Since opening its doors in 2018, teams at DNEG in Montreal have already worked on major movies and TV shows including ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’, the Netflix military heist movie ‘Triple Frontier’ and a Hulu miniseries of ‘Catch 22’, an adaptation of Joseph Heller’s novel set during the Second World War, starring and directed by George Clooney.
The studio is growing rapidly and is set to continue to grow as the company expands its operations in North America, so let’s get to know the Montreal studio’s General Manager, Gavin Graham.
Here is our interview of Gavin Graham:
What is your background?
I started out on the very technical side of things; I did a Computer Science degree in Dublin where I specialized in Graphics, AI and Computer Vision, during my 4th year. After this. I completed a Masters Degree at Bournemouth where I picked up Houdini and fell in love with doing FX work. For my first few years in the industry, I worked as an FX artist, before gradually progressing into CG and FX Supervision. This was followed by a move into management, starting out as co-Head of 3D for London, almost eight years ago, and moving into the role of Global Head of CG as the number of offices we have increased.
What’s your first memory when you started at DNEG?
When I started, we were just 40 people occupying half of the ground floor in our first London HQ in Shaftesbury Avenue. I’ve a lot of very happy memories of the early weekly beer & pizza meetings where the whole company could meet up in the lounge area and hear everything that’s going on. I remember the SGI boxes we all used glowing away in what seemed to me, at the time, a very sci-fi-looking machine room. I also remember the day I was given DNEG’s first artist Linux box, to try and let me push my particle numbers high enough to create some splashes… and the resulting constant crashes.
What are the main challenges and a typical day as General Manager?
There’s no such thing as a typical day – the nature of the role is to support the whole team, and a big focus is on working with Melinka Thompson-Godoy and Corey Smith, our Heads of Production and CG, to ensure the current shows are running smoothly. I’m also supporting (and supported by) all of the other managers from Finance, Resourcing, Tech, Recruitment, Pipeline, Facilities, HR, Training, Immigration, Marketing and Communications and of course connecting with HoDs in the other sites all across DNEG. The biggest challenge so far has been delegating more technical issues to others. Previously, in my other roles, I would have fixed them myself. Now, it’s Corey who gets to have all that fun!
What are your expectations with the Montreal office?
Our goal is to continue to grow steadily across DNEG. In our first year, we’ve taken on 300 artists and support team members in Montreal. My big aim, and probably most exciting, is to establish a culture in the studio that reflects the best of DNEG, but is unique to Montreal. There’s a great vibe here and everybody’s risen to the challenges of delivering our first projects. We want to win awards for DNEG and have lots of fun along the way. We also want to contribute back to the wider company.
How did you get prepared for the cold winter of Montreal?
It really hasn’t been that bad! The cold weather was the one thing that everyone talked about when I mentioned I was moving to Montreal. Despite the snow and ice on the ground, it actually feels nicer than London in many ways because it’s usually quite bright and sunny and you don’t have the constant threat of rain. Plus, you very quickly get used to donning big thick jackets and wearing moon boots, so if it is cold I haven’t been feeling it.