Welcome to a look Inside the Holocron. A collection of articles from the archives of *starwars.com no longer directly available.
(*Archived here with Permission)
There’s a distinctive red Mitsubishi Eclipse parked at Skywalker Ranch: that means Kevin Baillie is on the scene. Arriving early and staying late, Kevin Baillie works in the Art Department, behind locked doors in a special aerie workshop of creativity.
He’s an animatics artist, constructing moving blueprints for the shots that ILM will fashion for Star Wars: Episode I. Kevin composes shots, places spacecraft at their most interesting angles, calculates trajectories, and builds whole landscapes in the computer, all for the constantly – evolving prototype sequences that “previsualize” the final footage of Episode I.
He’s easygoing and down-to-earth, despite the extraordinary work he performs and the company he keeps with such Oscar-winners as Ben Burtt and Dennis Muren. Kevin fits in well with the unusual crew of artisans assembled in the Episode I Art Department – they are all good company and confident of their abilities. But Kevin is only 18, and that does make him stand out, even around here.
Harnessing the energy and creativity of youth is nothing new in the world of Star Wars production. To create the innovative sights and sounds of Star Wars years ago, George Lucas drew upon the talents of many young people fresh out of film school or at the beginnings of their careers. For Episode I, that recipe is in force again, only this time it includes some people fresh out of high school. Sometimes talent and dedication make age irrelevant.
Living in Seattle, Kevin and his friend Ryan Tudhope began working with the computer modeling program 3D Studio during their freshman year. Together the two pushed each other to learn and create with computer tools, until they were attracting attention with their expertise. They created architectural visualizations for work on the Space Needle in their spare time, and ended up working for Microsoft on a CD-ROM project. The two friends then appeared in a George Lucas Educational Foundation documentary on learning programs at their high school, and that’s when they were spotted by notorious Episode I Producer Rick McCallum. The quality of their work brought them an invitation to Skywalker Ranch to meet Rick, George Lucas, and the Art Department, and to hear about the ways in which previsualizations and computer modeling were mapping out the route to Episode I’s final form.
Kevin and Ryan were “amazed at it all,” and the visit had its unspoken but intended effect: “From that day on,” Kevin says, “we were determined to do the best we could to impress them.” Over the next year they logged countless hours in front of their monitors, creating scenes and effects, overlying CG elements on video footage, making computer-movie projects for classes from science to creative writing. “We worked to improve ourselves and our skills as much as we could. We’d stay at school until the alarms made us go home. We learned so much! We hardly had any life for all that time, but we drew on everything in our classes to make our movies better – art, physics – it all went into improving our work. We just banged our heads into it, encouraging each other and pushing each other to keep advancing.”
From time to time their packages would arrive at Rick McCallum’s doorstep, but what chance was there that two high school seniors would get picked for the Star Wars project? “It seemed impossible,” Kevin admits, “but we did everything we could to stand out with our work.” And this past summer, it was enough. They were brought on board for Episode I.
Now Kevin is an integral member of the animatics team, contributing along with five other artists. These team members and the story of their vital role in making Episode I will appear here on starwars.com in several future profiles and features.
“My age was actually an asset for me,” Kevin says, “not a liability. It’s so much easier for a young person to stand out. Adults are impressed when you take the initiative to go out and do what you love.”
And while there was some good fortune in being at the right place and time to get noticed, it wasn’t luck that got him his job. It was consistent focus and effort. “If you want to get somewhere really badly,” Kevin says, “it makes you work as hard as you need to. That’s what can get you into even a tough field. I really believe that anything is possible for a person who’s willing to dedicate himself.” In Kevin’s case, the results speak for themselves.