Goodbye Kansas says Hello to Vancouver – Interview with Peter Muyzers

VFX artists, prepare yourselves! New opportunities are on the rise with a great new company! All the way from Sweden and England comes Goodbye Kansas, now making its way into Canada. This will mean more VFX work and more jobs and more productivity. Which is good for those working in VFX. I know a few people personally that do. Anyways, what will this new studio bring? I spoke to Peter Muyzers, a man on the VFX scene for years and the head of this new studio to learn all about what benefits you could get from there.


HNMAG: So, what brings the studio to Vancouver? Why is it coming here?

Peter Muyzers: I think there’s a lot of exciting reasons. One is it has always been true that Vancouver, BC, and Canada, by extension, have a great pool of talent. To access the talent, companies have come to Vancouver in the past decades to service clients’ needs. It was a natural evolution of Goodbye Kansas expansion plans. Goodbye Kansas is headquartered in Stockholm. There’s an office in London, UK as well. Now there are some smaller facilities across the world where perhaps a handful of people are working from their offices. We have a service office in Los Angeles, and the next logical step would be to open up in Canada and take advantage of a lot of things.


HNMAG: Like what?

Peter Muyzers: As I mentioned before, access to a talent pool is a big one, but to our clients what’s also important is the tax rebates which are available with the various provinces in Canada offering up rebates based on a number of factors and production is a big one, including filmmaking but post-production on top of shooting the projects here is a bigger one. One of the first projects we’ve worked on is a project shot in Toronto, which will be released this month called the Halo TV series. The first episodes will drop on Paramount+. Many companies are working on that. 


HNMAG: What other new opportunities will Goodbye Kansas bring to Vancouver?

Peter Muyzers: It’s like this idea of a universal and cultural aspect. I think one of the things that we’d like to bring to Vancouver is an opportunity for artists to join a different kind of company. My background is building companies in Vancouver. Traditionally the VFX industry relies on heavy capital investments, the purchase of computers, storage systems, and rendering software which can be a burden to a company.  With Goodbye Kansas expanding to Vancouver, we’ve decided to flip that upside down and take advantage of the latest technologies that are available to everyone. But we started from a clean slate in Canada, for the opportunity to go into a cloud model. Combine that with a pandemic situation where everyone was working from home. Setting up in Vancouver allowed us to question, ‘how do we give our key talent access to excellent hardware?’. This is the artist’s tool they use for their craft, to create these amazing images. We’re using Amazon web services as one way of giving them the new technology.


HNMAG: So it sounds like it works mainly with VFX.  How will these new jobs make things easier for VFX artists?

Peter Muyzers: I would say as an artist now, if you’re working in this industry for the last few years, you are typically used to working with different companies, perhaps multiple companies working on the same project, or it’s multiple locations of the same company working in different geographical locations. The advantage for us at Goodbye Kansas of working in Vancouver is that because some of our bigger studios are in Sweden and London, it is daytime for us when it is nighttime for them. At the end of a workday, we can send a piece of work to our other offices and wake up to a completed project. We just opened up in Vancouver, but that won’t be the end of it, we will continue the expansion plan in Canada. 


HNMAG: And what will it also mean for new clients?

Peter Muyzers: Our clients are still very keen, it’s business just like any other corporation. They’re looking at the financial numbers, and if they can get a 30% rebate on their costs when they put their work in Canada, all of the accountants on the client’s side are ticking those boxes off and saying “this is really interesting to us”. They enjoy working with the Goodbye Kansas culture, now they’re going to have that culture AND a tax rebate accessible to them in Canada.

Peter went on to tell me that this was great news for the company’s clients and they would respond very positively to a Vancouver studio having been opened up. 


HNMAG: Aside from cost and culture, how else do you stand out from the rest of the competition?

Peter Muyzers: That’s a very good question and a really tough one to solve. Every company will be waving their pro’s, and many artists who have been moving from company to company through their careers have endured many great working conditions to maybe not working on the fantastic projects they’ve been working on. But we’re really trying to stand out on a number of personal levels. It’s not just about salary, but it’s also coming out of this pandemic, plus what is really important to people with going forward in their careers. In addition to job stability and things like that, access to health care benefits, and savings plans for the future. Typically companies are offering reasonably good benefits to employees in Canada. I think Canada is a healthy economy in general and it’s a tech sector as well so there is an assumption that when you join a visual effects company in Canada, you’re going to get well compensated, but what we’re trying to offer is even better benefits because that’s the better way to compete by offering more vacation time. Europe and Sweden have been leading that way, where each employee is really well looked after. They often have 5 weeks of vacation, paid every year. Often 6 weeks or more, even as a fresh person starting at the company, so tenure has very little to do with giving access to those benefits. As a matter of fact, our HR manager’s view is that often times the new people need more benefits to be looked after because they tend to be the ones that are struggling to get a foothold in the workplace or they try to work the hardest because they have the most to lose.


HNMAG: I understand you’ve worked with Goodbye Kansas Studios for a few years now. What are some of the other advantages and benefits of working there for a long time?

