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.”