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Firm adding new twist to consulting services

The year 2011 is best described as one of change for Tara Levesque, Dennis Landry and Mike Large.
Dennis Landry (left), Tara Levesque and Mike Large are partners at the year-old Sudbury-based Copperworks Consulting, a firm that specializes in à la carte services that range from grant writing to event planning.

The year 2011 is best described as one of change for Tara Levesque, Dennis Landry and Mike Large. After a decade each at Music and Film in Motion (MFM), the Sudbury-based trio decided to launch its own consulting firm, building on the foundation of what they had started at MFM.

“We all knew we wanted a change and that if there was going to be a perfect time for it to happen this would be the time, that we would all have to jump on it,” said Levesque, who spent nine years as MFM’s director of programming. “Otherwise, I know I would have just gone back to work and fallen back into similar patterns and maybe always wondered, ‘What if I’d said something out loud, what if I’d acted on an idea I’d had about moving on.’”

Copperworks Consulting offers an à la carte menu of services that clients can pick and choose from, only paying for the services they need. Included in the firm’s area of expertise are artist services, organization and support services, film production and sector support, and event planning and management.

Their diverse roster of clients includes Ottawa Area Ontario Early Years Centres, Sudbury country musician Larry Berrio, the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation and Jazz Sudbury. The event was recently named Best New Festival and listed as one of the Top 100 Festivals in the province by Festivals and Events Ontario.

All three recognized that living in the North and working in the entertainment and events industry posed some limitations, since there were only so many outlets where their skills and experience were needed. But with the industry enjoying an extended boom in the North, Landry was confident there would be a place for a consulting firm like theirs.

“It’s an exciting time to be involved in any of these industries, regardless of what your role is, and for us it was time to play a different role, and in some ways to become more hands-on,” Landry said.

Ironically, the majority of Copperworks’ clients aren’t even based in Sudbury; work has come from Timmins, Ottawa, Huntsville, North Bay and beyond. It was a unanticipated twist in their plan, but something that has come as a pleasant surprise.

“We’re not beholden to just working with people in Northern Ontario, although we really want to and look forward to doing that,” said Large, who has worked in the music industry for more than 20 years. “We’re able to take requests and see where that takes us, and it’s been very interesting.”

Looking back on the development of MFM 12 years ago, Landry, the organization’s founding executive director, admits it was an ambitious project. But critics who doubted it would ever work have been disproven and the industry is now stable and growing.

Landry noted that Ontario is the only jurisdiction in North America that has a burgeoning entertainment industry beyond its main centre in Toronto. There are successful clusters in Hamilton, Ottawa and now Northern Ontario, which creates value for those in the industry.

“That has tremendous value for the province, not just the region, in terms of selling itself as a completely open-for-business film place,” Landry said. “It’s huge.”

As Copperworks grows, it’s unlikely the partners—who have forgone a storefront business in favour of working out of their homes—will bring on additional staff. Instead, they’re looking at establishing partnerships with other companies outside the area, such as translation services, that can complement their expertise.

That means Sudbury is poised to reap the spinoffs, including investment back into the community by those who live and work here. And that’s a comfort to Landry, Large and Levesque, who have made a conscious decision to remain in the North and are determined to make it work.

“If we had made that call (to move out of the North) it would have been one made with a heavy heart,” Levesque said. “I was born and raised here, and I have a young family; this is where we want to stay, this is the life that we love. It would have been a big decision and not one I would have been happy about.”