Inside Moment Factory: The Montreal Studio That’s Changing the World

Moment Factory is a studio at the height of its powers.

Based in Montreal, but with international branches spreading across the Northern Hemisphere, the award-winning multimedia and entertainment studio creates, well, moments: visceral, visual experiences that aim to reassess the way you interact, physically and mentally within a given environment. While this may seem like a lofty goal, Moment Factory has been operating with this mandate for over 15 years. Their tagline? “We do it in public.”

Tapped by the likes of Madonna, Nine Inch Nails, Muse, JAY-Z, Cirque de Soleil, and Jean Paul Gauthier to produce their live performances and experiences, the studio has over 400 shows under their belt—a testament not only to the company’s creative drive, but their inexhaustible productivity. Founded in 2001 by Sakchin Bessette and Dominic Audet, the company has grown at an exponential rate—expanding from 15 to over 250 full-time employees, all the while staying rooted in Montreal soil.Moment Factory is continuously adding to their roster of creative and technical masterminds. Priding itself on hiring talent that are both “serious, but crazy,” this call attracts people from all walks of life but who possess the same, inherent drive: to transform daydreams into palpable experiences. This year, the studio played an integral role in turning Montreal into a city ripe with celebration for the city’s 375th anniversary, as well as the country’s 150th by transforming the Jacques-Cartier bridge into “an urban data-responsive light installation engineered to reflect the digital pulse of the city.” It’s big, it’s bold, it’s illuminative; much like the studio itself. 

We caught up with Sakchin Bessette (a.k.a. Saky) to discuss the company, their vision, and their next moves.

Montreal, L.A, London, Paris, Tokyo, and New York City. Where to next?

We opened our offices in these cities because we were receiving a lot of interest from the regions they serve. If we’re looking at where to next…I would say probably a lot more exciting projects around Japan and Asia. By having talent or people on the ground we create new friends, and we have a better pulse of what’s happening in the world.

Half of Moment Factory employees hail from outside Quebec. What does your recruiting process look like? Do you favour Quebecois talent over those from other places?

We try to hire local talent as much as possible. I’m not sure if we favour Montreal talent per se, but we’d much rather hire local talent than external talent. One of our biggest issues is finding great talent. It’s something that we spend a lot of time on, casting, and selecting, and getting the right mix of people. The disadvantage of hiring people from around the world is the cost and the work permits and the paperwork that comes with it, but the advantage is having a multidisciplinary and multicultural group of people. We currently have talent from France, England, Mexico, Brasil, Germany, Italy and the USA.You give your creative team the brief to: “Think, Play, Test, and Do.” Do you ever have to place constraints on this mandate in order to keep your vision going in one streamlined direction?

Basically, it’s about a creative process. It’s about lining up the right talent, finding the right cast of people for the right projects, and having clear objectives. Often our clients, or our partners, come to us and they don’t really know what they want. So we need to define the objectives or the criteria that will be benchmarking the success of the project or else it’s too much of a blank slate. It’s really hard to say “this is a good idea” or “this is not a good idea” because a good idea in one project could be amazing and the same idea in another project could not fit at all, for many different reasons.

Because we’re dealing with people mostly moving around in real physical spaces or people experiencing things physically, there are a lot of different parameters. The context is super important, so in order to make sure that we have the right creative solutions for these projects, we need to take a lot of different parameters into consideration. And finding solutions comes from [having] the right mix of people and the proper alignment of priorities. You kind of follow that feeling of [intuition] that feels like everything is lining up properly. It’s something that’s quite hard to explain or gauge, but I guess having the right mix of people helps.What projects are you most proud of, and why?
I’m proud of the studio. I’m proud of the people here—I’m happy to see all these great people grow and do these amazing projects that we could never do by ourselves. One individual could not do all these things by themselves. Now, because we have all these multidisciplinary talents here, it’s really satisfying to see these people collaborate, and grow personally and professionally and inspire each other and learn from each other and create these innovative and satisfying projects.Do you have any regrets about past projects or concerns for future ones?

No regrets, but a lot of concerns. Well, actually it depends on what “concern” means. There are always concerns about doing great work and doing as much as we can, the best that we can, stuff that fits for the audiences that we’re talking to. [Something] that’s relevant for people, and that touches people, and I guess ‘relevance’ for people is quite important.

You must be flooded with project requests. How do you pick and choose who to work with and when?

We choose the projects mostly by the creative challenges they present. If we feel the project has interesting creative challenges and exciting opportunities, then, for the most part, we will be interested. We like our clients or our partners to be dreamers so that we can actually explore new territories with them. I guess, for the project’s selection to be successful, it also has to be in the right context.What (non-confidential) projects are you working on now? When do you anticipate their release?

Well, most of the 40 to 50 projects we deliver each year are outside Canada–but with Montreal’s 375th and Canada’s 150th anniversaries we’ve been privileged to have an unusual number of inspiring projects here at home: like the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, AURA, and Kontinuum—a really cool immersive interactive takeover of the new Ottawa subway tunnel under downtown. I think a lot of people are excited about our latest multimedia night walk project, Tonga Lumina, in Mont Tremblant, that’s about to open.  Stay tuned for a cool collaboration with the Banff Centre a little later this fall, in two special places, Canada’s oldest National Park, and its newest one.

Looking abroad, look for some news coming from Asia with upcoming theme park and airport projects launching there, and we are really looking forward to opening the U Arena: 40,000+ seat stadium in Paris’/Nanterres’ La Defence business district. Some of the things we are doing in this arena are going to be real game changers.

What is your advice to up and coming creators – from across all spectrums – who are looking to break into an industry like yours?

For me, it’s hard work, authenticity, and following your intuition. I really believe that people need to follow their intuition, but mostly it comes down to working a lot. You know, it’s like finding something that people feel passionate about, and just driving it and pushing it, and working a lot and not looking back too much and just continuing to do stuff that’s exciting. If people follow what’s exciting for them, then somehow things line up around them. But, at the end of the day, it comes down to a lot of hard work.


Last image courtesy of Moment Factory, title image: Sakchin Bessette, Co-Founder, Executive Creative Director at Moment Factory

This article is part of Issue 1: Illumination