If good marketing is all about effective storytelling, Mathieu Séguin is bringing a filmmaker's eye to the process.
The Sudbury-raised cinematographer wants to elevate the global profile of the city's mining industry by providing companies with a selection of branded content with high-end images and video for use in promotional material and virtual tradeshows.
Based out of a rural home office near the village of Field, east of Sudbury, his four-employee production company, MotionArc Studios, is offering time slots to interested businesses engaged in the mining sector.
Together with his cousin Phil, what they bring to the table – or the shop floor – is a professionally trained and industrial safety-certified film crew led by Séguin, the company's founder and a graduate of the American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles.
Séguin spent two years at the prestigious film school in the Hollywood Hills and is eager to apply his skills to promote the industry in the city where his father worked as an INCO miner for 32 years.
There are some amazing feats of engineering and industrial technologies being developed in this city to get ore out of the ground to feed the world's digital economy, Séguin said. They just need better ideas on how to promote themselves globally, beyond some of the canned corporate videos that he finds absolutely cringeworthy.
Above all, for Séguin, it's about offering something more personalized and authentic beyond the customary drone shots.
"This is what I'm trying to educate companies about," said Séguin. "You need a library of content, not stock footage. It's about doing images that connect with people."
The leap to starting MotionArc Studios began for Séguin as a Cambrian College advertising student where he was grounded in the fundamentals of the psychology of selling.
An internship at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) turned into a full-time, five-year gig where he was the resident graphic designer and multimedia gofer while also serving as Dr. Roger Strasser's personal papperazzi, snapping photos of the founding dean glad-handing and conferring with medical professionals as he crisscrossed the North.
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With all kinds of equipment, cameras and lenses at his disposal, he learned on the job to provide blanket coverage of NOSM events and generate the kind of imagery needed to illustrate annual reports and brochures.
"It was like a sandbox. I was learning as I go and developing my skills."
Off campus, Séguin could be found as a semi-regular on TV and film production sets in Sudbury, ducking in and out as a contracted BTS (behind the scenes) photographer.
It allowed him to independently float around the sets, taking photos and shooting video of the action sequences used for promotional purposes, interviewing and observing actors, producers and cinematographers at work.
The technical tidbits he absorbed he put to use in his own short films, music videos and corporate commercial work, which only stoked his desire to be a filmmaker.
Back then, MotionArc Studios was basically a side hustle and a vehicle to develop his skills and creativity.
NOSM was a great and rewarding experience, he admits, but to get where he wanted to go, Séguin realized he needed to leave the safety net of a secure job to apply himself fully in advancing his craft.
"The technical side has changed, but cinematography is always an expression of self," Séguin wrote in his essay to AFI, along with a submitted portfolio of his creative work.
AFI takes thousands of application every year, worldwide. Anyone can apply.
For his admissions interview, he boarded a redeye flight to Los Angeles where he made enough of a personal impression on the panellists to make the cut for the 2017 class of 28 students.
Séguin describes his AFI experience as an intense, deeply immersive one, surrounded by 150 like-minded people totally engrossed in thinking, talking, writing and making film, just about every day.
"Imagine for two years you could do your craft without worrying about anything else in the world?"
Weekends were spent shooting film around Los Angeles – with classmates alternating as producer or assisting as crew – followed by weekdays of rigorous classroom study and critiques with technical essays to write on shot selection and lighting choices.
"It's not hard work if you're passionate about it and you're surrounded by A-plus people."
His 2019 graduation took place at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the host venue for the Oscars.
Returning to his hometown offered a fresh-eyed opportunity to apply what he learned in California.
"Coming back here I know what I can do with images and a camera and a bit of lighting."
He remembers working as a production assistant on a Science North film about mining years ago. When the cinematographer set up lights underground he saw the potential to create some high-impact visuals. "Wow, this is cool. You could make really epic stuff."
Filmmaking and mining are two deeply entrenched industries in Sudbury, both with a highly developed ecosystem of skill and expertise. Why not a marriage of the two? Séguin asks.
"I see the possibility of taking the film industry side of things, and mining, and bringing it together," said Séguin. "Let's show what we can do; let's show it off."
In working with clients, Séguin said they're equally comfortable co-producing with companies engrained with a strong sense of identity and corporate message as they are with those that require a bit of hand-holding.
For Séguin, it's about generating content that resonates with the viewer.
"If they're open with us, it's much easier," he said. "The more authentic and specific you are about your business, the more genuine it will come across on screen."
Projects can range from a templated 'Message from the CEO' requiring only a few hours of interview time, to a more expansive production with more stylized content that requires a day or more.
Like any Hollywood film shoot, this requires a creative meeting with the client and some prep work in scouting the location to line up shots, determine what equipment will be needed, and the number of crew required.
"If we know the story, we can break down the visual into what they need."
Some choreography might be required to stage events in providing employees for the production. "Do you want to show an empty warehouse or one that's busy and bustling?" said Séguin. "They have to commit to the video because that will translate to the images."
The pandemic has put some hesitancy in some companies taking up his offer, but Séguin did have some productions lined up for this spring.
Here is one of MotionArc's productions celebrating the 50th anniversary at R.L. Equipment Sales and Services.
Séguin's pitch is that if virtual mining shows, conferences and webinars are the new norm, why wouldn't you want to have good visuals? Most viewers retain the message when it's in video as opposed to text.
"This (pandemic) is only proving the point that video is essential. Video is the now the way people consume information."
The Drift features profiles on the people, companies and institutions making important contributions to Greater Sudbury’s mining sector. From exploration, operation and remediation to research and innovation, this series covers the breadth of mining-related expertise that was born out of one of the world’s richest mining camps and is now exported around the world.