This year’s Family and Alumni Weekend honored the work of several SCAD alumni, including Jesse Hildreth (B.F.A., visual effects, 2008), a senior technical director at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) in Vancouver, Canada. Hildreth, who also earned a minor in technical direction, spoke Saturday evening at the Trustees Theater before a screening of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” a film on which Hildreth worked. Hildreth discussed his work on the film and showed behind-the-scenes breakdowns for specific shots.
Prior to his presentation at the Trustees, Hildreth spoke with District’s Editor-in-Chief Emilie Kefalas about his time studying at SCAD as well as what helped him get into the visual effects industry after graduating.
Emilie Kefalas (EK): So tell me a little bit about how you found SCAD.
Jesse Hildreth (JH): Long story, but I’ll be short. I was a U.S. Marine, stationed over in Beaufort just across the river. When the time to move on from that came up, I decided to try and pursue a career in film and movies. So I started looking at some schools, did research on studios and the name that kept coming up was SCAD. Being right across the river helped tremendously because it was just a quick drive for the tour, and right off the bat liked what I saw.
EK: How do you feel SCAD prepared you for your career?
JH: The professors are extremely knowledgeable in this industry. Some of them have even worked in it. The tools that Montgomery Hall provides to students for working on visual effects or any other kind of digital media is fantastic. The place is open 24/7, so if it’s your style just sit there and just work and work and work, and they were totally open with that, and that really helped. But above all working with other students who were just as good, you could bounce ideas off them, you could work with them, build relationships and there are these connections that last post-graduation and really help open doors later on.
EK: What advice would you give to a student who is a visual effects major or any student in general?
JH: It can be a rough industry, but stick to it, if this is what you like to do, stick to it. Make it work. Take chances. Do stuff that no one else has done before. Be bold. Learn to accept criticism, and work on team projects if you can. Work with other students. These are the ones that will open up doors for you later on. And you will be friends with these guys forever.
EK: In the industry you are in now, do you collaborate with other disciplines?
JH: Oh absolutely. It’s nothing but collaboration. Even just making a movie, you are one of four or five, six, seven, eight people on just your one shot, and you can easily have a dozen, two dozen people on your team, and every other team’s got the same number. So in visual effects and especially in film, it’s extremely collaborative.
EK: What was your favorite part of attending SCAD?
JH: I liked when the industry professionals came and visited the studio. They offered some insight that was fantastic and phenomenal because you really don’t know what the industry is like until you get there. And I feel that SCAD really does get you there, it shows you what it is, even though you don’t think about it until you actually arrive, because you have no point of context. So it really prepares you for almost anything while you’re there.
EK: How long have you worked at ILM?
JH: I’ve been at ILM for about a year and a half. When I was in Singapore it was Lucasfilm Animation, so it was the same company but a different part of the company, and I did mostly just the animated work. And then I did a two-year break in London before I came back to ILM.
EK: When you graduated, did you go straight to Lucasfilm, or did you transition?
JH: I graduated 2008, and that’s right when the writer’s strike hit, so our industry nose-dived right after that. Work was not easy to come by. I moved straight out to L.A. No job yet. Spent three months trying to find something, anything. Worked at some stereoscopic conversion place for three months before finally getting work at Rhythm and Hues.
EK: Is there anything else you want to say to students in general?
JH: Work together. Make friends. These people are everything.