Two Years Ago

Posted on June 22nd, 2009 in Working in CG, Blogging by Marc Bourbonnais

June 1st, 2007 was my last day as an employee and the first day of this blog, intended to follow my steps in the starting up of a visual effects company. Modus FX will be two years old in a few weeks…

We had a good feeling we could get through the market; we have a strong know-how for client relations, project management and, well, making VFX. The things my associates and I have learned about business administration, management and finances are overwhelming. Quickly identifying your weak spots and taking care of them, one problem at a time with clear, concise and easy solutions is key in entrepreneurship.

I’m not saying we’re on top of the world and our digital effects studio is this well-oiled machine, rendering away while I’m sipping a drink by the beach. We’re pumping a lot of hours; stress is high and our space still in renovations. But at least we have satisfied customers (even repeat business!) and we’re delivering our product.



Short Term and Medium Term Projects

Posted on December 17th, 2007 in Entrepreneurship, The Company, Working in CG by Marc Bourbonnais

We knew that a key aspect of our success was to fill up our production calendar as soon as possible. We decided to set up strategies for short term (end of 2007) and medium term (early 2008) prospects.

Short term pitching (i.e. right now) requires a lot of work. It is fairly easy to present our company to possible clients and partners in the Montreal region and cold calling current projects in production. The process went well and the feedback was great, but it took a lot of our time with numerous daily visits. Autumn is not the best season to get involved in VFX projects and last November has been pretty awful for the CG/VFX community in Montreal.

2008 is looking much better, and we have been following up on a few projects for early next year. For longer productions, the important issue is to build confidence in the course of a few meetings while demonstrating your know-how. Our very large studio space helped us show our potential as well.

Our calendar is definitely shaping up after a rather slow start and a few delays the past few weeks. We’ll finally be more into pixels and less into 2×4, accounting reports and city permits.



After five months

Posted on November 2nd, 2007 in Entrepreneurship, The Company by Marc Bourbonnais

June 1st, five months ago, was my last day as an employee. What’s up with our start-up now? Here are a few key issues that have been on our plate the past few days:

  • Financing

It’s about to wrap up; there is one last detail to close. We have a number of financial partners that need to agree with each other, so timing everything was tricky. The good thing about all the time and energy it took is we’re gaining a lot of respect since we were able to stick to our plan and get it done. Already we are being congratulated for our patience and perseverance.

  • The studio

The architects and engineers are putting the finishing touches to the final floor plan and technical drawings. Our space is so big and totally empty that it needed a bit more time than we planned to set up properly. Instead of waiting for the whole space to be finished, we sealed off about 1,500 sq.ft. to have a decent working area right now, so we can take our time with the major construction.

Also, we are designing our own work desks, the results are quite interesting. More on this later…

  • Prospects

Of course, hunting for potential contracts is our number one priority. We’ve done a first wave of contacts and a few meetings and the overall reception is very good. We are definitely on everyone’s radar in the region. We have completed a few simple productions and we are aiming for bigger workloads.

  • Recruiting

We were slightly worried about finding qualified and available artists and technicians, but we received a huge amount of e-mails and resumes of excellent candidates ready to join us in our start-up. We should be hiring staff on a regular basis soon.

  • Enjoyment

You bet. It’s a wild ride, and we love every minute of it.



Our first employee

Posted on October 11th, 2007 in Entrepreneurship, The Company by Marc Bourbonnais

We already work with a lot of fine freelancers, but I think one of the best aspects of being a business owner is hiring new employees. Modus FX is proud to welcome its first employee, Martin Pelletier.

martin_pelletier.jpgMartin is an experienced 3D texture/lighting artist and matte painter. After getting his diploma in graphic design at Laval University in 2000, he went at Cyclone in Quebec City for a year of professional 3D training. Since then, he has been working non-stop as a modeling, lighting, texture and matte painting artist in renowned effects houses like Hybride and Buzz. He has been a Photoshop Instructor at the University of Montreal since 2003.

