An Interview With Brenda Bailey Executive Director of DigiBC, The Interactive and Digital Media Industry Association of B.C.

“I want people to trust that I will work on their behalf.”-Brenda Bailey

With training in business and law, a background in social work, and a degree in Arabic, Brenda Bailey has followed a unique career path. “Everyone expected me to do typically female jobs, when really, I should have been a technologist right from the start. But we didn’t know about those opportunities.”

Brenda grew up in a small town on Vancouver Island. “In the early 80s, arcades were all the rage. I think the arcade was a really integral part of growing up in a small town at that time. It’s something we did with our friends; it was our community.”

Back then, it never felt odd to Brenda to be a girl playing video games – it wasn’t seen as a male space, but that changed with the onset of first-person shooter games. “I don’t believe video gaming is an innately male space – I think it’s been a reflection of who’s making the video games rather than an innate desire to play them.” With that in mind, she set out to change the types of games being made by going into the video game business. “I wanted to build high quality games for girls, but it was tough as there weren’t a lot of concepts being developed.”

After working with several startups in the interactive digital media space, Brenda was asked to lead DigiBC, an umbrella association that supports people working in video games, animation, visual effects, augmented and virtual reality. It’s an amazing time in the interactive digital media world right now, and there’s been incredible growth in the digital media space because there’s so much technology and so many technologists coming outof the video game industry.

“We have the largest cluster of animation studios in the world. From Parksville to Kelowna to Victoria, there’s an incredible technology sector thriving in our province.”

Video games are no longer something that you need to access at your local arcade – the technology is in your pocket.There’s more ability to make and deliver games than ever before, and that gives rise to new voices. “It’s now about discoverability. The market is saturated with so much product that we need to help those diverse stories come forward.”

Getting young people involved in technology, and helping stories be told, is what’s fueling Brenda now. She’s trying to incentivize the creation of intellectual property here in B.C., and she’s focusing on empowering and equipping the next generation. She’s exposing students to the plethora of opportunities that exist within B.C.’s interactive digital media space. “If it’s art you’re interested in, become an animator. If you’re a natural leader, become a producer.”

There are opportunities for musicians, mathematicians, even those kids who maybe don’t fit into any place yet.” What’s really exciting for Brenda though is the number of women leading this space to move forward. “If you look at the leaders in Vancouver’s technology and creative industries, it’s amazing – I’ve never seen so many women! So is it really a surprise then that the different tech industries are working together more and more, and collaborating? I don’t think so,” she says with a smile.

An Interview With Ian Harper Producer of Inanimate Alice.

“We are trusting people to contribute to the story as is progresses”-Ian Harper

As an International Project Manager, Ian Harper spent most of his life travelling. He lived and worked in the Middle East, South East Asia, and Africa before settling down in Nanaimo, B.C. where he now produces the digital novel, Inanimate Alice.

Ian loves the fact that he can work from anywhere thanks to technology, yet he says technology doesn’t always benefit us. “Thirteen years ago, I was at Waterloo Station in London waiting for a train when a young woman bowled me over while she was looking at her phone.” That may have been Ian’s first experience of someone being so distracted by technology they lost grasp of where they were, but it was not his last.

Those experiences inspired him to explore the hold that technology has on us. It also challenged him to find a way to use technology to help people better understand their place in the world, rather than feel so disconnected. “The underlying dilemma for me was, who is controlling the conversation, who is driving the relationship?”

Once Ian started asking these kinds of questions, he was compelled to change his entire career. “By the time I was 50, I got to this moment in life where I realized I could do something else. I went back to school to learn to write for the screen. It was an eye-opening experience, and it sparked this need in me to tell an in-depth story involving technology and connectivity.

”Inanimate Alice is an ongoing digital novel that progressively incorporates interactive media. It’s a collaboration between Ian, writer Kate Pullinger and developers Chris Joseph and Andy Campbell. Alice starts out as a young girl learning to use technology. As she gets older, the viewer experiences greater technological complexity through the unfolding story. “Each episode becomes more and more complicated, and you uncover things as you go. It leaves much to the imagination and encourages readers to find their inspiration within ideas. It’s a voyage of exploration, which is why I think kids are attracted to it.”

