Industrial Light and Magic opens permanent studio in Vancouver

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      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.

      Their new premises had been vacated by Pixar Canada, which launched in April 2010 but closed in October 2013.

      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.

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      Mar 18, 2014 at 9:53am

      "permanent studio" is a bit of a stretch. Tax credits stop = byebyenow

      Ron Y

      Mar 18, 2014 at 10:51am

      That's awesome. Vancouver has an amazing animation and FX history, and having ILM here for the long haul is an outstanding 'get' for the local scene.


      Mar 18, 2014 at 1:00pm

      Once the taxpayers realize how much money they're giving away to foreign studios and stop the subsidies this and other studios will suddenly no longer me "permanent"

      BC is renting an industry at the loss of its taxpayers.

      Michael Puttonen

      Mar 18, 2014 at 1:43pm

      These are high quality people coming from USA and elsewhere. We are learning from them all the time, and it looks like the benefits to BC are significant in that respect. The arrangements that made Life of Pi what it was, for example.

      The MLA says $350 million going to digital work. That's about 60% of the total provincial subisidy to Hollywood North, which was approaching $600 m. last year. If the MLA is quoting the right figures that is a big shift. Does it reflect the fact that these refundable tax credits create 2 admin/production/marketing jobs under the "DAVE" program at a 17.5% subsidy...for every 1 crew/actor/extra job created on a film shoot at a 35% subsidy? The gov't has made much of their jobs creation program, so those two-for-one numbers count.

      Next time they get involved in lobbying, actors and boots-on-the-ground film crews might want to consider whether a simple increase in the provincial refundable tax credit won't just lose them more ground? Perhaps the next $100 million increase in provincial dollars if it ever comes should go beyond tax credits towards a program taking significant equity postitions in films made here.

      Instead of more first-come-first-serve tax credits as proffered in the last election, actors and crews might benefit more from $100 million yearly in equity investment to attract 10 prominent Canadian & foreign directors &/or producers who "Creative BC" invites to shoot in BC, where presumably they will engage live actors and crews. In ten years, that's 100 films, and some them will make a profit for BC, unlike tax credits.

      Ron Y

      Mar 18, 2014 at 1:52pm

      Wow tough crowd

      jacob p

      Mar 19, 2014 at 3:23pm

      hm. if disney (parent corp. for both) is the same tenant, wonder if it was a new lease (or its ongoing). Also wonder if its the parent company, or the subsiduary (ILM, Pixar) that makes decisions about leasing, opening/closing offices, and negotiating tax breaks/incentives.