Special Feature: The Force Is Recruiting

Ever wondered what it’s like to create sci-fi characters for an animated television series based on the uber successful Star Wars franchise? That’s exactly what the folks at Lucasfilm Animation Singapore have been up to since its inception last year. And guess what, they are on the lookout for new employees!

For those of you who have been tinkering with After Effects plug-ins to create that glow effect, simulating light saber battles between stickwielding nephews and nieces; or sweating over that photorealistic 3D model of the Xwing fighter jet, perhaps your dream job is waiting around the corner. Indeed, if you have been considering a career as an animation or visual effects artist, an opportunity to work for one of the world’s leading companies in digital arts entertainment has recently opened up, with potentially more than 70 vacancies to fill. Not to mention also, that it offers a once-a-lifetime chance to indulge in all your geeky Star Wars fantasies — and finally, to do so in the name of … er-hum, work. Lucasfilm Animation Singapore – the Asian offshoot of Lucasfilm Ltd a.k.a. the company that gave us the Star Wars franchise – was last seen interviewing candidates at the CG Overdrive event in July. The recruitment drive came hot on the heels of an announcement the company made during another Singapore held event, Broadcast Asia 2006, in June, where it organized a similar recruitment campaign. In the announcement, the studio which opened its doors for business in October 2005, said that it was hiring new employees for a newly-formed handheld games division to work together with LucasArts in the U.S., and a digital artists group to work alongside Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) for the production of visual effects work. When Asia Image interviewed Christian Kubsch, General Manager of Lucasfilm Animation Singapore, he revealed that the studio had already hired more than 60 employees from 20 different countries, most of who are working on a yet unnamed CG animated television series, currently still in development.

