Lucasfilm's Industrial Light and Magic officially opened its 30,000-square foot studio in Gastown on March 17.
ILM, founded by filmmaker George Lucas in 1975, had already been operating a temporary satellite office here on Carrall Street since 2011, which grew to employ about 90 artists. As the studio now has 133 employees, and plans to expand to 200 by the summer, the company was in need of more space.
ILM president and general manager Lynwen Brennan allayed any fears that ILM Vancouver would follow in the footsteps of Pixar Canada's closure, which was Pixar's first studio outside the U.S.
"We're in very different businesses so the reason for Pixar leaving are very different than what would affect the visual effects industry," Brennan said at the ILM Vancouver office. "It's been well documented their reasons for leaving here was they wanted to consolidate production all in one place. So for us, we're actually needing more capacity. So what we're looking for at ILM is we need to grow, we need more artists, and we need talented artists."
ILM chief creative officer and senior visual effects supervisor John Knoll also pointed out that there is a solid stream of work coming down the pipe for them.
"An advantage that we have being a child company of Lucasfilm, Lucasfilm has a pretty aggressive content plan. So we've got an 8 to 10 year slate of work that's already been laid out in front of us. We know that's all coming and we're preparing for it."
The Vancouver studio will work on numerous blockbusters such as the Star Wars trilogy, Warcraft, Jurassic World, and Tomorrowland.
ILM Vancouver already has a few projects under its belt, including The Lone Ranger, which received an Oscar nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Visual Effects, and Pacific Rim, which was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Special Visual Effects. Current projects include Captain America: The Winter Solider for Marvel Studios, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Rather than split up work by discipline between offices, Brennan said the company divides work by sections of a film.
Brennan claimed that the Canadian dollar was not an influential factor in their decision to put down permanent roots in Vancouver.
"Our leading tenet is talent and we follow the talent," she said.
Knoll added that proximity to and being in the same time zone as their San Francisco office (which has a core staff of about 400 employees) were favorable considerations. ILM also has studios in Singapore and London, England.
Brennan said that they are already working with local studios such as Image Engine on several projects and would like to work with local industry schools.
"Within our studios we have a very, very strong and robust training program….We would love to have the opportunity to work with the schools and find ways that we can have a two-way collaboration," she said.
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, and Minister of State for Small Business Naomi Yamamoto all made speeches at an official opening ceremony held at the studio.
Yamamoto (who graduated from UBC Film Production program) said that the provincial government provided the film industry with tax credit support of more than $350 million for over 600 digital media companies. Those companies generated over $2.3 billion in annual sales and employed over 16,000 people.