In the two years since Crafty Apes opened a Baton Rouge office, the visual effects company grew its local workforce from six to nearly 45 employees and worked on movies and shows. streaming such as the blockbuster “Spider Man: No Way Home”, the Netflix Comedy about former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton “Home Team” and the series “National Treasure” currently being filmed locally.
“We’ve had more growth than we expected,” said Sam Claitor, production manager for Crafty Apes in Louisiana. “We hired a lot of locals and trained a lot of locals.” Crafty Apes even got people moving from Istanbul and Japan and taking jobs in Baton Rouge.
Crafty Apes benefited from increased global demand from studios and streaming services for movies and episodic programming. “There’s a ton of filming going on in Louisiana in general,” Claitor said. “Every network distributor is trying to pull.”
Earlier this year, Crafty Apes acquired Molecule VFX, which has offices in New York and Los Angeles and has done effects shots for shows like “Billions” and the “Gossip Girl” reboot.
Andrew Bly, CEO of Molecule, said the two companies had worked together on film and TV projects for the past two or three years and realized they shared many values. Molecule wanted to expand into other film markets, such as Baton Rouge, Atlanta and Vancouver. Crafty Apes wanted to have a bigger presence in New York. Many directors and producers are based in New York and want VFX work done near them.
“We spent a lot of time dating and we’re super happy they said ‘yes,'” Claitor said.
One of the things Crafty Apes has focused on is virtual productions, in which actors are filmed in front of LED video walls that display moving 3D backgrounds. LSU recently opened a state-of-the-art virtual production stage, or XR studio, in its Digital Media Center.
LSU and NOVAC’s digital media programs, which provide media training and production resources to aspiring filmmakers in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, have been fertile ground for finding employees to work at Crafty Apes. .
Some of LSU’s and NOVAC’s enthusiastic students are placed in a 90-day apprenticeship program, where they work under the guidance of a Crafty Apes employee and take afternoon classes. Claitor said about 15 employees were hired after completing the program.