Breaking into the VFX Industry with ILM and Speakers for Schools

10 Jun 2021

6 mins
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

We recently worked with Speakers for Schools to facilitate two very exciting projects with VFX specialists ILM (Industrial Light and Magic), who are best known for providing the special effects for the Star Wars films. 

A select group of 26 young people aged 16-19 were invited to partake in a very special three day online work experience placement, while we also hosted an open webinar with a panel of ILM staff to give an even wider insight into the world of VFX. We are very proud to report that this webinar was attended by 2393 students, 155 teachers and 39 individual learners from home. Find out more about the project below and you can also watch the full webinar at the bottom of the article.

The work placement saw young people spend three days meeting professionals from different departments at ILM where they took part in Q&A sessions and received demonstrations of the industry standard software used on films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Black Panther. They then worked in groups to develop short scene ideas, and worked with ILM mentors to create presentations that included mood boards and demos using 3D software.

I can't think of a better way to prepare the next generation of producers, artists, engineers, and technologists to join ILM than to provide on-the-job training on real-world projects.

Lynwen Brennan, General Manager and EVP of Lucasfilm

Lynwen Brennan, General Manager and EVP of Lucasfilm - and an Into Film Ambassador - spoke about ILM's stance on work experience: "At ILM we find work experience programs for students to be mutually beneficial. It allows students to put the theory they've learned into actual practice while also exposing them to a variety of potential career paths in visual effects and the industry at large. The students return to school with new skills and knowledge that applies directly to their studies and for many, the chance to join the company upon the completion of their coursework."

James, one of the young people that took part in the placement, found it a valuable experience: "My work experience at Lucasfilm was very informative and interesting. I worked with all kinds of different people and learned lots about the film industry."

"One of my favourite parts was when we were tasked with rewriting a scene from Jurassic Park. My group and I came up with the idea of a futuristic post-apocalyptic cyberpunk world, where instead of dinosaurs, there are robot demons!"

After this experience I feel more comfortable working in a team of people and learned valuable skills which are useful when working in a team.


Another participant, Dewi said: "Being a huge fan of George Lucas and Star Wars, I knew this opportunity was perfect for me to gain an insight on how Lucasfilm worked. I had a fascination with CGI and VFX before this, so I was looking forward to see how effects were made and to learn more about the people who work in this industry."

"I gained many skills during the experience including how to keep a tight schedule and how to be more creative. I gained an interesting insight on how special effects companies work and how the directors task each person with different parts of these huge projects"

Teacher, Paula Treweek said: "I had no hesitation in suggesting to Dewi and James that they apply for the opportunity to work with ILM. I knew they'd be perfect and have the chance to learn with the industry's very best VFX company. Work experience is very limited for many pupils now, and in the lockdown world it has become an impossibility, so this was too good to miss."

"I loved the fact that they have been sworn to secrecy and cannot share most of what they have done. In a galaxy far, far away maybe they will be able to share their top secret experiences..."

The prestige of having been accepted to take part is no doubt invaluable to the pupils' self-esteem and belief in their ability to enter a career in the film industry, let alone the skills and knowledge learned through taking part.

Paula Treweek, Teacher

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