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Employee Spotlight: Cody Vandenberg

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The Associate Post Production Supervisor Has Worked in Roles Across Lucasfilm

First, can you tell us your current title and summarize your day-to-day responsibilities?

I am an Associate Post Production Supervisor here at Lucasfilm. My day-to-day varies, which is why I truly love my job! One day, I might be drafting end credits on a film or series. Another day, I might be working with my managers to research editors and other editorial/post crew. Always exciting and different.

How does your role fit within your larger department?

Our Post department collaborates with our filmmakers to engage Editors and build an Editorial crew (Assistant Editors, Post Supervisors, VFX Editors, etc). We guide that crew through both Production and Post to meet deadlines and standard practices of our studio. As part of that process, I create and maintain schedules and milestones, store and locate footage, purchase and ship equipment, set up and quality check screenings… it’s a dynamic role that keeps me on my toes. My job is always rooted in supporting and guiding our various creative teams, and establishing a continuity between every project. I’m lucky to have two amazing managers/mentors to learn from along the way – Pippa Anderson and Mike Blanchard.

Could you summarize your background before joining the company? Where did you go to school? What early jobs did you have?

Like many, my aim was always to study film at a university in California. I ended up much closer to home at Ohio University, earning a BFA in Film Production. There was a distinct “hands-on” approach to film education at OU. You were expected to hone your interests through practical rotation – exploring your strengths and weaknesses in different areas of filmmaking. This focus on collaboration and exploration helped prepare me for early jobs after relocating to Los Angeles.

Initially in LA, I freelanced as a Production Assistant on reality sets, including Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Small editing gigs popped up occasionally, which were what I enjoyed most. After finding my footing, I was offered a job at Trailer Park, Inc. and explored my interest in movie teasers/trailers. I started by digitizing and quality-checking tapes in the machine room, and eventually became an Assistant Editor. I’ll always be grateful for the friendships and the skills learned in the Assistant Editor “bull-pen.” I eventually decided to refocus my career – and was lucky enough to land my first opportunity at Lucasfilm!

When did you first start at Lucasfilm, and in what role? How have your roles in different departments formed your understanding of the company?

In 2013 I was originally hired in the Office of the President as an assistant in Los Angeles. That was an incredible role with new opportunities and literal adventures at every moment. Day one on the job had me driving to Thousand Oaks to assist with a cast/crew interview shoot. Those exciting experiences jolted me right into the world of Lucasfilm.

During my second year in that role, I met a few people in a department called Lucas Video Production. LVP is a special team focused on the creation of behind-the-scenes stories… everything from feature documentary work, to short-form content for marketing, licensing, and beyond. They also manage a huge archive of digital material, not just Star Wars, but all Lucasfilm properties. I had the chance in late 2015 to move to San Francisco and join this remarkable team. With LVP, I found a sense of ‘home’ at Lucasfilm. I was able to learn, shoot and travel with friends, go slightly loopy in late-night edit sessions, and meet the most kind and creative people I will ever know.

I’ve benefited from four amazing roles over my six years at Lucasfilm, and my career has been shaped distinctly by these experiences. Much like my time in film school, I’ve had the chance to refine both my strengths and weaknesses through different parts of a bigger whole.

What were your first impressions of Lucasfilm?

One word that always came to mind in association with Lucasfilm was “mythical.” I imagined those working at Lucasfilm and ILM as reclusive wizards. Despite loving Star Wars and Indiana Jones for my entire life, it did not occur to me that you could apply for a job here…

My first impression after being hired was that of this creative, inclusive community of “wizards.” Everyone treasures and respects what they are working on.

So you had a familiarity with the company  before you started? 

At about age seven, I repeatedly watched the silver-set VHS “Special Edition” of the original Star Wars trilogy. That marked the start of my love for movies. What really drew me in was the thirty minute “behind the scenes” segment before the feature began. I still remember the thunder-throated narrator saying “In 1977, Producer/Director George Lucas created the Star Wars trilogy, and changed the way we looked at movies.” Watching model-makers, puppeteers, and digital artists talk about building strange worlds and creatures… I knew I wanted to be a part of that. I was in from the moment I saw model TIE fighters and Y-wings exploding in front of a blue screen.

What else inspired you to get involved in this industry?

On top of early exposure to museums and art in Chicago (thanks to my parents and grandmother), I would say three different film franchises – Star Wars, Toy Story, and James Bond – shaped my movie fixation as a kid. I found an old video camera around that age… and learned how use a cardboard tube and red construction paper to recreate Maurice Binder’s “James Bond Gun Barrel” title sequence. Over the years I spent hours with friends making spoofs, historical parodies, music videos, and “comedy” skits shot on VHS-C. That was a huge part of my childhood.

Do you have a favorite memory (or memories) of your time on the job?

During Star Wars Celebration Orlando in 2017, the opening panel of the convention commemorated the fortieth anniversary of Star Wars and paid tribute to the late Carrie Fisher. As the panelists exited the stage and attendees cheered, a sudden gasp echoed through the room. A curtain was lifted next to the stage, revealing JOHN WILLIAMS! I will always remember the sounds of hushed astonishment in the room as he began to conduct “Princess Leia’s Theme,” performed live by the Orlando Philharmonic. I’ll always be grateful for memories like this, thanks to my job.

Do you have a favorite character from a Lucasfilm movie or production, and why?

“The greatest teacher, failure is.” Yoda will always be my all-time favorite character. To this day, I get goosebumps from the moment I hear the opening harp of his musical theme. His unusual design and physical comedy, paired with his wise, stoic words – all of the creativity behind Yoda embodies the spirit of Star Wars, for me.

Do you have any favorite company traditions?

At Lucasfilm, we’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend lectures with legendary filmmakers, actors and artists. The chance to learn from industry professionals inspires us all to do/be better, and practice our craft – both inside and outside of work.

Are there any types of skills or attributes (beyond the normal qualifications) that you think are important for someone in your role or one like it? Any advice for those aspiring to join Lucasfilm?

Though fandom and knowledge of Star Wars is appreciated – I most value working among curious, caring people with a meticulous eye for detail. An old mentor used to tell me that “small pebbles will flip the wagon.” A resourceful person who can grasp the small details will get a lot out of a role at Lucasfilm, especially in Post Production.

I’ve done my best to build a career from varied experiences in the field, and hands-on education – so my advice is to explore the industry. Take chances to round out your skillset.

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