For some of you with your ear to the ground, this won’t be news. It’s been rumoured for some time now that Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) were considering an expansion into the UK, and now we can rejoice in knowing the rumours have been confirmed. Yes – ILM are in the process of setting up a new facility in central London and will be looking to hire UK based talent too.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, ILM president and general manager, Lynwen Brennan explains that opening a London facility is part of an overall global expansion plan. The London facility will not only work on Lucasfilm, Disney and Marvel projects, but will be encouraged to work with other production studios too. Lynwen comments on this by saying “London has such a richness of filmmakers. The team that we are building there has those relationships, so we are looking forward to the London studio really developing their local work.”
Of course there are some obvious reasons to attract ILM to the UK. Firstly, they needed to expand and London already boasts a rich talent pool of VFX professionals, capable of meeting the high standards they are used to. ILM also mentioned that they want to work with UK based directors. That there's a lot of great filmmaking being produced in the UK and this is supported by the UK government as they recently introduced tax incentives. By investing in the industry this way, the government hope to grow the filmmaking business in the UK and it seems to be working a treat. These new tax incentives were announced last December and will take effect in April.
The target for pulling together a UK based ILM team is to hire up to 200 new staff – and with such a fantastic talent pool to choose from, it shouldn’t be difficult. Already there’s a small team on board (working out of a tiny office in Soho) who include; Creative Director Ben Morris (Framestore - Gravity), Animation Director Michael Eames (Prime Focus World), VFX Producer Nina Fallon (Double Negative) and Director of Operations Sue Lyster (Framestore). ILM also suggested that expats in their San Francisco office may want to return to the UK for this exciting opportunity.
ILM hope this move to London will have a very positive effect on the UK VFX industry and look forward to being "good members of the London [VFX] community." We have no doubt this will have a positive impact, and we look forward to seeing more of our graduates benefitting from this new venture, as they work at making a name for themselves in the industry.
ILM have an exciting slate of films in the pipeline. These include Star Wars: Episode VII (scheduled for release December 2015) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (scheduled for release May 2015). And if that wasn't exciting enough, they also have Jurassic World, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tomorrowland, Warcraft, Luc Besson’s Lucy and Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. They are also in the process of wrapping up work on Noah and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
And finally for the more technically minded among you – ILM are also investing a lot into research and development. They are in the process of developing technology they hope will revolutionise the industry over the next 10 years, such as real-time rendering. Commenting on ILM’s relationship with Disney Research bases in Zurich and Scotland, Brennan says, “We work with them currently using their facial animation software, Medusa […] You can definitely expect some further close collaboration with Disney Research. We are specifically looking to expand that in the UK."
What would it be like to work at a facility like ILM? Find out from our graduate Duarte Victorino who worked at the ILM Singapore studio.