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In Good Company: Making magic happen

Meet four alumni behind Moment Factory’s innovative multimedia experiences
April 30, 2024
By Louise Morgan, GrDip 99

The Jacques Cartier Bridge lit up at night with a dynamic light installation. Moment Factory produced the data-responsive light installation for Montreal’s Jacques Cartier Bridge in 2017. | Photo: Moment Factory

In a world of deepening divisions, increasing anxiety and social isolation, fostering connections between people is more important than ever — and Moment Factory makes it its mission to create those connections.

The multimedia entertainment studio employs immersive technology — including video, lighting, architecture, sound and special effects — to create magical experiences that evoke wonder.

Since its inception in 2001, the Montreal-based company behind the interactive illumination of the city’s iconic Jacques Cartier Bridge has created more than 550 unique projects worldwide, ranging from the Lumina Night Walk series to Super Bowl halftime shows and stadium world tours for artists like Madonna and Ed Sheeran. In 2023, Moment Factory was named one of the most innovative live-event companies by Fast Company magazine.

At its headquarters in the city’s Mile End neighbourhood, employees bring their dogs to work regularly and hop on company skateboards to zip to meetings. With locations in Paris, Tokyo, New York City and Singapore, Moment Factory counts 450 employees working in more than 80 professions, including architects, technical designers and creative directors.

Close to 30 Concordia alumni are among the company’s workforce. Learn about four who are helping to set the stage for success.

Portrait of Pamela Schneider with curly hair standing in an office environment.

Pamela Schneider, BFA 03
Creative and multimedia director

After meeting Moment Factory’s founders at a dress rehearsal for a dance show in 2001, Pamela Schneider began veejaying, jamming, brainstorming and building special events with them. What started off as a casual and full-time hobby soon turned into being hired as Moment Factory’s first employee.

At the time, Schneider was a dancer and a student at Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts. “My purpose in choosing interdisciplinary studies was to find ways to merge movement, video and sound to create one new medium of art,” says the alumna, who is now one of Moment Factory’s creative and multimedia directors.

“Before any of us even knew what we were as a company, the partners and I were always talking about this idea of sparking human connection by harnessing technology to create these magical destinations,” she says, “yet hiding the technology so people would get lost in the magic and the illusion. Those communal experiences would create the bridge to have people interact in the real world — inspiring our slogan ‘We do it in public.’”

Blue lights and lasers surround the ceiling of Les Invalides in Paris Aura, Moment Factory's immersive experience at Montreal's Notre-Dame Basilica, inspired a similar Aura experience at Les Invalides in Paris (pictured).

Over the years that followed, Schneider pushed the creative boundaries on more than 300 projects, including Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl halftime show and Arcade Fire’s 2011 performance at Coachella. She also created the interactive video and technology for Nine Inch Nails’ 2008 World Tour, recognized as one of the most innovative performances of all time and credited for pushing the industry forward.

Schneider additionally wrote and directed the projection-mapping show Mosaika, which ran on Canada’s Parliament Buildings in Ottawa from 2010 to 2015 and drew an estimated 1.25 million viewers.

“We told the story of our land, achievements and values by travelling across the country interviewing Canadians of all ethnicities and ages, including a few elders from different nations across the country — and they were the voices who narrated our story,” she says.

“On opening night, the 90-year-old Algonquin elder came to me after the show with tears in his eyes and said, ‘I never imagined in my lifetime seeing such a beautiful portrayal of our story here on Algonquin land,’” she says. “It was an amazing experience.” 

A man smiling in a casual office setting with indoor plants.

Jonathan Chammas, BA 16
Lead, senior video director and editor

“It was very surreal to hear Jimmy Fallon announcing something I worked on,” says Jonathan Chammas, lead, senior video director and editor at Moment Factory.

“During the COVID-19 lockdown, I was cast on an editing project for a musical artist — although I didn’t know who it was initially,” he adds. It turned out to be the 2021 premiere television performance of Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single — and number-one hit — “Drivers License” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Chammas completed the editing from his condo in Montreal, with the project’s creative director guiding his vision of the scenography and set design to create the dramatic colour-changing lasers that surrounded Rodrigo playing the piano.

“It was stressful knowing it would be on television, but I was very excited and motivated to deliver the best product possible,” he says.

Female performing at a piano surrounded by dramatic stage lighting. Jonathan Chammas worked on the scenography for a 2021 performance by Olivia Rodrigo on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. | Photo: Moment Factory

As part of the communications department, Chammas and his team oversee the production of all video documentation for Moment Factory’s portfolio, with an aim to authentically convey each project through visual storytelling. This includes on-site videography, editing and overall direction of the video productions. Chammas also leads the creation of marketing videos for ticketed experiences such as AURA at Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica and at Les Invalides in Paris, and the Lumina Night Walk series, which now counts more than 20 locations around the globe.

