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The Indians are coming, The Indians are coming!

Tata Elxsi VCL open new digital studio in Santa Monica and hires a strong team of locals to run and operate the business.


Ok I’m back.  Haven’t meant to be a thoughtless, inconsiderate and faithless partner to my Blog, but boys will be boys and I’ve had a few things to take care of and so you’ll believe me when I say that I’m really sorry and I’m sure I won’t do it again, or at least I’m almost sure, well at least I don’t think I will….

Anyway we had some new clients and my partners thought maybe I should pay some attention to them, and I had the Heathcliff promo coming back, and I had to attend the opening of a new CGI visual effects studio (more on that later) and I had to meet some guys from the 3rd or 4th incarnation of the old offshore studio that have some crazy Ninja, Viking and Knight film that needs fixing (who’d-a-thought?) and Magic Lantern is holding more meetings and I couldn’t let them take place without me, could I?  Oh and my wife thinks I should help putting up Christmas lights (what’s her problem?) and my dog demands that I walk him 5 times a day and on and on…. Well, you get the picture.

See, I really do have a dog... Horatio.

Well I guess I’ll start with the positive stuff. 

Monday night I was invited to the opening of the new TATA Visual Effects Studio in Santa Monica.  TATA VCL is part of the TATA Group, which is one of the largest conglomerates in India and one of the largest corporations anywhere for that matter. They make cars, steel, and seemingly everything else under the sun and now they have set their eyes on expanding their animation and visual effects business.  (No, they aren’t clients!  Actually I am more or less their client so don’t worry I’m not plugging them for any reason except there’s an interesting story here and they do nice work and they fed me.).

Their Animation CGI studio in Mumbai had done the Heathcliff promo piece for Magic Lantern Entertainment and I got to know their U.S. consultant Ken Silverman well so I was invited to their studio opening and to a celebratory dinner afterwards at the Case Del Mar Hotel. 

If someone says free dinner I’m there and besides I was intrigued with the concept of an offshore company coming here to open a facility.  The normal flow has been the other way around.   We can see that a number of companies have set up satellite units around the globe with India being the most sought after to ask for a dance.  In of itself I find globalization interesting, but not really likable.  But as someone far brighter than I said, “It is what it is.”  And who can argue with that bit of wisdom?   Currently a number of offshore studios have set up divisions devoted (and creatively managed) by other companies – Paprikas seems to be part DreamWorks and part Technicolor (Thompson) and is not unique in its structure.  Given reasonably even quality output, what loyal to its bottom line corporation wouldn’t choose to cut labor costs?

So, when I was told that Tata Elxsi VCL was going to set up and operate a visual effects studio here in Santa Monica I had to check my GPS unit and see if my poles had got confused.  No, Santa Monica was still where I had left it and I was introduced to the people that would be running the shop.  All three main staff has impressive resumes and bags full of awards (you won’t have forgot my feelings about awards?) but I will overlook it, as they were all very gracious, talented and obviously excited to be setting up this new venture.

To make this evening even more interesting, Ken Silverman had arranged for a Hindu Priest to attend and to offer the new enterprise a blessing ceremony. So along with a number of other well wishers and some of Tata Elxsi’s upper management who had flown in from Mumbai days before, the new venture received the blessing and the guests offereded congratulations and hope for the new company’s success. 

Earlier I had cornered Joel Hynek who would be in charge of the new facility, and asked why Tata Elxsi was swimming up stream, seeing as how so many companies had gone the other way.  Joel told me that the company was already doing a good deal of work for U.S. clients as well as providing services for many Ballywood studios, but thought to further expand in the U.S. they would need feet on the ground to interface creatively with local producers and creators. 

Joel who has been twice nominated for an Academy Award, won in 1998 for What Dreams May Come”.  He has an extensive log of titles where he has worked as Visual Effects Supervisor and seems to be a perfect fit to run a start up in what is now becoming a highly competitive business.

Joining Hynek are Tricia Ashford and Treva Blue.  Ashford is a visual effects producer with reams of credits and like Hynek worked with R/Greenberg Associates heading up the Los Angeles office.  Treva Blue comes out of the high-end trailer business and is credited with building Pacific Titles digital trailer department.  All in all, the three seem to be extremely well qualified to get the new company successfully launched.  I wish them well especially as they will be hiring local artists and technical staff to handle their production jobs.  Yes, of course some work will be returning to Mumbai but at least this is a start and one shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouse, or is that mouth?

Here are a few snaps of the opening:

Mario Tafur & Jeff Segal of Magic Lantern Entertainment

Joel Hydek & S. Nagarajan (Naga) Tata Elxsi VCL Head

S. Nagarajan (Naga), Tata Elxsi VCL CEO & Joel Hynek

Pankaj Khandpur, Tata VCL Head of Production & Ken Silverman

Hindu priest blesses new digital studio venture

Ken Silverman, Vinod Dave and Mrs.Dave

Unfortunately I didn't get any decent shots of Ms. Ashford or Ms. Blue but maybe someone else has a few good shots and if they send them to me I will be happy to post them..

I will be following this up with some reports/blogs or whatever this stuff is that I write about the digital effects business but  this is enough for now... Horatio wants to go for a walk...