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Employee Spotlight: Malcolm Thomas-Gustave

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Meet one of ILM’s Creature Supervisors from the Vancouver Studio

Can you describe your current role and day-to-day responsibilities?

Currently I’m a Creature Supervisor and one’s daily responsibilities can be wildly different from the next.

As a Supervisor for this department my job changes from show to show depending on what’s needed. That means I can go from attending tons of meetings and overseeing a crew of 20 on a larger-scale movie, to being an artist and overseeing just a couple of people for a smaller production.

At ILM we combine several different departments that tend to be completely separate at other VFX studios. With so many skills to master, there’s always the chance to learn something new.

When did you start at ILM and in what role?

My time at ILM started in mid -2010 as a Senior Creature Developer at our Singapore studio. At that point I’d been doing various types of creature work for about 6 years.

How would you describe your journey to ILM?

I started at Full Sail University as a student in Computer Animation and for several years I worked in Game Cinematics and Film at places like Blur, Sony Imageworks, Jim Henson, and Weta, before deciding to return to Full Sail as a teacher.

After a few years of teaching, a friend at ILM working at the Singapore studio reached out to me about an opportunity and now I’ve been with the company for almost 10 years.

What inspired you to become involved in VFX?

By watching shows like Movie Magic and films like Jurassic ParkI was always amazed by what I was seeing on screen. I loved movies because they felt like magic and I just wanted to understand how it all worked.

What interested you in coming to the Vancouver studio? What makes the place different from other locations where you’ve worked?

I had already spent several years at ILM’s Singapore studio, so I knew the company and the culture were a good fit. But because I’m an American, I wanted to be closer to home.

When I saw the opportunity to join the team in Vancouver, it was a chance to continue the work that I already enjoyed in a place that would be better for my life. The lifestyle, culture, and easy access to nature in Vancouver are things I’ve grown to really love.

How does your role blend technical and creative work?

Everything I do is a heavy mix of the two. Because we’re constantly tackling problems that we’ve never seen or imagined before, we always have to think outside the box to push ourselves forward. For me (and I think a lot of fellow ILMers), we try to look at a problem with the widest lens possible so that we don’t miss out on the best solution.

During your time at ILM, have you had any mentors or colleagues that have inspired you?

James Tooley is a fellow Supervisor that I’ve worked with off and on since I started at ILM and seeing how he’s balanced running a show while still learning and developing always pushed me to keep up my skills and do my best to share that knowledge.

Do you have a favorite creature you’ve been involved with at ILM? Or a favorite show in general?

Each show is a totally different experience so it’s honestly hard to pick a favorite, but I will say that it’s always wonderful to see the fan reactions to our work. For example, working on Star Wars is something only a handful of people have the opportunity to do, so having my name in the credits of some of those films and being a part of that history is something I’ll always be proud of.

But that’s not to say I only feel pride when I work on blockbusters. One of the smaller films I worked on, Only the Brave, was a pretty intense retelling of the lives of a group of firefighters. Meeting a firefighter who saw the movie and was touched by the portrayal in the film was incredibly moving for me. It’s not so much about any one show as just seeing the genuine emotions in the people who watch the films I’ve worked on. That will always be my favorite part of this job.

What kind of advice would you give to those prospective applicants looking at roles in this field?

When I think about the greatest success stories, it’s always people that come in with a strong motivation to learn and work collaboratively with other artists on their projects. Those are the people that are pushing us forward as we take on new challenges.

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