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Concordia grads steer visual effects firm beloved by Hollywood

Rodeo FX’s credits include Blade Runner 2049, Stranger Things Season 3 and The Aeronauts
March 9, 2020
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By Daniel Bartlett, BA 08

A before and after shot of a scene from Blade Runner 2049 Rodeo FX contributed to Blade Runner 2049, starring Ryan Gosling.

Ever wonder how they created those epic battles on Game of Thrones? Or who’s responsible for bringing the terrifying clown from Stephen King’s It Chapter Two to the big screen? Look no further than the creative minds at Rodeo FX.

Over the past five years, the Montreal-based visual effects company has been involved in more than 80 major feature film and television projects. The studio has some notable ties to Concordia.

Of the many employees who work out of its Cité du Multimédia office (the company also operates in Quebec City, Munich and Los Angeles), several are graduates, including key members of Rodeo FX’s creative, production and management teams.

The mentor

Mélanie La Rue, GrDip 97

Mélanie La Rue, GrDip 97, has worked in film, television and commercials. She has spent many days on set and in post-production, both in Montreal and California. Now La Rue happily serves as a mentor to others in her role as a visual effects producer at Rodeo FX.

“I’ve been lucky to have really great mentors throughout my career,” she says. “It’s important to encourage the next generation that’s coming in and to be open to what they have to bring.”

La Rue’s professional journey started while she was a student in Communication Studies at Concordia. She recalls doing internships with CFCF, CTV — and the Canadian Armed Forces. “It was training for journalists in war zones,” La Rue says of her military stint. “One [exercise] focused on how to negotiate if you’re going through a roadblock.”

What La Rue valued most about her time at Concordia was the small group of students in her program. She still maintains relationships with some of her classmates to this day: “We all had different expectations and paths, but it was a really good mix of students with a wide range of experiences. We complemented each other well on the projects that we produced together.”

The finance guru

Suzanne Bertrand, GrDip 98

Before Suzanne Bertrand, GrDip 98, became the chief financial officer of Rodeo FX in 2017, her career took a few unexpected turns. She says two things prompted her to leave the accounting industry: a desire to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses and a fascination with arts and entertainment.

“I wanted to join a company I’m passionate about and I loved what the artists do here. I thought I could bring my expertise and help them grow,” she recalls.

As CFO of Rodeo FX, part of Bertrand’s job is to be sensitive to the company’s innovative elements and not to stifle the creative process. “I also bring support and training to help teams understand the impact of their decisions,” she explains.

Bertrand enrolled in accountancy at Concordia because she heard it was the best program to prepare for the Common Final Examination. Accounting students in Canada must complete the exam to gain a Chartered Professional Accountant designation.

“Concordia challenged us to think about solutions,” Bertrand says. “It was about putting yourself in the position of the entrepreneur and finding the solution that’s going to be practical to them.”

The conductor

Mikaël Damant-Sirois, BFA 05

Mikaël Damant-Sirois, BFA 05, has many credits to his name, including high-profile productions like Game of Thrones and The Legend of Tarzan. But it’s his first one in a little-known Norwegian movie, Free Jimmy, that holds a special place in his heart.

“My mom called me to say, ‘I saw your name in the credits at the end,’” Sirois recalls. “There’s a limited number of people they can put at the end of a film. Once your name is in the credits, it’s really exciting.”

As the head of computer graphics at Rodeo FX, Damant-Sirois manages more than 150 artists and likens his work to that of a conductor overseeing an orchestra. “My everyday is finding the best ways to do our work. I’ll consult with my specialists in animation and sculpture,” Damant-Sirois says. “What is the best technology for them to use? How are we improving the quality?”

At Concordia, Damant- Sirois appreciated how the university helped him become an autonomous learner: “Concordia showed me that you need to find information for yourself, that you need to always be curious.”

The executive producer

Marjolaine Tremblay, Attd 94

George Lucas’s Star Wars launched one of the most successful film franchises in history in 1977. For Marjolaine Tremblay, Attd 94, the movie had an influence on her future career.

“I saw Star Wars when I was five years old and I knew I wanted to be a part of that world,” she recalls. Now an executive producer at Rodeo FX, Tremblay’s career got its start while she was studying film animation at Concordia.

On the advice of a colleague, she registered for a 3D animation course to learn how to use computers in lieu of stop-motion animation. “Studying traditional animation and knowing computer graphics was a big deal in those days,” Tremblay says.

Before she could finish her degree, Industrial Light & Magic, the visual effects company founded by Lucas, hired Tremblay as a junior animator. She moved to California and began work on her first film, Jumanji.

Today, Tremblay’s business development responsibilities include breaking down scripts, pitching creative methodologies and creating budget schedules.

She has fond memories of her time at Concordia, where she was an active member of Concordia University Television and founder of Animate Concordia. “University was a very inspiring time in my life — it was fabulous.”



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