For Chris Bond, a fan of the Superman franchise since he was a kid, creating kryptonite for the most recent big-screen incarnation was a pretty cool gig—and one that took him and a team of special-effects experts from Winnipeg’s Frantic Films months to perfect. “We remained as true as possible to the original film,” says Bond, the company’s 35-year-old president. The strategy paid off. Frantic’s 138 computer-generated shots—including the deadly green crystal that renders Superman powerless—helped to earn Superman Returns a nomination for
Visual Effects at this weekend’s Academy Awards (Poseidon, another Frantic Films project, also earned a nod in the category). Not bad for a company that started a decade ago as a two-man operation—Bond and COO Ken Zorniak—in a tiny one-room office.
Still headquartered in the Peg (because it’s cheaper and “we really like it here,” says Jamie Brown, a former entertainment lawyer who joined the company as CEO and executive producer in 2000), Frantic Films now has 125 employees and offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Sydney. Hollywood’s biggest film houses use Frantic’s visual-effects software. And since their blockbuster break—an explosive 42-second slow-motion scene in John Travolta’s 2001 film Swordfish—annual revenue has skyrocketed from about $500,000 to more than $10 million.
But while having two Oscar-nominated films guarantees a boost for business, it doesn’t get the Winnipeg boys a seat next to Kate Winslet on Sunday night (only the bigwigs are invited). “I might be there,” says Bond, “if someone’s date doesn’t show up.” Or, he could always slip Superman a bit of the green stuff. M
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