Vancouver VFX studios descend on Siggraph conference to hunt for world's top talent

As B.C.’s post-production industry booms and visual effects (VFX) shops struggle to fill their ranks, local studios are seizing the opportunity to recruit top talent ...
Delegates check out exhibits at the 2011 Siggraph, which set a Vancouver convention attendance record. Organizers hope to top 16,000 delegates at this year's event

As B.C.’s post-production industry booms and visual effects (VFX) shops struggle to fill their ranks, local studios are seizing the opportunity to recruit top talent next week when Vancouver hosts the Siggraph conference.

The August 10-14 digital arts and graphics showcase set a convention centre attendance record in 2011 when it drew 16,000 people to Vancouver. It was the first time the conference had been hosted outside of the U.S.

Vancouver VFX houses are banking on Siggraph, which stands for Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interactive Technologies, pulling in even more people this year. Many companies are setting up recruiting stations and throwing parties aimed at drawing more VFX artists to the West Coast.

Shawn Walsh, a partner and executive producer at Vancouver’s Image Engine, said the goal of the company is to have a well-rounded staff of B.C. residents.

But the VFX studio, which employs about 250 people, has had to reach out to non-locals in the past.

“Vancouver remains a location within that global context that’s highly attractive to artists, both in terms of studios that are here and the work that’s being achieved,” Walsh said.

“But also, Vancouver (is) a destination for quality of life. That combination of things has always been a great draw and has really contributed to the growth of the local talent base.”

In May, Sony Pictures Imageworks’ caused some uproar in California when the VFX studio announced it was leaving its headquarters in Culver City and relocating to Vancouver.

The move wasn’t entirely unexpected, as the company had already begun moving key personnel north of the border in the preceding months.

But plans for Imageworks to expand its facilities here and double its workforce from 350 to 700 has put a strain on the local talent pool.

While Image Engine hosts a recruiting party at Siggraph, Industrial Light & Magic’s (ILM) Vancouver office will be reaching out to potential candidates through a recruiting booth.

Randal Shore, director of studio operations at ILM’s Vancouver office, said Siggraph is a terrific venue for recruiting top artists.

“The conference brings talent from all around the world,” he said.

“It’s competitive (in Vancouver), but we have an amazing group of talent at our studio that attracts additional great talent.”

Meanwhile, ILM Vancouver is gearing up for work on the next Avengers film, a Jurassic Park sequel and the new Star Wars movie.

Shore said the opportunity to work on such iconic projects should also serve as a draw for artists throughout the world who perhaps weren’t previously considering a move to Vancouver.

He added ILM is showcasing some of its work at Siggraph, including the extensive motion-capture techniques used in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.

Creative BC president Richard Brownsey, who is helping co-ordinate British Columbia’s presence at Siggraph, said bringing the conference back to Vancouver so soon is a remarkable feat for the city.

“(Siggraph’s) the centre of the universe for digital content production,” he said.

“This is where people come to learn, to network, to understand the business, to see where the business is going. There’s an excitement about that kind of conference.”

More information about the conference can be found at s2014.siggraph.org.

torton@biv.com

@reporton

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