alter ego is a Toronto based post production company that’s just turned 10 years young. Launched as a four-suite boutique, the company has grown to house over 50 fulltime staff across Colour, VFX, CG, Design and most recently, Production. It was founded by Eric Whipp, Wade Odlum (both colourists from Australia), Greg Edgar (a former editor) and Alex Eaton (a former editor and serial entrepreneur) with the aim of bringing a new style and way of colour grading – the alter ego team were the first in Canada to use non-linear grading technology. These days they find themselves working on the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road and most recently 19 spots they worked on received recognition in the 2017 Applied Arts Awards. LBB’s Addison Capper caught up with the team to find out more.
LBB> You’ve just turned 10! How has the company evolved over those ten years?
Alter Ego started out as a two colour suite and two Flame suite boutique. Over the years we have grown to include five Baselight colour suites, five Flame suites, a full CG and design group and now we have a full production team.
LBB> What makes alter ego unique?
alter ego is a team of forward thinkers who have developed a fully integrated work-flow based on the latest technology. We have seamless integration of colour, VFX and production under one roof with the ability to deliver the highest quality images. This allows are artists to fulfil their passion for creativity and collaboration.
LBB> Would you say you have a specialism?
Our speciality is our ability to problem solve.
LBB> How has the evolution of technology and mediums like VR impacted the way you work?
We tie technology closely to our creative approach keeping in mind that technology is only as good as the people using it. We see technology as simply tools, and whatever the tools, our aim is always for our artists to bring their vision forward.
LBB> You did the grade on Mad Max - what memories do you have of that project?
Mad Max was a terrific project. Eric poured his heart and soul into the look development of it. It took about 15 months, off and on, to complete. Many colourists here touched that project. It truly was a team effort with Eric as the lead all the way. He worked extremely close with George Miller putting the final finishing touches on the colour. Eric was the first colourist to be credited on a title card in a film and had a rolling credit at the Oscars – so that was a huge achievement for not only Eric, but our company.
LBB> Which other movie projects are you particularly proud of and why?
We have worked on many film projects. Some of our favourites are small independent films that went on to garner great success. Senior Colourist Conor Fisher has worked with some of the best Canadian filmmakers on some pretty special projects. Some that we are especially proud of are: Operation Avalanche, The Dirties, Sundowners and Diamond Tongues.
LBB> Let's talk ads. Which commercial projects are you most proud of and why?
Cycle Canada we are especially fond of. Director Mark Zibert chose to collaborate with us on a massive project that helped cement the reputation of our VFX department.
Recently we finished a beer spot for Moosehead. We were heavily involved in the creative development and produced, directed and did all animation, colour and VFX for the spot. It helped legitimize us as a true production partner.
Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) was also a fantastic project that allowed our VFX and colour team to create a beautiful winter environment. It was a lauded project that we are very proud of.
Toronto Raptors 'We The North' is another spot that we are incredibly proud of. It came at a really galvanising point in the sport history of the city. Everyone was rallying behind the team as they made the playoffs and as such the spot was so well received and awarded accordingly.
LBB> I loved the video you made to commemorate the 10th birthday - what was the inspiration behind it? Did you produce it yourselves?
The 10 year video is our favourite to date. The inspiration was to create a fun video to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. It was written and co-directed by Eric Whipp and David Whiteson. They wanted to create a story piece that was fun, colourful and incorporated dance and dialogue. We wanted to highlight that we can direct talent and do visually stunning VFX. That we can do it all. We produced the whole job ourselves. From cinematography, script supervision, production design, lighting and more. We hired union talent, which I think is reflected in the wonderful performances.
LBB> With that in mind - with brands and agencies increasingly taking production in house, and some production companies now looking to offer creative services themselves, would alter ego consider taking more production and creative services in house?
We are not only considering taking more production but are doing it. We believe in making beautiful content and strive to do so on every project. That is why we have built such an impressive creative team. Yes, people are taking more and more work in house, but there are still many out there who know the value of great work and seek the right people to produce it. Those are the clients we strive to work with. As our industry changes, we are trying to stay one step ahead.
LBB> Is there anyone within the company that you'd identify as 'one to watch' and why?
On the colour team Clinton Homuth is killing it. He’s a dynamic personality with the skills to navigate an industry that is constantly changing. His client list is continually growing because his passion for his work is relentless. Another ‘one’ to watch is our VFX team. Their talent, passion, technical skill and creativity put them in a league of their own. They continually amaze me, from something as simple as floating coffee beans to incredibly intricate environmental destruction.
LBB> What do you look for when hiring new talent at alter ego?
For us, the single most important attribute we look for is their personality. Are they nice? Will they fit in with our culture? Closely followed by kick ass talent. We believe in growing new talent as well. We like to think that alter ego is place to learn and grow a career for young ambitious creatives.
LBB> What are your plans and ambitions for the coming year?
In the coming year, we want to continue our push for excellent reel-worthy work. We want to expand our creative offerings so our clients can come to us and leave with something better than they imagined. We also want to have a lot of fun doing it.