Karim Khenissi does not hold back his enthusiasm for the Creative City: “we are lucky to participate in an ambitious project that increases exposure for Montpellier. The adventure appealed to me immediately.”
He brings a key aspect to this assembly of skills and energy: training. Today leading a national group that is taking international steps, he remains loyal to his roots.
“I had a taste for teaching, a desire to share knowledge.”
Rather than pursuing his initial plans to attend law or business school, Karim Khenissi chose at the age of 24 to focus on encounters, visual communication, graphic design, and spatial design. ESMA, the Higher School of Applied Arts, was founded in 1993 in Montpellier. Five years later, ESMA diversified to include animation cinema and cover all the skills needed for producing scripted films. Relocating to the Euromédecine business park in 2005 marked a new phase for the school. ESMA graduates began contributing to the school’s strong reputation. Further momentum was provided by industry meetings, such as with Robin Linn, then vice president of Sony Animation.
The group expanded with external growth and new facilities:
2008 – acquisition of EPTA (photography and game design school) and opening of ESMA in Toulouse; acquisition of IPESAA (school of applied arts) in Montpellier.
2010 – opening of Cinécréatis in Nantes.
2017 – launch of Cinécréatis in Lyon.
With his debonair joviality and sharp eye, Karim Khenissi knows where he is going: “We will be strong with respect to our training programs, leverage a solid team of professionals who respect each other, and choose premium locations such as the Creation Campus in Ile de Nantes, and Auzeville-Tolosane near Toulouse... and the Creative City in Montpellier.”
The group’s growth is represented by the Icônes network, which unites the schools, now including Collège Salette in Montreal, Canada, a design and illustration school founded in 1942. “We were contacted”,
he says, with one eye on America and the other on Montpellier, where his campus will emerge to host ESMA, IPESAA, EPTA, and Cinécréatis.
He adds a few fine details to describe his strategy: “It’s important not to be pretentious. Our work and our productions speak for us. We are also here for people.”
He is convinced that Montpellier has everything it needs for success: “Here, there are schools, cutting-edge companies in video games and animation cinema, and a great lifestyle. Also, there is strong political desire to develop cultural and creative industries, which is not the case everywhere.”