When I accepted the offer to come work for ILM I knew that it was going to be a pretty cool place to work. There is the amazing set of co-workers, the endless inspiring work produced by the studio and the cutting-edge technologies. I also get to help out with the new Star Wars movies. But I expected all that stuff based on conversations with Mike and my on-site interview. I was not prepared for all the other awesome things that happen all the time.
I'd like to document here some of the amazing things that have happened since I joined less than three months ago (and which can be shared publicly). I'm not trying to brag, I just realized that I literally will not be able to remember all of this a year from now without aid and I don't want to forget any of it.
First of all ILM has a huge theatre that is used for screenings both internal and external. The Academy regularly uses the theatre to provide screenings of new films to its members. Employees are often invited to join in on these Academy screenings. ILM also provides employee+guest screenings of movies we work on and also just random movies that people might be interested in seeing. There's at least one movie a week and since joining I've seen the following in our theatre: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Lucy; Noah; Men, Women and Children; Guardians of the Galaxy; and today I saw The Theory of Everything.
Free movies are awesome...but the kicker is that many of the screenings are associated with a special guest. ILM has something called the Speaker Series where various personalities from the industry come and give an hour long chat plus question and answer session with the company. I've been to four now: Gareth Edwards (for Monsters), Jason Reitman (for Men, Women and Children), Darren Aronofsky (for Noah) and Eddie Redmayne (for The Theory of Everything). These sessions are not trivial, the guests go very deep into their processes and so far all of them have been super inspiring. Edwards, Reitman and Aronofsky are all incredible directors whose work I admire so it was really cool to hear them speak in person. I was not as familiar with Eddie Redmayne before today. However his performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything was absolutely incredible. I would be shocked if he did not at least receive an Oscar nomination for best actor. It was so cool to hear him talk about how he was able to put together that performance.
In addition to cool screenings and special guests I've now had the opportunity to hear several members of senior management speak and that has also been truly incredible. The president of Lucasfilm is Kathleen Kennedy, a woman with a long history of producing many of my favourite films. She is currently producing Episode VII but had time to give a talk to the company a few weeks ago. It was immediately clear to me that she is an amazing leader. I've used this word a lot but it was very very inspiring to hear her speak. Similarly, the president of ILM (the subsidiary of Lucasfilm that I work for) Lynwen Brennan, has spoken at a couple company meetings since I've joined and I feel just as strongly about her leadership abilities as I do about Kathleen's. Plus, in a recent update meeting she recognized my little team directly for our contributions, naming us each in front of the whole company! So cool!
On the technical side of things we have Dennis Muren (a true visual effects pioneer) and John Knoll (original creator of Photoshop and VFX supervisor on many amazing ILM projects). Recently Dennis Muren gave a talk to the company about his very first feature film, Equinox. He made the movie himself in the sixties and did all the visual effects. His budget was tiny, but the things he learned he later used in his work on movies like The Empire Strikes Back. There was a point in his talk where he showed how he applied something from Equinox to one of my favourite scenes in Empire. It was, perhaps, the coolest thing ever.
It's been a wild ride so far and I haven't even been at the company for a whole quarter. In addition to all the big things the little day-to-day stuff is pretty fun too. I've been made to feel so incredibly welcome by everyone. I'm working very hard, but I rarely notice. It's a very special company.
One more awesome thing. Almost everyone cares at least as much about Star Wars as I do and so everyone loves to talk about it all the time. This fills me with joy.