In­no­va­tion: The One Con­stant in En­ter­tain­ment

Policy - - In This Issue - Dave Rosen­baum, Nick Glass­man and Tyler Wer­rin

While Canada has estab­lished it­self as a nexus of film tech­nol­ogy tal­ent, es­pe­cially in an­i­ma­tion, most peo­ple don’t re­al­ize just how much Cana­dian-cre­ated con­tent they’re look­ing at when they’re watch­ing a film. Not only are Cana­dian com­pa­nies like Ci­ne­site cre­at­ing our cul­ture, but by con­stantly adapt­ing cre­atively in one of tech­nol­ogy’s most rapidly-evolv­ing en­vi­ron­ments, they’re set­ting a stan­dard for in­no­va­tion.

At the in­ter­sec­tion of cre­ativ­ity and tech­nol­ogy, in­no­va­tion and en­ter­tain­ment col­lide. Start­ing with the French­man Louis Lu­miere’s mo­tion pic­ture cam­era in 1895 and the Amer­i­can Thomas Edi­son’s Vi­tas­cope pro­jec­tor in 1896, the goal to en­ter­tain drove some of the largest tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions of the 20th cen­tury. The 1920s brought light­ing and film ex­po­sure tech­niques in pur­suit of mo­tion pic­tures, the 1930s and 40s in­tro­duced

broad­cast­ing, the 1950s and 60s de­liv­ered tele­vi­sions into ev­ery mod­ern home, the 1970s and 1980s brought cas­settes, CDs and DVDs to make me­dia mo­bile, and the 1990s ended this cen­tury of rapid evo­lu­tion with the dig­i­tiz­ing, stor­ing and distri­bu­tion of high def­i­ni­tion qual­ity me­dia. The one con­stant in en­ter­tain­ment was—and is—in­no­va­tion.

For 25 years, Ci­ne­site Stu­dios, a pow­er­house in vis­ual ef­fects and an­i­ma­tion in Mon­treal, Van­cou­ver and Lon­don, has thrived on bridg­ing cre­ativ­ity and tech­nol­ogy. From work on block­busters like Avengers: In­fin­ity War, Juras­sic World and ev­ery Harry Pot­ter film, to an­i­mated projects like The Ad­dams Fam­ily, River­dance and Harold Lloyd, Ci­ne­site op­er­ates as a cat­a­lyst for stu­dios, in­vestors and artists to reach global au­di­ences.

Ci­ne­site uniquely com­bines three film­mak­ing busi­nesses: 1) Vis­ual ef­fects for ma­jor movie block­busters, 2) Pro­duc­tion ser­vice partnerships with other stu­dios, and 3) Orig­i­nal an­i­mated fea­ture films. This struc­ture of three busi­nesses within one com­pany is an en­ter­pris­ing ap­proach that hedges in­vest­ments, max­i­mizes tal­ent and ne­ces­si­tates con­stant in­ge­nu­ity.

This decade has changed the film in­dus­try, with sub­scrip­tion video on-de­mand ser­vices like NET­FLIX, Ama­zon Prime Video and Hulu ex­pand­ing the op­tions of how and what con­tent reaches au­di­ences. Ci­ne­site, in part­ner­ship with the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment, is cre­at­ing, mar­ket­ing and dis­tribut­ing films that take ad­van­tage of this dra­matic and fun­da­men­tal shift. But for growth in Mon­treal and Van­cou­ver to suc­ceed, there must also be a di­verse tal­ent pool that con­stantly im­proves and is chal­lenged. Canada’s en­tic­ing tax cred­its have made it a global leader in the gam­ing in­dus­try, wel­com­ing Elec­tronic Arts, Ubisoft, Gameloft, BioWare and oth­ers. This was an ex­cel­lent start.

