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Montreal: A visual effects hub

November 17, 2022

Man standing with hockey team mascot
Jonathon Sumner with "Youppi!" the mascot of the Montreal Canadiens.

I think author David Sedaris (whom I was lucky enough to see perform and also meet whilst I was in Canada) puts it best in his quote “Living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once. My understanding was that it completed a person, sanding down the rough provincial edges and transforming you into a citizen of the world.”

Jonathon Sumner grew up in Shepparton, a rural town in regional Victoria before moving to Melbourne. After ten years working in the film industry in Australia, Jonathon thought it was time to try something a bit different. “I work in the film industry and there were a lot of great work opportunities happening in Canada at the time.” Thus, he headed to Canada for his working holiday in 2016.

“Working in Montreal was great for my career. The Visual effects industry in Montreal was well established when I arrived, but over the year I was there it boomed and gave me a lot of experience that I would not have been able to get in Australia. When I came back to Australia having worked in Canada, it was looked upon very favourably by companies here and opened up more opportunities here as well. I also got to make a lot of professional contacts, some of whom I have worked with in Australia since.”

Whilst in Canada, Jonathon was able to work on films such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Since returning home to Australia, his career has taken off and Jonathon has now worked as a Digital Compositor or Compositor on a number of films such as Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker and Spider-Man: Far from Home.

“I work in VFX (visual effects), and I loved the company I worked at in Montreal. It has been bought out now by a larger studio, but it was called Atomic Fiction and I got to work on some amazing projects whilst I was there including Star Wars: Rogue One and Stranger Things (Season 2). Montreal is a global hub for VFX work and it was an amazing opportunity to work there.”

You may be able to see some of Jonathon’s work in more recent projects such as Wandavision, Space Jam and Jungle Cruise.

His impressive visual effects filmography in IMDB also includes SpongeBob Squarepants, Transformers, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

It certainly wasn’t all about work and Jonathon had plenty of opportunities to get to see the whole of Canada. “I stopped over in Vancouver for a week in summer to catch up with some friends before flying over and settling in Montreal for the year. Vancouver was beautiful, such a stunning city with lots to do, great craft breweries, great nature and such friendly people. Montreal was even better, arriving at the start of summer was great as I got to attend so many festivals. But I really enjoyed all the seasons, the fall leaves were so pretty and winter in Montreal is like nothing you can experience in Australia. It is cold, but there was something magical about stepping out of your house in the morning and seeing a fresh undisturbed snow down the street. It was also great to do some weekend trips to Toronto and the city of Québec. Try and get out of the cities and see as much as you can. Some of my best memories are day or weekend trips to regional towns in Canada. The nature there is beautiful.”

“Some other highlights include watching sunset from a work party at the top of Grouse mountain, cycling around ice wineries at Niagara-on-the-lake, going to a music festival outside in the middle of winter (Igloofest), exploring the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and night with cocktails at one of their Friday Night Live events, and Montreal in Summer (everything from Piknic Electronik, seeing countless performances at Montreal Jazz Festival and Montreal Just for Laughs, and spending afternoons hanging out in Parc Lafontaine with friends. I also really enjoyed watching the Habs play a home ice hockey game at Bell Centre.”

Settling in Montreal meant that Jonathon was able to enjoy the Québécois culture that is different to Australia’s, “living in Québec, having so much French around was different but there were only a handful of times where my inability to speak French was an issue.”

“I found the Québécois to be a very proud people. They are proud of their culture and their history. Whilst I think most Australians are proud of their country, they are less vocal about it than Canadians. And whilst there are differences between Australian states, they are all quite homogenized so there isn’t that regional pride that you see in a province like Québec. I also think the climate plays a big part in shaping the culture of Québec, I’ve lived in several major cities in Australia, and whilst everyone here likes summer, none of the cities come alive like Montreal in the summer. Everyone is so excited to be outside and with all the festivals happening. It’s electric.”

Canada’s main animation/VFX clusters

Canada’s animation and digital-effects industry is an important part of the country’s digital economy and is world-renowned for its innovation and creativity. Canadian-based companies have created animation and effects for many box-office hits and award-nominated feature films. Canadian studios are also heavily involved in the production of commercial advertising and many popular television series, among others. Canada’s main animation/VFX clusters are located in British Columbia (Vancouver), Ontario (Toronto) and in Québec (Montréal):

British Columbia

British Columbia has one of the world’s largest VFX & animation industry clusters and is continually attracting new international studios. B.C. firms have won an international reputation for quality production and state-of-the-art facilities for design, models, miniatures, in-camera and digital effects. The province has more than 80 VFX & animation studios with a mix of major international as well as B.C. owned studios. British Columbia’s advantages have led companies like Sony Pictures Imageworks, Industrial Light and Magic, Double Negative, Animal Logic and more to base many of their VFX projects in British Columbia. Recognized by many prestigious awards and nominations for their innovative work, British Columbia’s animation industries are creating computer animations for television series and direct-to-video, long-form CGI for feature films, commercials and interactive entertainment. The majority of U.S. productions with animation content, including computer-generated special effects, have been at least partly produced in British Columbia.


Ontario has a large talent pool in animation and VFX, with over 7,000 employed artists in an industry that has grown 300% since 2011. Ontario is home to 44 universities and colleges that offer digital media, fine art and computer science programs and produce thousands of graduates yearly. There are over 120 creative gaming and animation programs in Ontario with over 11,000 students enrolled in 2016. There are an additional 119 computer and software programs dedicated to VFX and digital media. Ontario is one of the largest film and television production centres in North America, valued at $1.6 billion, which generated approximately 32,800 full-time and spin-off jobs in 2017. Ontario is home to world-class animation and visual effects studios and includes players across all parts of the audiovisual content production and delivery value chain. Leading studios include: Jam Filled, Soho VFX, Mr. X (Technicolor), Spin VFX, Stargate Studios and Guru Studios. High profile projects include: Suicide Squad, The Shallows, London Has Fallen, Logan, The Shape of Water.


Québec’s film and television industry employs 36,000 people. In Montréal, more than 4,000 skilled workers are directly involved in 2D-3D animation and VFX for the audio-visual industry. Some 10,000 employees are also involved in video game production. Québec is home to close to 40 animation and VFX companies, responsible for $493 million in production volume in 2018. Leading studios include: BUF, Cinesite, Digital Dimension, Framestore, Hybride, Mikros Image and Rodeo FX. High profile projects include: Beauty & the Beast, Game of Thrones, Arrival, X-Men Apocalypse, Star Wars, The Little Prince.

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