“It’s a blessing to work here because of the creative freedom and especially our community of creatives, who are hardworking, wild and passionate about what they do.”

Chammas also travels to film experiences on location, which has taken him to Paris, Singapore, Los Angeles and Whistler, B.C., among other destinations. Next on the itinerary: Brazil.

While a student in Concordia’s Communication Studies program, Chammas played rugby for the Stingers, and was part of the 2014 championship team. “That taught me to push boundaries both on and off the field and helped me develop a mindset of positivity and working hard to reach a common goal,” he says of the skills that have served him well. 

a woman in a casual black shirt smiling in a bright office with plants.

Bianka Monette, BComm 92, GrDip 95
Chief financial officer

When it comes to what keeps Bianka Monette motivated on the job, the answer is easy, says Moment Factory’s CFO.

“Every day is different — the employees are passionate and the projects we deliver are inspiring,” she notes. “The company is growing rapidly and we are expanding worldwide and creating new types of projects. My job is always exposing me to new things!”

Fresh out of school, Monette joined an audit firm, working with clients across diverse industries. Since then, she held leadership and executive roles in hightech, television, mining and renewable energy before joining Moment Factory.

“When I came for an interview and met the people and felt the culture, I knew I wanted to work here. As an added touch, I saw the dogs and the skateboards,” says Monette, an animal lover who also volunteers as treasurer for the Montreal SPCA.

“I am always proud of the work we accomplish, but it’s the people that make all the difference. They are just so exceptionally talented, creative and passionate.”

Reflecting on her career, Monette says the biggest obstacle has been the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Most of us at Moment Factory come to the office every day. We value our collaboration and the time we spend together — and when COVID hit, everybody went home. The pandemic forced us to adapt and review our processes. Even though we turned over every rock, cut every possible expense and reduced management salaries, we still had to let go of 10 per cent of our workforce,” she says. “We had never done that before and it was very difficult, both personally and professionally.”

Many projects stopped overnight. Yet thanks to diversification, says Monette, long-term projects such as installations in airports and train stations enabled the company to keep going.

Monette credits Concordia for kicking off her career success. “The Faculty of Commerce [now John Molson School of Business] was reputed to be the best school for accounting — more advanced and higher quality,” she says. “Even now, I maintain strong friendships with good friends I met at Concordia, and my time there remains a source of cherished memories.”

A man in a light grey shirt, smiling confidently in a creative workspace

Luis Aretuo, BFA 16
Motion designer

Luis Aretuo developed an interest in motion design as a teenager, “yet there were no formal education programs around,” he says.

He studied print-based graphic design at the Alberta University of the Arts in Calgary, while teaching himself motion graphics on the side — figuring out the software, looking at what studios were doing and how the craft was evolving. He eventually moved to Montreal to switch into Concordia’s Design and Computation Arts program and hasn’t looked back.

“My classes at Concordia provided a whole different lens on the practice of what I thought was so narrow and straightforward. My professors brought a new layer of theory and ethical questions into my conception of design.”

After graduating, Aretuo worked as a video editor, then landed a job as a junior motion designer at I/O Studio, a Montreal production agency. Four years ago, he joined Moment Factory, where he now creates 2D and 3D animations.

"As an artist, most of my day is spent in production, but with so many creative people, we also have a lot of laughs and good times.”

An illuminated sculptural installation on a misty body of water at night. Through immersive experiences, Moment Factory's Anisipi tells the stories of the Anicinape communities and their history, and how they relate to water. | Photo: Moment Factory

Aretuo’s credits include Alta Lumina, an immersive night walk in the Alps, Nightrise in Banff and the multimedia corridor at Tokyo’s Shinjuku train station. Among his most memorable projects is Anisipi. Located around the town of Amos in northwestern Quebec, it uses immersive experiences to tell stories of the Anicinape communities, their history and how they relate to water.

One of those experiences was set on a lake, where a sculpture evoking waves was illuminated in “a ballet of lights.” Aretuo recalls the night they completed the last revision before presenting to the client a few hours later.

“It was 5 a.m. and we were all exhausted. There was mist rising from the water, creating a kind of natural smoke throughout the extraordinary 10-minute experience. The combination of everything — music, lighting, lasers pointing at the sculpture — was magical.

“Everything just worked out — which I would say is a very Moment Factory thing.” 

In Good Company is a series on inspiring grads who work for corporations, nonprofits or industries that employ a large number of Concordia alumni.

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