Eng Sze Jia joined Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) in 2015. As a Production Coordinator, Eng supports artists on their day-to-day schedule and ensures all show milestones are reached.
Together with the ILM Production team, she plans and executes priority changes based on key client & studio dates. Engâ€™s journey in VFX started in 2011 at Rhythm and Hues Malaysia with the Life of Pi VFX team.
She has been credited on 20 Hollywood projects to date and has coordinated for Layout, Animation, FX, Credev & Compositing to date. Sze Jia is a graduate of Monash University Malaysia, School of Art & Social Sciences, with a Bachelor of Communication (Hons) minoring in Journalism & Film.
Q: Hi, Ms. Eng. Can you tell us more about how you came to be a VFX Production Coordinator at ILM?
A: The gist of it is that I’ve always had a keen interest in film. When I was studying at Monash University, I was exposed to a lot of local filmmakers, we had film studies and modules.
When I graduated, I’ve always kind of known that I wanted to be involved in film. I’ve been working with ILM for close to five years, and the first movie that I worked on was 2016’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
I’m a person that really, really likes animation, so I think coming into this industry, I get to work closely with animators even though I cannot animate. Star Wars The Rise Of Skywalker is actually the second Star Wars movie I worked on here, after 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Q: As a VFX Production Coordinator, you support artists on their day-to-day schedule and ensure that all show milestones are reached. Can you explain more about what it is you do at ILM?
A: Well, basically, the oil on the gears, we keep the gears moving, that’s one way of describing it. We schedule up the work. Imagine that you have a lot of to-dos so we have to prioritize, so a production manager will mainly plan out so like for these five months, this is what we’re going to achieve.
Production Coordinators are the ones who are running the floor. We have targets to meet every week, and basically, we need to keep showing creative approval and related stuff. The gist of it is that we organize and communicate a lot, to make sure that everything goes according to the timeline.
Q: What were the hardest challenges you faced while working on Star Wars The Rise Of Skywalker?
A: Every job comes with a its own set of challenges. For me, I think time was a big challenge because we need to draw and achieve a lot of things within a short period of time. We had to make sure that everyone is looking at the bigger picture.
At a certain point, there were times that we felt were difficult. To overcome that, it’s usually the team coming together to say that we can definitely finish it on time. Towards the end of the project, it was particularly very challenging.
Q: Do you any remember any specific scenes from the movie that you worked on?
A: We actually worked on one of the most challenging sequences that we’ve ever worked on at ILM, involving a lot of water. (She’s speaking about the scene seen in the trailers where Rey is lightsaber-duelling with Kylo Ren on top of a ship platform with raging waters around them).
We wanted it to render, but wouldn’t render the way that we wanted it to. I think working on that particular sequence was challenging.
There were certain parts where Rey and Kylo Ren were rendered in CG, flying around on top of water and stuff like that.
Watching how realistic it is during the reviews is definitely something quite rewarding.
Q: How hard was it to keep spoilers and secrets?
A: That was definitely a challenge. There was a time when my husband was threatening to divorce me if I didn’t tell him a spoiler. (laughs) No, I’m just exaggerating.
One thing I do is that I don’t watch the cuts with audio, and that is one way to avoid spoilers. I think I successfully did that because I only just found out how it ended yesterday during the screening.
However, there will always be bits of trivia related to the movie that people will ask about. Even if you get spoiled, all you can do is try to forget about it, that’s what most of us did anyway.
Q: What’s the best movie you’ve worked on so far, and why?
A: I worked on Ready Player One, and I think that was kind of cool.
Q: What are you working on now post-Star Wars The Rise Of Skywalker?
A: I can tell you that it’s a Hollywood movie. (laughs)
For more on Star Wars The Rise Of Skywalker, check out our review of the movie here.