The Studio Supervisor for Lucasfilm in Singapore wants you.|
|CGSociety :: Artist Profile|
31 August 2010, by Barbara Robertson
Mohen Leo is on a mission. At this point in his career as a visual effects supervisor, he believes he has found the perfect studio in the perfect location, and he’s recruiting 100 mid- to senior-level effects artists and geeks from around the world to join him.
Five of the films Leo has worked on have received Oscar nominations for best visual effects. And Leo personally received two Visual Effects Society nominations – for best single visual effect of the year 2012 and outstanding created environment in a live action movie Poseidon.
He was a visual effects artist on Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, and technical director for The Perfect Storm and Pearl Harbor at Industrial Light & Magic. He left ILM to become technical director at ESC for The Matrix Reloaded and then became sequence lead for The Matrix Revolutions. Back to ILM where he was associate visual effects supervisor for Poseidon, then on to Digital Domain to become visual effects supervisor for Speed Racer and 2012.
|Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace © Industrial Light & Magic||But, ask him about any of these projects and he quickly careens into his enthusiasm for his current job as studio supervisor for ILM Singapore. He believes this job embodies the best of all his previous experiences.|
“I joined ESC because I was ready for a new challenge,” he says. “What I loved most about ESC is that it was a small company we were building up. It was a start-up that had great projects.” When ESC folded, he moved back to ILM and then to Digital Domain before returning to ILM for the third time. “I have a tendency to be restless,” he says.
Restless, maybe. But at the same time, focused.
|“I toyed with the idea of working in Asia for the last five years,” he says. “I can’t see myself planning to be in one place forever. When I look at people I think are interesting, they tend to be episodic. They do different things in different places. So, I considered Mumbai and Korea. But, I didn’t want to sacrifice the quality of my work or the quality of the company. So I jumped at the opportunity to work in Asia for one of the best companies in the industry.” |
When Leo moved to ILM Singapore, that division of Lucasfilm had 55 people. Now, ILM has 110 and the overall group in Singapore, which includes LucasArts and Lucasfilm Animation (Clone Wars and an animated feature film in progress) employs around 400 people, with more joining the force every day.
|Terminator Salvation © Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved. Image Courtesy Industrial Light & Magic|
|“We have a start-up feel, but with the stability of ILM,” Leo says. “We have the pipeline. And, we have the interesting work.”|
At ILM Singapore, Leo straddles two worlds. As a visual effects supervisor, he oversees the creative and technical work on feature films, helping raise the quality of the work there. “We are putting the senior teams in place so that we don’t need to check with San Francisco on every call,” he says. “Only when we want feedback and for finals.”
Already though, Iron Man 2 visual effects supervisor Ben Snow, says of the group, “On the first Iron Man, we sent lighting to Singapore. On Terminator and Transformers we pushed more through to them and built a lot of trust. Now, ILM Singapore is indistinguishable from ILM in San Francisco.”
At the same time, as studio supervisor, Leo wears a production management hat. “I have an unholy love of spreadsheets, budgets, and schedules,” he laughs.
And, this ability to straddle two roles gives him the means to make interesting decisions. For example, “We have the ILM San Francisco pipeline and we largely do things here in Singapore the way it’s done in San Francisco. But also, we can try to be more nimble.”
Born and raised in Berlin, Leo nimbly avoided his family’s profession. His father and mother are both doctors as are his brother, his wife, and his brother’s wife’s parents. When Leo graduated from high school, though, he chose computer science and physics, and began coursework at the Technical University in Berlin. “In Germany, at age 19, you’re expected to know what you want to do,” he says.
It didn’t take long for him to realize that he hadn’t chosen well. Even though he had always liked art, he didn’t see any clear application for studying fine art, so that wasn’t an answer, either. “I wanted to know whether something was right or wrong,” he says. “Not how it makes me feel. Art seemed too vague.”
So, he dropped out anyway and considered trying an industrial design major, which had elements of art, but with a practical application. But, he never followed through.
“My brother hassled me,” Leo says. “He said that the least I could do since I wasn’t in school was to get an internship somewhere.” Leo took the challenge and contacted 20 companies working in graphic design and advertising. One offered him an internship that changed his life.
|Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, © Industrial Light & Magic|
|Growing Up: ILM Singapore Expands|
Looking for a chance to work on the next Transformers, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, or, perhaps, Gore Verbinsky’s first animated feature Rango? If you are a mid- to senior-level effects artist, with four to six years experience, Industrial Light & Magic’s doors are wide open.
“We’re looking to fill jobs quickly,” says Steve Mair, director of talent acquisitions for LucasFilm. “We want to add 100 people over the next six to eight months. We’ve staffed up our junior talent. Now, we’re focused on finding creature TDs, compositors, lighting TDs – senior talent across all the disciplines.”
We’re not staffing for a project,” Mair adds. “We want people who are interested in helping build a strong ILM Singapore; a studio that’s poised for the future.”
In many ways, the Singapore division of ILM is identical to the San Francisco division, except for being a few thousand miles away. Singapore artists use the same pipeline and work on the same projects. “We’re still growing in San Francisco as well,” Mair says. “But having a studio in Singapore gives us a 24-hour production cycle. It’s as if Singapore is just down the hall from San Francisco. The studios work hand-in-hand.”
In other ways, it’s different. For one, the artists in all the Lucasfilm divisions in Singapore – ILM, LucasArts, and Lucasfilm animation –work more closely than in California. “There’s a little bit of movement between the groups in California, but nowhere near the amount we see in Singapore,” Mair says. “In Singapore, they all sit together, which is really different from California.”
Also, the Singapore group is more multicultural. “At last check, we had people from 41 countries represented in our studio,” Mair says. But, as in all of Singapore, English is the common language in the studio, which means, Mair notes, that people bringing families can enroll their kids in the public schools, or in American, Canadian, and British schools. Also, that a good percentage of the artists are women. “Singapore is not a third world country,” he says. “It’s clean, modern and safe.”|
A third difference, Mair points out, is more obvious: the location. “We have a community blog and you’re always seeing messages like, ‘Hey, I’m going scuba diving in Malaysia. Want to go?’ One of our recruiters had to get a new passport in six months because he had too many stamps.”
Mair advises anyone interested in joining the group in Singapore to send a demo reel or better yet, a link to a reel on a website. “Put your best quality work first and make sure you focus on the specific job you’re applying for,” he says. “ILM Singapore is the same as ILM San Francisco. We don’t need generalists. If you’re applying for more than one job, have a specific reel for each. A lighting reel. A rigging reel. Because if we’re looking at a thousand reels and we don’t see something we like in the first minute or two, we probably won’t go further.”
LucasFilm Recruiting posts all the jobs available and you’ll see links there for where and how to send demo reels.
One last piece of advice: “We’re looking to fill roles quickly,” Mair says. “If you wait until SIGGRAPH Asia in December, it might be too late. If you have a role you want, apply today.”