Maude Melancon on starting her career as a runner at Cinesite in Montreal during the pandemic

How long have you worked at Cinesite?

I started in February of 2021, so it has been around 9 months.

What are your daily tasks?

My main task is to deliver items and materials to crew members, and pick up equipment when needed. I organise deliveries based on studio priorities and optimise my route accordingly. When I can, I planify my week in advance. This way, I can adjust if needs change and can add last minute requests.

When I am not making deliveries, I update studio inventory. I prepare different delivery itineraries for the next day or the week as well. If needed, I also deliver gifts for employee events that the studio organises regularly. I also message crew members when the deliveries are being made. And finally, I help out in the studio wherever I can!

What do you love about your job?

The people and the team spirit that reigns in the studio. I am indirectly in contact with all the different departments. When I first started, people asked if I needed help or had questions – I felt supported.

What do you hate about your job – be honest!

Traffic! Since I am mostly on the road, I cannot escape it even if I try hard to avoid it. This sometimes delays my planning.

Do you feel supported, and are you given training and a clear career path?

Yes totally! I just finished a training that was offered by the studio. I am also discussing my career path with our HR team. I am most likely going to participate in the runner programs which will introduce me to the production method.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I have always had a bit of difficulty with that question, because my plans always change. In five years I would love to be a character modeler even if there is still work to do on my end to reach that goal. But, hey! You never know what might happen in five years.

Why did you want to work in VFX? What or who inspired you?

At the beginning, I always saw myself in the video games industry. That is what I studied, and at the end of my bachelor’s degree I wanted to keep my options open. After discussing with some friends, I started looking at openings in the film industry since my background checked off the required criteria.

What inspires me in VFX is that feeling of accomplishment when you see your name on the credit roll.

Did you go to college or university? What did you study?

I have a DEC in photography and graphic design and I have a BAC in video game conception, art profile.

How did you get your job?

When I graduated, I took a little break to work on my portfolio before applying for jobs. The pandemic hit soon after, so I started sending out my resume sooner than expected. The situation made things more complex and I started doubting my steps.

My tattoo artist suggested I send out applications to various different movie studios. She has worked in the industry previously, so she made me a list of different studios in Montreal. And here I am, working for Cinesite.

Where did you see it advertised?

The job was not posted. I sent a spontaneous application which was advertised on the Cinesite website.

Did it take you long to secure a job in VFX?

Yes, thanks to the pandemic. My timing was not great. Everything had halted or was almost halted which made the process longer and more arduous.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in VFX?

Keep an open mind. It’s much easier to start off in an entry-level position than right away as an artist. The competition is less intense that way. Furthermore, if you’re hired as a runner, that means you have potential as an artist and the studio sees that. Once you get the position, it’s much easier to move up internally.

What are three key traits that make a good runner?

Organisational skills: There are moments when you are overwhelmed with demands and the deadlines are very short. Having very good organisational skills helps you focus on priorities.

Being autonomous: Between runners, we know what each one of us has to do. If one of us is not at the studio one day or is extremely busy, we can take over each other’s tasks and help out.

Teamwork: Don’t be afraid to ask for help but also offer your help to others. It goes both ways.

What do you learn as a runner – other than the technicalities of your craft?

Everything that has to do with production and everything that it entails (basically the background of the production). We have all seen behind-the-scenes footage of movies, but we rarely see the steps of the production. That is where ideas take off. It’s one thing to see the BTS, but this job lets you understand the scope of a film, the extent of the speed it takes off at and the various steps.

How important do you think it is to start as a runner?

Normally, this allows you to see the different stages of the movie production process. With the pandemic, it’s a little less apparent since most of the people are working from home. It allows you to get a feel for the pace of production, how the different departments work and how they interact. It gives you a better idea of what you want to do next. This is the perfect position to enter the industry as a junior, as you will already be familiar with the environment and the team you will be joining. I can only see the positives. When I started applying for jobs, I kept telling myself what one of my teachers told us: “You just need to have a foot in the door and it will be easier for you to move up and reach the position you want”.

What is your dream VFX job?

I would say concept artist, even if some of my friends would see me more in a managerial role because of my organisational skills.

Tanya Combrinck
Author: Tanya Combrinck

Tanya is a writer covering art, design, and visual effects. She has 15 years of experience as a magazine journalist and has written for publications including 3D World, 3D Artist, Computer Arts, net magazine, and Creative Bloq.