John Knoll Industrial Light and Magic

With Lucasfilm gearing up for a new era of active production of Star Wars films and TV series, the company has upped John Knoll to chief creative officer of Industrial Light & Magic.

Knoll joins ILM president Lynwen Brennan at the top of the storied f/x studio.

Knoll’s credits as vfx supervisor include the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” pictures, the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, two “Mission: Impossible” pics, two “Star Trek” films and the upcoming “Pacific Rim.” He won a vfx Oscar for the second “Pirates” pic and was co-leader of ILM’s production team on the Oscar-winning animated feature “Rango.”

In his new role, Knoll will be involved in early creative planning for all projects that come to ILM. Said Brennan: “I was looking to find someone to partner with. We always have a vfx supervisor and producer partnered to run a show here. You have the creative and the business side.”

Knoll will be the creative voice in across-the-board planning for ILM while Brennan will focus on business and costs.

Knoll’s promotion reflects Lucasfilm topper Kathleen Kennedy’s feeling that because of the growing complexity of f/x-driven pictures and their cost structures, it’s crucial to have a creative voice of Knoll’s stature in early planning, “I felt very strongly the company needed that,” Kennedy told Variety.

The chief creative officer title is especially significant now that ILM and Lucasfilm are owned by Disney. In the history of the Mouse House, only John Lasseter has ever had a chief creative officer title. Knoll will continue to work on individual titles as a vfx supe — he joined the team on “The Lone Ranger” as that pic entered its final push to completion — in addition to his managerial duties.

ILM is having a particularly busy summer, having been the lead vfx studio on “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “The Lone Ranger,” and “Pacific Rim.” Knoll is the vfx supervisor on “Pacific Rim,” which is skedded for release July 12.

He says he will encourage collective troubleshooting at ILM. “Folks tend to get very busy on their own shows,” said Knoll, “and don’t have time to periodically share with everybody else what they’re working on. ‘Have you thought about that?’ We have this wealth of talent that if we’re smart we leverage on all projects.”

“We have well-established supervisors here that certainly don’t need me to interfere with their projects,” said Knoll. “Michael Bay comes because he wants to work with Scott Farrar. J.J. (Abrams) comes to ILM because he has a great relationship with Roger Guyett. These things are already working and I don’t need to interfere. (My role) is just to help from a facilities standpoint to make sure they get the resources they need, and to troubleshoot problems.”

ILM is in active planning for the next “Star Wars” picture and Brennan said the company is planning to manage all of the vfx for “Episode VII” and future “Star Wars” pics, though she left the door open to subcontracting some of the work. The company is investigating the possibility of opening a London branch, said Brennan.

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