We are proud to share with you this interview with some very nice people at Prime Focus : Mark Rundle, Marketing Communications Executive — Tim Keene, Head of VFX Production — Matthew Bristowe, Managing Director and Stereo Conversion. On this interview, we tried to focus on two latest projects Prime Focus was involved : Dredd 3D and Frankenweenie.
Let’s begin with the story of the Prime Focus. How, when, where and who?
It all began with a single editing machine and four like-minded friends. As a third generation filmmaker (his grandfather was one of India’s most talented directors of photography, his father a successful film producer), Namit Malhotra was always going to end up in the industry. In 1995 he founded Video Workshop, providing post-production services to the Indian television industry. In its first two years of trading the company was turning over USD 150,000, was working on over 20 weekly TV shows – and had been rechristened Prime Focus.
Since then, Prime Focus’ journey has been defined by a series of firsts in the Indian post-production market, including India’s first high-end finishing system in 1997, the first film scanning and recording system in 2001, the first Spirit Datacine in 2003 and the first Motion Control rig in 2004. A visual effects department soon followed, and Prime Focus began offering advanced computer-generated visual effects to the industry.
By this point, Namit’s drive and ambition to make Prime Focus the very best in every area of its business was clear – as was his vision to facilitate the continued growth of the company. In 2006, Prime Focus went public, floating on the Bombay and National stock exchanges in India, and raising USD 23 million from the capital market, allowing the company to action its strategy to become a global enterprise.
Namit’s first port of call was the UK, and a controlling interest in VTR plc. Three other UK companies were acquired and consolidated, and now, operating under the banner of Prime Focus London plc, the company is listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange, and is one of the largest visual entertainment services companies in the competitive UK market.
Not content with running a highly successful European operation, 2007 saw Prime Focus expand its reach into North America and the highly lucrative Hollywood film market, with the purchase of Post Logic Studios and Frantic Films VFX. These acquisitions allowed Prime Focus to offer cutting edge services and technology to the North American market, with a bi-coastal presence in Hollywood and New York, and an advanced film visual effects facility leveraging the Canadian tax incentives available to filmmakers in Vancouver.
Today, Prime Focus operates three main divisions: Prime Focus World provides visual effects, stereo conversion and animation services to major studios and filmmakers around the world; Prime Focus Group offers creative services and post production for broadcast, commercials and film, including Bollywood; and Prime Focus Technologies provides a global digital content services platform called CLEAR™ to organisations that deal with content and are keen to exploit it across platforms.
Where are you based? In how many countries, did you set up your company?
Prime Focus has 19 facilities across three continents and four timezones, including the major media hubs of Los Angeles, Vancouver, New York, London and Mumbai.
How many people work currently in Prime Focus?
We have more than 4,500 artists, production and support staff at our facilities in London, India and North America.
Do you often call for freelancers?
Occassionally, but most of our staff are contracted.
There‘re so much VFX Studio all around the world. Why your clients come to you? What advantages could you have over others companies?
Any operation is only as good as its people, and among the Prime Focus creative staff and management are some of the industry’s most experienced and talented professionals. Also, our ‘WorldSourcing’ business model enables our global teams of artists and technicians to share their expertise across projects and locations. Our company has no borders, time zones or limits on capacity. Our facilities are seamlessly integrated via our ‘Global Digital Pipeline’, allowing greater production efficiencies and talent access. And through utilization of varied local tax benefits and cost advantages, we can deliver greater value while simultaneously providing clients access to our award-winning and experienced VFX and 3D supervisors from around the globe.
Do you think there’s a slump in the VFX industry? How do you face it?
[Tim Keene: Head of VFX Production, London] I don’t think there’s a slump as such. VFX is being relied upon more and more and the big box office hits are almost uniquely VFX and Animation driven features. It’s more the fact of changing markets. For the last decade London has grown its talent, largely helped but not limited to, the Harry Potter franchise and the UK tax incentive. As nothing to date has fully replaced Potter, we find ourselves in a quieter time than we’re used to in London. This coupled with tough economic times and other countries competing with greater tax incentives add to the feeling of a slump. However, elsewhere in the world (eg Vancouver), they are busier then ever. Prime Focus has the advantage of being in multiple territories, so we can take advantage of market changes. We also strive to work with and offer financing solutions that, while competitive to the studios, do not devalue VFX within our collective community.