ILM: A Veveysanne Tells Us What the Disney Documentary Leaves

ILM: A Veveysanne Tells Us What the Disney Documentary Leaves

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industrial light and magicA Veveysanne Tells Us What Disney Documentary Leaves

On Disney+, “Light & Magic” recreates the history of the special effects company. Natasha Devaud worked there for more than 20 years. Interview,

The real magician, that is, what was previously the visual effects masters of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), the famous special effects company created by George Lucas at the time of “Star Wars”. Today, in an exciting 6-part documentary, “Light and Magic” (viewing Wednesday July 27), Disney+ looks back on the creation of the company that millions of viewers dreamed of.

Veteran director and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan has been able to access the archival treasure trove of the “Star Wars” dad and the series is full of fascinating anecdotes and documents. James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and of course George Lucas come to testify but they are not the stars of the show. Rather the ones who have found a way to bring the visions of these filmmakers to life: Dennis Muren, John Dykstra, Phil Tippett and others John Knowles, who haven’t stopped pushing the boundaries of the possible with films like “Terminator 2”. Is, “Abyss”, “Jurassic Park” …

Vevesne Natasha Devoud, 52, worked with him for 21 years in films like ‘Men in Black’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and even ‘Iron Man’. An expert in textures and lighting in computer-generated images, she tells us about her own ILM, or documentary, below, including the one she’d like to ignore.

What was ILM like when you came to 1995?

At the time, the company was based in San Rafael, north of the San Francisco Bay. In 1979, to deal with the special effects of “Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back”, they began by renting a large dilapidated building on one campus, then gradually expanded by renting out the surrounding buildings. did. There were rooms in the basement, others in the attic, cables hanging in the corridors… Not even a mention of ILM in the main entrance. Simply “Optical Company”. When I arrived on the first day, I didn’t even know if I was in the right place. They wanted to keep things a little low because fans were expecting George (Lucas) to give a script…

The documentary is kept in the basement at one of these workshops, The Pit, described as “the den of the Bad Boys”, where crazy parties with musical groups were held, beer galore.. .

exactly that (she laughs), They were a whole team led by a strong personality, Steve Williams. (Editor’s note: who designed the first digital dinosaur for “Jurassic Park”), I didn’t go to their parties, but I know they were pretty loose on Friday nights. There were a lot of musicians at ILM who would gather to play together in the evenings, or who kept their guitars handy in their office… It has always been a haven for very creative people. The Halloween parties were great too. Some spent months making their costumes.

52 year old Natasha Devoud worked with ILM for 21 years.

52 year old Natasha Devoud worked with ILM for 21 years.


“Light and Magic” describes ILM as a real family, where the employees were close to each other, where there was a real camaraderie… was it really that?

Absolutely! We formed very close groups of friends and we saw each other a lot outside of work. On July 4th, George was having a huge picnic at his farm, we were holding a fundraiser where people were getting ready… When I arrived, they were looking for qualified people for the computer graphics department. Most of them came from their demo department and had to be retrained because digital effects were really starting to take precedence over physical effects and there wasn’t enough work on the demo side. But many others came from many different backgrounds: from NASA, from architecture… What always impressed me was their humility, despite their talents. There was no one big ego out there and we found out sometimes after 3 years that developed such a wonderful tool… Which brought out a really interesting dynamic. But all this rather magical atmosphere did not last.

That, it’s not mentioned in the documentary…

I think there was a split in 2005 when we moved to the more modern campus in Presidio Park, north of San Francisco. The layout and infographic departments found themselves different when we mixed up until now. There was a real connection between these two entities. I remember that for “Van Helsing” I had to animate a burning horse cart that was rolling along a rock. There were live shots, others in mock-ups, and mine in digital. And they had made a complete model of the forest where the scene was taking place and I could go and see the environment. It was mesmerizing to see them build little fingertip high lampposts with foam at their bases… for “AI” they built underwater worlds with tiny little details… and when they If extras were needed, he urged us. They gave us different outfits, filmed us on a blue or green screen and then attached us to the film. In one, I am a soldier, in the other a prostitute, in one of “Harry Potter”, during a game of Quidditch, we are a whole team of computer graphics in public and we can very well see ourselves . Luckily, we were able to save a few models to decorate our offices during the move. The owners wanted to destroy them. And without that, our offices would be gloomy, with only our computers… In one room, there were a lot of planes above our heads, from various movies, like “Always”… There was an animatronic at the entrance – they were robotic Creatures – From “Ghostbusters”, and on their bikes, dinosaurs…

It seems that there was a rivalry going on between the two departments. The mockup is also called the infographic service “The Dark Side”, the dark side of ILM…

I was part of the “Dark Side” so I really didn’t know about it. But I understand their displeasure because somewhere their work has been taken away from them. And even if they could retrain and switch computers, they lost an enormous amount of knowledge: their knowledge of materials, tools, textures…

With the second “Star Wars” trilogy, George Lucas began creating digital cameras, films, and projectors, prompting the entire industry to switch to all-digital… an approach that was not well received by the profession. . How did you experience it internally?

Even with us, its position was not always well regarded because like any new technology, it had to replace the old one, thus involving job losses. Here too, people have been forced to retrain… but digital technology has made our job much easier, if only for all visual effects to work. Afterwards, there are things that can be reproduced, others cannot. But the biggest advantage of ILM compared to other digital effects companies has been the immense know-how to model with live effects.

Ironically, the acquisition of ILM by Disney in 2012 turned the company most upside down. And that, Disney+ is completely hidden in this documentary. How did you experience this change of ownership?

We didn’t see it coming at all. One afternoon I went to the cafeteria to get a sandwich. I went back upstairs and people were making funny faces. We were just notified by email that we have been purchased. 10 minutes later, my father called me to ask what it meant… the whole world had learned the news at the same time!

What changed from there?

The company has entered the net race for profit. Vacation days were disappearing, we had less and less time to shine our work, salaries weren’t increasing anymore… George was really generous. Sometimes we had summers when there wasn’t much work and he managed to keep people there even if they had nothing to do. But since his departure, Disney kept screwing up. That’s why I left. Like many others.

The documentary featured a couple who met at ILM. Is this your case too?

they found one, in fact (she laughs), No, there are a ton of them that are made on the spot. In general, we would sometimes work 60 hours a week… My husband and I met outside, but during a day organized with coworkers. He was one of his friends. So anyway, we met only a little while in connection with work…

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