CALIFORNIA, United States?What do the Star Wars and Star Trek movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Johnny Mnemonic, Virtuosity, and other sci-fi classics have in common?
If this was a Jeopardy game show question, the correct answer would be "Who is Nilo Rodis?"
That's right, my cousin, Nilo Rodis (also known as Nilo Rodis-Jamero after his stepfather), was the art director or costume designer of those famous sci-fi movie classics.
Nilo is the son of my uncle, Eric Rodis, from Cebu where Nilo was born and raised. Uncle Eric wanted Nilo to be a priest and enrolled him at a seminary high school but when he graduated, Nilo wanted no part of the priesthood and opted instead to immigrate to the US and enroll at San Jose State University.
After graduating from college with a degree in industrial design, Nilo was hired by General Motors to work on car design for Chevrolet.
What happened next was described by Thomas Smith, the former general manager of ILM, in his coffee table book, Industrial Light & Magic, The Art of Special Effects:
"At the newly reestablished ILM, art director Joe Johnston was looking for a creative partner in the art department. When he contacted San Jose State and asked for leads on new talent, they referred him to their star student who was then working for General Motors. By the time Joe caught up with him, Nilo was designing tanks.?
When asked by an interviewer how he got to work for George Lucas, creator and producer of Star Wars, Nilo said simply: ?I got a call. I met George Lucas at his house in San Rafael where I failed three questions: ?Do you like science fiction books? Do you like science fiction movies? Do you like movies?? He hired me.?
And that?s how Nilo was transported from a Cebu high school seminary to a galaxy far, far away.
The ?galaxy? of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) was a factory of creative miniaturized models before the era of computer graphics and digital special effects.
When asked what it was like working for George Lucas, Nilo said: ?George Lucas is the best person to work for. He inspires you without telling you what to do. He is less specific, doesn't give a reason why he likes certain designs. It's all non-verbal communication. It works because it works.?
After he was hired, Nilo immediately started working as an art director on Raiders of the Lost Ark with Steven Spielberg and on George Lucas?s sequels to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
Nilo received the 1984 Saturn Award for Best Costume Designer for his work in The Return of the Jedi from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, USA.
Among the dozens of creative weapons, equipment, vehicles, and costumes that Nilo designed, he considers Princess Leia?s slave girl outfit as the one that was most fun. The most difficult was the Empire Bikers? outfit because of the stunt requirements.
Nilo?s creative work quickly spread to the far reaches of the Klingon Empire where he designed the Bird of Prey vessel which initially appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and in numerous sequels of the franchise. He also designed the Spacedock model that is a regular feature of all Star Trek films.
Nilo received full credit as Art Director (with his name and title on the screen all to itself) of Star Trek III (The Search for Spock), Star Trek IV (The Voyage Home) Star Trek V (The Final Frontier), and Star Trek VI (The Undiscovered Country). In Star Trek V, Nilo is also given additional credit as costume designer.
But Nilo did not just confine himself to the Star Wars and Star Trek films. Aside from working with Spielberg on the Harrison Ford classic, Raiders of the Lost Ark, he also worked with him on Poltergeist as special effects art director.
Nilo also worked as Production Designer of two 1995 movies?Russel Crowe and Denzel Washington?s film, Virtuosity and Keanu Reeves?s Johnny Mnemonic. In the same year, Nilo also worked as a concept artist on Pixar Animation Studio?s first movie, Toy Story. In 1997, he served as Associate Producer of the Robin Williams film, Flubber, the Macauley Caulkin film, Home Alone 3, and the alien abduction film, Fire in the Sky with D.B. Sweeney and Robert Patrick.
Nilo received a Genie Award nomination for Best Achievement in Art Direction/Production Design for his work in Johnny Mnemonic.
After working on films from his home in Marin County where Industrial Light & Magic is based, Nilo moved to Vancouver, Canada to work as Creative Director for Electronic Arts Canada where he designed video games.
Nilo recently joined Electronics Arts Canada CEO Rory Arms in forming a new company, Conversion Works, where Nilo is Chief Creative Officer of what the website describes as ?the only company to deliver True Stereo 3DX conversion with real time iteration of all 3D stereo parameters serving the entertainment industry in Hollywood and beyond.?
Nilo somehow found time to work as art director in Tim Burton?s 2010 film, Alice in Wonderland, with Johnny Depp.
When asked by young designers for advice on how to get into the business, Nilo recommends a broad academic background as ?education develops an individual?s character and it is character that is ultimately expressed in the work of the artist.?
Extra from The Return of the Jedi, The Gamorrean Guards From the Expanded Universe (by Nilo Rodis): A Rodisar from the battlefields of Rodis, Nilo was once a general in the winter wars of that primitive world. He and his command staff were kidnapped in a Zygerrian slaver run, and most of his followers were killed trying to protect their general. The slavers sold Nilo to Rattataki war barons, impressing them with tales of Nilo's military exploits. Though strong and a capable brawler, in truth, Nilo was a lackluster military leader. He had climbed the corrupt military ranks of Rodis by bribing politicians. Most of the military experience came from his staff. General Nilo only experienced one fight in the Cauldron gladiator pit, and he did not emerge alive.