Hey, Jonathan, why the VFX industry specifically with MARZ? What drove you to start with it? Did you have any previous experience?
When I was a kid my dad ran North Shore Studios. He also produced in the nineties. One of the premier productions that he produced was Goosebumps, the television series for kids. I got to go to the goosebumps sets and see all the behind the scenes, monsters and creatures that they were shooting. That was inspirational for a pre-teen. After graduating from McGill University with a degree in commerce and working for Canadian producer Martin Katz, I started JoBro Productions. Today, my brother oversees that independent film production company.
How did you come up with the name Monsters Aliens Robots Zombies (MARZ)?
A company founded by my partner Lon previously used the moniker. We were not having much luck coming up with a name when we realized that MARZ represents the essence of our focus on character and creature.
You have a family legacy in the film industry. If you’d like to tell us, how did it all start?
It started with my dad. He started at a little camera company in Quebec that grew to a $3.3 billion company, Astral Media, that eventually sold to Bell. Then to North Shore Studios.
What is the most enticing thing about MARZ ?
Starting a real business was attractive and I wanted to work on well- known content. Our approach to AI puts us at the bleeding edge of the tech revolution in the industry.
How would you define and communicate MARZ roadmap to all the teams at MARZ? (Management, process, and any insights)
The same way we speak to clients and investors. Don’t boil the ocean, we’re focused on premium episodic and focused on creatures. We want to be the best, so we have a narrow focus.
What does your typical day at MARZ look like?
I just talk to people all day long: strategize with internal teams and advisors, put out fires, support the team, and work on the financial underpinning of the company with the board and investors.
What were the challenges you had to face in terms of technology or AI when working in the VFX arena?
We had the idea that AI had reached a point where it could be applied to various areas of VFX to make our work better and our processes more efficient. There are multiple areas ripe for disruption, such as vanity work – aging and de-aging, and cosmetic alterations.
Not being a “tech-guy”, it was a challenge believing that this could actually work. Now that we’ve got it to work in this one area, we’re working on how to get it into peoples’ hands. Then it’s on to the next disruption.
& What are some of the challenges you faced working on projects for such high-profile clients?
They hold you to very high standards. However, given these standards, they provide the specificity that is required to perform at such a high level. It’s a privilege to work with them. And exciting. This is the arena we want to live in.
Is Hollywood the only market MARZ is in? Is VFX limited to only storytelling effects in videos? If not, what are other industries (if any) where VFX can have major impacts other than Hollywood?
Gaming. Film and TV are a drop in the bucket compared to gaming. Nobody does photo-real as well as VFX. Unity bought Weta [NZ] because they wanted its VFX capability.
What are some of your professional goals as co-president that you are looking forward to?
I want to make a name for myself and be proud of my professional legacy. I want to make my own professional mark in the industry just as my father did.
How would you define “legacy” in terms of when people may have opinions, even though you personally don’t look at it that way? How do you break the monotony of opinions about getting it easier? (Or perhaps you have never had those kinds of challenges.) What would be your advice for entrepreneurs who do indeed have a legacy? What should be the mindset?
My parents instilled a hunger and drive in me that I want to pass on to my children.
Of course my dad being who he is was helpful getting started. He was helpful getting my foot in the door, but it was my job to put both feet firmly over the threshold. I approach my work knowing that you don’t die with anything but your reputation, and thinking about what people will remember.
Working with our team, I don’t want to steamroll a conversation. I want to hear from our brilliant team at MARZ, I want them to challenge my ideas. For me, the best idea wins.
How do you balance managing MARZ and then going back to home playing guitar for your kids? Tell us about Jonathan as a family man.
If you know my schedule, you know exactly where I am and what I’m doing at any given time. I drive my son to school every morning. I’m with my children when they eat dinner and I put them to bed. It makes me better in the professional arena knowing there are other things in my life that I’m passionate about.
Your favorite quote.
Best idea wins.
Don’t try to boil the ocean.
You treat the person that sweeps the floor the same as you treat the CEO.
How do you define success with your legacy and then forge your own path with MARZ and your previous startups? What does success mean to you?
Success is not binary. Living a fulfilling life, personally and professionally, is what’s important. Plus, the quality of your contributions to the world. You only pass through this world once, so make sure you do it properly.
Interviewee : Jonathan Bronfman, Co-President — MARZ
Jonathan Bronfman is an artist turned entrepreneur leading the visual special effects (VFX) industry into new territory. He’s found a way to use artificial intelligence to take on the drudgery, leaving VFX artists more time to create.
At 34, Bronfman is a co-founder and co-president of Monsters Aliens Robots Zombies (MARZ), the technology and visual effects (VFX) startup helping Hollywood studios deliver feature-film quality visual effects on television timelines. Since its inception in 2018, MARZ’s project portfolio includes Marvel’s WandaVision, HBO’s Watchmen, Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, and Apple TV’s Invasion—and was nominated for two Emmy awards in 2021. Their latest hit show is “Wednesday” on Netflix.
Today, Bronfman is helping to guide MARZ through a period of massive growth, including plans to grow to 300 employees by year end and accelerating the use of artificial intelligence for VFX through the company’s R&D arm. “I appreciate how hard it is to run a business—it’s not all popcorn and bubble gum,” he says. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Bronfman caught the entrepreneurial bug while pursuing his commerce degree at McGill University. He and a friend started a party promotions company that brought popular DJs to select Montreal clubs, drawing huge crowds. After graduating and working for Canadian producer Martin Katz, he went on to start JoBro Productions. Today, his brother oversees that company as Bronfman focuses on growing MARZ—and his family.