London-based vfx house adds Montreal studio to L.A., N.Y. arms

TORONTO

Global effects powerhouse Framestore, best known for its work on the “Harry Potter” pics, has opened a studio in Montreal, tapping into the creative and tech talent pool and provincial tax credit perks of the booming vfx hub, which has been attracting significant Hollywood biz of late.

CEO William Sargent, who co-founded London-based Framestore in 1986, told Variety that expanding its North American footprint made sense, since its main clients are the major studios. It already has outposts in Los Angeles and New York.

The move also allows Framestore to go after a wider array of film vfx work that, as he put it, has “nothing to do with a British company,” such as Jose Padilha’s “Robocop.”

The Montreal shop, which Sargent expects will employ between 150 to 200 people by year’s end, will handle roughly half of Framestore’s confirmed vfx work on “Robocop,” Doug Liman’s “All You Need Is Kill” and Paul King’s “Paddington Bear,” with the London studio handling the rest through separate contracts.

Sargent said Framestore considered Vancouver and Toronto, which also have large vfx communities and competitive tax credits, but settled on Montreal for cultural reasons.

“Vancouver has been a big success and many of our main competitors have set up branches there, so we would be joining a situation that’s already crowded and with tremendous competition for talent,” he said.

With Montreal an hour’s flight from Gotham, Sargent said the final decision “felt quite personal in that I like the cultural aspects of the French language and people that give the city a real individuality and, being an Irishman, I like the quirkiness of that creativity and energy — and we know the studios we do business with enjoy their Montreal experiences.”

Being in the West Coast time zone wasn’t a priority, he added.

Sargent said that much of the software used in the industry originated 20 or 30 years ago in Montreal, such as Soft Image, and the city’s academic community feels similar to London, another attractive factor.

“Our intention there is to have a mix of people, with Framestore colleagues a key part of the setup to help establish the company culture, which is very important,” he said, adding that the Montreal shop is recruiting from both the experienced local market and global talent pool.

Former Rodeo FX operations manager Benoit Touchette has been tapped as Framestore Montreal’s general manager. Framestore vfx producer Lorna Paterson and senior CG artist Chris Lawrence are key team members that have relocated from London.

Framestore currently employs around 800 people worldwide, Sargent said, with over 650 in London.

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