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Exec will help nurture 'Star Wars' franchise

With “Star Wars” rapidly ramping up and buzz about an “Indiana Jones” reboot building, things are getting very busy at Lucasfilm. So the company has promoted Lynwen Brennan, Industrial Light & Magic’s president and general manager, to general manager of Lucasfilm .

Brennan has been at ILM for 16 years and headed business operations for the visual effects giant since 2009. In her new role with ILM’s parent, she will oversee “all operational matters for Lucasfilm, ILM and Skywalker sound,” according to the company statement. She will report to both Lucasfilm president Kathy Kennedy and Walt Disney Studios president Alan Bergman.

Brennan’s new brief is to develop and oversee Lucasfilm’s business strategy, and supervise implementation of the company’s vision. She said that Disney has given Lucasfilm and Kennedy the autonomy to forge that vision.

Kennedy said “As we accelerate production of content for television, film, theme parks, and interactive games, Lynwen will focus on our strategic vision and lead day-to-day operations.”

Brennan told Variety: “I’m going to be concentrating on the operations of Lucasfilm and to make sure we have a company where everybody can bring their best game, and also collaborating and communicating with our partners at Disney and our partners throughout the Lucasfilm organization to make sure that we are nurturing the (‘Star Wars’) franchise in the right way and that we have a long-term strategic vision for the company.”

“We’re more than a film company, and we’re more than a franchise company,” said Brennan. “The thing that is at the forefront of all of our minds, both here at Lucasfilm and at Disney, is the responsibility to continue George’s legacy with the ‘Star Wars’ films. ‘Star Wars’ means so much to people around the world. That responsibility weighs on me quite heavily, to make sure we make the right choices for the franchise and the fans.”

There will be a search for an executive to step in to ILM management in an oversight role similar to the one Brennan is vacating. She will retain many of her ILM oversight responsibilities in her new position, but will hand off day-to-day management of individual vfx projects to the leadership of ILM’s global locations.

“I will still be involved (with ILM),” she said, “but at a higher level.”

Brennan led ILM through a period of convulsive change in the visual effects industry. During her tenure tax incentives from other states and countries put California’s vfx studios under financial pressure. ILM remained in San Francisco while many of its California competitors either folded or moved out of the U.S.

ILM, despite its legendary name, was not immune to those pressures. It responded by opening branches in Singapore and London, and by subcontracting parts of its projects to other companies, including Base FX in China. Now, with a steady flow of work from the “Star Wars” films likely to continue for at least a decade and regular work on other tentpoles, including Marvel pics, the company appears to be well-positioned for the future.

Brennan said Lucasfilm is “absolutely” committed to staying in San Francisco, and that the fact she is based there was likely one reason she was tapped for her new role. “I am known and trusted by the people here, and that was an important part of what was needed in this role. It’s important to keep this community going.”

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