"The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run" "The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run"

Montreal – Canada’s second largest city by population – is emerging as the powerhouse of the country’s animation, vfx, and video game production. Half the sector is now based in the Montreal region.

The city needs talent to sustain these booming industries, and it wants Americans above all. Companies have teamed up with Montréal International, the local economic development agency, to launch a recruitment drive under the banner of Journées Québec Gaming & VFX.

Jobs are being advertised as part of the initiative, including mid- to senior-level roles for programmers, artists, directors, quality assurance (QA), user experience and user interface (UX/UI), game design, animation, sound composition, and more. Studios currently recruiting include WB Games Montréal, Cinesite, Framestore, Motive Studios (EA), Eidos Montréal, and Square Enix Montréal.

Openings can be found on the Talent Montréal portal, which has 58 postings across animation and vfx, and 120 in gaming, at the time of writing. Applications are open until November 12, and candidates will be selected for virtual interviews in the week of November 15–21.

Montreal’s sector is growing fast. According to recent Montréal International figures, the turnover from vfx and production services grew from CAD$327 million (USD$260M) in 2014 to CAD$982M in 2019. There are now 6,250 animation and vfx workers and 35 studios in the city, as well as around 15,000 workers “with video game skills.”

That workforce is already pretty international: around 40% of those working in the city’s vfx industry are on a “temporary foreign worker” permit. Why are Americans needed in particular?

“We go where the talent is,” Montreal International president and CEO Stéphane Paquet tells Cartoon Brew, noting that Montreal has previously launched international recruitment drives with a broader focus. He adds, “We see some projects in Montreal right now that could be quite attractive [to Americans]. That’s one thing.”

Several high-profile animated features have been produced in the city in recent years, including The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run (Mikros Animation), Scoob! (Reel FX), and Playmobil: The Movie (On Animation). The same goes for vfx: Montreal studios worked on 1917, Blade Runner 2049, Captain Marvel, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Arrival, and Game of Thrones, to name only a few.

Paquet continues, “Second thing: we also know that many cities that are very active in gaming or the vfx sector in the U.S. have costs of living that are skyrocketing … You could obviously find a nice flat in Montreal for half the price of what you can find in some of these cities.” The city’s relative cheapness is key to its pitch to workers, just as its fiscal incentives are crucial to attracting employers.

While Americans may be drawn in by city’s affordability, some could be put off by the dominance of the French language — which the Quebec government is seeking to enhance with a new language bill.

While acknowledging that each employer will have its own language requirements, Paquet says that, from his experience, he believes those on “temporary foreign worker” permits who speak only English should have no trouble finding a job. He adds that these workers can choose whether to put their children in French- or English-speaking schools.

Americans who want to settle down in Montreal and become permanent residents must pass a French-language proficiency test. Montréal International notes that there are programs in place to assist people who want to learn French, either through their workplaces or free French lessons offered by the Québec government.

“It’s true, the city is officially a Francophone city,” Paquet says. “This being said, you have more than half the population in the Greater Montreal area who are bilingual. For foreign workers who arrive here, I encourage them to take French lessons … but I think we’re more of an international city, because of all those languages that we speak and our openness to the world.”

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Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Associate Editor of Cartoon Brew.

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