Ian is currently working with libraries to develop a unique model where people can access each episode on library servers and use their virtual reality headsets to interact with the series.

“This is a key moment for reading,” states Ian, “as libraries define their role in teaching digital and technological literacy in support of the new economy.”

With the support of Creative BC, Ian has been able to build partnerships such as with the Fraser Valley Regional Library, where Inanimate Alice is now available. “Creative BC has done a fantastic job promoting this series and helping us build relationships with libraries. Now we need support to complete the story.”

Inanimate Alice has been downloaded by at least 1.5 million people, with more and more teachers using it as a tool in their classroom. “We are talking about a story that inspires and opens up the imagination. Kids and teachers alike feel like they are coming along with us on the journey – they are part of the team.”

An Interview With Robyn Haddow Freelance FUI Motion Graphics Artist.

“People trust me because I show up 110%. I’ve been in the trenches and I’ve done the work to get to where I am now.”-Robyn Haddow

As a Fantasy User Interface (FUI) motion graphics artist, Robyn Haddow is often the only female artist in the room. “I think I’ve worked with one other female in my field here in Vancouver,” reflects Robyn.

Recently, Robyn was invited to speak on the Women in Motion Graphics panel at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference in Las Vegas. “I didn’t have any female role models when I was starting out, so I know how important it is for women to be visible in this industry. I want young girls interested in this field to know there’s a real career path open to them.”

Motion graphics is growing out of its infancy, and the learning curve is steep, especially for women who might not see themselves represented. It’s not an easy industry to break into it, mostly because it’s so new and changing at a rapid rate. “In order to sustain yourself as a freelancer, you need to be a jack of all trades.”

Robyn’s specialty is FUI screen graphics, so whenever you see an actor interacting with technology on screen – whether it’s a computer, a smart phone or a hologram – she creates those graphics. The demand for her type of work has gone through the roof as the amount of technology on screen continues to increase.

“Five years ago, there might have been five builds needed in a scene – now with things like wearables, the content factor has gone way up. We often see 20 builds in one scene now.”

As a freelancer, she gets to work on all types of projects including the recent Ant Man and the Wasp with West Media. “I’m currently drawn to creating things that don’t yet exist. My favourite way to build is to draw influence from both the organic and mechanic worlds – if you can bridge that successfully, you can breathe life into something inanimate and make it so much more than just a machine.”

Robyn was attracted to the world of motion graphics because she wanted to push the boundaries. She studied graphic design at Vancouver Film School and then opened up her own design studio. After the recession hit, she started freelancing and creating motion graphics for video game trailers. Yet, it wasn’t until she worked on shows like The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow that she started to define her niche. “I was really excited by the people who were pushing the envelope. There’s a huge arena for creativity and exploration in this field right now.”

Robyn hopes her work can help people access information in beautiful and interesting ways. Yet, more importantly, she hopes her work can inspire new people to enter the field. “I want to help create a warm, welcoming and easily accessible community.”

Profile on LaSalle College Vancouver

We had the opportunity to interview LaSalle College Vancouver, learning more about how they originated and how they currently contribute to British Columbia’s creative industries.

What kind of work do you do in the creative industries?

LaSalle College Vancouver (LCV) is a boutique creative career school offering an array of exciting applied arts programs in the fields of Fashion, Game Design & VFX, Audio & Film, Culinary Arts, Interior Design, and Graphic Design. With over 35 different programs to offer and with credentials ranging from bachelor’s degrees to certificates, LCV is the perfect place to let creativity run wild. LCV, accredited by Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB) of the Ministry of Advanced Education of British Columbia, has been crowned one of the top 10 undergraduate schools for video game design by the Princeton Review for the past 7 years, and one of the top 50 fashion schools by Fashionista.com. LCV takes pride in its direct links with the workplace and educational network in Canada and around the world and offers diverse opportunities and support for students to be exposed to industry and build their skills necessary for success.

How did you or your company get started? 

LaSalle College Vancouver (LCV) opened its doors in 1998 as an English as second language school (ESL). In 2002, the school began to focus and expand on design-based programs such in Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising, Artistic Make-up, Interior Design, Jewellery Design, Graphic Design, and 2D/3D Animation as well as on-line training programs in Interior Design, Fashion Marketing, Video Game 3D Modelling, and Administrative Assistant.