On top of his contribution to numerous TV spots, his filmography includes Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Racing Stripes, Sin City, Snakes on a Plane, 300 and the upcoming Imax feature Legends of the Sky.

He is also a member of CGunit.com, a popular website dedicated to CG artists and designers. You can view some of Martin’s work on his CGunit crew page.

Welcome to Modus, Martin!



WE’RE HIRING

Posted on September 17th, 2007 in CG Community, The Company by Marc Bourbonnais

Finally, after securing a fair amount of funds, starting the interior renovations, setting up purchase orders for hardware and tackling on a number of potential contracts, our available jobs board is open. We are lucky to work with remarkable freelancers and we are hoping to also start building an in-house team in October.

Being a start-up, all the classic CG/VFX positions are available. We are setting up a database that we will maintain up-to-date for anyone that will send us their coordinates and resume. We value every application and even if things do not work out right away it is in our interest to keep in touch with a large network of possible employees and freelancers for future work opportunities.

You can check out our available jobs at www.modusfx.com/jobs.html. Hope to hear from you!



Our first grant

Posted on September 6th, 2007 in Entrepreneurship, The Company by Marc Bourbonnais

Yesterday I wrote about a loan from the Ministry  of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, but our first public funding came from something very close to our place of business, the Sainte-Therese CLD (Local Development Center).

In Quebec, CLDs exist to incite economic growth in their region; it was naturally a good place to start looking for help with our project. Early in the summer they awarded us a grant for young entrepreneurs. Our business plan was presented to a selection committee that was eager to have our company founded in Sainte-Therese. It was also with the CLD that we first got in touch with the federal and provincial governments to look into financial programs to help start-ups. That got us to the Ministry of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.

You need to take baby steps and start to convince accessible people that your project is viable, and with their help you’ll work your way to bigger investors and creditors. It’s also easier to check out the local help when you know where you want to setup your place of business.



From the office of the Minister of the Economic Development Agency

Posted on September 5th, 2007 in Entrepreneurship, The Company by Marc Bourbonnais

labourlogo.jpg

Note: Oops, the loan comes from the Department of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. Honest mistake, it’s the same Minister… My apologies to Canada Economic Development.

We just received confirmation of financial support from the federal Minister of Labour of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec for our start-up. The Minister himself called me last Saturday with the news as I was frantically working on our first contract, alone in our offices. Needless to say I was caught a little bit off-guard. I hope I remembered to say ‘Thank you’.

Even if this contribution is a loan and not a grant, it is a huge step, as it adds a lot of credibility to our venture. Complete trust from our creditors is essential during our first months; this news comes at a perfect time.



Promoting

Posted on August 27th, 2007 in Entrepreneurship, The Company by Marc Bourbonnais

A reader who recently started his own animation studio sent me a few interesting questions about the different promotional strategies:

  • What are your thoughts on agents/reps? Most people claim they don’t help, but most of the successful studios have them.

I think they can help but since we are at an early business stage, we are keeping expenses very low. Just using our own contacts and networks is keeping us busy at the moment. We already have a few prospects on our plate for the coming weeks. They are not real contracts yet, but we are working on it…

  • What mix of direct mail, advertising, cold phone calling do you have planned?

If by advertising you mean placing ads in Cinefex, again the cost issue is holding us back. It might be a fine idea for established companies, but I have doubts for start-ups. There are other ways to promote your studio. You can join one of the many film or FX studio associations, especially if there is one in your region; with their help you can gain some extra exposure and new contacts.

As for direct mail and cold phone calling, yes we are doing a lot of that for the first few weeks. You will not get immediate results but it does not cost a dime and you can at least get your name into new places.

  • What types of networking events and strategies are you considering to meet new potential clients?

Every event of any kind! Getting to new clients is the hardest part. We’ve already met new interesting people just by going through our list of contacts, so that’s a start. Even outside professionals such as accountants and lawyers can have connections in your industry. As I’ve mentioned before, talk about your biz to all your friends and their friends as well.



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