Ryan Church

ImagineFX - - Industrial Light & Magic - www.ryanchurch.com In two spells at ILM, Ryan worked on Star Wars: Episodes II, III and VII. He won an ADG Award for Ex­cel­lence in Pro­duc­tion De­sign for Avatar.

ILM con­cept artist com­pares work on Star Wars films

What was your first job as a con­cept artist?

Right af­ter I grad­u­ated, I worked for Walt Dis­ney Imag­i­neer­ing. It was fun, but very re­al­is­tic. One day of blue sky fun, five months of wheel­chair ac­cess and side­walk widths.

You worked on Star Wars: Episodes II and III, then went free­lance for 10 years, but re­turned to ILM to work on The Force Awak­ens. How did work on the two films dif­fer?

Ge­orge Lu­cas was frus­trated by his lim­i­ta­tions on the early Star Wars and he pressed against that in the pre­quels. We pushed the bound­aries with what was pos­si­ble with dig­i­tal and of­ten broke them. JJ re­alised how the lim­i­ta­tions of re­al­ity for Episode IV con­trib­uted to mak­ing such a pure movie. Be­cause ILM was in­volved early on The Force Awak­ens, we were able to de­sign with JJ, to get the most con­vinc­ing and real look­ing stuff, even if it would be dig­i­tal. That’s the se­cret sauce of ILM’s ap­proach. The ear­lier the di­rec­tor can see things to a high de­gree of fin­ish, the bet­ter for mak­ing de­ci­sions. For ex­am­ple, we’d show JJ what kind of shots he could get with a lim­ited set build ver­sus what he’d get with a larger set build. We spent many months with each ve­hi­cle and lo­ca­tion ex­plor­ing the lim­its of what a Star Wars look is.

Can you de­scribe a Star Wars look?

I saw Episode IV when I was a child and it made such an im­pres­sion. The huge­ness of shapes. The colours. The first half of the movie is tan and brown. The se­cond half with the Death Star is black and white. It was bril­liant. Even a one-year-old could re­act to that. Ralph McQuar­rie and Joe John­ston were the essence of Star Wars re­ally.

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