ILM to set up at Fox Studios

The George-Lucas founded Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is setting up shop in Australia, which will create employment opportunities for VFX artists.

The Disney-owned VFX and animation studio is establishing a facility at Disney’s Fox Studios Australia, IF understands. That will be the San Francisco-based firm’s fourth outpost, joining Vancouver, London and Singapore.

ILM executives were instrumental in persuading the NSW Government to introduce a 10 per cent tax incentive for post, digital and visual effects (PDV), matching South Australia and Queensland.

Starting on October 1 and requiring a minimum spend of $500,000 on PDV in NSW, the incentive has secured for the state post-production on Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Elvis Presley movie for Warner Bros. Pictures, which will shoot in Queensland.

The PDV sector has known for several months that ILM intended to set up a facility in Australia; the big question was the location.

The NSW PDV rebate, initiated by Minister for Jobs and Investment Stuart Ayres, was the clincher for ILM’s choice of the Fox Studios, IF understands.

Luke Hetherington.

Aussie Luke Hetherington, the executive in charge of ILM’s Singapore studio, will be responsible for the Sydney facility, which is expected to have 50-100 employees by year’s end, and continue to expand in 2020.

Hetherington, who will split his time between Sydney and Singapore, spent 17 years at Animal Logic, where he served as head of film VFX, executive producer, head of production and head of CG.

His credits include Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ready Player One, Avengers Infinity War, Monster Hunt 2, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Sucker Punch, Knowing, Stealth, Monk Comes Down the Mountain, Walking with Dinosaurs 3D and the sci-fi TV series Farscape.

ILM was founded in 1975 by George Lucas when he began producing Star Wars. Disney acquired ILM in 2012 as part of its purchase of Lucasfilm.

The firm is renowned for its innovations including VFX supervisor John Dykstra’s Dykstraflex, the first computer motion control camera system for shooting dynamic space battles; the Hot Rod-inspired model ships (a carryover aesthetic from Lucas’ American Graffiti); the pyrotechnics of real explosions; and imaginative matte paintings and intricate optical composite printing.

It has won 15 Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and received 31 Academy Awards for Scientific and Technical Achievement.