We chatted with Jill Gilbert, Head of Creative Affairs at Luma, to talk a little about how she got started in her career and her current role at Luma. Jill’s impressive career spans two decades specializing in the development and production of animated content, including over 60 live action and animated feature films like SpongeBob SquarePants in 3D and Grandma’s Cats are Trying to Kill Her. She joined Luma in 2016 and prior to that held key leadership positions at Psyop, Disney and Paramount Pictures.
Here, Jill tells us about the mentors she's had along the way, her work + life philosophy and much more!
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you get started in your career?
When I left Chicago to come to Southern California for college, I had no idea I wanted to be in the film industry. One of my professors had a sister who worked at a casting company and she needed interns. It sounded like an interesting opportunity, so I took it. That internship led to three more while I was in college, all of which set me up very well for when I graduated and needed to find my first paid job. The internships were like my grad school because they gave me the chance to learn about how films are developed and the way the movie business worked.
How did you segue into becoming an executive in animation?
After being an assistant for three years, it was time to look for an executive job. One of my former bosses suggested I apply for a Creative Executive (jr executive) job at Warner Bros. Feature Animation. This was during The Iron Giant and Space Jam years. She said I would love the artistic integrity of animation, the process, the storytelling, the people, and the fact that there is much less Hollywood garbage than live-action. The job offer was rescinded due to the Turner and Time Warner merger. I was devastated, but it was a wake-up call to show me that I really wanted to work in animation. I was later offered a Creative Executive position at Disneytoon Studios, where I worked for 9 years, was promoted 3 times, and worked on over 20 films.
Did you have any mentors throughout your career? Who were they and what did they teach you?
I’ve been fortunate to have mentors throughout my career. My first mentor was my boss at Disneytoon Studios, Sharon Morrill. She taught me how to have a vision for your business, how to run a division at a company, how to balance a slate of projects, how to cast talent and resources accordingly, and how to pitch a story. Another mentor was Steve Ryan who hired me to produce theme park attractions for Universal Studios Singapore when I knew nothing about producing theme park attractions. Steve showed me how important it is to look at what I call “the tools in the toolbelt” for a potential employee. Finally, I consider Tim Sarnoff, Deputy Co-CEO of Technicolor a mentor as Tim has guided me in my career choices starting in 2011, teaching me how to make smart decisions and choices to manage the trajectory of my career.