Singapore studio making waves

Mr Nigel Sumner (above) is creative director at Industrial Light & Magic Singapore.
Mr Nigel Sumner (above) is creative director at Industrial Light & Magic Singapore.PHOTO: ILM

Visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) Singapore has contributed to Hollywood blockbusters, including films in Marvel, Star Wars and Jurassic Park franchises.

Despite being located in Asia, the local arm of the American studio Industrial Light & Magic has never worked on a movie with a significant amount of Asian creative and financial input.

That changed recently, when it became the primary visual effects studio for the fantasy epic The Great Wall, which opened here last year.

The Zhang Yimou movie, filmed on location in Qingdao, China, stars Western and Asian talent, including Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe from the United States, Jing Tian from China and Andy Lau from Hong Kong, and is jointly produced by a group of Chinese and American companies.

ILM Singapore's creative director Nigel Sumner hopes the trend will continue. "We ran Great Wall entirely out of Singapore. Personally, I'm interested in how we can reach out to local and regional directors," says the 41-year-old, who has worked at ILM Singapore on and off for a decade.

His company recently turned 10. ILM Singapore was established in 2006, when the San Francisco headquarters opened its first overseas studio in Changi Business Park.

ILM also runs studios in London and Vancouver. It is a division of the Lucasfilm production company, which also includes the Lucasfilm Animation division. In 2012, Disney acquired Lucasfilm.

In early 2014, Lucasfilm Singapore officially opened its present premises at the Sandcrawler building in Fusionopolis tech park. With its 300 artists, ILM Singapore is the second-largest studio after San Francisco.

In Singapore, the Lucasfilm Animation (which created the Clone Wars animation television series) and ILM Singapore visual effects teams were merged into one team under the ILM Singapore banner, says Mr Sumner.

The first project created by the merged team was the musical Strange Magic (2015), an animation feature film executive-produced by George Lucas, founder of Lucasfilm.

The studio here also helped create effects for the Star Wars spin-off Rogue One (2016), which was nominated in the visual effects category at both the Oscars and the Baftas.

Mr Sumner also cites as an achievement the work done in Singapore for the science-fiction film, Pacific Rim (2013), which was nominated for a Bafta in visual effects. "It's a great credit to them," he says.

John Lui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore studio making waves'. Print Edition | Subscribe