How does ESMA attract the world’s biggest studios to Montpellier with its 3D animation and talent?

On September 7th, 28 short films were simultaneously screened in multiple theaters at the Gaumont Multiplex in Montpellier, in front of nearly 1,300 spectators, some of whom were remote. These animated films are the result of fourteen months of intense work for the students of the 2023 class at the Higher School of Artistic Trades (ESMA). Or rather, they are the culmination of the efforts of all the classes in the Icônes network, a galaxy of schools that provide education in Montpellier (headquarters), Toulouse, Nantes, Lyon, and soon Rennes, under the guidance of Karim Khenissi from Montpellier.

Notably, among the spectators are around fifty professionals from creative industries related to visual arts, including video games, advertising, and animation cinema. Representing about thirty renowned studios (some of which, like Fortiche Production, Mathematic, or Ubisoft, have established themselves in Montpellier), they are part of the jury to award prizes to the top four short films of the 2023 promotion. This adds a touch of glamour as the prizes are presented in a grand manner and formal attire by the jury president, David Alaux, president and co-founder of TAT Production studios in Toulouse, a leading force in the regional sector.

« I cannot reword »

A statement that Emmanuelle Aubeau, Talent Acquisition Manager at Fortiche Production, adds is: « It is interesting to see that students have the ability to have completely different backgrounds but also to work as a team for several months. This means that they will be able to integrate well into all the studios and productions in the market for which we are seeking talent. »

Lire aussiWhy are the special effects studios Mathematic and The Yard choosing to establish themselves in Montpellier?

Âge d’or de l’animation

Because the true focus of this annual event is the recruitment of talent. The approximately thirty studios present aim to find students who are nearing the end of their studies and are capable of producing their first project under almost real conditions. To facilitate networking, the ESMA organizes a job fair the following day, which includes over 1,300 individual interviews between potential recruiters and the 230 students (70% of whom are female) from the 2023 class. How many immediate hires will there be? It’s difficult to say, and all the studios agree: it’s top secret. Competition has never been so fierce in this constantly growing industry, which influences various entertainment fields and has significantly moved away from targeting only young audiences.

Due to the exceptional success (4 Emmy Awards in 2022) of the series Arcane, produced by Fortiche Productions (based in Paris, Montpellier, and Las Palmas), which has helped expand the realm of animation to an adult audience by delving into the world of the League of Legends video game. In this context, France seems more than ever to be making its mark, explaining why many studios present at the ESMA event are French-speaking. According to a 2019-2022 study by Audiens, « France is the third country in the world and the first European country in terms of volume of ongoing animation series orders, according to recent studies conducted by the CNC. This corresponds to a payroll of 184.6 million euros. » David Alaux even speaks of the « golden age of animation in France. » And he is well placed to do so. His latest feature film, Les As de la Jungle 2, is a hit in theaters, and many projects are in sight for TAT Production.

 « It is a golden opportunity for studios to be able to come and start hunting for talents when needed, to have them right next to us, acknowledge David Alaux and Stéphane Margail at TAT Production. We are still in a growth phase, we have given ourselves two to three years of growth to reach 350 people in the studio, so we are still looking for talents. I won’t be offering contracts tomorrow, but in the coming months, there will surely be recruitments. We have about twenty different professions in the studio.»

Lire aussiThe ESMA is expanding its scope with new campuses, language schools, and real estate strategy.

A highly sought-after French touch.

For the most part, it is primarily an open door.

« Il est possible de répondre à des besoins immédiats ou à court terme, ainsi que d’interagir avec les étudiants pour qu’ils puissent mieux se connecter avec les activités d’un studio et s’y projeter », confirme Emmanuelle Aubeau de Fortiche Production. « Nous devons nous souvenir des étudiants que nous avons rencontrés et suivre leurs parcours s’ils ne nous rejoignent pas immédiatement. »

According to Aymeric Gesse, Animation Technical Director at the giant Ubisoft, « it’s ideal for discussing our various fields, and in our case, we may need cinematic profiles in the context of video games. »

On the other hand, the ESMA (whose four-year curriculum, plus an additional preparatory year, costs between 6,000 and nearly 8,000 euros per year in tuition fees) boasts, twenty-one years after the graduation of its first class in 2002, a placement rate of 93% within six months after receiving the diploma. To attract future students, it can rely on the recent ranking by Animation Career Review, which ranks it as the 2nd best French school, 8th in the world, and 5th in Europe.

« In France, we train more generalist profiles than in the United States, which allows our students to be leaders in their field while being able to quickly supervise a team thanks to their excellent knowledge of the entire production chain, says Karim Khenissi, the director of ESMA. They are open to art, cinema, and culture in general. This is what we could call the French touch. And that is also why they are highly sought after.»

Lire aussiHow Fortiche Production studio established itself in Montpellier since the success of Arcane on Netflix.

Manque de main d’oeuvre

Preuve en est le parcours d’un des recruteurs, Joakim Riedinger, un ancien de l’ESMA qui a rejoint il y a quelques mois Fortiche Production dans ses locaux de Montpellier.

« Spider-Man: Homecoming. Depuis lors, j’ai acquis une solide expérience dans l’industrie cinématographique et publicitaire, en travaillant sur divers projets et en collaborant avec des équipes talentueuses.Spiderman : Into the Spiderverse,« I cannot reword »

Obviously, none of the 230 students from the 2023 batch of ESMA students knows what awaits them in their professional life, or if the studio of their choice will hire them in the coming ne peux pas reformuler.In terms of salary, the collective agreement for animation cinema in France ensures a minimum wage of 95 to 125 euros gross per day, depending on the job title and the possibility of obtaining intermittent performer status (after completing 507 hours of work).

« Il There is a significant shortage of labor, and studios are competing for talent with a bidding war that can be enormous, acknowledges Karim Khenissi. Fresh out of school, the average salary can range from 32,000 euros net to exceptional levels of 60,000 to 65,000 euros.

Lire aussiTAT Productions, the studio based in Toulouse, is heading towards success with « Les As de la Jungle 2 ».

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