Moment Factory’s Creative Director Sakchin Bessette Teases Madonna’s Superbowl Halftime Show

On February 5, at the Lucas Oil stadium in Indianapolis, Madonna will take the stage as part of the halftime show for Super Bowl XLVI. No one knows what to expect (although Nicki Minaj showing up is basically a done deal), but with Cirque Du Soleil’s involvment already confirmed, it’s safe to say the show will be visually spectacular.

Helping to realize those visuals is the Montreal-based multimedia design firm, Moment Factory. Responsible for some of the most recognizeable and cutting edge installations around the world (including Arcade Fire’s now legendary LED ball drop at last year’s Coachella), Moment Factory is working closely with Madonna to create something unforgettable for the world’s biggest stage. We recently spoke to Moment Factory’s founder and Creative Director, Sakchin Bessette, about his company and his work, and did our best to pry out secrets about February’s big show.

What phase of development are you in for Madonna’s Superbowl show?
Well, we’re still developing the whole project. This is the first time we’ve worked with her, so we’re getting to know each other, creating trust and an inspirational and creative relationship, which is a lot of fun. She really gets into the details, and she’s really focused on a lot of different levels, which not a lot of the artists are. Working with Nine Inch Nails for example, Trent was very involved in the details, but in a different way. With Arcade Fire it was different. It depends on the artist.

Did this partnership come about through Cirque du Soleil?
Yeah. basically Madonna’s management called Cirque to help out with the Superbowl project, and Cirque gave us a call and thought we would be a good fit.

Performing during the halftime show presents a lot of constraints. How will you deal with those?
We need to work within the perimeters. The box we’re working in is different. We have to find solutions that give us that theatrical effect that Madonna likes and wants, and we need to make it on par with her level of quality and detail—in the dance, the video, the choreography, the music. But at the same time, the short length of the show and the realities of working in a stadium are very different than a normal touring show for example. So it really requires different creative solutions.

Do you find it limiting?
Well, all the projects are limiting in one way or another and the solution that we find…so we think we’re finding interesting solutions and we’re moving along with all that.

How many employees does Moment Factory have?
We have about 55 to 60 employees.

How many of them are involved in the Madonna project?
We have about 12 people involved in the project right now—animators, designers, stuff like that.

Do you have any idea of what the show is going to be like, in terms of who else is performing and other details?
I can’t really talk about it. I’ll leave that up to her to talk about those kinds of details. I can’t talk about all those details besides that it’s a very exciting project.

Should we take your company’s name literally? Are you in the business of creating moments?
Yeah, we’re really focused on touching people and creating these memorable experiences. We define ourselves as a new media arts and entertainment studio, so we design multimedia experiences. We don’t necessarily work for TV or for the web. For us, it’s important to focus on the public experience, so it’s bringing people together in the public medium. I compare it to ten thousand years ago, when people would gather around the campfire and tell stories at night. Now people are gathering in different environments, and our expectations as far as entertainment have changed. So we need to bring all of those elements into the public, whether it be in a park with a rock show, whether it be in a museum, it’s just about creating more engaging entertainment.

How was the company born?
We really grew organically. It actually started ten years ago, when we basically started VJing in nightclubs,  when digital video came out. So before then, I was basically doing slideshows. And then gradually, when digital came out, we could edit on computers and basically the technology evolved, and we started doing special events, working a lot with Cirque, and doing permanent instillations in bar, clubs, and different kinds of venues. At the beginning, we financed the company with like a $10,000 credit card and we had like ten people working here.

When you look back, are you amazed at how much the company has grown?
It’s surprising, but my mind is made more to look at the future than the past.

How would you describe your exact role in the company?
I started it, and now I just take vacations all the time. No, I wish. Basically, I’m the Creative Director. I take care of the creative team—the designers, the animators, the storytelling. I kind of help these people do the craziest things that we can.

The Arcade Fire ball drop at Coachella got a lot of attention. How did that idea come about?
Actually, this project came from Chris Milk in Radical Media. He approached us to help him design it and make it all come together. So we were more of a collaborator on this, and we kind of just made his vision happen. Creator’s Project financed it, and made it all happen, so it’s really a collaborative effort which we like a lot, to be able to collaborate with different artists and different people—whether it be architecture, artists, or Madonna.