Today, Sakchin Bessette – who graduated in the late 90s from L’École secondaire publique De La Salle, a specialized arts high school in Lowertown – is Moment Factory‘s Executive Creative Director responsible for Kontinuum, a crazy underground experience in the future Lyon LRT Station.
Audiences have enjoyed his firm’s work the world over from Barcelona to Singapore, Ottawa, Montreal and in Banff National Park. While they may not know it, many more are sure to be familiar with the work Bessette’s team created for Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show or Ed Sheeran’s latest tour. Coming to Ottawa on September 9, the Arcade Fire arena tour for Everything Now has been produced by Moment Factory.
Drawing on Montreal’s unique vibes at festivals, conferences, concerts, video game and film industries, as well as the visual and performing arts; the company has etched its place as a leader in multimedia experiences all over the world.
To help us better understand the force of innovation behind the company, Apt613 interviewed Moment Factory co-founder Sakchin Bessette on the phone. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Apt613: Tell us about your hometown?
Sakchin Bessette: I grew up in Ottawa, went to high school at l’École secondaire publique De La Salle in theatre. Then as soon as I finished highschool, I went out west, took a train to Banff and B.C. and stayed there for a while. I came back to Ottawa for a while… and then went to Montreal and basically started doing what I do by jumping in. I started doing stuff.
Just doing stuff? Like what?
When we started in the late 90s, there was none of this industry going on. We started off promoting raves… I started doing all these slide projections and 16mm projections in these clubs. We got together with some friends and started doing more special events. Then the digital revolution kind of happened where it went from 16mm films to video and we were able to shoot with a video camera… We started using laptops and computers and play DJ tapes at night… We would go around to clubs and play [the visuals] on huge bedsheets, on top of the speakers. We would have VHS tapes in luggage and just ship it from one place to another. That’s how we started. It was so much fun and we felt like we were part of this new thing and exploring new ways to tell stories.
At what point in your life did you come up with the Moment Factory?
I got together with a few friends, Jason [Rodi] and Dominic [Audet]. Dominic came from a corporate background and Jason was a film student from NYU. We were doing a lot of corporate events, but bringing the DJing world into the corporate world. Then we started doing special events, parties, and Cirque Du Soleil and started doing all kinds of different things and now we do what we do today.
Was it your choice to attend De La Salle? Why did you choose to attend that high school?
It was my choice. I think it felt like a super smart school. I was living in Gloucester, a little bit further out in the suburbs. So it was a bit more downtown, a more good location and urban and the people there were really cool, more artistic. [The school] was a more artistic headspace than a traditional school which tends to be more broad and I liked that. You also had to have a certain grade to be accepted there so I found people there really caring about school. There were a lot of smart kids and really good people.
Did you know from a young age that you wanted to pursue the arts?
No. I never really had a plan. It was more like one thing led to another. Nothing was ever clear, even the word career was weird to me.
Why did you end up out west after graduating high school?
I went out west because I like to ski and it was nice and accessible. Then I met friends out west. (Some of those friends) were then living in Montreal. So when I went back to Ottawa, I moved out to Montreal to be with them. At the time, Montreal had more international opportunities to offer and there were more things going on.
We were at the forefront of this and so it couldn’t be taught in school.
Are there key influences that led you to come up with your idea of Moment Factory?
There wasn’t any one thing. We had a lot of influences in the early days. It was interesting being part of the rave community because it was fresh and new. Now we take them for granted, but it didn’t really exist before that time. So a lot of our things came from there.
Also, my father was into photography. He wasn’t a professional photographer, but he was doing a lot of artistic photography and that helped me get started too. I was always taking a lot of photos and projecting them on these slides at parties. I would make a series that would fit together, then I would merge them into one world that would fit together in close ups, I would have abstract stuff. I would get into visual compositions, use slides to scale them back and front, like how you used to on the old slide machines.
Did you study art at university?
I didn’t go to university for this. I was self taught. I find what I do in the everyday can’t be taught in school. We were at the forefront of this and so it couldn’t be taught in school.
We kind of all learned from each other in a kind of collective. We would try different things and talk to each other, find out what worked, what didn’t and went from there.
What are some of the things you did in the early days that helped get your business off the ground?
I never thought in terms of money. It was always a lot of work, but it was also the the most fun thing we could do. We always thought, “what’s the most amazing thing we could do?” and we would do it. Then, “what’s another amazing thing we could do?” and we do that and maybe make a hundred bucks doing a week’s work. And we would just keep doing it. We didn’t have any grand plans.
We just did what was fun. We started doing DJing at these parties, then Cirque du Soleil would throw these big parties and Cirque called us and asked us if we’d do this or that. We started doing rock shows, then cruise ships. One thing just led to another. There wasn’t really much money. I mean, early on, we ran the business for many years on a ten thousand dollar credit card. Every month, we’d pay what we can and burrow what we can.
There wasn’t really much money. I mean, early on, we ran the business for many years on a ten thousand dollar credit card.
How do you find the people who create new ideas that keep Moment Factory moving forward?
That’s always the difficult thing… always trying to find great people. Finding people that are creative, yet complimentary to each other, can work in their spaces, but then also have clear direction. It’s always difficult.
We are always looking for great talent, be it motion designers, motion directors, creative directors, architects, engineers… all kinds of people work here.
We have people from all over the world. We don’t have that many from Ottawa, Toronto, or Vancouver and we are always looking at growing our Canadian talent as well. I like to have a variety of cultures, and could always use more talent.
What are some of the challenges your team had in creating Kontinuum?
Every project we do is difficult… we’re not in this business because it’s easy. With this project, the most difficult thing was the site. It was a construction site. And the realities of a construction site is that they’re not necessarily to code, they’re not necessarily ready on time, they’re not necessarily safe for everyone, they’re not necessarily what you planned on them to be and when you’re integrating your own thing to it. It poses it’s own challenges!
What do you want readers to know about Kontinuum?
I just want to say that the real drive for Moment Factory is bringing people together in public. What we see is so many great people and great things happening on personal devices, but they isolate people. They keep you on your screen, on your phone, computer, TV, other devices, but what we do is bring people together physically. We use technology, people, storytelling, entertainment spectacles… to bring people together in multiple contexts. Be it on bridges, at rock shows, in urban spaces, theme parks, forests, or LRT stations. We use all these different places to create experiences that are worth sharing together. That’s why we go through all this trouble, to help bring people together through these experiences and help them find something meaningful.
Kontinuum is on until September 14 at the future Lyon LRT Station. Visit kontinuum.ottawa2017.ca to get your free tickets or to find out more about the project. Visit momentfactory.com to learn about Moment Factory’s latest projects and job opportunities.