“I firmly believe that the key to the success of ILM lay in the fact that we often had no idea how to solve a particular problem. On every film, in almost every sequence we had to brainstorm, invent and build solutions to new challenges. We made a lot of mistakes and shot a ton of film that no one will ever see, but we ultimately put images on the screen that helped make the trilogy a new milestone in cinema. And what better way to learn than from your mistakes?”

-Joe Johnston on the original “Star Wars” visual effects crew

For nearly 10 years during the 1990’s I worked at George Lucas’ special effects company, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). At that time, ILM was in a renaissance, creating the tools and defining the techniques that would lead to a digital revolution in filmmaking. I arrived at the company in 1992 when they were halfway into production on Jurassic Park and were creating the first photorealistic computer animated characters for a motion picture.

Embedded deeply in the culture of ILM was a “can do” spirit and a belief that anything was possible. Experimentation, testing, and learning from failure was the primary path, and the highly collaborative environment bred success.

In a hive-like environment learning can become infectious as people work collaboratively to solve complex problems. In my experience this is the most exciting and powerful way to learn and teach. Working closely with others and adapting to incorporate an experimental, procedural, analytical approach to problem solving can lead to both discovery as well as deep understanding. My goal in the classroom is to create autodidactic polymaths, human Swiss Army knives, capable of working together to experiment, make mistakes, and develop systems for success.

I am a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts at Virginia Commonwealth Unversity’s School of the Arts. Since arriving at VCU in 2006, I've designed and taught courses in the history and practice of computer graphics (CGI), digital image processing, visual effects, narrative filmmaking, animation, concept design, game design, motion-capture and computer programming. 

For all education, research and university related queries email me at: mrwallin@vcu.edu

© 2019, Matt Wallin. All rights reserved.