Peter Muyzers: Well, it’s getting to know your colleagues, even across the border. Since 2018, I’ve been flying back and forth to Sweden from time to time to meet with the people, and get to know how they work, look at projects, and how they interact with one another. I work remotely but often communicate with the Goodbye Kansas team in Sweden. Zoom meetings, and Google meetings, and the pandemic hitting in that same period has only made us stronger, and I think what’s really important is that Goodbye Kansas has gone through a lot of changes as a company. The first year in 2020 has been the strongest year Goodbye Kansas had at a global level. That helped build a case for continued expansion, we actually rallied together as a company in the various geographical locations and fought really hard to make this work, with working from home and I think that key thing is we trust our staff. We don’t question where they are at 9AM in the morning, or why they weren’t answering their email at 5:30 in the evening. As long as they get their job done and to the expectations of their managers, it doesn’t really matter that they’re clocking in at night, or clocking out at 5PM. That makes for quite a different vibe in the company. 


HNMAG: How do you keep track of time zones in geographic locations?

Peter Muyzers: In terms of working, it’s all going to be essential. We have a strong technological backbone that’s highly customized, we have a large pipeline department in Stockholm and other locations, what they do is they customize the software so that it benefits the artists all across the globe. Back when an artist creates work in a different time zone, they submit that work during night time and then it shows up in a software application where comments can be given and you don’t even have to be present for it. When you wake up in the morning, you might have a list of tasks that were assigned to you and that list has a number of creative notes attached to it. The environment of the software is very collaborative and that’s absolutely key in having artists spreading across the globe. That will also help us facilitate opening up more studios in other regions down the road.


HNMAG: What other regions in Canada are you looking to branch out to?

Peter Muyzers: It’s very much connected to why our clients want to give us work. It’s for tax rebates and there’s 3 large provinces in Canada: Ontario, Quebec, and BC that are the key provinces and those are on our radar. Now that we’ve opened in British Columbia, down the road we’re exploring when would it make sense to have that same setup and access to the talent pools in cities like Montreal or Toronto, so that we can expand our services across Canada that way. 


HNMAG: You’ve had previous experience working in VFX for years, but what was it like taking on leadership and running other companies before taking charge of this one?

Peter Muyzers: I’ve had a lot of say in those companies, I was an owner of them, I was a supervisor, I was heavily involved in determining the direction. Then again, it was fairly traditional at the time. We tested out Cloud Software years ago, but it was not functionally as easy to use as it is these days. So you were stuck with a fairly traditional financial/investment model, and when you think about who is going to invest this money, it’s ultimately the shareholders of the company and the people that write the cheques to make the company work. Traditional companies are fighting that continued need where the hardware ages, it will need support, and break eventually. It’s new one day but then it’s old 2 or 3 years later because you’re using so much of it and pushing it to its edge. 


Peter said things were so much different with Goodbye Kansas. By going into the new cloud model, and starting from a clean slate, he was thrilled to take on something different from the old school way of workflow. The first project already has been a great success.


HNMAG: So you see this as an exciting new challenge?

Peter Muyzers: Absolutely. It is fantastic because we can focus our efforts towards the creative artists. Without them, we are nothing. It’s all down to the creativity of the artists and I’m not excluding the technological people that are involved in the backend. You need someone to make sure your licenses or software is working, you need management and administration. But really it is the artists themselves. So if we can hire more artists, we don’t have to hire an IT person, that is a win. Because that artist goes directly towards the value that clients are coming to Goodbye Kansas for.


HNMAG: What do you like best about Vancouver’s film industry?

Peter Muyzers: Its been there for a long time. It has been going on for a long time. The industry continues to grow, and I understand there may have been a bump in the road during the pandemic, but it was challenging for everyone with productions halting to a grind. Now we’re recovering from that, but I think British Columbia as a shooting location will still remain a top choice from many of our clients. It’s quite fantastic to look at a variety of talent and shows. I was watching the See Television series on Apple+ the other day, and I recognized some of the shooting locations. But that’s the nerd in me, noticing where we live. But it’s the same for Toronto and other parts of Canada, so I think the industry here has had its ups and downs over the years whether it’s tax incentives or union issues. I do think that now we can thrive again with the restrictions dropping around the pandemic and so on. 


HNMAG: Have you worked on other content besides Canadian content? How is it different?

Peter Muyzers: Unfortunately, different at the budget level. (sighs) I mean, the creativity is there in Canadian content and as we see even in the award circuit, we see a lot of Canadian produced content out there. We have an amazing cast and crew in Canada that can produce really top quality productions. But at the end of the day, if it’s a fully Canadian financed, produced and distributed production, it can still be made on a lower budget than a US based production. I think that will continue to be the case but I do believe that the gap between the two is diminishing, also the top spend for US productions is dropping because we’re seeing a lot of productions providing high value for a lower cost. The international and US based productions have to think ‘if they can pull this off and produce high-quality work for 65% of the budget, we’re going to be under pressure here’. What we see is our US based clients are the majority simply because those productions tend to have a big budget for visual effects.


If this doesn’t sound like a great opportunity, I don’t know what does. This is sure to help out a lot of people working in Visual Effects and give them something new, different, and unique to working at a VFX company. Who knows what else could come of it? Check out more about this business here, and maybe, if you do VFX, see about applying. You never know what opportunities could rise!

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