Spartan Proud: Ed Caspersen, from Scottville to a galaxy far far away.
Class of ’94 graduate is technology supervisor for Star Wars animation.
By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.
Today we begin a new series, sponsored by Mason County Central Schools: Spartan Proud. This series will feature alumni of Mason County Central High School telling their stories. We begin the series featuring Ed Caspersen, class of 1994.
If you are a Star Wars fan, it’s likely you are familiar with the work of Ed Caspersen. Ed is in charge of technology for Lucasfilm Animation’s Star Wars franchise. He is a technology supervisor of a small team that provides technical support, as well as research and development, for the creative teams working in the company’s San Francisco office. Titles he has worked on include: “Star Wars: Clone Wars”, “Star Wars: Detours” (which never aired), “Star Wars Rebels”, and “Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures.”
He has also worked on the animated feature “Strange Magic” (2015) and assisted in the “destruction” of New York City for “The Avengers”.
He admits that he was not a model student when he went to school at MCC. In fact, he spent several years in early adulthood trying to find his place before discovering animation.
“After high school I enlisted into the US Marine Corps,” he says. “Upon my discharge I returned to Mason County. I struggled finding work for six years and scrounged to make ends meet with various jobs such as cashier, Chuck Wagon Pizza delivery driver, and mowing lawns for my late stepfather’s landscaping company. After losing my home I finally enrolled in college and started taking advantage of my GI Bill.
Ed attended ITT Tech from 2006 to 2008 where he received an associate degree in information technology/multimedia and then from 2008 to 2009 where he received an associate degree in computer network systems.
“During this time I began to learn about 3D animation and visual effects, and was also starting to dabble in coding. I wasn’t quite sure where I would end up (as most of this just seemed like a hobby) but I knew I needed an education to move forward.
“Throughout my time in college I started doing freelance visual effects and made contacts which resulted in a deal to co-author a book. Shortly after that a couple others and I launched a small company building plugins for visual effects software. After finishing college in 2009 I bounced between both coasts (and even Singapore) interviewing at various studios to work on feature productions.”
In spring of 2010 he was offered a job at Lucasfilm Animation. “I have been here ever since. I left my plugin company in 2013 to focus on my career with Lucasfilm exclusively.”
He speaks of two MCC high school teachers who inspired him, Mike Keenan and Joe Taranko.
“I did not take school seriously back then. I was probably the worst behaved student in my class. Despite all that there was some teachers that left an impression on me.
“I admired Mr. Keenan’s passion for science combined with a brilliant sense of humor. He would use a potato as his hall pass for at least the whole semester, if not the year. After several months it would be so nasty nobody would ask to go to the bathroom. Not sure why but I admired him for being so eccentric when it came to something as simple as a hall pass. I also remember how he would light up when someone showed genuine interest in a topic, and at times (if possible) would set up some sort of demonstration to answer the question. It was inspiring.
“Mr. Taranko knew I was a problem student, but when he discovered how good I was in his printing class he trusted me with large projects. I never forgot how that man had chosen to make up his own mind about me and figure out how to focus my scattered teenage brain onto something productive to get the best out of me.
“Maybe the biggest strength I can identify came from the experience I had in Mr. Taranko’s printing class where I learned about my ability to adapt to computers. This class was one of the first to have a computer. We used it to type up content that would later be photographed (using the old horizontal camera), developed, and film burned to plates to be put on the printing press. I loved this class. I didn’t know where life would take me but I knew I was comfortable with computers, cameras, and handling film.”
Graduating from a small school prepared Ed to think outside of the box when he entered into his career in animation.
“I don’t consider the math education to have been very strong back then. It did require me to work harder in getting up to speed with some aspects of what I needed to do for my current industry, but on the other hand it is gratifying to have excelled past graduates of private schools and esteemed universities. Some colleagues have even commented that my background allows me to approach problems from an angle that differs from the hive mind mentality one can encounter around the ‘techie’ communities.”
Ed doesn’t get back to Mason County much any more. He says on his time off (which is normally in the winter) he prefers to visit warmer climates and also places where he hasn’t been before. He’s learned a lot since high school, especially about himself. Most importantly he’s learned that a kid of MCC can do just about anything when he sets his mind to it.
“When I was 16 it was hard to imagine myself as a US Marine. At 22 (as a Marine) it was hard to imagine myself working on movies and TV shows. Now I have learned my lesson and live with an open mind in which I constantly imagine the possibilities and opportunities that are out there for me.”
If you would like to tell your Spartan Proud story, contact Rob Alway at [email protected]
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