ILM guru on creating the perfect movie image

The VFX supervisor on Elysium describes the escapism and passion that infuses his work at ILM.

This year, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) is celebrating 40 years of VFX goodness. So we decided to catch up with some of the studio's veterans, to find out their thoughts on the last few decades, and discover what they're up to know.

Be inspired by these amazing examples of 3D art

Yesterday we chatted to John Knoll. Now, in the second in our series of interviews, we meet visual effects supervisor Grady Cofer, who looks back on his 16 years with the company.

(By the way, these posts are just the tip of the iceberg: for full coverage of ILM in its anniversary year, check out the latest issue of 3D World, on sale now – details at the bottom of this post.)

"I was transported by the escapism"

Grady Cofer

Visual effects supervisor Grady Cofer has spent 16 years at ILM

"The one thing that brought me to ILM was art," says Cofer. "It was 1977. I lived in a small town, Stone Mountain, Georgia. My dad came home with something rolled up under his arm. I have it on my wall here at ILM. It's the original poster art for Star Wars by the Hildebrandt Brothers.

"When I unrolled that poster, I was transported by the escapism it promised. When I finally saw the movie, it was the greatest highlight of my life. Someone made those spaceships real.

"From that moment on, my childhood was punctuated by striking visual moments in film. E.T.'s ship taking off. The Arc of the Covenant opening at the end of Raiders. The terrifying dragon crawling through caves in Dragonslayer. The link was ILM. How could I not be compelled to work there ultimately? Artistic greatness has a gravitational pull.”

Cofer attended UCLA, and once out of college, did graphic design for commercials, and then segued into working as a compositor on films at Digiscope. "At the time, you needed five years of film experience before ILM would look at your resume," he explains.

His first credit at ILM was as a Sabre artist on the 1999 film Wild Wild West. "It was exciting and intimidating at the same time. What astounded me was the effort and passion I felt in the screening room.

"We would go to dailies, sit in chairs in the dark, and hours would go by as we talked about shots. Any idea was a good idea. It amazed me how focused everyone was on creating a perfect image."

Cofer has supervising ILM's work on many visual effects-driven films, including Elysium

Cofer became an associate visual effects supervisor on Munich, and a visual effects supervisor on Will There Be Blood, managing the supporting visual effects in those films. With Noah and Battleship, both of which brought Cofer VES nominations, he moved into the realm of supervising ILM's work in visual effects-driven films.

And his career continues to go from strength to strength, with huge movies like Selma and Elysium under his belt. "I’m learning from the best!" he smiles. "One of the strengths of ILM is the creative brain trust. I talk to Dennis Muren all the time. He looks at everything. When I get back from dailies, I’ll have a message from Dennis on my phone. He always comes up with really interesting ideas."

ILM in 3D World magazine

Check out this great issue today!

For issue 196, the 3D World magazine team were were invited by ILM to The Ranch to look behind the curtain and celebrate the studio’s incredible life – and offer we couldn’t refuse.

In this bumper issue, you’ll hear from the ILM veterans behind Star Wars, Indiana Jones and more, as well as a closer look at ILM’s recent work on Avengers: Age of Ultron. You'll find full details of this excellent issue, in stores now, here.

Buy the issue today!

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