../Morning Post
Posted February 8, 2011

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Digital Media

Reversing the game drain: Groundbreaking collaborations give the Greater Toronto Area’s digital media talent made-in-Canada opportunities

TORONTO – The Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance has made the digital media sector a priority for growth and innovation to foster a homegrown industry, and it is showcasing student-industry collaboration results at the GTMA International Digital Media Forum.

In 10 months, Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone – a collaborative digital media workspace for young entrepreneurs – has fostered 115 jobs, supported 100 innovators and incubated 20 companies, several of which are garnering partnerships from around the world. Sheridan College opened the Screen Industries Research and Training Centre in March of 2010, and it has already provided full-time work for 25 students and exposed over 200 to its collaboration with Toronto's Pinewood Studios, Canada's largest sound stage complex. Meanwhile, Seneca College is a leading collaborator with the open source software industry with partners that include Mozilla, creator of the popular web browser, Firefox.

The Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance has brought all of these collaborators – and more – together for a showcase of the Greater Toronto Area’s (GTA) world-class digital media education, entrepreneurship and collaboration projects. “Ubisoft’s decision to locate a major studio in Toronto that will create 800 jobs over the next decade is another leading indicator of global interest in our extraordinary focus on digital entertainment,” said Gerald Pisarzowski, Vice-President of Business Development with the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance.

The GTA’s digital media strengths are a dream come true for companies like Toronto-based Starz Animation that, with five feature films, has the largest profile of any independent studio in the world. “The digital media sector in Toronto is very competitive and growing worldwide,” said Jeff Young, Vice-President of Finance and Business Development for Starz Animation. “There is a constant demand for talent and having the breadth of top-quality graduates right here is an advantage that allows us to keep growing. Some of the top graduates from the Toronto-area used to dream of jobs at Pixar or Dreamworks, but now they want to stay in Canada.” In its 45,000 square foot facility, Starz employs 300 artists, and a large majority of them are graduates from Ontario’s digital media programs.

“The DMZ model is really a platform for regional digital media growth,” said Valerie Fox, Director of Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone. “We’ve already graduated three companies out into the GTA and there are 17 more in the pipeline, creating jobs right now. By bringing young people together to create products, industry solutions, new companies, jobs and opportunities, the DMZ is helping to build Toronto’s future as a global hub of innovation and economic development.”

“It’s a blending of skill sets – that’s what we are trying to do here,” said John Helliker, Director of the Screen Industries Research and Training Centre (SIRT) at Sheridan College, “Our focus with industry partners is innovation. We don’t want button pushers. Our students can combine the technical and the artistic with a sound business sense. The key is college-university-industry partnerships.” SIRT reflects Sheridan’s conscious decision to build a presence in Toronto’s film and television studio district.

The partnership programs from Sheridan, Seneca and Ryerson have created skills and products that include a Mobile Transit Companion app for sight and hearing impaired transit users of the Paris Metro, an interactive fashion runway for L’Oreal, group-buying technology for eBay’s Kijiji, interactive graphical programming software “processing.js,” 3D stereoscopic animation prototype testing, and animation for the upcoming feature film “Gnomeo and Juliet,” the largest animated feature film ever produced in Canada that will be released on February 11th, 2011.

Today’s GTMA International Digital Media Forum will also broadcast digital demonstrations live to Cisco TelePresence™ locations in Europe using technology developed by the event’s sponsor, Cisco. Cisco TelePresence is a ground-breaking category of products that combine advanced audio, true high-definition video and interactive elements to create unique, "in-person" experiences between people, places and events. The event will be simultaneously broadcast to London, Paris, Rome and Hallbergmoos (Munich).

There will be presentations by six colleges (Sheridan, Seneca, George Brown, Humber, Centennial, OCAD) and four universities (Ryerson, York, Toronto, UOIT) from the Greater Toronto Area. Ontario government representatives and industry representatives will also speak. Dean Morrison (PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada) will present on Greater Toronto’s internationally competitive digital media-focused tax incentives and Stephen Green (Green and Spiegel LLP) will speak about immigration policies.

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