Episode 353 – ILM – Manager Emerging Talent – Kim Paris
Episode 353 – ILM – Manager Emerging Talent – Kim Paris
Since 1975, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) has set the standard for visual effects, creating some of the most stunning images in the history of film. At the forefront of the digital revolution, ILM continues to break new ground in the field not only in visual effects but now virtual reality, augmented reality, immersive entertainment, and virtual production. Founded by George Lucas, ILM is the leading effects facility in the world, with studios located in San Francisco, Singapore, Vancouver, London, and Sydney. The company serves the motion picture, television, streaming, commercial production, and attraction industries. ILM has created visual effects for over 350 feature films.
With so many technical and creative innovations, ILM has been a constant force propelling the evolution of visual effects. Beginning with a mastery of the traditional arts of blue-screen photography, matte painting and model and miniature construction, ILM advanced the art of optical compositing and pioneered the development of motion control photography, digital compositing, and numerous other advances in effects technology. Since the 1980s, ILM has led the way in the use of computer graphics and digital imaging in feature films, developing breakthrough techniques such as morphing, enveloping and film input scanning technology. Most recently ILM unveiled its StageCraft realtime virtual production platform and StageCraft LED Stages which allow storytellers the ultimate flexibility in how they plan, develop and capture their vision.
Today, ILM features one the most comprehensive and advanced digital effects production pipelines in the entertainment industry, from the earliest creation of wholly computer-generated characters in The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park to the startling digital breakthroughs in films such as Twister, Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace and The Perfect Storm. ILM’s ability to merge photo-realistic digital images with live-action footage is renowned throughout the industry. Critical to ILM’s success are its Visual Effects Supervisors, who combine technical expertise with creative vision. They are joined by a global team of some 1,200 employees that includes producers, art directors, computer graphics artists, software engineers, editors, and technicians. This effects team works within ILM’s proven production management system, known for producing superlative results on time and on budget.
Industrial Light & Magic is a Lucasfilm Ltd. company serving the digital needs of the entertainment industry for visual effects. ILM has been awarded 3 Emmy Awards, 15 Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, and received 33 Academy Awards for Scientific and Technical Achievements that have had an indelible impact on the art of filmmaking.
In this Podcast, Manager of Emerging Talent at ILM Kim Paris talks about her experience recruiting talent, the importance of cover letters, the power of humility, the myth of film not being a stable career; as well as gives advice on outreach emails, reels and job interviews.
Careers at ILM: https://jobs.jobvite.com/lucascompanies/jobs/ilm
Jedi Academies: https://jobs.jobvite.com/lucascompanies/p/jointhejedi
Kim Paris on ILM: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/kim-paris-a656b9b0
[03:40] Kim Paris Talks About Her Experience at ILM
[06:03] The “Film is not a Real Career” Myth
[10:12] Kim Gives Outreach Advice
[15:47] The Importance of Cover Letters
[20:35] The Power of Humility
[22:44] ILM’s Software Requirements
[25:05] The Reenergizing Effect of Junior Talent
[28:05] The State of VFX
[31:51] Kim Gives Reel Advice
[36:01] Transitioning Careers
[37:37] Additional Resources
EPISODE 353 – ILM – MANAGER EMERGING TALENT – KIM PARIS
This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 353! I’m speaking with Manager of Emerging Talent Kim Paris about her experience recruiting talent, the importance of cover letters, the power of humility, the myth of film not being a stable career. Kim also gives advice on outreach emails, reels and job interviews.
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Let’s dive in!
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
[01:17] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!
[38:11] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!
INTERVIEW WITH KIM PARIS
[03:40] Allan: Kim, thank you for taking the time to chat! Do you want to quickly introduce yourself?
Kim: Yes, thank you for having me! My name is Kim Paris. I am the Emerging Talent Manager at Industrial Light & Magic at the San Francisco and Vancouver studio.
[03:57] Allan: I’d like to talk about your background. You’ve worked both in academia and VFX. What inspired you to switch fields? What skills helped you with that transition?
Kim: I spent 7 years in higher education. I worked in recruitment, international education, and orientation. I worked with students from their recruitment to graduation into their careers. It was a really rewarding role. But this role married a lot of the skills that I had passion for, while I still get to work with students. I get to see them come into the industry. But I’ve also always had an interest in film.
