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People on the Move: Exec Appointments at Spire, Cyber Group, Ooolala & More

People on the Move
People on the Move

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People on the Move: Exec Appointments at Spire, Cyber Group, Ooolala & More

Spire Animation Studios (spirestudios.com) announced two key new hires to their powerhouse team: Pixar alumni Ricky Nierva and Michal Makarewicz. “We couldn’t be more excited to be working with Ricky and Michal. Both bring a wealth of creative experience from working at Pixar on many of the studio’s most beloved movies. Their addition to our growing team continues us down the path of building a next-generation studio with best-in-class professionals,” said studio founders Brad Lewis and P.J. Gunsagar.

Ricky Nierva

Ricky Nierva [photo: Deborah Cohen]

Ricky Nierva is a Filipino-American animation production designer. Nierva started his acclaimed career at Pixar in the Story Department on Toy Story 2 in 1997, and is best known for his work designing iconic characters for Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo: Mike Wazowski, Sully and Dory. He also led Pixar’s production design team on award-winning Up. As Spire’s new Production Designer, Nierva will initially be focused on Trouble, the studio’s first animation feature co-created by writer, actor and director Danny McBride and Brad Lewis.

“I’m honored to join Spire Animation Studios and to have the unique opportunity to production design our first animated feature film,” said Nierva. “The team is unbelievably talented and we are breaking the way things have been done in the past, blazing new trails. I’ve loved the animation art form since I was a kid — and through my time at Pixar — and want to push this medium forward. It’s altogether invigorating, terrifying and exciting!”

Michal Makarewicz

Michal Makarewicz [photo: Deborah Cohen]

Before joining Spire as its new Head of Character Animation, Michal Makarewicz was at Pixar for 19 years, where he worked his way up to directing animator. While there, he worked on more than 14 feature films and five shorts, including The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, Inside Out, Onward and Soul, among others. Makarewicz has been honored by ASIFA with two Annie Awards for Best Animation in a Feature Production (Soul, Ratatouille), a VES Nomination for his animation on Helen in Incredibles 2 as well as a Feature Animation nomination for the 75th annual 2020 Reuben Award for his work on Soul.

“Spire is a melting pot of tremendous talent from the leading companies in the animation industry,” said Makarewicz. “It’s exciting to build something new from the ground up with all that knowledge and experience at our disposal. We get to play in a sandbox where the what-ifs are all very possible. I’m also thrilled to keep the animation industry growing, for the community as a whole, and to push the boundaries of our field in a new way with a fantastic team.”

Nierva and Makarewicz will work closely with Shawn Krause (Creative Director Animation & Story), Michael Surrey (Creative Director Animation & Story), Ted Mathot (Creative Director of Development), Karen Disher (Creative Director of Development) and Sharon Bridgeman (story artist) as well as Co-founder/CCO Lewis (Ratatouille, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, The LEGO Batman Movie) on Trouble.

CGS executives

Cyber Group Studios (cybergroupstudios.com) has named three industry veterans to lead its production, development and R&D in response to the strong business growth now at an historical high with 10 series in production and 10 more in development this year. All three will report to COO & Co-founder Dominique Bourse. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with such a talented team of executives at an exciting moment of growth for our company, where new opportunities are constantly arising in this very fast-evolving industry worldwide,” said Bourse.

  • Laurence Barret, in her new role as Vice President Studio Operations, will be in charge of managing the Paris studio. She will as well supervise all production budgets and the allocation of resources for all the company studios. In addition, Barret will determine and allocate production resources to new projects in development for the company. Barret was previously Head of Production & Studio Director at Ellipse Studio and Head of Production at TeamTO.
  • Stéphanie Legraverant, previously Production Director at Cyber Group Studios’ Roubaix (Hauts-de-France), has been promoted to Managing Director, Roubaix Studio, in charge of developing the company’s facilities and resources. During her tenure, the Roubaix studio developed a unique 2D production expertise and forged ahead into real-time production with the development of an Unreal native pipe, inaugurated with the studio’s first digital program, Giganto Club (26 x 11’). Produced in 2021/2022, the digital series exclusively for AVOD platforms and social networks, launched worldwide in partnership with YouTube on February 3.
  • Andreas J Carlen, a veteran software engineering wizard and a Technical Director with more than 25 years of experience in the animation production and videogame industries, has been promoted to Chief Technology Officer of the group. Together, Andreas and his team will be responsible of furthering the real-time production pipe initiated in 2021 to create the Giganto Club; as well as industrializing the production process while keeping it creative-driven for the entire group worldwide.
Marion Claret

Marion Claret

French animation production and distribution company Dandelooo (dandelooo.com) has appointed Marion Claret to head its animation studio Ooolala in La Cartoucherie, Valence, France. A partner at Dandelooo, Claret also helped launch the Ooolala studio three years ago, founded by Jean Baptiste Wéry and Emmanuèle Pétry. Claret will spearhead a development slate of original productions, drive its expanding studio, and help supervise the pre-production teams for both original and client service work.

A graduate from Gobelins, Ecole de l’image (Paris), Claret joined Dandelooo in 2016 to produce the 2D /live-action Emmy-winning series The Treehouse Stories for Canal+, now in its fourth season. Marion previously worked at French production companies Stromboli Films and Medialab Technology. Ooolala is currently in production on 2D preschool series Billy the Cowboy Hamster, commissioned by France Televisions, and recently completed the heart-warming special Mum Is Pouring Rain, co-produced with Laïdak Films and commissioned by Canal+, and Stinky Dog, a slapstick comedy series co-produced with Folivari, Panique! and Pikkukala, commissioned by France Televisions.