On February 1, 2017, LCI Education Network, of which LaSalle College Vancouver (LCV) is a member, acquired The Art Institute of Vancouver an award-winning higher education provider offering an array of exciting applied arts programs in diverse fields such as VFX for Film and Television, Video Game Programming, Digital Film & Video, Game Art & Design, Graphic Design, Interior Design, Fashion, Culinary Arts and just to name a few.

Located in 80,000 square feet building in beautiful Vancouver, LCV delivers programs with credentials ranging from Bachelor Degrees, Diploma’s and Certificates and has been consistently named one of the top 10 undergraduate schools for video game design by the Princeton Review.

What milestones have you achieved or are you focusing on now?

For the last nine years, we have been named the #1 Game Design school in Canada which also takes into account all of our Media Arts programs when creating the ranking.  We work very hard to continue to maintain this ranking.

 

Learn more: 

https://www.princetonreview.com/press/game-design-press-release

https://www.princetonreview.com/college-rankings/game-design/methodology

http://www.lasallecollegevancouver.com/news/princeton-review-2018-ranking

 

An Interview With John Baer for Pixomondo

Vancouver is the centre of the world right now when it comes to VFX. There is so much innovation happening here, and we need to develop our talent so that we can continue to produce a new level of quality. -John Baer

When John Baer was a kid, he remembers watching Jurassic Park in the theatre and being amazed at what was happening on screen.That movie, along with a handful of others, set him on a path to inspire people through motion picture.

Yet, it’s not always as easy as it seems to break into the industry. “I started at the bottom as a production assistant on a soap opera and slowly worked my way up, eventually giving tours of NBC. At some point, I realized that if I wanted to work as a producer, something needed to change.”

John went on to work with some of his industry idols, including Michael Bay, learning what it takes to produce a film from start to finish. Yet, it wasn’t until he worked on the Transformers movie that he had his first real introduction to high-end visual effects. “I learned all about digital effects – we were doing things that hadn’t been done before.”

John was then given the opportunity to marry his production knowledge with his VFX experience by coming to work at Pixomondo. “When I joined, they were on an upward trajectory, growing at a fast rate, and they were looking to expand. All of the research pointed to opening a Vancouver office, so that’s what we did.” While Vancouver has a huge amount of talent, there’s also a lot of competition. Every major production company seems to have an office here, and there is a battle for the most experienced talent. “I’ve personally interviewed 300-400 people in the past year, but it’s not just about talent. You need a group that will get along and work well together.”

Many companies, Pixomondo included, are developing their own internal training programs so that they can train, and retain, their talent. “It helps deliver standardized results with artists of varying experience so that everyone isproducing at the same level. This is definitely an area that we could use more support with, as it costs a lot to set up the right kind of training program.”

In order to distinguish themselves, Pixomondo set out to offer something different. “I think what separates us is that we offer our artists the chance to work in a smaller, more collaborative environment where they get to see the whole picture. They get to talk to the different departments over coffee, and their insight is valued.”

While Pixomondo is best known for creating the dragons in Game of Thrones, and the film Hugo before that, they don’t want that to define them. “The bar has been set by the historical quality of our work. Yet, we also need to be cutting edge. Vancouver is the centre of the world right now when it comes to VFX. There’s a high demand for experienced talent and the demand seems to be growing faster than the supply. There is so much innovation happening here, and we need to develop our talent so that we can continue to produce a new level of quality.”

An Interview With Sharon Taylor for Animal Logic Group

What we need to succeed is to continue to connect with our industry, and other creative industries, in meaningful ways. -Sharon Taylor

 

Sharon Taylor started her career in finance and accounting. Twelve years ago, she answered a newspaper job posting from animation studio, Animal Logic. Today she is Animal Logic’s, Group Chief Operating Officer.

“On the day of my interview at Animal, I knew I was home – it was definitely where I wanted to be. During my years at the company it’s really been incredible to see so many great individuals come together with a collective creative vision, that’s the glue that holds us all together and it’s what resonated with me and what I love about the industry.”

