Industry InterviewsInterviews

Louis-David Loyer (Igloofest)

Our love and appreciation of great production is no secret, so we were stoked to score an interview with Louis-David Loyer, Igloofest co-founder and production director. The festival is a fantastic outdoor winter event in the beautiful city of Montreal, and the staging, installs, etc. are incredible!

This is our third year attending Igloofest. The production is insane.
Yeah, we put a lot of love and work into it. We’re always fighting the weather so it’s always a big accomplishment for us to deliver this.

We read about this year’s dance floor expansion. Is that something you’re in charge of?
I’m totally in charge of it. In fact, we originally designed the old site this year; it was the third year in a row we had the same site and we decided we’d change everything to try to have another experience, a different experience, for the attendees. You can redesign as much as you want, but at some point you need to see how it’s gonna flow with people on-site and the first weekend we had a big surprise. We had a bigger dance floor than we’ve ever had. Even with a bigger dance floor, we had, not a congestion problem, but everyone wanted to be in the same place at the same time. So even though we were able to put more people, we had the same problem as we had before. We decided to move back one huge VIP deck that was in the middle of the dance floor and decided to move everything back right after the first event. We always try to listen to the comments, and there was a huge question about the floor being big enough for everyone. We tried to adjust and last weekend was sold out and it was all good with the new configuration. People told us what to do and we listened and found a solution that was good for everyone.

You’re the production director. How many work under you?
►Depending how you do the math, the core production team is a very small team. I prefer to have have more experience people, yet less people around the table. We are five. There’s a technical director, site manager, a very good production assistant, and someone in charge of sponsorship because a huge part of the time and site are dedicated to sponsorship, as we have developed over the past year a way to put more art in the event. Most of the time, when it comes to simple artistic ideas, we don’t have any money left. There are a lot of ideas but no money toward it. So, there’s a way to work with sponsors and we try to finance all the artistic installs and decor with the money a sponsor gives us. For example, we’re gonna have Jägermeister, a very wonderful beverage made in Germany. The basic ideas is to have some girls give out shots, but that’s not really sexy and I’m not really for the shooter girl thing and girls in bikinis doesn’t fit at all. We worked with [Jägermeister] to develop some kind of a concept, so now they, being Jägermeister, are not selling the girls, but the spices in the product that come from Germany, the black forest. We just try to give another level of experience. It’s not entirely cheap what we wanna do, but it shows that when the sponsor goes further than what they usually do, they reach the public in another way and people remember the brand and the sponsor better than if it was just a shooter girl giving out a shooter. Another example is a telecom company we have as a sponsor; they just rented a 110-ft. slide and people can just go in it and people are remembering it. It’s not just another phone company.

You said your team is small, yet composed of all very experienced people. How do you find people like that?
►It’s not that it’s simple, but you know what people are capable of. You see other events they’ve done. When you work on a close team like this, you need to find people who just fit with you and they way you’re working and the project. I’m using a senior director because he can do the job of 5-10 junior guys with a calm attitude. When you do the math, I think it’s better to hire someone with a lot of experience instead of 10 guys that are full of very goodwill but don’t know their stuff. That’s the way I try to work. After that, you can work with crews that are less experience because you’ll have there on the road to pinpoint the things they need to adjust. That’s when experience really comes in handy.

That makes sense. There was just a behind-the-scenes video about some other event going around online the other day, and it was showing a production team of around 500.
►That’s another reality. When you need a lot of manpower like this, we are very lucky because we’re in a period of the year where it’s very calm. There aren’t a lot of other shows at the same time, so I can hire guys with a lot of experience who don’t have other work. For that reson, I’m really lucky. Most of the time you need to go with some sort of union crew, and of course you’ll get some very good guys in those crews, but you can’t get 500 guys who totally know what they’re doing. Some are there for their first time. That’s why you need a head to manage all of this. When we talk about numbers, I can say I don’t hire 500 guys. When we’re doing the install, I’d say the biggest day counts 100 people on the field but when we’re doing actual events, right now Igloofest hires 34 permanent guys all year long, plus we have 608 seasonal (part-time) staff.

A timelapse went up the other day showing the whole Igloofest setup. How long does it take from start to finish?
A couple years ago, we did it in 11 days, but that was short with no contingencies like a snow storm. We try to do it between 12 and 15 days depending on the weather and working during the seasonal holidays. This year we started on December 28 and we delivered the show on Thursday night, January 14.

What about breakdown?
Normally, it takes less than half the time, normally ⅓ or ½ the time. This year we’re gonna start on February 7, and should be done by February 12. The challenge is always that everyone is tired, you’re working outside and it’s tough on the body, and people just wanna get out. But there are so many small things and details. You need a good follow-up and people who will be careful in the process.

How did you get to your position with Igloofest?
►I’m actually giving a class this afternoon and will answer this exact question. I went to university for communications and was working in cinema and on the side was doing small production things in theater. After a while, I met my partners and we were always going out and started to do things. The first time we did Piknic [Electronik], we started three weeks on that plan with some friends and had 300 people on the first day. Now, I’m doing seasons of 100,000 people and more. I became what I am because I had these partners and I built an experience in site management, and after that became a bit more of a production manager.