More in­vest­ments in other grow­ing tech­ni­cal in­dus­tries have also re­sulted in a ris­ing tal­ent pool of en­gi­neers, de­sign­ers, artists, prod­uct man­agers and producers. This, combined with many imag­i­na­tive start-up com­pa­nies, has pro­duced a so­phis­ti­cated cul­ture and cut­ting-edge in­fra­struc­ture that are proving in­dis­pens­able to Canada’s eco­nomic growth in the bil­lion-dol­lar en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

Ci­ne­site in par­tic­u­lar is grow­ing in scope and scale, aim­ing to cre­ate one thou­sand jobs by year’s end. The sheer va­ri­ety of op­por­tu­ni­ties of­fer Ci­ne­site un­par­al­leled and unique flex­i­bil­ity within the in­dus­try—and the com­pany has cre­ated 500 jobs in both Mon­treal and Van­cou­ver. The in­tri­ca­cies and idio­syn­cratic pa­ram­e­ters each global client de­mands from Ci­ne­site have fu­eled its knowl­edge base. The col­lab­o­ra­tive and egal­i­tar­ian at­mos­phere of a wide va­ri­ety of prod­uct en­ables Ci­ne­site to build a vast and ex­ten­sive li­brary of ex­pe­ri­ences and in­no­va­tions.

Part of in­no­va­tion is re­search, which is borne through the exchange of ideas. Each client has cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions for how their films should be pro­duced, cre­ated and inevitably de­liv­ered, from bud­get to pic­ture qual­ity to distri­bu­tion meth­ods.

Part of in­no­va­tion is re­search, which is borne through the exchange of ideas. Each client has cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions for how their films should be pro­duced, cre­ated and inevitably de­liv­ered, from bud­get to pic­ture qual­ity to distri­bu­tion meth­ods. This ro­bust in­take of in­for­ma­tion is in­valu­able re­search that Ci­ne­site tests equally; the most suc­cess­ful meth­ods cir­cle back, ben­e­fit­ing all.

Ci­ne­site fur­ther fills in the gaps be­tween bud­gets, sched­ules, and tal­ent with an orig­i­nal con­tent slate de­signed and de­vel­oped to tar­get dif­fer­ent and dis­tinct au­di­ences. Es­sen­tially, one stu­dio is able to ef­fec­tively ap­peal to a wide range of fi­nan­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties, a breadth of stu­dios’ brands, a va­ri­ety of distri­bu­tion needs and the gamut of au­di­ences’ tastes.

This pro­duc­tion strat­egy also al­lows for the film­mak­ers them­selves to ex­plore new tech­niques, cre­ate more niche films and work on projects that may be deemed too risky for tra­di­tional stu­dios. When a stu­dio can cre­ate projects that take more risks, it at­tracts riskier film­mak­ers. And riskier film­mak­ers tend to be more in­no­va­tive. In cre­at­ing movies that ap­peal to uniquely tar­geted au­di­ences, the con­sumer wins. No longer does one film have to be all things to all peo­ple; each film can be some­thing to some­one.

When a stu­dio can cre­ate projects that take more risks, it at­tracts riskier film­mak­ers. And riskier film­mak­ers tend to be more in­no­va­tive.

Thanks to the gen­er­ous tax sub­si­dies pro­vided by Canada, we’re able to fur­ther im­pact the qual­ity of our orig­i­nal slate by rein­vest­ing the tax cred­its back into the films, not in­creas­ing the bud­gets, sim­ply bud­get­ing less from the start. What was a $100 mil­lion movie ten years ago can now be ac­com­plished at a frac­tion of the cost thanks to in­no­va­tion’s ad­vance­ments in tech­nol­ogy, Can-

ada’s pro­gres­sive tax strate­gies and Ci­ne­site’s dy­namic busi­ness model. Bonus: be­cause each movie is pro­duced at a much lower cost, re­coup­ing ini­tial in­vest­ment is quicker, the econ­omy is stim­u­lated faster and the desire to rein­vest is height­ened.

There are two kinds of in­no­va­tion: The first is when you see an op­por­tu­nity, de­fine a plan, then ex­e­cute it in a con­trolled man­ner. The sec­ond is when you fail to re­act to the mar­ket and are forced to change with less plan­ning, all the while fight­ing the temp­ta­tion to do noth­ing and hope the in­no­va­tion isn’t re­quired.