So when I started my university journey, I was heading into film studies from the production side of things. Then I fell into the trap of people saying, “The film industry is not a stable career.” That’s how my path went. This job was a great opportunity to go back to the passion I had for film and use my education and where my career had taken me. Some of the skills that transferred were some of the soft skills: teamwork, collaboration, communication. Coming from the environment of higher education, there is a lot of research and learning. That translates. At ILM, it’s called innovation and advancement. There are always new things happening. Being adaptable to change has been a key skill in this role. It’s been a great transition.
[06:03] Allan: I love that! What do you say to people who say that film is unstable? My wife is an artist and her father had always said that art was not a real career (www.allanmckay.com/99). What do you say to people when you hear them say that?
Kim: That sounds familiar! Nowadays, I talk to students in a classroom. And they’re usually aware that it’s not a stable career. I always tell them: You get one shot at doing a career. You have the energy and the passion. You have to give it that real try. You can always change careers later. And it’s a growing industry. You might not end up at your dream studio. Challenge the narrative and give it a try. What you put into it – is what you’re going to get out.
[07:27] Allan: I think that’s so powerful. It’s a commercial industry and there is money involved. Obviously, there is an ability to make it into a career.
Kim: It’s tough because sometimes you say, “I’m going to school and this is what I’m going to do.” But it might not look like that at the beginning. We may have people come in as production assistants or they work at the front desk. Maybe they want to be in lighting. You might not start out there, but you can get there. It’s about getting your foot in the door and trying new things and not leaving it altogether.
[08:30] Allan: I wanted to be a ninja at one point in my life. I was 4 at the time. How did you get involved with ILM?
Kim: I always had my eye on what was happening because I was working with students in different industries and fields. It was part of my job to know what was happening there. I remember seeing this role and talking to their recruiter on LinkedIn. I tell students all the time, “Have conversations because that’s what happened to me.” I ended up interviewing and I had no expectations. I had no background in the industry. I hadn’t gone to school for VFX. They were looking for someone with experience in higher education in post-secondary roles. It was a good fit. I often think, “I don’t know how this role came to be because it’s the most perfect role for everything I’m interested in.” It was luck of being in the right place at the right time, and it just kind of happened.
[10:12] Allan: In terms of advice for people on LinkedIn, do you have something to say? Most people assume that everyone else is doing the right job. But when you realize how little effort people put in, you can be ahead of the game.
Kim: I get a lot of LinkedIn messages and see good examples:
- If I get a message and all it says is, “I think ILM is a great studio and I’d love to work there one day,” it’s really hard to reply to that. But if someone reaches out and says, “I’m in school and this is what I’m studying. I’m interested in going into this discipline. It’d be great to get 15 minutes of your time. I have a couple of questions.” All I have to do at that point is reply. But if it’s vague or there is not enough information in there, it’s hard to put effort into a reply.
- Also, be purposeful with what you’re saying. Make sure you spell the company’s name correctly. Make sure if you’re addressing someone, you know if they’re a Ms., Mrs. or Mr. Spelling and grammar is something we notice. So take some time and make sure it makes sense.
- Make sure you’re reaching out to the right person. It’s a huge thing. If you want to go into animation, reaching out to a person who does facilities coordination is probably not your right audience. Make sure you do the right research. You might not hear back but it may be some else. Keep trying.
- Be genuinely interested in what they have to say. Don’t think you know the answers already. Be interested in learning.
[13:22] Allan: Do you encourage following up with someone a couple of months later?
Kim: Yeah. I’d have 3 students from the same school, and they’ll have the same profile. Then I’ll get a follow-up from one of them and remember there were 2 others. You forget who you’ve responded to. So a friendly reminder is totally fine.
[14:00] Allan: What are some of the soft skills that you look for both in junior and senior artists?
Kim: I can talk about the junior side of things. We definitely look for soft skills. Everyone is always so focused on the reel, but soft skills go a long way.
- Being able to know that you know how to communicate is key.
- Knowing that you’re able to collaborate in a team environment is really important. Working in VFX, you work with one group for a really long time. You have to know how to work with others.
