to stay the course on what’s working well and double down on the innovations in the space to provide more context and more awareness to help push this local industry forward.”
“We are exceptionally proud to be a part of the VES global community and celebrate an amazing 25 years of this vibrant organization,” says Charlton. “Here in Toronto, we have achieved a lot over the years and continued to strengthen our bonds and our impact, even during the pandemic. We have diversity on our Board and in our members, a depth of great programming and an exciting vision for what we can create next. I hope that as we evolve, our Section can be an incubator of ideas for the VES and our fellow Sections, while we deepen our commitment to serving the VFX community in the Greater Toronto Area.”