Saturday, November 6, 2010

I.L.M. Night

Left to right: Dr. Ed Catmull, Leslie Iwerks, Richard Edlund, Scott Farrar, Dennis Muren, and John Knoll
I flew down to L.A. yesterday for a quick visit with my family, and my dad took me to a shindig they were having at the U.S.C. School of Cinematic Arts. They were premiering a documentary that Starz will be putting out this month: Industrial Light & Magic: Creating the Impossible, on the history of Industrial Light and Magic, and a bunch of the guys from I.L.M. were there for a panel discussion afterwards. These are the guys who invented Photoshop, created Pixar, and were (and still are) on the cutting edge of C.G. and visual effects today. They made the original Star Wars and all the subsequent movies, Ghost Busters, the Back to the Future movies, Terminator 2 and on and on.

The documentary itself was done by Leslie Iwerks. It was totally engaging and fascinating from start to finish, and anyone who is a Star Wars fan must sit down and watch this film if they expect to keep their fan status. I heard from one of the panelists later that she shot enough footage to make another two documentaries on I.L.M., and even if that's an exaggeration, I'm very impressed with the vision she had, always with an eye to keeping her film on topic and moving along. She was thorough and really did a phenomenal job.

One of the things I was really struck by as the panel discussion was going on is that all of these men had no interest in the past. They were very focused on the future and how they could make the technology better, simpler to use and more effective in its ability to tell stories. To a man, they are visionary, and that keeps them very young and vibrant. The creative energy around them is palpable, and it's easy to see that this is what makes them successful in their field. It's also why they are still working in a field which is known for its unbalanced love affair with youth and reputation for throwing away nearly everyone over the age of fifty.

I'm pictured below with John Knoll and Dennis Muren, who between the two of them have at least 15 Oscars for visual effects. They both promised they will check with me before making any major creative decisions and really just hung on my every word.
O.K. They didn't really. But they were both very gracious and kind enough to allow a picture with a non-film-student.

Am I connected, or what?


  1. YOU are connected. That is GREAT.

    A little side story. When my bro and I were very young, we did our share of super 8 movies with special effects and stop frame animation...we worshiped ILM and wrote to them asking for some vocational guidance in a world void of the internet and all the information available today. So we wrote them. And they wrote back. And not a form letter either.

    I'll have to dig that out..I know we still have it somewhere.

    GREAT post!

  2. As a complete Star Wars geek...I'm suitably impressed...and totally jealous! Seriously, that is just incredibly cool!!

    Now, If I could only get those ILM guys to work on my haunt....;-)

  3. Wow that was a thrill to read...the folks at ILM are my heros ... seriously...after seeing "The Empire Strikes Back" 13 times in the theater (serious geek here) it really moved me to make my career choice in television production...although I worked in the corporate world I have continued to be inspired by the work of 1990 I had the chance to spend a week in a workshop taught by David Carson from ILM at the Film and Television Workshops in Rockport, of my favorite memories...anyway I've rambled on and on...can't wait to see the documentary, thanks for sharing...I would have love to experienced that!

  4. I'm going to be watching for that doc. Way cool. Nice shirt BTW:)


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