Ever wondered what sort of computer magic goes on behind the scenes in movie blockbusters? Important Looking Pirates (ILP), a studio who has worked on some of the biggest movies in recent memory, has given us an exclusive interview with its Co-Founder Niklas Jacobson.
Founded in 2007, ILP operates as a top international supplier of visual effects and has delivered some of the most iconic CG sequences of the 21st century. From their base in Stockholm, Sweden, the ILP team has reached across the Atlantic to become a major force in Hollywood film-making.
We caught up with Co-Founder Niklas Jacobson to talk about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and cineSync. From waterfall work to an epic T-Rex chase scene, the action never stops at ILP, and their effects work is as ambitious as it can get.
Tell me a little bit about how you got into the industry and where you’re at now?
I went to graphic design school in Stockholm, then started doing some work in advertising. After a few years, a colleague and I decided to move to London, around the time when the Harry Potter films were taking off. I also worked on films like Batman Begins and Doom. It was a very inspiring time, as the VFX industry was much more developed in London than in Sweden, with more feature film projects to take part in. I learnt a lot during my time in London. Eventually, we wanted to establish a VFX company back home in Sweden but still compete with the big international studios. That’s how Important Looking Pirates was created!
Can you tell me a bit more about ILP? What are some of your company’s specialities?
Nowadays, ILP mostly completes long-form projects for TV and feature film. We have a talented team of roughly 100 people in our Stockholm office, 40% of which have joined us from abroad. Global communication is a big part of the way we work.
ILP completed its first television project five years ago, which was called Crossbones and was nominated for a VES Award. Since then, we’ve had a consistent workflow from the TV industry as more and more projects come in every year.
Our goal with ILP was to create a company where we ourselves would like to work—somewhere you have the support, tools, and infrastructure you need in order to thrive. We are truly an artist-driven facility; after all, we founders are artists first and foremost.
Is remote collaboration a vital part of your pipeline?
Remote collaboration is very common in this industry, so video review sessions are a huge part of ILP’s everyday workflow. About 95% of ILP clients are based in the United States—we use cineSync to stay connected. Otherwise, if the client is based in Burbank and the artist in Stockholm, you’re looking at a very long airplane flight just to get in front of the same screen.
Can you think of a recent project in which cineSync played an important role?
Two blockbuster movies immediately come to mind: Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Both clients are based abroad, so using cineSync was just logical for us.
I’m also really proud of the TV series Lost in Space, which was nominated for an Emmy this year. We did approximately 300 VFX shots across ten episodes. The client was based in LA, so not a day went by without us using cineSync. Communication was quite successful!
By the end of our workday in Sweden, it becomes morning in LA, so we set up a cineSync session. Clients have a whole day to react, draw, comment, and present the material to showrunners. It’s a fluid, open conversation.
Are there any shots from Star Wars: The Last Jedi that you’re particularly proud of?
In The Last Jedi, one particular shot saw a great deal of international collaboration between vendors. It was an opening shot of Cantonica, the casino planet, shared between Important Looking Pirates and ILM London.
While ILM created the cityscape, we tackled the foreground and waterfall work. It was helpful to talk and tweak shots together in cineSync sessions, just to make sure everyone was on the same page. Being able to watch the shot and paint over it frame-by-frame suits our artist-driven culture.
Star Wars was a little bit of a test, as we only did about 20 VFX shots or so for ILM. But I think we passed with flying colors. ILP has always cared about the quality of its work; that has always been our main focus.
And what about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom? Are there any shots you’re particularly proud of for that project?
Jurassic World was the next step up for ILP. We were the film’s biggest vendor, right after ILM itself. Our team completed 100 shots, where the main chunk was for a 7-minute-long sequence right at the opening of the movie. You’d recognise a lot of our work, including the Mosasaurus in the water and T-Rex chase. It was a super iconic scene and a fun sequence for us to work on.
Since day one, we’ve always put a lot of effort into research and development and have set up a solid pipeline, that combined with over 100 super talented people here at ILP, makes for a quite efficient organization. Even though ILP is small, we manage quite a bit of throughput. We have over 100 super talented people here at ILP, so we’re quite an efficient organisation.
One really convenient thing we’ve been using is the integration between cineSync and Shotgun. You can easily pull shots into a cineSync session without even having to prep them beforehand. That’s quite convenient. We just save the annotated frames discussed on-call and re-ingest them into Shotgun to share with the team; cineSync is part of our daily routine.
Where do you want to take ILP in the future?
We’re super proud of the ILP team. It’s the third year in a row that we’ve been nominated for an Emmy! We always raise the bar and try to develop and become better at what we do.
What’s your favorite CG scene in a film? Let us know in the comments below!
Edited by: Kelly Conley