There’s always another moment when you’re working at Moment Factory, maybe one arriving sooner than you might like – something the Montreal company’s co-founder and creative director Sakchin Bessette probably experienced for the umpteenth time this week in Toronto.
Clearly these are heady times for a company that, since its inception in the fall of 2001, has become a major player at the brave new intersection of light and sound, video, performance and architecture. Mr. Bessette, 38, flew into the Ontario capital from Los Angeles to “finalize the Jay-Z project” – short-hand for ensuring that the video content Moment Factory has created for 25 of the roughly 40 songs Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake are performing in their Legends of the Summer stadium tour unspools without hiccup. After a week or so of rehearsals in Hamilton, including one Mr. Bessette attended Tuesday, the tour had its official North American launch Wednesday – a nearly three-hour concert before 50,000 delirious fans at Toronto’s Rogers Centre.
Under other circumstances, this might have been cause for a round of post-concert celebration. But with Mr. Bessette scheduled to return to L.A. on an 8 a.m. Thursday flight, whatever partying he may have done was decidedly brief.
Moment Factory is overseeing the production of a potpourri of multimedia content, much of it interactive, for the renovated Tom Bradley International Terminal at the Los Angeles airport (LAX). It’s one of the firm’s biggest and most challenging projects, with seven distinct media “features” throughout the building, the signature piece a four-sided Time Tower, 22 metres high and wrapped around the terminal’s main elevators. The installation had a “soft launch” of sorts in late June before assorted dignitaries, celebrities and media types, but since the real opening is in September, tweaks still are required.
Of course, LAX won’t be Mr. Bessette’s sole preoccupation. There are “other projects,” he acknowledged in an interview, including a rock show “that I can’t talk about now.” A smattering of statistics alone can tell Moment’s success story: 18 months ago it had about 60 full-time employees; today, the tally is 120, all working in various combinations under the motto “we do it in public,” on as many as 30 projects at a time. That’s a lot of moments.
Working in the pop music realm is nothing new for Moment. Indeed, mere days after garnering international praise for its visuals for Madonna’s Super Bowl showcase in February, 2012, it had a crew at New York’s Carnegie Hall providing the lights and interactive elements for a two-night charity gig starring the mighty Jay-Z (a show a New York Times critic later called one of the best live events anywhere that year).
For Legends of the Summer, Mr. Bessette assembled a team of 20 “artist technicians,” pretty much all of them in-house employees. But while Moment had three months to prepare the lighting, floor visuals and audience interaction for Madonna’s 13 minutes of Super Bowl glory, this time “it’s been about two.” Fortunately, the overall concept of the Legends’ show, including set design, fell to Willo Perron, an ex-Montrealer whose clients have included Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Kanye West.
“The concept is basically, y’know, Jay-Z having more of a street/violent aesthetic and energy in his songs and Justin having more of a love-song, poppy approach,” Mr. Bessette explained. “Uniting the mix is the use of the colour red – the passion for love, and the red for the violence and energy.” He described the set as “a series of arches that go deep into the stage and our videos, including 2-D and 3-D animation, play a lot with that break of line and the depth created with those big arches.”
All rock shows are hectic, Mr. Bessette observed. “What’s nice here is that having worked with a lot of the people before, there’s a certain trust and understanding and communication. That helps a lot.” At the same time, it’s a bit of a balancing act with Mr. Timberlake who, unlike Jay-Z, is a new quantity for Moment Factory. “He’s a very nice guy and he gets really involved in his show, so you have to make sure you respect both artists’ personas and aesthetics and vision and make sure they’re both happy.”