By Mollee Harper, Senior Editor
We met with Chris LeDoux, Founder and VFX Supervisor of the award-winning Crafty Apes, LLC. Headquartered out of Culver City, California, Crafty Apes provides high-end compositing services, visual effects and production services on feature films, TV series, commercials and music videos for the entertainment industry. In 2014, Chris LeDoux established their new office in Atlanta, Georgia to be at the heart of the entertainment industry boom. During our time together, LeDoux shares details of his journey, insights about living and working in Atlanta, as well as highlights of his work in film including La La Land, Hidden Figures, Marvel’s Doctor Strange, and more.
Crafty Apes was founded in July 2011 in Culver City, California by Jason Sanford, Chris LeDoux and Tim LeDoux. Jason Sanford serves as Executive Producer and brothers’ Chris LeDoux and Tim LeDoux serve as VFX Supervisors. Robin Graham serves as Producer and VFX Supervisor and rounds out Crafty Apes’ executive team.
Crafty Apes is a full service visual effects company with offices in California, New York and Georgia. The Atlanta office is located at 1731 Commerce Drive NW, Suite 115, Atlanta, Georgia 30318. The Crafty Apes portfolio of work includes feature films such as: La La Land, Marvel’s Doctor Strange, Marvel’s Captain America – Civil War, Hidden Figures, Fist Fight, Pete’s Dragon, Sleepy Hollow, and 12 Years a Slave, to name a few.
LeDoux shared, “Crafty Apes creates and manages any imagery involving visual effects. This includes everything from planning sequences to final finishing of production shots. Feature Film and television work is our main focus, and we do commercials as well. I serve as head of the Atlanta division for Crafty Apes.”
“In 2014, I moved to Atlanta to set up and lead the Atlanta office for Crafty Apes. We had been filming in Georgia quite a bit, and there were not many local visual effects companies here. There were none that specialized in film and television. We knew Atlanta was heating up for production, so we decided to set up shop in the area. There were certain creative vendors missing in this market, and we thought we could be a missing piece of the puzzle. A strong visual effects house with a proven track record in studio films and television was something we thought would work well here.”
“Tax credits are a huge factor and one of the main reasons we created our Atlanta office. There are advantages to doing business where your clients are filming. Being able to work closely with the filmmakers, and creatively collaborate in person is a key component.”
“The VFX talent pool here in Atlanta isn’t as dense as it is in Los Angeles, Vancouver, or New York. We have had good fortune finding great local raw talent to bring in and teach from the ground up. We have also worked to relocate some of the seasoned talent here from other locations. What we do is specialized, but quite achievable with the right effort. We love to share that knowledge with others and bring up people in our trade that have the desire to learn. It’s been a fun challenge to build an office from scratch.”
LeDoux offered, “It really feels like a gold rush of talent here; there is a lot of energy in the air and we’re happy to be a part of that. When this many creative people gather in one place, only exciting events can occur. I feel tremendously lucky to be a part of it.”
“We currently have a team of 25 here in Atlanta and we’re growing. Now that the governor signed the post production bill last week, we have even more ability to grow further. The facility is growing and there are more film and television productions being done here than ever. It’s exhausting, but incredibly rewarding. The best part of the VFX business is that every day is a bit different and it’s never ending problem solving. The mind never gets bored for a moment in this business as the wheel is constantly reinvented.”
“My brother Tim and I both served as Department Heads for visual effects on the movie La La Land. From prep, to filming, and on to final delivery, we oversaw the VFX. The movie was filmed in LA and a lot of the visual effects were handled back here in Atlanta. Hidden Figures was also a big one for us, also shot in Atlanta. It’s a great opportunity to be able to head up VFX on such engaging films in the same year. Pictures like these are why most of us got into the business to begin with.” he said.
“We want to make sure people know we’re here, and growing. From a producer’s point of view, they hire vendors they know they can trust back in LA. This is such a business of trust and confidence. There are risks with each department head you bring on. If any one piece falls it can take a project down. We have offices in LA and also New York and have been in the business for years. Our experience on both coasts has really helped us here in Atlanta.”
“A lot of people have been entrenched in LA for so long they don’t want to leave. I grew up in Alaska, and as a result, I suppose adventuring out is in my blood. LA was a great place to learn, to be broken down, and rebuilt stronger again and again. Atlanta is an equally great place to live in and learn from the people that are from here. Now that we’ve made our homes here it’s really been wonderful. In the spirit of Alaska, it really is like a Gold Rush in the sense there are strangers from all over mingling in with the long time locals that have been here for generations. It’s an exciting place to find in the lower 48.”
LeDoux concluded, “I am a big believer that we need to start producing more content in Atlanta, and in the state of Georgia as a whole. That means we need more locally grown filmmakers that are based out of this area. If we don’t invest in that aspect of the business, we could lose our momentum. Content is king, and as film makers, we all have a great opportunity to get some new and unique perspectives into the storytelling realm.”
“We’re trying to partner with some local folks to nurture local talent especially as it pertains to the storytellers. Having local talent ensures the stages will stay full for a long time to come.”
Chris LeDoux founded Crafty Apes, LLC along with Jason Sanford and Tim LeDoux in July 2011. Chris LeDoux serves as VFX Supervisor and Department head for Visual Effects on feature films, television series, commercials and music videos. LeDoux also serves as Creative Advisor for Magic Leap. Prior to his current roles, LeDoux served as Director for Pusher Media, Compositing Supervisor for Scanline VFX and Sequence Supervisor for Method Studios. LeDoux received his formal education in Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology from University of Alaska Fairbanks and Oregon State University.
For more information on Crafty Apes visit their company website at: http://www.craftyapes.com/.