Q&A: Method Studios Executive VP Dan Glass
On Technology, Global Competition, and Staying Artist-Focused
Dan Glass: Day-to-day operations are part of it, but the broader goal is creative oversight stemming from my background. It’s a strategic look to the future in terms of the structure of the company and changes to this business in general.
Part of it is trying to keep the business artist-driven or artist-focused. Clients tend to be interested in creative excellence, which is our core value. But there are places you can go in the world for increasingly lower-cost ways of doing things, and that’s part of what we’re looking to tackle as a global organization. We want to constantly improve the service we offer while keeping sight of the technical and creative quality of the work.
So the “artist focus” is part of your mandate.
I spent 10 years on the production side, so I really understand the pressures that productions face as well as the challenges the studios have on different projects. It’s almost like building a bridge. If we talk the same language, we can offer an approach that’s very collaborative. We’re keen to be involved early enough in the process to maximize the value of any client’s budget.
On the face of it, this is a rebranding. What else is going to be new for clients of the former Method and CIS?
We don’t want to change that too radically. The idea is that each of our existing facilities will operate, to a large extent, the same way they have. Projects that are locale-specific, especially when they’re tied to regional rebates and tax incentives, will still work very closely with their respective facilities. Part of what I said about retaining the eye on quality and artistic drive is about maintining a boutique and personalized feel from those facilities.
On a global scale, the benefit is we can share technological resources that give us the power of a much larger organization than any one of our individual outfits. At the same time we can be very flexible. Increasingly we work with clients who are on multiple locations on a single project or in different locations on different projects. We have the capability to stream work for their viewing ease to any of our locations as well as many associated locations through the Deluxe organization. If a client is living and working in New York, we can show them material there even if the work is being done in Canada to take advantage of a tax incentive there. We’re not looking to change the structure too radically. We want to keep it personalized. The idea is not to centralize everything too heavily.
Will different locations continue to have different specialty areas where they may excel, due to their history?
Each facility is really a product of the talent and the teams that are at those places. They will tend to have certain strengths, or stronger experience in one area or another. It’s another aspect of being global. We can share not just technology but techniques and move people around more. That spreads knowledge so that everyone is growing and learning, even if a particular technique is developed in one area. But yes, certain strengths may be particular in one location. That’s not necessarily an intention. The goal is for each place to operate self-sufficiently, not to drive animation to one location and VFX work to another.
Does part of your purview include looking at what you can do logistically in order to make long-distance collaboration more efficient?
Absolutely. That’s a big part of what we’ve been looking at over the last few months. Even prior to that, Method already had three locations in Los Angeles, New York, and London. So it was a principal focus: how to establish and operate separate facilities that benefit by being connected.
The appointment of [former Weta Digital CTO] Paul Ryan as VP of technology is a key component, in my mind. He’s a very experienced and solid technical hand. We’re at an interesting juncture in the industry, with a lot of new and exciting technological approaches – everything from the distribution of information systems to render distribution. It’s a very good time to investigate, and also to move forward with some plans that are already in place.
Have any decisions been made about staffing levels and layoffs at different locations?
I’m not going to comment on that.
Have the Los Angeles offices [of CIS Hollywood] and Santa Monica offices [of Method] been consolidated?
They have, yes. We are now physically co-located in Santa Monica with an expanded team. It’s been great. Overall, the synergy and comparative philosophies of the CIS and Method teams have worked together very well.
There’s been a lot of angst in the VFX business lately. We’ve seen a lot of well-liked companies go out of business, and a lot of talk about how hard it is to successfully bid for studio projects and also keep the doors open. The feeling seems to be that it’s an exceptionally hard time right now to manage visual effects as a business. Can you share any thoughts on the health of the VFX industry moving forward?
I would say it’s very challenging. There’s no denying that. But it’s not dissimilar to some of the challenges that are faced in other industries. Part of what’s underlying it is an increased push toward globalization and competition in a global market as opposed to a local one. That’s a key part of why we and other companies are tackling it globally. It’s one of the important aspects behind our model and our approach. It’s a global challenge and we feel we need a global presence. But it’s definitely a tough industry, and a very tough market.
Most of us are in this because we’re drawn to the excitement and the challenge. It’s a very interesting industry, and the fusion of creative ideas with the sizable budgets that films are made with these days continues to provide a basis moving forward.