Employee Spotlight: Lori Ann Tretasco
Stories and Insights from the Lucasfilm Finance Team
Can you tell us about your role and summarize your day-to-day responsibilities?
I am the Director of Finance and Planning. We work with Lucasfilm department heads to develop, track and manage budgets across the company. We also support executive management and our parent company through reporting and ad hoc analysis. If there are new projects that require funding, we work with various groups to gather information and identify how we can financially support the project. The size of the projects vary. One of the big projects we worked on last year was a presentation that secured funding for the LED volume used on The Mandalorian.
In your collaboration with all sorts of different people across Lucasfilm, how is creativity a part of what you do?
We’re always aware of our audience. Presentations are tailored to the primary recipients and their point of view. Some people need more details and financial background. Others may need more graphical representations and photos to provide context. Creativity is involved in the way we build these presentations and consider our audience. For management reporting, we also utilize various layouts, color schemes and graphics to help convey and highlight key information.
It sounds like no matter what we do here at Lucasfilm, we’re all telling stories in our own way!
That’s exactly what we do. Our vice president, Lori Aultman, impresses upon us the importance of understanding the story we are trying to convey to our audience at that moment.
Considering your background, what experience did you have before joining the company?
Before Lucasfilm, I worked for a public accounting firm as an auditor and eventually obtained my Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license. That experience was invaluable, not only because I learned a lot, but also because it helped me to identify what I wanted from my career going forward. Because I had public, private and governmental clients, I was exposed to different types of industries and companies out there.
The Entertainment industry was something I was always interested in. In the early 2000s, the options in the San Francisco Bay Area were limited, so I actually started with LucasArts, Lucasfilm’s former games company, in 2002.
What were your first impressions working at LucasArts?
When I came into the office for my first interview, I noticed all the employees coming through the front door acknowledged and warmly greeted the receptionist with genuine smiles. That really gave me this sense of family in the company. I also loved that there was no dress code and people were free to express themselves through their clothing, hairstyles and accessories. Sometimes people wore pajamas and someone once even came in a wetsuit!
Everyone had different backgrounds and styles. I loved how diverse it was and I was happy I wasn’t in a stereotypical finance setting with people in suits talking about numbers all day. Instead I could walk into the kitchen and interact with game testers, artists, and engineers who I may not have the chance to be around if I had taken a different path.
I really came to love Lucasfilm for all those reasons.
In what role did you first start in, and how did your position evolve?
I started out as the International Accountant. I was responsible for processing and analyzing all the publishing statements from our international distribution partners, like Ubisoft or Activision. I then moved into a royalties supervisory role where we consolidated project financials based on individual contracts for royalty participants. Later I moved into Financial Planning and then moved on to be the Accounting Manager. This all took place while I was at LucasArts.
The difference between financial planning and accounting may not be very clear for those outside of finance, but I felt very fortunate to be at a company like LucasArts and Lucasfilm where I had the chance to move between both the financial planning and accounting worlds. When I transferred to Lucasfilm, I ended up doing both, which is what I still do today. Many other companies separate the two functions. I feel lucky to straddle both words and exercise different parts of my brain. I truly feel like we have a well-rounded team because everyone on our team practices both their accounting and analytical skills on a daily basis.
So you’d say that’s something more specific to Lucasfilm?
Of course, we’re not the only company that does this, but at Lucasfilm everyone wears multiple hats. To some people it can feel chaotic, but I really like that our workday isn’t repetitive and we are constantly being challenged to learn something new. In many larger organizations, responsibilities are carved into very specific lanes. In our group, we are fortunate in that we have some non-traditional finance responsibilities to break up our day. For example, we participate in supporting worldwide facilities needs and management of our different campus spaces. We participate in conversations about company events and snacks in between discussions about production and marketing programs. It’s like having a front row seat to all the activity.
How has working with Vice President Lori Aultman for so many years had an impact on you?
Lori is very strategic and business-minded. We always talk about how she and I have slightly different styles. She has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree and I have a CPA. I tend to be more detailed and focused on the numbers, while she’s thinking about business strategy. Having her as a leader has strengthened my own perspective on the business side. Lori is intelligent, but also leads with her heart. She looks out for us on the finance team and everyone around the company. That’s a huge reason our team’s responsibilities go beyond just Finance – it doesn’t matter what level someone is or what their discipline is, she is always willing to help.
Since being acquired by the Walt Disney Company in 2012, Lucasfilm has become a larger, more global company. How has that changed the dynamic of your work?
I have a better sense of Lucasfilm’s global impact. It makes me appreciate what everyone is working towards, whether it’s our production teams, Industrial Light & Magic, Licensing, Games or our franchise groups. We work with the different Disney segments to consolidate worldwide franchise information such as box office receipts, parks merchandise, and licensed products. It’s fascinating to see the impact that Star Wars has worldwide.
Considering your role, what types of skills or attributes would you consider important, especially those that wouldn’t be obvious to people?
Having an open mind and being flexible is important in our team. Because we wear so many hats and work with so many different types of people with different priorities, we have to remain open-minded so that we can support everyone’s goals. Our responsibilities may change over time or for the duration of a project. We’re looking for people who have a genuine interest in learning new things and who are open to going beyond what the stereotypical finance role is.
It’s interesting that even though the numbers have a certain rigidity, a finance team member needs to be open and flexible.
Yes! We recognize that being detailed, analytical and process oriented can only get you so far in our world. Because Lucasfilm is a production company, our work day is not predictable. There’s a lot thrown our way that we just have to accommodate and address on a day-to-day basis.
Were you a fan of Star Wars or other Lucasfilm properties before you started?
I grew up in the eighties, so of course Star Wars was out and I had some of the toys. But I was never a hardcore fan. However, my husband, who I met in the dorms during our freshman year of college, was! He had a Star Wars comforter and Star Wars toys next to his bed. He was always talking about it, and I absorbed some of that passion. I obviously learned more after I started working here, but it wasn’t until my son became a huge fan of the books and the lore, that I truly enjoyed immersing myself in the Star Wars galaxy.
Do you have any stand-out memories of sharing your Lucasfilm career with your family?
An extra-special memory was when we were invited to attend a preview of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland. My son is afraid of rollercoasters (and actually many rides at Disneyland), so we had to convince him to go on Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. I think his love of Star Wars pushed him over more than our bribes. We ultimately ended up riding it three times at his request! I loved seeing him push himself to discover something new and it warmed my heart that we were able to provide him that opportunity in that particular setting. My son also loved conversing with the cast members, as their role playing brings to live the Star Wars galaxy.
On of my favorite traditions at Lucasfilm is the company picnic at Skywalker Ranch. I love seeing everyone with their families and loved ones – having fun in the pool, playing games, and enjoying the day. We have a great culture, and the picnic is a way to meet your colleague’s loved ones.
Do you have a favorite character from a Lucasfilm production?
Recently it’s been the Child from The Mandalorian! I feel like that’s an easy one to pick, but it’s just so cute! Before that, it was Princess Leia. She was a strong female character back in the eighties. There was never any doubt that she was a good leader. She just was. It really stood out to me and it meant a lot to see a strong female in charge.
You’ve touched on your own role, but do you have any advice or wisdom for people aspiring to work at Lucasfilm?
Look at everything as an opportunity to grow. Sometimes we’re handed work that we don’t want to do, that doesn’t seem exciting or worth our time, but there’s always something to be learned from it – even if it’s just understanding what we might do differently. Approach every project or assignment as another opportunity to strengthen your knowledge and your skillset.