ILM is still a goal for many aspiring special effects artists

“Innovation” is another word for “winging it.”

Going through “Industrial Light&Magic: The Art of Innovation” you get a sense that the very talented computer graphic designers and artists are winging it on every film. They take what they learn on each film; integrate it into the next film, then go beyond what has gone before.

It also makes clear that it’s still pretty much a man’s world.

The company, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), was created in 1975 to produce the special effects for filmmaker George Lucas’ “Star Wars.” It won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 1978.

The company never looked back.

Film by film, “The Art of Innovation” leads you through many of the most successful films on the last 30 years including all three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. ILM garnered Oscars for 1982’s “E.T.”, “Forrest Gump” and many others.

1993’s “Jurassic Park” was a breakthrough in visual effects where Glintenkamp writes, “For the first time, digital technology is used to create a living, breathing character with skin, muscles, texture and specific behavioral dispositions” — in other words, when the hungry T-Rex eats the lawyer, it’s a transition from a live actor to a digitally created hors d’oeuvre.

The gender difference shows up as you go through. One feature is “Another Road to ILM,” which is personal histories of many of the talented special effects artists. All of the 14 interviews are men. Despite this, there are women who work for ILM — you see them in the pictures. Visual effects supervisor Lindy DeQuattro oversaw the visual effects on 2009’s “Surrogates” and, in management, Chrissie England was the president from 2004 to 2010.

Nonetheless, the “Another Roads” are a fascinating read for young filmmakers.

For example, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston was there from the start in the 1970s. He made short films as a child, then as he grew he made contacts in the film industry. Then he was invited to work on “Star Wars.” As he recounts at the opening, he and fellow cameraman (later ILM visual effects guru) Dennis Muren, “were worried about it because of our experiences on some of the film and things we had seen. I know when it was over, we kind of looked at each other and the feeling was, ‘Who worked on this movie? Who did this? Because this is really great! And what the hell happened?’”

A couple of decades later, Bill George, who was the visual effects supervisor on “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” says his interest in film started with “Star Trek,” “Lost in Space” and later “Star Wars.” He began making commercial model kits, then his own models from scratch, and early set his sights on working at ILM — so much so that he used to dumpster dive outside their office.

He says, “I got some amazing stuff out of the ILM trash cans. That’s how it starts: You start in the trash can.”


“Industrial Light&Magic: The Art of Innovation” by Pamela Glintenkamp; Abrams, New York ($50)


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