- Time management: Making sure that you’re going to get that shot in for dailies, or that you can get what you need done in a timely manner. We can’t always stay on top of people. That comes out from the very beginning of our interaction with the candidate.
- Showing up for interviews on time.
- Communicating back with a recruiter in a timely manner.
The soft skills are just as important as the hard skills, for sure.
[15:47] Allan: In terms of conveying certain things, during the interview or other times, do you have any recommendations on how to get those across?
Kim: Yeah. Cover letters. I think it’s the thing that’s so important. A reel shows what you can do. A resume shows what you have done. But a cover letter shows who you are and what you’re going to offer. What do you want to work for us? How do you communicate? It’s an opportunity for you to take a moment and tell us about yourself. A lot of applicants forget that it’s your chance to shine. That’s what’s going to make you stand out.
[17:29] Allan: I think that’s also an incentive too. You have to consider how many applicants a recruiter is talking to. As soon as you put in the effort, it incentivizes a person to click on your link.
Kim: It makes you stand out. We read them. We, recruiters, read cover letters. If you’re transitioning from something different, this is an opportunity to indicate to us what your experience has been – and how it fits with what you’re doing now. I think that goes a long way.
[18:28] Allan: Are there certain things you’d recommend talking about? Backstory is great for 2 lines. The first paragraph is usually a bit of a summary.
Kim: It’s about conveying passion. That’s the one thing at ILM: Everyone here is so passionate about the work that we do. Everyone is so excited. Seeing that in a candidate makes us excited. They want to be here. Talk about the passion around VFX and the work that you’ve done in your past. Explain your journey a bit:
- This is what you’ve done in the past. This is why it’s relevant to where you’re going.
- These are the skills that you have and this is why they’re relevant.
It’s your personal selling card. I see that a lot in juniors that they’re too modest and don’t want to talk themselves up. No, this is your chance! This is what will get you into that interview. And it’s a confidence thing. And don’t go too far into your personal life. There is a limit to what we need to know.
[20:35] Allan: I think people will either be too shy or overconfident.
Kim: It’s something I talk about with our juniors: You might be sitting next to someone who’s worked at ILM for 20 years, on the coolest stuff – but they’ll be so humble. They’ll be willing to teach you. And if they’re humble – then you definitely need to be humble too. Be confident but be aware that everyone around here is really humble for what they’ve done. Be open to learning! That’s a huge thing for juniors.
[21:50] Allan: The more you talk, the less you listen. It’s an opportunity to really learn.
Kim: And getting back to the cover letter, we will hire for potential more times than for what you’re bringing. If you’re a junior and you’re open to learning, that’s what will land with us.
[22:44] Allan: Is software a really specific requirement?
Kim: We just ran some Jedi Academies in the generalist and virtual art departments. There were a lot of nerves from our juniors. We’ll teach you! It’s about that openness to learning. You’ll have the base concept. That’s a tech skill. If you know one, we can teach you the others. If you’ve gone to school, we know you have the understanding.
[23:46] Allan: It’s something I see a lot: People are married to the thing they learned first.
Kim: Very true! With some of the juniors we just had, they were nervous to start with some of the neutral tools. They know certain things and they’re comfortable with those. But being comfortable is not something that’s going to last when you work in VFX, or in our studio. If you’re comfortable, that means you are not learning. With ILM, innovation and advancement is constant. When I go up to schools and bring a guest speaker, they’ll get asked, “What’s the hardest project you’ve ever worked on?” They’ll always say, “The project I’m working on right now.” It’s the newest technology and innovative things that make them learn. You’re going to have to be uncomfortable with things. That’s just how it is.
[25:15] Allan: Is hiring juniors more of a recent thing for ILM? Certain tiers of companies, you have your pick of the litter. Is nurturing young talent something you’ve started looking into recently?
Kim: I think it’s somewhat of a myth that we don’t hire juniors. I think there have always been junior artists. Even my role is a newer role. I would say that it’s growing. We’re running training programs and internships. We have the Jedi Academy. We’re growing more and more, which means there are more opportunities to bring on juniors and have them pipelined in, to grow them.
