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Employee Spotlight: Ben Morris

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As the Creative Director at Industrial Light & Magic’s London campus, Ben Morris is on the front lines of innovation.

Do you remember the moment when you decided that you wanted to get involved with visual effects?

I remember very well: watching the opening shot of A New Hope (1977) in our local cinema in Oxford.  Totally blew my mind …

What were some of your favorite movies, books, or TV shows growing up and do any of them inspire your work today?

In terms of films related to special and visual effects, there were films like Blade Runner (1982), Dark Crystal (1982), Dune (1984), The Thing (1982), Alien (1979), all of Ray Harryhausen’s films and of course the original Star Wars trilogy.

I was also an avid reader of books and magazines related to VFX film making  such “The Art of Special Effects” or “The Art of Star Wars.” My grandparents, who lived in Los Angeles, kept me posted with new editions of Cinefex, Starlog, New Voyager and the odd edition of American Cinematographer.

Many of these influences still inspire and inform my work today. One of my great passions was pouring over photos of complex motion control model shoots and detailed animatronic character builds to try and workout exactly how the magic was being created in the ‘real’ world.

What was your first job?

My first job was working as a practical model maker on The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) during my summer holiday from University.

How did you first come to Industrial Light and Magic (ILM)? Do you remember your feelings when you joined the company?

I was shooting Jupiter Ascending (2015) in the UK and got a call from Lynwen Brennan and John Knoll asking if would I like to start a new ILM studio in London.  I guess it was one of those calls where you don’t want to sound too excited, but you get off the phone and think – well there’s an offer I can’t refuse – talk about coming full circle from watching those original Star Wars films.  After at least a minute or two of deliberation I knew I had to say, “Yes!”

What makes the working environment at Lucasfilm special or different from other places? In particular, what makes the ILM office in London special or unique?

It’s all about the team and I think we have an incredible team in the London studio.  It started relatively small, but is growing rapidly and has attracted many of the most talented and experienced artists in the UK and Europe.  There is a real sense of camaraderie and pride amongst our artists for the work they do, but also appreciation for the incredible opportunities working at a company like ILM can offer.  We aim to not only create the best images in the world, but also look after our crews while they are working.  We are also very proud to be hiring lots of new, young talent straight out of universities and art colleges from across the UK and Europe.

What is the best piece of career advice that you’ve received?

“Don’t ruin your mum’s oven trying to cure foam rubber masks in it; come and do it at The Creature Shop!” That’s a quote John Stephenson, the Creative Director of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.  John along with David Housman gave me my first job in the film industry for which I am eternally grateful.

If you’re stranded on a desert island and could only watch one movie, which would you choose?

Blade Runner (1982) or Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

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