Phone conference with Michael, Patrick Tedjamulia, and John Dykstra.Michael filled in for Amanda Kirchner who won the Stan LeeShoes and Mentorship auction on eBay.
John Dykstra is best known for his Academy Awardģ winning visual effects work on "Star Wars," and was also the visual effects supervisor on such feature films "Batman Forever" and "Batman & Robin." Dykstra went on to design the visual effects for the Academy Award nominated international hit "Spider-Man," and last year he completed production on the highly anticipated sequel, "Spider-Man 2" which garnered him a second Academy Award.
Amanda Kirchner Bio
My name's Amanda Kirchner, and I'm a recent graduate from a visual effects program at an art school in Minneapolis, where I currently reside. I'm in the process of figuring out how to get started in the movie industry as a visual effects artist. I have a great, geek-like interest in visual effects, and I always jump at the opportunity to talk with and meet the people in the industry at any level. Amanda gave the opportunity for the interview to Michael.
Michael: So John actually, I ran into you at the 2002 VES Fest. I
think Amanda who was supposed to be talking for us today was there as
well that year. We were presenting for Spiderman and that was really a
great show. And I was struck that you were really nice personality and I
found that most of the V effects guys were that way, itís a really
great industry for people that work in it, it seems like.
Dykstra: Yeah I think too great experience based on your understanding
of how things work as opposed to you know your persona per se in terms
of motion pictures industry, there is an awful lot of personality
John Dykstra: The visual effect side of things is a little more technical.
Interviewer: Now did they tell you that Amanda couldnít make the phone call because she got stuck in the air on airplane?
Dykstra: No, actually what was mentioned when I first talked to
Rebecca but it stuck in the air as in the weather so that the plane
Interviewer: No just that you know you canít make
phone calls up there so they screwed up in Chicago, her plane was
delayed and the timing of this phone call ended up with her in the air,
so she quickly phoned me. She is one of my students I teach at the Art
Institute International here in Minnesota and we have known each other
for quite a while and so she trusted me to pick up her notes and take
off where she left off. Did you actually get a written copy of her
John Dykstra: Yes actually that was what I was talking
to Rebecca about it, well okay, well so the questions don't apply but I
Interviewer: Actually they will because luckily one of
the guys at the shop translated them for us so we have them in front of
us now and we can pick up right from the start there if you are good to
John Dykstra: No problem.
Interviewer: Okay. I know as that she mentioned the first one about how did you start and what was your sort of inspiration?
Dykstra: Well I was, when I was younger I like to draw I was involved
in all things artistic, I like that kind of stuff. And my father was a
mechanical engineer so that combination came together to make me into
sort of a designer per se. I like to draw and I like the mechanics and
things. And when I was, gee I canít believe it was this young but itís
probably 9 or 10, I became involved in photography, I decided I liked
photography. And this is when photography for me was like a Brownie
Hawkeye. So I started taking pictures and getting to the point where I
understood how cameras worked. And that was sort of the antre at the
very, itís most early stage, willing to design when I got out of high
school and I didnít have a major, I didnít know what I wanted to major
and it turns out that by luck of the draw my name Dykstra ended up
putting me with a counselor just by alphabetic choice. He was the head
of the Industrial Design Department at Long Beach State so I went into
industrial design which was a great combination for me. It allowed me
to use my understanding of the mechanics of things. And my ability to
draw in a combination that was successful in that environment and as I
got further into it I discovered that industrial design incorporated an
awful lot of engineering which was fine except the business of drafting
goes and the mechanics of creating the actual object after you conceived
it and sort of come up with a concept for what it would look like was
more work then I was enthusiastic about.
Dykstra: So I discovered that working in film I started I made my
first 16 millimeter film when I was in Long Beach State. They didnít
have a film department, I managed to hook on to a camera that had been
purchased for the art department and I went out and made little movie
about peoples feet of all things.
Interviewer: And you got to start at the bottom, right?
Dykstra: Exactly and it sort of that was, I think there was a grant
from Arm Coast Steel or somebody like that. I made the movie put
soundtrack, so we presented it in Washington DC, it was operative job in
an industrial design firm, I looked out of window, it just snowed and I
decided that I wanted to come back to LA.
Dykstra: So I came back to Los Angeles. It wasnít particularly
motivated by anything other than the fact that I had grown up at Long
Interviewer: Sure that was play for sure. Do you think
photography is still a crucial element for somebody who is getting into
the business to know how a camera works and so?
