Industry InterviewsInterviews

Michel Quintal (Igloofest)

Negative temperatures and flurries of snow weren’t going to stop us from returning to Igloofest this year. The night time outdoor festival in Montreal’s Old Port is far different from a dance club, warehouse, or concert hall. At something like this, everyone is moving not only to stay warm, but also because the music and vibes are THAT good. Aside from the two DJ and VJ-centric stages, festival-goers are also entertained with marshmallow toasting, open fires, ice slides, igloo hockey, maple syrup sticks, and a number of bars and lit ice fixtures. Once you’re ready to gear up for the cold, prepare to dance, and arrange travel plans, you can most definitely make your way over for one of the four weekends throughout the January & February-long festival.

We’ve interviewed and hung out with Igloo’s team and DJs, but it was really exciting to finally meet Programming & Partnerships Director and Co-Founder Michel Quintal. After a quick chat with the festival’s publicist François Fournier (who has always been greatly hospitable and accommodating to us), it was time to sit with Michel and find out a little more about his start, involvement, and the team he works with.

You’re one of Igloofest’s co-founders. How did you get involved with such a large production?
We started a summer event called Piknic Electronik first, and then we started thinking about expanding and doing something else through the whole year. The crazy idea of doing something in the winter came up while we were snowboarding, and wondered why we hate winter so much when we’re in Montreal and go skiing and stuff and the cold is not a problem. So we tried to do that, to do something during winter; it started as a joke and people came. Igloofest started with 4,000 people and now we have more than 80,000 people.

How was the first Igloofest set up? Did it have two stages like it does now?
No, one stage and one weekend. Now it’s four weekends.

What does the whole team behind the festival look like?
The core team at the office is the same team as Piknic Electronik, with about 22 people woking the whole year. There are 200 people working every night of the festival. It’s a total of 500 employees.

When do you start planning for each year?
About six months before. Marketing, communications, and sponsorship will start around July. Production will start in October.

What were you doing before you got involved with Piknic and Igloo?
First I was a psychologist, then I went to work in advertising and that’s how it started. I started organizing events and I met one of the other co-founders and we partied together, became friends, and decided to start this.

What’s one of the largest challenges that comes with organizing a festival?
A winter festival is hard because there are so many details you have to take care of to make sure the equipment doesn’t break. That’s something you don’t have to think about during the summer. The wind and weather is pretty rough on the gear and we have to be very careful with it. I would also say making sure people will come even if it’s really cold. We’ve had some really cold ones, like -30 degrees.

Who selects the DJs and VJs? Is there a separate team or do you have a role in that as well?
We’re a team of three people, we’re the programming team. For the VJs, it’s the same process as for the DJs. We watch what they’re doing, we see demos, and we see them live.

Aside from weather/season, what would you say is the biggest difference between Igloo and Piknic?
For Piknic, we build and wrap up the same day. It has lights like we do here, but there is no video at Piknic because the cost would be too high to do. Piknic is more casual and chill, you go dance or just hang out, or relax in the grass to eat and have a  beer or sangria. At Igloo, you have to get involved, otherwise you’ll be freezing and not having fun. The energy is higher [at Igloo] because you don’t have a choice; you need to dance to be warm.

What’s your favor part of the job?
Going on stage around 11:30pm when it’s packed to watch the faces of the people dancing. To see they’re having fun is a great reward.