Toronto Animation Film Festival

Toronto Animation Industry Conference

The ConferenceAbout TAAFISubscribeScheduleSpeakersDiscordFAQ

Where: Toronto Reference Library & Online

When: November 2-4, 2023

Previous Events:

Toronto Animation / VFX Job Fair

Presented by:


Starting a Studio: Presented by CASO

Sat, Nov 12th

4:30PM - 5:30PM

Reference Library: Novella Room

From Startup to Success — Stories from Studio Founders

For many of us, starting a studio and ‘hanging our own shingle’ is the ultimate dream. Becoming your own boss, hiring your friends and co-workers, and striking out on your own. It’s all very exciting, but where do you start? How do you build not just the studio itself, but the client base? How much does it cost and what are the pitfalls?

Join a panel of studio founders as we engage in a lively discussion of starting your own studio — from start-up to success — as we explore the pathways and pitfalls of building a studio, along with the new opportunities or challenges that face budding studio entrepreneurs.


Darren Cranford, Co-Owner/Director, Keyframe Digital + Krow VFX

Darren Cranford is Co-Owner and Director of Keyframe Digital, as well as Krow VFX. The studio has been operating in the animation and movie business for over 25 years and has done work for all major Production studios, such as Universal, 20th Century Fox, Disney, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Darren is a member of the Director's Guild of Canada, the Visual Effect Society, and an active member of CASO. He has directed and Supervised hundreds of series - from Directing Ollie: The Boy Who Became What He Ate, and Hilarious House of Frightenstein, to overseeing the VFX of their studio for shows like The Expanse (all seasons). Keyframe Digital and Krow VFX have been known for movies, such as X-Men, Zombieland, and many others, as well as series shows, such as Expanse, Altered Carbon, What We do in the Shadows, and Jack Reacher: The Series.  

Krow VFX is currently working on Chucky Season 2, Hilarious House of Frightenstein Season 2, and a plethora of other unmentionable movies and series shows. 


Ella Cooper, Director/Producer, Brown Rabbit Studios

  1. Ella Cooper is an award winning independent producer, multimedia artist, educator, writer and director based in Toronto who has been working in the arts, film and cultural sector for over 20 years. Ella is the founder of Black Women Film! Canada a not for profit supporting the development of Black women in film and media. She also enjoys running Brown Rabbit Studios, a new BIPOC production company focused on content creation for tv, lifestyle, arts and children programming with a new animation in development with CBC Kids & Karen Chapman. Ella received the Tiffany’s Hometown Hero Award and was nominated for the 2019 TAC Mayor's Arts Award for cultural leadership and featured as one of 33 Black Canadians Making Change Now in Chatelaine magazine. Her photo series ‘Witness’ was just selected as 2020 Editors Pick in Canadian Art Magazine and her documentary, dance and video installation works have been presented in galleries, public spaces and film festivals in Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Calgary, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Amsterdam and Berlin. She was an artist in residence at the Banff Centre, Picture Berlin and is supported by the Ontario, Toronto & Canada Arts Councils. As an impact producer, renowned facilitator and social entrepreneur, Ella has founded successful not-for-profit arts networks in her 20s, created and funded multi-arts projects across Canada, played leadership roles in program development, marketing, social media, outreach and fundraising for established arts organizations. Ella is known for her leadership and arts empowerment programs for diverse communities internationally. She was interim Director of Arts Management at University of Toronto Scarborough, and continues to be a featured speaker for national and international conferences.


Jonathan Corbiere, CEO, Thought Café

Jonathan Corbiere is CEO of Thought Café, an award-winning motion graphic studio that promotes social justice, self-education and critical awareness. Thought Café creates animated shorts that break down issues, visualize important concepts, and explain and deliver messages for NGOs, other not-for-profits and charities, politicians, great thinkers, writers, and anyone else who has an important message or concept to share with the world. We believe that motion graphics are the perfect medium through which to educate the world online, inspire conversation around current issues, and raise critical awareness.

Jonathan is an experienced entrepreneur working in film, gaming, and Web3 technologies and is also launching the studio Degenerative Labs.


Ricardo Curtis, Owner, House of Cool

Ricardo Curtis is one of the animation industry’s most successful professionals, and has played a pivotal role in the production of over 20 successful feature films.

Jamaican born and Toronto native, Curtis relocated to Los Angeles after graduating from Sheridan College’s Classical Animation Program. Working with Pixar, DreamWorks Animation Studios, Fox and Warner Bros, he contributed to a number of projects as a story artist (The Incredibles, Monsters Inc.), Head of Story

(Book of Life, Horton Hears A Who), Supervising Animator (Osmosis Jones) and was an animator and designer on The Iron Giant.

Curtis returned to Canada in 2004 to launch House of Cool with Wesley Lui. As Co-Founder and Creative Director, his keen eye for talent and artistry have cultivated long-term relationships with Dreamworks, Netflix, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Universal and Apple.

Curtis has developed and sold properties to Disney, Bravo!, DHX and Teletoon, earning accolades at MIPCOM for his work. He has produced, written and directed

short films, pilots, television series, specials, a novel and commercials. Curtis is a member of Sheridan College’s board that sets the educational curriculum, as well as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Most recently Ricardo directed Ice Age: The Great Eggscapade for Fox/Blue Sky Studios and Masters of the Universe for Mattel. Curtis has written and is slated to direct an original House of Cool property currently titled Amoeba and the upcoming Clive Barker film, Night of the Zoopocalypse.


Ben McEvoy, Producer, Friends & Enemies

Ben leads creative initiatives for agencies, brands, media companies, entrepreneurs and educators, providing brand and content strategy, as well as hands-on creative production in animation, live-action, interactive web, apps, VR/AR, game development, events and interactive public activations, on projects throughout Canada, and internationally in the US, India, Singapore and China. 

As partner / executive producer, Friends & Enemies, Ben works with his team of senior creatives and a broad network of multi-disciplinary production partners creating original and branded content experiences for brands, agencies and media clientele. 

Notable clients include: Google, VICE Studios, 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, CBC, Doc Channel, Teletoon, YTV, CTV, Discovery Channel, The History Channel, TVO Kids, Shaftesbury, and the National Film Board of Canada.

Ben is also co-founder of the Toronto Animation Arts Festival International (TAAFI) and a former board member.


Copyright 2024 © Toronto Animation Arts Festival International (TAAFI)