[27:02] Allan: I had [Head of ILM / Sydney, Australia] Rob Bredow on the Podcast: https://www.allanmckay.com/219/. It was exciting to see that growth! There is so much talent in Australia.
Kim: It’s exciting to have junior artists at the studio. They bring a level of excitement and new energy. Some of the supervisors will mentor juniors. I think sometimes the supervisors get more out of it because there is a re-energizing. “It’s exciting to be here!” Sometimes you can forget until you have a junior say, “You worked on what?! That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard!” It’s something that’s growing within ILM.
[28:05] Allan: What’s your opinion on the state of the industry? In 2012, for LA it was a huge shift. A lot of other places started getting their VFX studios and the industry became globalized. Do you think it’s a thriving industry these days?
Kim: Yeah. I’m still new-ish to the industry. But from everything I’m seeing – it’s growing and expanding. It’s a great time to be in VFX. Our Vancouver studio is expanding so much in terms of hiring new talent. It’s the same for all the studios. We have studios in Vancouver, San Francisco, London, Sydney, Singapore. We have 5 studios and all of them are working and have lots of work.
[29:48] Allan: Are there any key disciplines you find to be bankable ones? And which do you think are great for juniors, in order to get in the door?
Kim: The big one right now [for ILM] is generalists. For other studios, they’re known as environalists. That is something we’re always hiring for. We just finished the Jedi Academy for generalists. That’s 3D environments. The virtual art department is growing with the growth of stagecraft [aka virtual production]. It’s about working in realtime. We also did a Jedi Academy in virtual art. I’d also say groom [aka hair]. It’s a niche and we’re always looking for folks in that area. Heroes are at the forefront of the screen and we need artists who know how to do that.
[31:51] Allan: There are things like comp and camera tracking. They can be a point of entry. When people are sending their reels, do you have any advice to keep things in mind?
- The biggest one is quality over quantity. Make sure you’re putting your best work in it. You may have just done 2-3 years of school work, but it doesn’t mean that we have to see all of that work on it. Just put in your best work and put in your best work first. When we first see a reel, the first few shots are what will grab our attention. Put your best work first!
- Know which position you’re applying for. Make sure what you’re including in your reel is relevant to that. Live action VFX is what [we’re looking for]. You may have done some great anime work, but it’s not going to land with us at ILM.
- There are some folks that say to not include team project work. You can include that, but make sure you can talk about the work you’ve done.
- For fan art, you can include it but make sure that it’s clear that you didn’t work on the actual project. Make it known that it’s fan art and you’re passionate about that shot.
[34:13] Allan: What are the red flags you see? It’s usually a self-awareness matter for folks. What are some of the things that come up?
- Not being able to explain the work. It’s a huge red flag when we ask a candidate to explain a shot and they can’t explain the tools or software they used.
- Don’t pretend that the work that isn’t yours – is yours. It’s a small industry. ILM folks know each other. If they recognize a shot and they know the person who worked on it, I’m pretty shocked by that.
- Don’t lie. Be honest. Be open to learning. If you’re showing up and pretending something you’re not, that’s definitely not being open to learning.
[36:01] Allan: One last question is around people transitioning from other careers, what advice would you give? People often talk themself out of applying.
Kim: That’s what happened to me: It was now or never. I’m uncomfortable a lot of the time in this role because I don’t know all the answers. But it’s a lot of messaging people and asking them out for coffee. That’s once you’re in the role. But while you’re looking for an in, reach out to folks on LinkedIn, try to make connections with people in the industry. There are lots of resources out there. Stay curious.
[37:37] Allan: Kim, this has been great! Where can people go to find out more about careers at ILM?
Kim: Our website is the best place: https://jobs.jobvite.com/lucascompanies/jobs/ilm. Check out the Jedi Academies: https://jobs.jobvite.com/lucascompanies/p/jointhejedi. And as I’ve mentioned, connect with people on LinkedIn.
[38:07] Allan: This is great, Kim! Thank you so much!
Kim: Thank you for having me!
Thank you for listening! I want to thank Kim for her time and for taking the time to talk.
Next week, I’m sitting down with the photoreal 3D Digital Portrait Artist Ian Spriggs. Until then –
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