When Sharon started at Animal Logic in Australia, they were working on their first animated feature, Happy Feet. “The company was doing something that had never been done in Australia. We were making Australia’s first CG Animated Feature Film – breaking new ground in technology and pushing our creative boundaries to new heights! The vibe was so inspiring!”

When Animal Logic expanded into Vancouver, Sharon contacted Bob Wong and the team at Creative BC right away. “Their knowledge, support and generosity in helping us understand the ins and outs of opening a studio in BC was incredible. They are the biggest supporters of our industry, and they help us navigate the challenges we face as an industry. We cannot thank them enough for their continued insight and support.”

 

 

Sharon’s first impression of Vancouver? She settled in almost immediately. “The city is beautiful and multicultural, much like Australia. The differences lie in industry. Production studios are fewer and more spread out down under while here in Vancouver it feels like there’s a VFX or Animation studio on every block. Although many of us are competitors everybody comes together, contributing to building a robust industry in British Columbia.”

According to Sharon, the VFX and animation community needs to continue to work with government and industry partners. She believes a collaborative industry approach can solve shared challenges. “There are things we can’t control, like exchange rates and cost of living, but we need to come together as a collective force to tell the story of this industry.”

The story for Animal Logic is currently revolving around the LEGO movies. “For us, The LEGO Movie was the little film that changed everything. Whilst working on The LEGO Movie we saw its AWESOME potential close to the end of production. When it was the blockbuster hit that it was, we were so proud. It was such a ground breaking film for us to make and was the start of an incredible franchise, in Vancouver we are excited to be working on The LEGO Movie Sequel and build on the great success of the LEGO movies.”

For Sharon, staying inspired is key. “Inspiration can come from anywhere, really. The more we can bring different creative industries together – not just over issues as they arise, but to come together as an engaged community – that’s where we can really build this industry up.”

Company Profile: Linetest Collective

Linetest Collective is a fusion of design, craftsmanship and storytelling.

A small team with a big impact, Linetest Collective works to bring together artists and industry professionals to create something truely unique.

Having grown from the early methods of animation Linetest Collective still prides itself on their values and quality of work. They are true storytellers that take time to present to their clients beautifully, handcrafted work.

We had the opportunity to speak with Linetest and learn more about their innovative organization. Read our interview below and be sure to check out the Linetest Collective website to learn even more.

How did your company get started?

Linetest Collective started 8 years ago when a group of animators wanted to collaborate outside of work to create outstanding projects. The motivation behind the collective was to use their creative skills collaboratively and really have ownership of the work produced. We later decided to turn it into a company and keep it going under the same name.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

We’ve proven our quality of work through the acknowledgments of our numerous clients and motion design enthusiasts, plus the prestigious and motivating awards we have received.

What milestones have you achieved or are you focusing on now?

We are always on the lookout for our next exciting project, where we can have the opportunity to showcase our talents. We are also focused on growing a more diversified team to accommodate our business and creative needs, locally and internationally.

Which brands have you worked with?

Since starting in Vancouver in 2010, we’ve collaborated with many global and local brands, such as SAP, Lululemon, and Telus. Please see the following links to some of the work we are really proud of:

HYPER ANTHEM

SAP LUMIRA

CANUCKS AUTISM NETWORK

Follow along with Linetest Collective on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

An Interview with Mike Wozniewski from Hololabs

 

We want the online universe we are creating to become a resource for kids, parents and teachers interested in computational literacy – and we need support to make that happen. -Mike Wozniewski

Mike Wozniewski came from the world of academia, where he was studying virtual environments and game engines in Montreal. Yet, he gravitated toward artists and how they push the boundaries of technology and creativity. “The most satisfying work for me is building technology that helps artists create new art.”

Mike launched Hololabs in 2010, and then moved to Victoria with his wife and three kids. He set out to ensure that every project he worked on – from video games to virtual and augmented reality, to web portals – would help empower people to be more creative. When asked what Hololabs niche focus is, he was quick to respond: “We make wacky, experimental, weird things! Most importantly, we want to empower people to learn and be creative through technology.” Yet, there’s something even bigger motivating him these days. “Two of my kids are young girls, and as they started to engage with technology – mostly through the app store – I was frustrated with what was available to them. Everything was so gendered and stereotypical. And then I met Jordan.”

