The move is projected to happen in April 2015. According to a report filed by the Hollywood Reporter, while it is yet to be determined how many of Imageworks’ Culver City based staff would relocate to Canada, key personnel will remain in California, including four time Academy Award winner Ken Ralston, Imageworks CTO Rob Bredlow, and VFX supervisors Daniel Kramer, Jerome Chen, Scott Stokdyk, Jay Redd and Pete Travers. In addition, the 125 person development team for Sony Pictures Animation will remain in Culver City, and all animation will be shifted to Vancouver.
Sony initially established its Vancouver studio in 2010 to take advantage of Canada’s generous tax incentives and has been steadily adding personnel ever since. At its peak during the production of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the Vancouver facility had a staff of 350. Sony closed down its Imageworks studio in India as soon as they completed their work on The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
The new Vancouver facility will support up to 700 artists. The Canadian operation has already done work on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for Columbia and on the new Tom Cruise action movie Edge of Tomorrow for Warner Bros. Some of the upcoming releases currently in the works at the Vancouver operation include this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy for Disney, Pixels for Columbia to be released spring 2015, Sony Pictures Animation's Hotel Transylvania 2 for fall 2015 and The Amazing Spider-Man 3, scheduled for a June 2016 release.
Imageworks joins VFX houses Industrial Light and Magic, Digital Domain and others in building studios in Vancouver to take advantage of both the attractive tax incentives and the growing talent pool of top quality VFX artists in the region. Meanwhile, local VFX artists continue to protest the growing migration of jobs outside of the Los Angeles area.
The recent passage of the California Film and Television Job Retention and Promotion Act of 2014 by the California state legislature promises to expand incentives to keep more production and post-production in the state. But for studios like Sony, it all comes down to the bottom line. As long as the work can be done locally at competitive rates, “There won’t be any hesitation on our part to continue to work in California (as well as Vancouver)," said Randy Lake, executive VP and general manager of Sony's digital production services unit in the Hollywood Reporter article.