“We have been very involved in our first project, a 3D animation television show based on the Star Wars universe with a working title of Clone Wars, but we’re not sure if we will ultimately call it that. There is a traditional animation TV series with that name, that the storyline of the 3D series leans on but the artistic and visual styles of the two are completely different.â€Â The team in Singapore has been working closely with George Lucas – the visionary filmmaker who helms his namesake empire – on the project. The date of release is yet to be finalized but Christian estimates that it takes “one to two yearsâ€Â to complete a full season for a show of this kind. Industry stalwart helms Singapore office A producer and visual effects consultant who has worked on feature films like The Matrix Reloaded ( visual effect consultant, 2003) ; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (animation and visual effects producer, 2002) ; Spawn (animation and visual effects producer); and more recently, as associate producer on Over the Hedge (2006), Christian Kubsch has had a long working relationship with Lucasfilm Ltd. and ILM, its visual effects company. He joined Lucasfilm in 2005, and was given an opportunity to take charge of Lucasfilm Animation Singapore, which opened in Singapore later that year.
“For me it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to assemble the first team outside California for Lucasfilm and to create great new animation for TV and films.“ Jonathan Harb is someone who shares Christian’s enthusiasm for the chance to work at the prestigious entertainment community. The digital artist supervisor at Lucasfilm Ltd. was fresh out of college (School of Design at North Carolina State) when he joined ILM on 1 January 1996, and has not looked back since. Jonathan recently joined Chris’ team in Singapore to help out with recruitment and establish its digital arts group. As a self-confessed Star Wars geek who has earned credits on all three of the most recent Star Wars installments – better known as the Prequels – Jonathan Harb is living proof that you can have your cake and eat it, too. “For me Industrial Light & Magic has been a great place to start a career and a place that’s full of opportunities. I mean – talk about having the potential to grow – you can literally start at the ground floor and supervise whole projects some years later. You get to work with world renowned directors and be exposed to practically anything that’s related to filmmaking – including practical model building, traditional camera work, digital photography, 2D painting, animation software, compositing software, 3D modeling etc. “If there are people out there who are interested in growing and learning on the job, this is a good place to come. The opportunities are literally endless.â€Â Excited about putting together a Singapore team, Jonathan says the company is looking for people with broader skills sets and the versatility to switch between different jobs types. He explains: “We used to look for people to perform specific roles like modeling, or those who solely paint textures and so on. We would create a large pipeline in order to process the work from group to group. But a lot work that we do now actually requires individual artists to be able to do more. “The need to be flexible about crewing different people for different stages of the work at different times means that the crew must consist of individuals with broader scope of skills. After one is done modeling, for example, he or she can jump onto another stage in the pipeline and perform a different function altogether, which makes crewing a whole lot more flexible.â€Â Jonathan’s unit is that of the digital artists group, which together with ILM, focuses on the visual effects aspects of feature films. The group hopes to employ 24 people by the year’s end.
Asked for the attributes he is looking for in a new colleague, Jonathan states: “It’s easy to say that we’re looking for talented people, but I know that doesn’t give you much detail. That’s step one but we also look for people with problem-solving attitude and some enthusiasm – those who, when faced with a problem, not only try to figure out the solutions but also improve upon the process. Attitude has so much to do with being successful in this kind of work.â€Â As far as technical skills are concerned, Jonathan clarifies that it is not necessary for the job applicants to be armed with specialist software knowledge although experience in a 2D paint package like Adobe Photoshop or exposure to a 3D package like Maya or 3ds Max are plus factors. The extensive use of proprietary software on the projects also means that regular training and updating of new software skills constitute an integral facet of the work itself. Christian adds: “From an artist’s perspective, anyone who wants to come and work for Lucasfilm animation, can be assured that the studio will allow them to grow and to become better at what they do over a short period of time. There are many ways how that’s going to happen and it includes training programs and how people work with others but this is definitely a place where the team has a huge potential to grow to something unlike anything seen in Singapore today.â€Â The Force is in Singapore Since its inception in 1971, Lucasfilm Ltd. has changed the face of entertainment and continues to be a leading proponent of the digital revolution. ILM and Skywalker Sound, its visual effects and sound design entities, have been garnering multiple awards and accolades in their respective fields, while LucasArts has been setting new standards as a games developer and publisher. Lucasfilm Animation, meanwhile, continues to raise the bar for digital animation in television and the movies. With such glowing credentials behind it, the formation of Lucasfilm Animation Singapore was obviously a highly anticipated event, welcomed both by the local and regional entertainment industry. The Singapore studio, designed to produce movies and television for global audiences, covers approximately 40,000 square feet (3,715 square meters) and is situated in the Changi area of Singapore. As the company was expected to work hand-in hand with the team at Lucasfilm Animation, based at Skywalker Ranch in Mar in County, California, the decision to locate the Asian off ice in the Lion City must have been a carefully deliberated one. Christian reasons emphatically: “First and foremost, our company develops original IP (intellectual property) and therefore it was of great importance to us to be in a location where that IP is secure. Singapore is a great location where we can operate safely in that regard, which isn’t necessarily the case, if you look at the other regions around us. “Another reason is that in trying to get the best talent that we can possibly find, it’s important to be in a location that is geographically central and attractive enough for people to relocate to and live in. Singapore definitely fits the bill. As for recruitment of local artists, Christian adds: “We’re recruiting globally, and of course if we do find the right talent here in Singapore, we would like to hire them but Singapore is still a growing animation community. We’re working with universities and art schools here to make sure that more talent in animation come out of Singapore. We have quite an appetite for talent right now and that’s why we’re recruiting globally.â€Â Besides the opportunity to work for a reputable name in the industry, those interested in applying for the jobs can also look forward to a relaxed working atmosphere, if the boss’ take on management styles is anything to go by. Preferring to call the Lucasfilm style of management ‘family oriented’, Christian immediately sheds the corporate-minded culture with this analogy of how he runs the Singapore studio: “It’s about people looking out for people, and people feeling taken care of.â€Â Long working hours maybe part and parcel of film and television production houses, but at Lucasfilm Animation Singapore, it isn’t encouraged for the sake of it. “It’s about the work and getting the work done. We don’t make it mandatory to clock long working hours but what we do have is a joint commitment by everyone who works here to get the work done when a deadline comes up.â€Â When it comes to the opportunities for career advancements, Jonathan refers enthusiastically to the raft of projects in the pipeline. LucasArts – we’re working on next generation games based on the Indiana Jones and StarWars franchises. The unit is also committed to new intellectual properties so there’s an opportunity in the gaming industry to be on the bleeding edge of advancement. LucasArts is interested in building from scratch a hand held games division and we want to produce games 100% here in Singapore from the ground up.â€Â He further reveals that current work in progress at ILM include potential blockbusters like Michael Bay’s The Transformers and the next Harry Potter movie. He conjectures: “It’s entirely possible that work for any of these high profile projects may make its way here. All of a sudden there’s an opportunity to give input here in Singapore on projects known throughout the world.â€Â In laying the foundation for future cohorts of locally trained artists to undertake these international projects, Christian reveals that Lucasfilm Animation Singapore is working very closely with educational facilities in Singapore, including the universities, polytechnics and various privately run art schools. Articulating the studio’s impact on the local art scene, Christian stresses on the longer-term mutual benefits to be gained by setting up shop here: “We are working with these institutions to help inform their curriculum, in a way that helps the graduates get jobs in the industry and eventually to hire people out of these schools. “What we ultimately hope to do is to build an artistic community here – so that our presence here continues to be a win-win situation for both Lucasfilm Animation Singapore and Singapore.”

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