High schools need to enlighten students about the wealth of job opportunities in the local digital media and creative sectors.
That's the advice of Greg Holmes, CEO of visual effects company Image Engine Design Ltd., which received an Academy Award nomination for its work on the 2009 film District 9.
Right now, the bulk of talent comes from other parts of the world to fill much-needed jobs in visual effects for film. "I don't think anyone recognizes how good an industry this is," said Holmes, who noted "clean work and well paid jobs." Holmes said there are more foreign registrants studying in related fields at Vancouver Film School and Emily Carr University of Art + Design than Canadians.
Image Engine expanded from TV into film by repatriating local talent, from countries that include England, and recruiting those with expertise from other countries. Robin Hackl, a visual effects supervisor and company partner, estimates 35 per cent of Image Engine's talent are Canadian while 65 per cent come from "every corner of the globe."
Holmes said Vancouver has been easy to promote as a desirable place to work and live. He added Human Resources and Skills Development Canada helped by fast-tracking foreign worker applications. "That was key, being able to bring in experienced people so that we could deliver on shows that, frankly, there wasn't the talent in Vancouver to take them on [in early 2005]," he said.
Started by Holmes, Hackl and Christopher Mossman in 1995, Image Engine has expanded from 20 to 180 employees in visual effects and research and development in two state-of-the-art production facilities it owns on West Fifth Avenue between Ontario and Columbia streets.
Image Engine's new screening room and its low-lit rendering room with exposed brick and wood beams and its talent sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at computer screens working on the follow-up to District 9, Elysium, was the first on a media tour hosted by the Vancouver Economic Commission and attended by Mayor Gregor Robertson, Wednesday. MPC or Moving-Picture Company, which started in London, England, and Pixar Canada served as the subsequent stops.
Vancouver is third in the world next to London and Los Angeles in the global cluster for visual effects and animation. More than 1,300 digital media companies in B.C. employ 22,000 people, generating $3 billion in annual revenue, and 10 per cent growth is expected over the next five years.
The Vancouver Economic Commission wants British Columbians and the world to recognize the high-quality work being executed in Vancouver, the competitive, low-cost environment for studios realized by provincial tax credits and the fact that Lotusland is only a two-hour flight from L.A. "Around 50, 60 per cent of the world's top visual effects are being at least partly done in Vancouver today," said Lee Malleau, CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission.
The commission recently showcased the city and its studios at the 17th FMX Conference on Animation, Effects, Games and Transmedia in Germany to attract more creative sector workers and businesses. "Film and television, that is cyclical in terms of the work," Malleau said. "These are companies that actually have space here, they have a studio here, they have an employee base here."
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