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SIGGRAPH Recruiters Hum ‘O, Canada’
A look at which studios are looking to hire at the big CG confab.
SIGGRAPH may be the preeminent annual meeting of international computer graphics cognoscenti, but they typically need to travel to a U.S. city to attend. This year’s choice of Vancouver, British Columbia seems particularly fitting, however, given the expansion of U.S. studios there. Vancouver is now home to affiliates of Pixar, Sony, Digital Domain and Rhythm & Hues, among others, and that casts the efforts of studio recruiters in an interesting light. While digital effects and animation may be an increasingly global business, for Vancouver’s SIGGRAPH it’s a small world after all.
Studio recruitment efforts run the gamut at SIGGRAPH ’11, and reflect the unique needs of different companies. Pixar and DreamWorks aren’t planning prominent hiring efforts while Sony, ILM/Lucasfilm, Digital Domain and Rhythm & Hues will have a major presence at the confab. Even Blue Sky Studios, coming off its hit Rio will send a sizable contingent of their artists as “ambassadors.”
Blue Sky Studios
“We’re expanding our studio, so we have quite a bit of hiring going on,” says Debra Blanchard, who heads recruiting for Blue Sky. Blanchard notes that attending SIGGRAPH always requires travel for the Connecticut-based company, and this year they’re sending 25-30 people rather than the materials to set up a booth. The goal is to have people available to do one-on-one meetings with experienced candidates, she explains. “We have to do that in a way that is not too public. Senior talent doesn’t want to be seen interviewing on the floor.”
Blue Sky’s recruiting efforts will be across the board in terms of skill sets, as the company is now working on Ice Age 4 and director Chris Wedge’s The Legend of the Leaf Men. Blanchard says, “We did a fair bit of hiring among graduates this spring, so the next layer we’ll bring in is more experienced people. The opportunities are long-term. We haven’t had layoffs for over 10 years.”
“We’ll be recruiting for all our divisions at SIGGRAPH,” asserts Kim Diaz, lead recruiter for George Lucas’ vfx, animation and videogames empire. The company will have a booth at the job fair staffed with a range of production people to help recruiters identify candidates that can fill specific needs. “For ILM in the U.S. and in Singapore, we’ll be recruiting heavily for mid- and senior-level compositors,” says Diaz. “For ILM Singapore, we’re looking for effects TDs, digital matte painters, lighting TDs and texture artists, while for ILM U.S. we’re looking for animators, rotoscopers and creature TDs. Lucasfilm Singapore is working on an animated feature, so we’re looking for artists for that, too.”
Having SIGGRAPH in Vancouver might actually help the company find Canadians willing to make a move to Asia. From the standpoint of getting work permits, Diaz observes, “It’s not as difficult to get Canadians to come to Singapore. We’ve had great success with that. Our lead recruiter there is Canadian, so that will be good for us.”
Rhythm & Hues
SIGGRAPH is well-timed this year for the veteran shop Rhythm & Hues, which is opening a branch in Vancouver that needs staffing. R&H recruiting supervisor Joe Caggiano, who will oversee a booth at the job fair, explains, “We’re hoping that our Vancouver studio will reach 200 people, but we’re starting slowly. Right now we’re looking for matchmovers, rotoscopers and compositors.”
Caggiano welcomes the chance to recruit young talent out of Canadian schools, which is traditionally difficult for U.S.-based studios because of visa issues. But a bigger challenge is finding seasoned talent, since several companies with Vancouver branches are vying for those people. “The wonderful thing is that Vancouver’s vfx community is very tight-knit. The recruiting people are competitive but they get together regularly, so we’re meeting with them to let them know that we’re nice guys and we’re coming up there to join their coffee klatch!”
“This particular SIGGRAPH will be important for us,” says Lala Gavgavian, DD’s director of recruiting and talent management. “We’re looking to ramp up heavily in all our divisions.” That includes facilities in Vancouver, Los Angeles, the Bay Area and a new Florida locale. “We’ll have a full booth on the exhibition floor, which will have an interview suite where our supervisors can talk with candidates. We’ll be looking to expand our Vancouver studio, which opened in January 2010 and has done three shows. The idea is to build end-to-end capabilities there.”
DD’s Vancouver shop will also be the site of meetings with local educators.
“We’re looking to formalize our university outreach program, so we’re doing an educational symposium to help inform educators about what they can do to get their students ready for the industry.” Gavgavian is optimistic that this SIGGRAPH is well-timed overall. “Historically it usually lands at a time when everyone is ramping down from the summer movies being released, but this year the timing is perfect.”
Sony is headed to SIGGRAPH with talent wish-lists for all three of its studios:
Vancouver, Albuquerque and L.A. “We’ll have a booth at the job fair,” says Ken Maruyama, Sony Pictures Imageworks’ vice president of recruiting and academic relations. “But we’ll also make use of our Vancouver studio to conduct interviews. For our Vancouver studio, we’re primarily looking for animators, but eventually we’ll be opening up that pipeline to bring on lighters and compositors.” Maruyama expects that Sony could hire between 60 and 100 people for that shop alone.
Open positions in L.A. are primarily for front-end, character development work, while Albuquerque needs more back-end talent like lighters and compositors. “The majority of our animation work will be in Vancouver,” explains Maruyama.
“But we’ll have three productions going in all three locations: Men In Black 3, Spider-Man and the animated feature Hotel Transylvania.” As he looks to distribute talent across such disparate sites, Maruyama notes that the movement of talent is more fluid than ever before. “It’s a global business now, where talent regularly moves among shows in Australia, U.S., Canada and the U.K. We have a ‘gypsy culture’ of artists today.”