NextGen students from across our education network were recently invited to join the multi-award winning VFX studio Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) for an inspiring three-day remote work experience placement! Since being founded by George Lucas in 1975, Industrial Light & Magic has set the standard for visual effects, creating some of the most stunning images in the history of film. They have won 16 Best Visual Effects Oscars for their work on films including Star Wars, the Jurassic Park and World films, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Students were tasked with responding to a sample moodboard brief from ILM to “Redesign the Production of the Jurassic Park car interior scene.” This is similar to a real brief that a VFX Production Designer/Concept Artist within their Art department would receive.
31 students from 11 NextGen colleges were invited to join the remote programme, working collaboratively with their peers from across the NextGen network to brainstorm, research and create their moodboads and designs before pitching their work to a panel from ILM.
ILM artists and staff were on hand throughout to support, answer questions, and inspire the students. As well as dedicated staff offering real-time feedback on their work, students attended masterclasses on the VFX production pipeline hosted by ILM artists. They were also given access to resources and presentations from the ILM archives to help with their work.
Amy Backwell, Emerging Talent Specialist at ILM, said of the work experience:
“We recognise that NextGen is a centre of excellence for developing young talent in the Games, Animation and VFX industries. We currently partner with NextGen for our apprenticeship programme as well as training for our Production Support Trainees on the Kickstart scheme.
“We wanted to offer our established 3-day online programme to Level 3 students specifically at NextGen colleges in order to help feed into our existing talent pipeline. At ILM, we really care about diversity & inclusion and so developing a programme aimed at young people from different backgrounds is at the top of our strategic plan.
“The programme incorporates a mixture of department talks with artists and team projects, as well as problem-solving and presentation exercises. All of these are skills that we feel are vital for a successful career in VFX, and it's useful for students to have exposure to early on. We hope it inspired and engaged the students, so they went away from the placement feeling motivated and hopefully helped solidify their decision to join the visual effects industry!”
Isaac Black, NextGen Level 3 Student at St Helens College said of the placement:
"The ILM work experience was a fantastic learning and social experience that gave me a great insight into the VFX industry. It was a surreal experience to learn directly from the talented artists that helped make some of my favourite pieces of media. I learned so much more about the VFX industry than I knew there was, and it made me very excited about a prospective career!"
Rob Hinde, Programme Leader in Games, Animation and VFX at St Helens College, said:
“When I announced the possibility of remote work experience with ILM to my students, surprise and excitement was the main reaction, with some disbelief that they would be able to get access to something they perceive as being so removed from their everyday lives in the North of England. The overall feedback from the three that where selected from St Helens was very positive. Taking part in making something collaboratively and seeing a final outcome was very rewarding, as was interacting with the industry professionals directly while observing their processes – I only wish I could have taken part myself!
“I feel it is so important for the students (and staff) to interact with industry professionals as often as possible for a few reasons. The main one is being the aspirational boost that the students receive by putting a face to the job title, such as this is what a 3D Artist looks like and this is where they started out. When the class found out that certain professionals in a studio originated from St Helens, the idea that ‘people like me from this town can make it’ really hit home. Then there’s the ability to ask technical, creative and sometimes personal questions and receive direct responses, and the prestige of the whole experience that helps keep the students focused upon their goal of breaking into the creative industries.”
Adeel Hussain, Course Leader and Lecturer of NextGen Games, Animation and VFX at Doncaster College and University Centre, said:
“The student from Doncaster who attended, Michalina, found the work experience with ILM fantastic. She found that her peers that she worked with were kind and friendly, and was able to learn some new content which would help her with her studies. She learnt about the different departments within the industry and how each department works together to achieve the designated tasks. She loved the group project exercises, and wished that the industry talks could be a little longer as they had much knowledge to share!
“These opportunities to learn from and be inspired by industry are great for our learners as the industry input reinforces what they are learning on the course. Working with industry allows the learners to show off what they know, but also shows them how their skills are embedded into industry practices. The work experience also shows the students different work ethics, new skills and knowledge about the industry. It's also a great way for the learners to network with professionals and other students with similar interests”
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