M.I.N.M: CG Weeklies
Who: Gail Currey, VP and COO, Industrial Light & Magic
Players: 150 artists, including model makers, painters, animators, and computer-graphics designers
Frequency: Every six weeks, for about an hour
Why I never miss it: "I learn along with everyone else. It's a celebration of our work."
A long time ago (1975), in a galaxy not so far away (Marin County, California), a young filmmaker named George Lucas founded a special-effects company to create the visuals for his first Star Wars epic. Since then, his company, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), has been a pioneer in the field of digital illusion, creating special effects for 8 of the top 10 box-office hits of all time. These days, the company works on a dozen feature films and on more than 50 commercials each year.
To keep pushing cinematic boundaries, ILM's artists have to keep inventing new ways to create effects. That's where CG Weeklies come in. (CG stands for "computer graphics.") These meetings no longer take place every week, but their purpose (like their name) remains unchanged. Project teams present a special-effects problem that they've mastered — or that they still need help with — and other teams either learn from that problem or help solve it.
"It's an incredible learning experience," says Gail Currey, ILM's VP and COO. "Even junior people can sit in and watch some of the most brilliant computer-graphics artists in the world show their work."
Group learning. "The primary goal is to show how something was done and to identify who was responsible for it. We've become an email-centric culture, and sometimes it's hard to ask stupid questions by email. In this meeting, people can approach each other and just talk."
Cross-pollination. "When we were doing "Snake Eyes" and "Deep Impact," the project teams for both films had to deal with water and wave issues — one involving a tidal wave, the other involving a hurricane. CG Weeklies gave us a forum for showing how each team solved problems — like creating wisps of mist off the top of a wave."
A large on-site theater with red-velvet seats (no food or visitors, please). "We have to take special precautions for all meetings, not just those that focus on the "Star Wars" prequels. We have extreme confidentiality issues."
Follow the script. "We like to prechoreograph who is going to speak when. We don't have to pass around a microphone, because the whole theater is miked."
A version of this article appeared in the JulyAugust 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.