But, it’s one thing to make movies in Canada; it’s quite an­other to sell them to the world. As Ci­ne­site con­tin­ues to part­ner with other movie stu­dios to find the­atri­cal suc­cess, there is ad­di­tional op­por­tu­nity to lever­age the way view­ers now en­gage with films. Over the past decade, film­mak­ers have shifted from tra­di­tional Hollywood tech­niques to sell their films. To­day’s fans are less en­gaged by tra­di­tional film mar­ket­ing, which is lim­ited to repurposed im­ages and brief out­takes of the film into bill­boards and tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials. Fans now have near-in­fi­nite con­tent choices in the palm of their hand and are there­fore harder to fo­cus and en­ter­tain. The trend now is to cap­i­tal­ize on so­cial con­tent, games and ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies like aug­mented re­al­ity to draw in cus­tomers im­mune to stale mar­ket­ing. To suc­cess­fully brand a new film, fans now ex­pect cus­tom con­tent crafted by the same film­mak­ers be­hind the film. Ci­ne­site is ac­tively and ag­gres­sively pur­su­ing these com­ple­men­tary av­enues of en­gage­ments as a vi­tal part of our over­all strat­egy.

Mar­ket­ing used to start once a film was nearly com­pleted, but the core cre­ative teams who worked on the films had moved onto new projects. A dis­con­nected cre­ative team, of­ten an ex­ter­nal agency, de­vised and ex­e­cuted their own mar­ket­ing strat­egy. While this was man­age­able in tra­di­tional print ad­ver­tis­ing and trail­ers, it is a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge on plat­forms re­quir­ing much more elab­o­rate cus­tom con­tent for bur­geon­ing new me­dia ecosys­tems.

To solve this, Ci­ne­site is in­no­vat­ing the way dig­i­tal and mar­ket­ing are funded and cre­ated by mak­ing it a part of the pro­duc­tion. At Ci­ne­site, dig­i­tal and mar­ket­ing ef­forts be­gin when a film goes into pro­duc­tion, rather than once the film is near com­ple­tion. This par­al­lel ap­proach al­lows us to pair the film cre­ators with dig­i­tal ex­perts at an early stage, al­low­ing the two groups to build story-driven in­ter­ac­tive con­tent. Fans want to be im­mersed in the world of the film to meet the char­ac­ters in depth and to do this suc­cess­fully, the film­mak­ers must fun­da­men­tally be in­volved. The good news is that the most cre­ative and in­no­va­tive film­mak­ers al­ways want to be in­trin­si­cally in­volved and the stu­dio need only adapt. Be it through vis­ual ef­fects for ma­jor movie block­busters, pro­duc­tion ser­vice partnerships with other stu­dios or orig­i­nal an­i­mated fea­ture films, au­di­ences never tire of be­ing en­ter­tained. Ci­ne­site has a foothold in all three, so the stu­dio is well- po­si­tioned to cap­i­tal­ize on op­por­tu­ni­ties that come its way.

There are two kinds of in­no­va­tion: The first is when you see an op­por­tu­nity, de­fine a plan, then ex­e­cute it in a con­trolled man­ner. The sec­ond is when you fail to re­act to the mar­ket and are forced to change with less plan­ning, all the while fight­ing the temp­ta­tion to do noth­ing and hope the in­no­va­tion isn’t re­quired. The thing is, in­no­va­tion is in­eluctable and in­evitable. If you don’t do the first, con­trolled in­no­va­tion, you’ll end up do­ing the sec­ond, forced in­no­va­tion any­way, and at greater cost. Ci­ne­site, thanks to Canada’s sup­port to grow cre­ative and tech­ni­cal in­dus­tries, is po­si­tion­ing Mon­treal and Van­cou­ver to be in­no­va­tive lead­ers in this next par­a­digm shift within the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

Ci­ne­site photo

Con­cept art by Jeremy Baudry for River­dance, a Ci­ne­site Stu­dios pro­duc­tion made pos­si­ble with gen­er­ous tax cred­its from Mon­treal and Canada. In the­atres spring 2020.

Ci­ne­site photo

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