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AFTRS and ILM Partner in Training for New Generation of Visual Effects Specialists

Dr Nell Greenwood, CEO of AFTRS, and Luke Hetherington, Executive in Charge of ILM’s Singapore and Sydney studios

AFTRS and world-leading visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) today announced a partnership that will see new world-class training for Australians in the rapidly expanding screen speciality of visual effects.

AFTRS’ new Graduate Diploma in Visual Effects, commencing in February 2023, will bring together the vision, skills and expertise of ILM, and the educational expertise and creative excellence of AFTRS.

The Graduate Diploma in Visual Effects is a hands-on course designed to upskill emerging practitioners, digital artists and budding technical directors to become job-ready visual effects artists in the Australian screen sector.

The course will prototype an innovative model of integrated training that combines the best of on-the-job training with formal education: blending real-world learning driven by leading industry experts, with the critical thinking and adaptive creative skill sets vital to thrive in today’s digital world.

The Graduate Diploma in Visual Effects program is to be delivered full-time over two semesters and is structured around an immersive series of practical classes and workshops. Led by senior professionals in the industry from ILM and AFTRS’ subject matter experts, students will progress through a cycle of learning, collaboration, experimentation, feedback and mentoring to hone their technical, creative and story skills.

AFTRS CEO, Dr Nell Greenwood, said, “This is a really exciting partnership for AFTRS and the Australian industry. The combined skills of the ILM and AFTRS teams set a new benchmark for world-leading, industry-partnered education.

“The need for skilled visual effects artists is increasing rapidly and this unique course will have a real impact on the capacity and growth of the Australian VFX sector.”

Executive in Charge of ILM’s Singapore and Sydney studios, Luke Hetherington is equally excited about the new collaboration, “A program between ILM and AFTRS felt like a very natural partnership from the start of our discussions. We’re bringing 45+ years of traditional film craft teaching together with specialised, high-end technical knowledge from ILM and will use real-world production examples, techniques and working environments. I believe this will help accelerate the development of highly skilled and diverse talent, which the Australian screen industry has an abundance of opportunities and needs for,” said Hetherington.

Dr Greenwood added, “This year AFTRS launched a new five-year corporate strategy, Creating the Future, with a redrawn mission to offer its world-leading, industry partnered training and education across Australia. This new partnership with ILM is central to the School delivering on its ambition to offer future-facing, sustainable, world-leading training and its remit to support the growth and skills level of the Australian industry.”

Minister for the Arts, Tony Burke, said: “From the early space battles of Star Wars to the shapeshifting T-1000 in Terminator 2. From the rampaging T-Rex in Jurassic Park to the Quidditch matches of the Harry Potter films. ILM has brought excellence in VFX to the big screen for more than four decades now.

“I know they’ll bring that same magic to this partnership with AFTRS – ensuring we develop the next generation of VFX talent right here in Australia. What a fantastic opportunity this is for the Australian film industry. I know that it will be a success and I can’t wait to see that play out on the big screen.”

Candidates for the inaugural Class of 2023 intake will be able to apply from mid-August 2022 and can find more information here.


Established in 1973 under an act of Federal Parliament, the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) is Australia’s national screen and broadcast school. Working hand-in-hand with industry, AFTRS is a global centre of excellence that provides Australians with world-leading creative education and training so that Australian talent and culture may thrive at home and around the world. AFTRS is the only Australian school to be consistently rated among the top international film schools by The Hollywood Reporter. In 2023 AFTRS will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Industrial Light & Magic, a division of Lucasfilm Ltd., was founded by George Lucas in 1975. The company has become synonymous with groundbreaking visual effects work and continues to be a recognized leader in the field. ILM has operations in San Francisco, Singapore, Vancouver, London, and Sydney. ILM’s studio in Sydney offers a complete slate of visual effect services and leverages the company’s award-winning expertise and technological know-how developed over 47 years in the industry. The company has been awarded 15 Academy Awards® for Best Visual Effects and 34 Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.