Star Wars: Episode VII Triggers Massive ILM Expansion Overseas

Get ready for Skywalker Ranch, the U.K. edition.

Spurred by the expected increase in work that will accompany the creation of Star Wars: Episode VII and Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Industrial Light & Magic revealed plans to beef up its presence in London with an expanded facility in the city’s SoHo district. THR reports that the new site will exist north of Tottenham Court Road, and will be "a full service studio," according to ILM president and general manager Lynwen Brennan.

"We’ll have an art department, previsualization, and an entire end-to-end visual effects and computer graphics pipeline," she tells the trade. However, Brennan does not expect ILM to follow Star Wars to Pinewood, where J.J. Abrams plans to do the bulk of his shooting on Episode VII in the Spring. Brennan said:

"We’ll certainly have some art department and previs there, but we’re not currently planning on having a large ILM presence at Pinewood. We did consider splitting the facility in two, but we are now focusing on our London facility and having an as-needed facility at Pinewood to be near the production."

Having an ILM facility in Central London makes complete sense, giving the high-profile, effects-driven movies that plan to film in and around the area. As THR notes, Joss Whedon’s Avengers sequel will the new ILM facility’s first project. But the new effects house will be handling projects from Disney, Marvel, LucasFilm and other studios. At the moment, according to the trade, ILM is hard at work on Jurassic World, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tomorrowland, World of Warcraft, Luc Besson’s Lucy and Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. You know, just a few films you might be looking forward to.

In the piece, it is confirmed that Roger Guyett ( Star Trek Into Darkness) will oversee the effects work on Episode VII, and that work will be shared between ILM offices in San Francisco, Singapore and Vancouver. This is a shot in the arm for the U.K. film industry, but a potential concern for U.S. effects houses that likely would have competed for the opportunity to work on these major blockbusters on Hollywood’s release schedule. The facilities outside of London will continue to lure massive projects, and having an effects house in ILM nearby will continue to make the UK attractive to studios. It also means jobs will leave the States as film techs seek gigs on blockbusters filming overseas.

This tour of the ILM facilities in San Francisco gives you an idea of the type of work that has been done at ILM in the company’s history. Basically, if you love a film, it probably was worked on by ILM. And that work now is going global.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.