Kabir Malik

Kabir Malik

Boutique VFX and finishing house Stone Dogs (stonedogs.co.uk) announced the expansion of its studio, relocating to a larger office to provide a wider, more flexible service to clients. The new space, located next to Lincoln Fields, will roughly double Stone Dogs’ current footprint. In order to deliver on this increased scope and flexibility of services, the studio has invested in both its backend capabilities — increasing capacity and speed of storage — and a brand new cooled server cabinet.

In addition, Kabir Malik has joined the team as Executive Producer. Kabir joins from Bubble TV Group, where he was responsible for creating and building the commercials picture department. Prior to that, he worked as an EP for both production and post-production projects, having developed his craft at a range of VFX studios. He now represents Stone Dogs alongside Orchard for CG, which complements both company’s creative services and helps the team deliver on more complex CG and VFX combined projects. On top of this, he will place any of his own production requirements with the appropriate studio, strengthening Stone Dogs’ ties with the industry.

Johannes Sambs

Johannes Sambs

Framestore (framestore.com) has named Johannes Sambs as Head of CG, London. Based at the company’s headquarters, Sambs will lead the CG team on a range of projects across Advertising, Episodic and Immersive. He joined Framestore in 2016, and has been instrumental in a number of major projects including Framestore’s first dark ride, Pearl Quest for China’s Wanda Group, and the technically challenging immersive experience for Comcast’s Philadelphia based planetarium-style theater, the Universal Sphere. Sambs was also Framestore’s CG supe on Netflix’s Alien Worlds, which won an Emmy for the studio, and delivered the Storybook Sequences for Netflix’s Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.

Originally from Austria, Sambs studied Audiovisual Fine Art before moving to the U.K., where he worked as a CG generalist freelancer, mainly in advertising as well as theater productions. He joined Framestore as a Lookdev Artist and has subsequently worked as both CG supervisor and VFX supervisor across many forms including commercials, TV shows and feature films including the Sky Atlantic episodic show, Curfew. “I am delighted to embark on this journey as Head of CG,” Sambs commented. “Framestore partners with world-renowned brands and creative studios and the spectrum of the projects we can work on is limitless. I am excited to lead our talented team as we take on even more challenging, ambitious and fresh projects this year and beyond.”

John Rooney Creator Fund winners

Youth Media Alliance (YMA) and TAAFI have announced the first recipients of the John Rooney Creator Fund. Established to honor the late Rooney’s ardent support of LGBTQ2S+ talent in children’s, youth, and family animation, the fund has two streams of professional development: Content Development and Scriptwriting.

Content Development Stream:

  • Kai Little-White is a writer and creator of linear and immersive content with a global sensibility. Kai has worked on over 100 hours of television, features, shorts, and music videos including creating the Caribbean’s first reality series The Golden Nugget. Kai’s focus on the next generation led to curriculum development spotlighting STEAM, social justice and emotional intelligence. Kai is an alum of the Canadian Film Centre and Centennial’s Children’s Media program. In 2021, Kai associate-produced the preschool series Gary’s Magic Fort. This year, Kai is creating an AR installation through the Under the Tent collective storytelling project. Kai will receive mentorship from industry professionals and up to $5,000 (CAD) for creative development, and $5,000 (CAD) for travel and registration costs for conferences of her choosing throughout the year.

Scriptwriting Stream laureates will be placed in a writing room for a show currently in production to gain an understanding of the script writing process, how stories are developed for series and, if possible, contribute to the room creatively. The Fund will cover a maximum of 10 working days, at $250 per day, for a total allocation of $2,500 per writer:

  • Alora Lafontaine is a Toronto-based author and artist. They write prose, poetry, and scripts for screen and comics. Currently, they are developing the feature Morph and are adapting The Waking Crossroads from comic to novel. Alora also has over six years’ experience in film and television production as an assistant art director and illustrator with the Directors Guild of Canada. In 2015, Alora graduated on full scholarship with a BFA from Adelphi University’s Academic Honors College in the little-known city of New York. They also won the Global Studies Scholarship to attend the Bard Globalization and International Affairs program. Alora will be placed with 9 Story Media Group.
  • David diGiovanni is an award-winning director and writer. He is the Artistic Director of Shakespeare in Action, the resident professional theater organization at the new Artscape Weston Common. He also co-founded Madonnanera with Amanda Cordner, a theater company invested in creating new intersectional work for the stage which has toured across the country. In 2020, Amanda and David turned their work Body So Fluorescent into a short film which premiered at the InsideOut Festival and won Best Emerging Canadian Artist. David will be placed with Sinking Ship Entertainment.
  • Mia Ema Falak is a multilingual writer, actress and producer. She is a graduate of McGill University’s English Literature and Psychology programs, as well as House of Actors’ Full-Time program. Since then, Mia has worked as a script editor for acclaimed Canadian filmmakers. Recently, she wrote and acted in her debut short film, Broken Colours! Mia is incredibly passionate about storytelling: in her free time, she enjoys reading screenplays before watching the corresponding TV shows or movies, taking acting classes and engaging in creative writing. She hopes to use the immeasurable power of story to enrich the lives of Canadian youth. Mia will be placed with Little Engine Moving Pictures.
  • Scott Farley is a writer, actor, producer, voice artist, and failed unicyclist. Scott was nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award for his short film Club Six which is now available on OUTtv and recently he wrote for Family Channel’s new kids’ queer TV series The Fabulous Show! with Fay & Fluffy. As an actor, Scott is known for his role as Carlin Caterpillar on CBC Kids’ hit TV show The Moblees, where he received a Juno Award Nomination. In partnership with Blue Ice Pictures, his series Stories from My Gay Grandparents has just received IPF production funding. Scott loves peach pie and jungle gyms. Scott will be placed with Nelvana.

 

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