News 25.02.22

IT’S ALL ABOUT ANIMATION – UP CLOSE WITH INDUSTRIAL LIGHT & MAGIC’S NEWEST JEDI ACADEMY

We caught up with Academy Award® and BAFTA Award-nominated animation supervisor Rob Coleman who is leading Industrial Light & Magic’s newly launched Animation Jedi Academy. We also talked to one of the young Jedi about his experiences at the academy and how his passion for drawing and visual arts led him from Saudi Arabia over Malaysia to ILM’s offices in Moore Park.

From the very beginning, Industrial Light & Magic in Sydney has been determined to invest in local talent. The Jedi Academy training program is run in partnership with the NSW government and will help create hundreds of jobs over five years in the growing Australian Post, Digital and VFX industry.

“We created the Animation Jedi Academy at ILM because we had a feeling that there were talented young animators living in Australia and New Zealand who were not reaching us through our regular recruiting channels,”

Rob Coleman, Head of ILM’s Jedi Academy

“We hoped that if we put the call out that we would be hosting an academy, where we would train and mentor animators, we would find passionate people who had potential, and that is precisely what happened; if you build it, they will come.”

Coleman is one of many experienced ILM animators teaching, guiding and mentoring the academy cohort. His mentorship includes giving a series of presentations framed as Animation from an Animation Supervisor’s Perspective. Coleman explains: “I began by reviewing the basic fundamentals of an animator’s approach to their work and have then gone deeper into how one applies that knowledge to create compelling, engaging and memorable performances. Along the way, I am also sharing real production stories and experiences so that they understand what it is like to work at a top studio on big projects.”

The  Animation Jedi Academy has intentionally been kept small – it consists of six individuals – so that the learning environment remains focused and intimate. By giving the group two months to learn and grow before moving them on to actual work on a feature film, Industrial Light & Magic are making sure that the new cohort absorb the knowledge and practice their new skills in a safe, nurturing environment. This approach has paid off already and the first group of graduate animators are doing great.

Photo from previous Jedi Academy

“They have embraced the program; they have demonstrated that they are keen to learn, shown they are open to critique and are excited by what the future holds. Says Rob Coleman.

“They are precisely the kind of people I was hoping we would find. Over the past 30 years, I have gained a tremendous amount of animation knowledge and experience; I am now at a stage in my career where I can mentor the next generation of up-and-coming talent. Doing so brings me a lot of happiness.”

Rob Coleman

The Sydney Jedi Academy has taken off at the right time. The Australian screen industry is booming and existing film studios all over New South Wales are busier than ever. Film production in Australia is showing no signs of slowing down and hand-in-hand with the many new productions being filmed and produced in “Aussiewood”, there is an ever-increasing demand for highly-skilled, local VFX artists.

“Australia has a proud history of film-making and visual effects excellence. I was in Sydney 21 years ago for the filming of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and witnessed the gifted Australian craftspeople, across all departments, contribute to the production of that movie. I have now been living in Australia for 13 years and have witnessed the growth of the VFX Industry here over that time.”

Rob Coleman
Rob Coleman working on Yoda in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

“The hope for the Jedi Academy is that it aids us in first identifying and then nurturing young local talent. ILM is in a unique position where we can bring together some of the most experienced and talented VFX artists globally with emerging local talent in Australia,” Coleman explains.

On a finishing note, what would be Rob Coleman’s best advice for any aspiring animator, looking to join a major VFX company like ILM? The reply comes promptly:

“Follow your passion; look for inspiration from anything that catches your eye and study the world around you. Great animation artists are fascinated by movement, emotions and performance.”

Artists working in the Sydney studio

Meet the Jedi

Khaled Goda, Graduate Animation Artist, Industrial Light & Magic

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your path to the Jedi Academy.

My family is from Ethiopia but I was born and raised in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. I grew up in a household full of strong, smart, independent women (the only boy among five sisters). I’ve always been into visual arts; from the classic Disney cartoons to 3D animated films and video games. As a child, I came across the behind-the-scenes footage from The Little Mermaid with shots of animators hunched over their lightboxes, drawing. I instantly knew I wanted to do that when I grew up and I spent countless hours tracing all the art covers of the cartoon DVDs in my house. I kept drawing and after high school, I went to art school in Malaysia where I stumbled upon 3D animation and decided to expand my skill-set. I moved to Melbourne in 2018 where I completed a BA in Interactive Media.

The fact that ILM has put together a program that takes in juniors/fresh graduates and trains them to an industry level is amazing, so when I saw the call for applicants on LinkedIn I knew I had to apply. It took me a while to pluck up the courage and update my reel, CV and cover letter so I sent them through a few hours before the deadline. After the initial calls and interview sessions, I got the news that I had been accepted into the program. Little did I know this path, my journey, all the hard work and sacrifices on the way were all leading me to the Jedi Academy and ILM.

Can you talk us through a typical day at the Academy?

The day is usually filled with a mixture of meet-and-greet sessions, tutorials, lectures and introductions. In the morning, we check in with our training mentor to see how everything is going and throughout the day we meet with senior animators, supervisors and other staff members from around ILM who mentor us on multiple topics. We can also ask any questions regarding the industry, their experiences at  ILM, what to expect, and what’s to come. Those sessions are a gold mine and have been invaluable to me so far. Later in the day we work on our weekly assignments and attend various classes on the principles of animation, introductions to ILM tools and efficient workflows. We wrap our day with one final session with our mentor where we review that day’s work and learning. We have all the support you can think of from the staff and fellow interns.

Khaled Goda, painting
What has the Academy experience been like so far?

It has been ABSOLUTELY amazing. Everyone has been encouraging, supportive, patient and helpful. We’ve got the support of literally everyone at ILM, not just from our designated department but from across all the global studios. Joining ILM was initially a bit intimidating because ILM is such a big name in the industry. But once you step foot into your first meeting the energy and environment is so uplifting and positive it washes away any doubt or uneasiness. It feels like you have finally found your tribe.

The most important thing(s) you have learned?

Communication is key. It is one of the most important soft skills that is constantly brought up and reinforced by everyone and it is crucial in a collaborative environment such as ours.
Also, taking initiative and being attentive in addressing issues so that the ball keeps rolling to the next person smoothly are very important skills at ILM.

Any advice for someone who dreams of joining the Jedi Academy?

Have your reel ready, and if it is not ready, work on your craft so that you stand out against the other applicants. You don’t want to miss out on this experience and opportunity. Have your passion drive you till you get your foot through the door. And keep an eye out on ILM’s social media pages. More academies are coming!


About the Jedi Academy

The Jedi Academy is a unified, global, junior talent program for Industrial Light & Magic and Lucasfilm that focuses on developing the next generation of local and diverse visual effects talent.

Participants gain valuable experience through training and mentorship using practical real-world examples of production methodology at ILM. The program is paid and consists of internally delivered, discipline-specific, proprietary training so that a cohort of junior talent can be prepared for production work by the time they conclude the program.

ILM is committed to improving the diversity of all their teams. Training programs like the Jedi Academy help ILM provide opportunities for a broad range of applicants at the start of their careers.

Artists working in the Sydney studio

Applications are now open for Sydney’s upcoming Lighting TD Jedi Academy Program. The program will kick off in April 2022. Read more and apply here.


Head over to ILM’s YouTube channel to see their skills in action!

CONTACT

Luke Hetherington
Executive in Charge, Singapore & Sydney ILM Studios
www.ilm.com