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A Mexican in Star Wars

Behind the scenes, Jaime Jasso brings to life digital backgrounds and environments for the saga created by Gorge Lucas
Jaime Jasso - Photo courtesy of JAIME JASSO
César Huerta
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Do you remember Darth Vader's platform of the city where Diego Luna is first seen in “Rogue One", or the Starkiller Base of Episode VII? Well, those digital environments were made by a Mexican. His name is Jaime Jasso and his life changed when he watched “The Empire Strikes Back” in the 80's.

He was six years old and as soon as he came home he began to draw what he had seen on the big screen, starting with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader – the hero and villain of the original trilogy.

“I wanted to design my own ships and sets!” Jasso remembers passionately.

Three decades later he still draws but now for Industrial, Light & Magic (ILM), a company created by George Lucas.

His talent has also been used for "The Last Jedi", which we will see this December in theaters, and of which, per contract, he cannot talk about.

As lead digital matte artist, he is in charge of digital environments and set extensions.

“My father wanted me to be an architect or an engineer, or lawyer, but he and my mom also gave me colored pencils, modeling clay, cardboards; the noticed what I liked more and gave it to me,” he recalls.

The Force, as some from the saga would say, was strong with this one.

Jasso studied four months industrial design at the Guadalajara University but dropped out due to a difference with the university's methodology. He already made his designs on a computer while in the classroom he was asked to do them by hand.

“Then I literally grabbed my books and locked myself in my house to study for one year,” he says.

Through a vlog in 2001, he was invited to the U.S. to become part of the production team of “The Ring" (2002).

It took him six more years to build his own portfolio and, once displayed on the Internet, the offers began to come. Among them was one from Blur Studio and that was how Jasso worked in James Cameron's "Avatar". Afterwards, he applied for Lucas Films and the rest was history,

“I've been working here for eight years, which was my goal,” he adds, “In Episode VII, I worked on several environments, mainly for the Starkiller Planet, the snowy woods, a section of the New Order. Many times you start from the concept design and carry on all through visual,” explains Jasso.

For "Rogue One", it took him five months to complete the scenery because he was the only artists assigned to it. All this for a few seconds on the screen.

In Transformers 3, for instance, he spent nine months working on the intro of Cybertron.

“Even if it's just a glimpse, I am a part of the universe. I like to know people are watching something I did and that I can inspire others, like it happened to me,” he states.

Upon being questioned about the use of technology in cinema, he agrees with James Cameron on not abusing this tool.

“Even if I do this for a living, I don't like it when a director does it; I think it depends a lot on the director's view. However, there are many films full of computer graphics, invisible, and people cannot tell; they're amazing,” he says.

Jasso is currently co-directing with Fernando Campos the short film “El Camino” (“The Road”), starring Gustavo Sánchez Parra.

In addition, he co-directs the online school, dedicated to teaching VX.

“One of my students has already worked in 'The Last Jedi',” he says proudly.


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