 

 

Jordan Stratford, who lives on Salt Spring Island, wrote The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, a book series featuring positive female role models in science, technology, engineering and math. Based on young Ava Lovelace, the first computer scientist, and young Mary Shelley, the first science fiction author, the series follows two young girls in the 1820s as they set out to solve mysteries often connected to other female trailblazers.

 

 

Mike is now turning that literary world into an online universe. “Our hope is to create a video game that can play across platforms, as well as a web portal that gives kids the opportunity to engage with the characters on an ongoing basis. They can learn how to become a better detective, they can read about female pioneers, and they can even interact with a mechanical computer. We want this website to become a resource for every school that is teaching computational literacy.”

With the support of Creative BC, Mike is building the online portal, yet he knows that’s only the beginning. Hololabs is self-funded, so they not only have to find development money, but they also need to figure out how to maintain everything once it launches. Mike believes that finding people who will champion his vision is key.

 

 

 

 

 

BLACKBIRD INTERACTIVE

Blackbird Interactive Inc. (BBI) is an independent game development studio dedicated to creating uncompromising, immersive games with a strong narrative and distinctive art style. They were founded in 2007 by a team of former employees from Relic Entertainment and Electronic Arts. In true start-up fashion the company started out in the garage (also known as Studio 0) of CEO Rob Cunningham. In 2010, after outgrowing the garage, BBI moved to its current location (Studio 1), a 9,000-square foot space at 577 Great Northern Way.

In 2016, they released their first game, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak. The critical success of Deserts of Kharak springboarded BBI to a global stage landing several new projects with major publishers. These projects are still unannounced, but stay tuned as the team is extremely excited with the opportunities for growth that they will provide the studio. Additionally, Blackbird is working to develop their own internal projects with the goal of expanding their own IP and game development tools and technology.

Over the course of the last 16 months the studio has doubled in size and will reach over 100 employees by January 2018 which will bring them close to 150 employees by this time next year.

To accommodate this rapid growth they are expanding into a brand new 28,000 square foot space (Studio 3) at 565 Great Northern Way in Q4 of 2018.

While BBI is full of industry veterans with decades of experience it is also extremely important to them that they foster young talent within the creative and technical disciplines. To this end they remain actively involved with local universities, art schools and game design programs and remain on the lookout for exceptional artistic talent.

Visit Blackbird Interactive

 

 

 

Electronic Arts- Vancouver

Electronic Arts Vancouver (EA), is no stranger to the creative industry as they are the largest Video Game Developers in British Columbia. Electronic Arts purchased Distinctive Software, the original developers of both the NHL and FIFA video game franchises, in 1991. Twenty-six years later, Electronic Arts Vancouver is still a pioneer within the Sports Video Game sector.  The Vancouver campus handles all the lead development work for FIFA Online, currently the largest and most widely played sports video game in Asia.

Their campus, located in Burnaby, includes a full-size soccer field, arcade, on-site dry cleaner, guitar lessons and their own doggy daycare, these perks are one of the many ways EA is competing to attract the best talent to Vancouver. EA Vancouver employs approximately 1500 full-time positions, with an additional 500 part-time contractors on any given day. “We’re growing. We’ve probably added 100 to 150 [full-time] people per year,” says Jonathan Lutz, Vice President of Financial Planning & Strategy.

The Video Game Industry is extremely competitive and continues to grow at an exponential rate. This is why Jonathan Lutz is so passionate about career growth and training in the creative technology sector. “We need the best and brightest in the world on our teams in order to compete” urges Lutz. Play to Learn, a youth program developed in partnership with EverFi, is just one of the ways EA Vancouver is developing BC’s local talent. Students in Grade 8 through 12 can learn the basics of coding and are provided with the building blocks to pursue a career in the gaming industry. At the end of the course, students are given career recommendations based on their interests.

Harnessing the energy of BC’s youth and helping them develop their skills and talents to work in the creative technology industry is a major focus of EA Vancouver.  “We’re building the future pipeline of talent to come from BC as much as possible.”

Check out their internships and careers info.

Instagram: www.instagram.com/ea/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/EA

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/electronicartscanada/