Hollywood outsource firm mulls graphic arts school

By JADE LOPEZ, Reporter

TO further increase Cebu’s potential in the animation industry, a locally based Hollywood outsourcing firm is set to open the country’s first Graphic Arts Academy in the next two years, aimed at developing local talents in the creative sector.

VersaGrafx Designs Philippines, the Cebu unit of an American company engaged in the conceptualization and design of motion picture related materials, is planning to rent a space in the city that can accommodate about 100 students who will be taught desktop publishing, graphics and web design, and animation, said company creative director Junny Mahilum.

Mahilum, in an interview recently, said VersaGraphic Design Group in the US, already agreed with the local endeavor to teach graphic design-related skills.

He underscored the huge potentials of Cebuano graphic artis, designers and 3-D animators, saying, “many Filipinos and Cebuanos can be found in other countries like Dubai, Singapore, Canada and the US, doing graphic design jobs.”

“There is high demand for graphic design, which is a skill that can be learned,” he said.

Mahilum added that while Cebu has made its mark as the voice or call center outsourcing destination in the world, the local creative sector, specifically graphic arts, has been tagged as an “unexplored market”. “We have the manpower resources to capture this multi-million dollar BPO (business process outsourcing) segment.

However, Mahilum lamented that only a few companies in the Philippines are hiring graphic artists and designers, prompting these talents to work abroad where the salaries offered are double or triple the amount given by local firms.

Mahilum recalled that in one of the trainings conducted by VersaGrafx Design Group, and the VersaStack Merchandising, American design experts were impressed by the Cebuano creative talents especially in graphic design.

In the company’s earlier operations in Cebu, the first few graphic artists employed by VersaGrafx here are now working abroad. Now, the company is maintaining a pool of six graphic artists led by Mahilum to produce orders mostly from movie studios in Hollywood.

The company “tested” the potential of Cebuanos by getting some mechanical technology students to be its on-the-job trainees. Mahilum said two of them are already working in VersaGrafx, making designs for various movie production companies.

These movie production companies are part of VersaGrafx’s main market. They include MGM, Lions Gate, Weinstein and Paramount Pictures.

VersaGrafx also offer product and product packaging prototyping and design services to consumer product, pharmaceutical and electronic companies.

VersaGrafx Designs Philippines was established in Asiatown IT Park in 2005 as an outsourcing firm, doing home entertainment promotional materials.

These Cebuano graphic artists had done the conceptualization designs for Hollywood box-office hits such as Rambo, Spiderman, Jessica Alba’s-The Eye, Legally Blond-2, Iron Man, Saw IV and 200 more hit movies.

At present, the company is working on movie post-production collaterals for some upcoming movies, including Inglorious Bastards (distributed by The Weinstein Company and Universal Pictures); Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (distributed by Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures); and Punisher: War Zone (distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment), among others.

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