Although George Lucas and Ron Howard had discussed concepts for a Willow television series at different times over the years, the catalyst for the series that Lucasfilm ultimately produced came during production of Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). When Howard joined that project as director, co-writer Jonathan Kasdan began lobbying for a revival, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Elsewhere on the Solo set was Mark Bakowski, working for Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) as an additional onset visual effects supervisor. He’d join ILM’s London studio around the time of its establishment in 2014, having spent many years in the visual effects industry of his native England. At ILM, Bakowski has “grown and grown ever since,” as he tells Lucasfilm.com, working as visual effects supervisor for projects like Spectre (2015), Aladdin (2019), The Midnight Sky (2020), and No Time to Die (2021).
Willow presented a mix of new opportunities for Bakowski. Not only would he be stepping into episodic television, but into the role of Lucasfilm’s visual effects supervisor overseeing the entire series, including work accomplished by ILM and partnering vendors. This was distinct from his previous roles working with clients within ILM on specific assignments. “As a visual effects supervisor with ILM,” he explains, “a client will come to you with a particular request like a creature or a sequence. Your job is to execute it well, and you bring ideas to it, and that’s fun.
“But working as the head of department is so much more interesting,” he continues. “You’re watching the script evolve as it’s written and rewritten. Problems come up, things happen, and you have all these discussions about what’s feasible. You’re part of the evolution of bouncing creative ideas off each other to find solutions. You can have a lot more creative input. It’s problem-solving, not just on the pixels level, but rather along so many fronts. The reason a lot of us go into this industry is because we love movies, that’s what it’s all about for me. This brings you closer to the feeling of being a filmmaker, being involved, and putting your stamp on it.”