Pippa Anderson

Pippa Anderson talks about managing the 'big machine' of Lucasfilm

Contributed by
Sep 19, 2018

As the vice president of post-production, Pippa Anderson oversees the entire post process for the Lucasfilm slate, including live-action, direct-to-consumer, and animation. Since 2013, with production schedules often overlapping, she has led the post-production process for Strange Magic, Star Wars: The Force AwakensRogue One: A Star Wars StoryStar Wars: The Last Jedi, and Solo: A Star Wars Story, as well as the Star Wars Rebels animated series.

SYFY FANGRRLS got a chance to chat with Anderson about her work, what a typical day entails, and the hardest part of her job.

We’d love to hear how you got started in the industry.

I grew up in Australia. I graduated with a degree in business communication, majoring in journalism. I got drawn into the entertainment industry because of a chance phone conversation with a then well-known television director, and I ended up cutting three telemovies that he was just bringing to the town where I lived. It wasn’t quite what I’d trained for in journalism, but I really fell in love with this different and really powerful way of telling stories that was a combination of music and picture and sound and the energy that went with movies and TV, whatever it is. It’s all the same. And that kind of rolled into a pretty successful career as an editor for television and post-production supervisor.

I moved to that. And through that journey, I ended up in New Zealand for several years working for Peter Jackson, running post. And what an amazing, fantastic experience that was. During that time, I also had the privilege, the real privilege of working with Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg on The Adventures of Tintin, which was one of the last movies I did in New Zealand. In 2012 Disney acquired Lucasfilm. George Lucas asked Kathy to take over the reins of the company after he retired. Kathy basically beckoned. One of the Tintin producers, Jason McGatlin, joined her team in the new Lucasfilm as the new head of production, and Jason basically beckoned me to be head of post, so here I am, living in California for the last many years. Another way of putting it is that I basically dived headlong into one of the biggest, best-known, best-loved, most amazing franchises in the world.

I’m sure you don’t have a really typical day, but as typical as you can get — what’s a normal day like for you when you’re working?

OK, it’s never typical. It depends entirely where we are. A kind of overview of it all is that most of the time I’ll be working on a bunch of different projects, usually fairly complex. The only difference is the part of the process. Some of them might be in super early — everybody starting a discussion about the project. It might be where we are currently with Star Wars: Episode IX. It might be the very end, really kind of challenging, up-against-it parts of the process of getting the post-production done. And this is on the movies, this is also on the direct-to-consumer, we’re about to launch some of the animation projects that we do. I might be talking to some music lawyers about the composers, about their contracts. I might be talking to the composers themselves about how are we going to set up scoring and is it going to be in London at Abbey Road, or is it going to be [in Los Angeles]? Are we going to have 100 musicians? Are we going to have 80? I’ll be talking to Skywalker Sound about maybe providing some early sound effects to the editor who are working here, or we might be in the middle of a mix for one of the productions.

The answer could go on and on and on, really. And other days it’s quite quiet and I do paperwork! [laughs] It’s fun. What a blast of a job, really. What’s especially fabulous about it is working with Kathy [Kennedy]. It was in New Zealand on Tintin, but to have the opportunity to then work for her in this environment that I’ve just described. And her leadership team is more than 50 percent women and right across the board in terms of roles. My role as the female lead of post-production for a major studio is pretty amazing, but legal, finance, human resources, publicity, marketing, story development, immersive entertainment, we’re all strong, sassy women with plenty to say, and Lynwen Brennan, who is our general manager and executive VP of Lucasfilm in general. It’s a great time to be here at Lucasfilm.

And what do you think Kathleen Kennedy has brought to Lucasfilm?

She is an amazing producer. She has so much experience, and she’s worked with Steven Spielberg for so many years and in her own right. She comes with a confidence and a clarity and a real understating of the filmmaking process. She’s clear. She’s got a really clear vision about things, working as a producer on the movie and also as president of Lucasfilm. She has a really good overview of how things are and how things should be. She’s unafraid. If she feels that something needs to be changed or something needs to be discussed at all out loud —  there are hard decisions to be made. I don’t need to mention, but she’s had some hard decisions in her time as president of Lucasfilm. She does them. She’s unafraid. She’s an excellent role model.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of the job is usually to do with time, because post-production is such an important part of the filmmaking process. It’s kind of where the jigsaw gets put together, where the chickens come home to roost, and it means that the best and the worst of what may have happened in the shooting, or even the writing, to a degree — what you have in post-production is what you have to work with. So there are parts of post in the editing room, and the visual effects, particularly in an effects-heavy tentpole, and then the sound and the music and the scoring. Then there is the localization, which is the international — getting the movie released in the rest of the world at the same time as the English version, which is a whole big discussion. A really interesting discussion, but I think it’s just that you’re really on the clock. And everybody has to be on their game. But at the same time, and this is what I think the challenge really is, is kind of working really closely with the director and the editor and the other filmmakers, and being able to give them, as much as possible, what they need. Being able to fully support them in a way that they need to be able to realize their vision of what the movie should be. And do it all on time and on budget. No pressure! [laughs]

Is there a specific example of getting a film ready for other countries that you can talk about?

Well, yes I can. It’s sort of a general version. So what happens is that, when we’re sort of going through the editing and cutting process, and getting the movie basically where the director wants it to be from an editorial situation and as we move it into visual effects. And all around that time, fairly early in the formal post-process — and by that I mean when the shooting is finished — when I talk about post, that’s really the formal post is when the shooting stops — though the post starts way back when preproduction starts and goes all the way through the shoot… we’re already having to supply the international team with casting references… meaning approved clips, if you will, enabling them, the international creative directors in all the different countries that we release in to then find the right voice actors with the same timber that will kind of really represent what the director has wanted to do, or is doing, if you will, in the English version or whatever the original version is. And that’s such a skill and such a carefully curated process.

And, of course, sometimes if you’ve got characters that have rolled on from one movie to the other, do we then go back to that same voice in German or Slovakian or Hindi or whatever it is, or do we have to find another voice actor. And then that process, they actually need to record that and it needs to all get approved, and then it all needs to be mixed in all the various languages. And that is all running concurrently with us finally wrapping the movie.

It starts during the cutting process because we have to get the casting material out, but that all has to happen alongside, not so much in the background — in the background for us because we’re focused on getting the English version done, but teams, amazing teams work around the clock. Especially when we’re fighting for time, like Solo, we had such a compressed post schedule. They have to do all that and get it in and done and all of the many formats; 2D, 3D, IMAX, and that’s all done in languages. I think it’s about 25 dubbed languages, and more than 40 subtitle languages. Something like that. It’s huge… It’s a big machine to manage.

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