Yeah by all means and they look at the thing thatís interesting to me is
that there was a big argument that I had at that time because I used to
target for you as a basis for a lot of the illustrations I did. I took
photographs of things for scrap and then I compiled images to make
these photographic images to become the basis for illustrations or
design drawings that I was doing in my, the instructor didnít hold for
that, he felt that the camera was cheating. So that would be pretty
interesting and I enjoyed photography I continued to do photography and
in fact I made that my avocation. I became involved in compositing
images, there was a German by the name of Dr, Roff who was at Long Beach
State as a still photography instructor. And he was heavily involved
in deconstruction of the image meaning it take a still image deconstruct
it by using the grey tones or other processes, Solarization,
Posterization you name it, and then putting off images back together in
some cases adding color. So I became intimate with the mechanics of how
light strikes the film? How lenses work, get the field? All of these
things that became, well I will put it as simple as I can, photography
is a surrogate for reality. People have decided that an image captures
as much of reality as you can capture at hold in one place. And itís
not a particularly good surrogate if you hold up a picture and you look
out of window even if the picture was taken out of the window, clearly
the picture is a poor representation or itís much better representation
than other methods. Well the whole thing for me was that I pursued
photography from the point of view of making it into some other, some
other means of explanation of the image that I was seeing. And they
didnít like that idea so I became more involved with photography than I
did with my design element and I went to work for Doug Trumbull who was
doing at that time Silent Running I think, this is long time ago. Doug
was involved with Andromeda Strain and when he first came back from 2001
he worked in 2001. And so thatís sort of where I got all my
introduction into cinematography firm. He was in the motion picture
business and I discovered that in the motion picture business, you could
make something look like it worked it didnít actually have to work, you
create this illusion. You would have a guy off cameral actually
pushing something with a broomstick to make it look like it was
automated by some electronic device, it was pretty exciting. And I got
introduced at that point because Doug was very much of futurist, he has
always been about 10 years ahead of his time.
Interviewer: Yes I have noticed.
Dykstra: Yeah to his disadvantage I must say at any rate he had a
computer generated, not computer generated, he had a computer based
2000-line video system. So we were doing electronic images in 1976, I
guess with the custom build computer system that was built and designed
by Hewlett-Packard. So I was introduced into the concept of finding art
from other environments from medical, from military, from pretty much
anything that you can think about industrial applications where things
are very specific, bring them into the real motion picture making.
Interviewer: Do you find yourself doing that in type of thing on a daily basis these days or you feel itís leveled off of it?
Dykstra: No itís changed completely and that was what was interesting
my avocation which was photography, my understanding of the business of
engineering and mechanical design were perfect chemistry for visual
effects at that time because we designed and built equivalent that
allowed camera to do things that cameras couldnít do otherwise. That
was in that environment, the images that were on the film when you saw
them in the theatre had to be put in front of a camera at some point or
another, because there was no virtual design of instructions, there was
no computer generated image. So what you did is you moved subjects or
cameras and it created interfaces between them by designing mechanical
and electronic equipment that allowed you to capture separate elements
of film and then combine them much using many of the techniques that I
learnt in that still photography environment. And that was in the era
of optical printers back when you used the composites.
Interviewer: So thatís motion control essentially?
Dykstra: Well not yet, not yet because the basic definition of visual
effects at that time was multiple images captured at separate times
combined on to a single piece of film that appears if they were all
photographer at the same time. So motion control didnít come along for
quite a while. We did on Silent Running, we used camera systems that
were synchronized but they were hard synchronized. There was no ability
to vary the speed of the camera and the subject and other elements in
the shot except by hard giving and over all system speed. So you can
call it motion control but it really didnít have the kind of flexibility
that we ended up with, where we got into the true version of motion
control. I went from Dough Trumbullís environment, I worked the
development of short scan I worked on the development of a project that
ended up being a simulator very much like the star tour simulator only
which is 10 years ahead of its time, nobody believed that it would work,
and it was exactly the same thing. So I went from Doughís to working
with Lucas and Kurt on the first Star Wars. I had been at up in
Berkley, I had been at the university there. I worked on a project for
the institute of Urban and Regional Development which introduced the
concept of controlling a camera using a computer. In those days the
computer was a PDP11, it was the size of 2 or 3 subzero refrigerators
and had the computing power of the chip thatís in the toaster that tells
you the time. So it was, those were very early days you had to boot
the computer up using binary input. So it was pretty tough but it gave
you very hands on understanding of how motion computer records and
photography can all be put together. And it was the beginning of motion
Interviewer: So I guess that kind of ducktails into
that second question which at that time did you know that you are being
John Dykstra: No, not really because my
enthusiasm was for invention and it always has been, I love the idea of
solving problems. I love the idea of finding mechanical systems that
are elegant solutions to issues that have to be resolved but again this
was all about mechanics. We were very much engineers because what we
had to do is figure out the real innovation in that world was figuring
out how to capture the image and how to combine the image to make the
final product. And you know this the next question is what were my
least favorite projects and my most favorite projects?
Dykstra: The most favorite project was Star Wars. It was me and a
bunch of my friends, people who werenít necessarily in the industry we
broke a lot of ground. The guys came down from UC Berkeley, Al Miller
and some guys who were working on a project up there same time I was
doing the IURD deal and then my friends that I worked with at Doug
Trumbullís facility who had variety of backgrounds, model making,
machining, camera design, photography, you name it and we all came
together and created this super garage, did a lot of motorcycle riding
Interviewer: Yeah I know they called it like the resort area, the studio didnít think highly of that. How accurate was that?
Dykstra: Well it was called the country club and the reason it was
called the country club is that was in the San Fernando Valley and it
gets hot in the San Fernando Valley and during the day it reaches a
100-110 degrees. So when you go into a warehouse and turn on you know
12 or 15 big lamps it heats up the environment very quickly. We had
temperatures as high as 125 and 130 degrees in the warehouse. So doing
the photography during the day was not particularly pleasant. We worked
at night; we were all young enough that it didnít matter so we didnít
have any families. Everybody pretty much lived there and so we worked
through the night when it was cooler and the heat in the building wasnít
so extreme. And during the day everybody pretty much relaxed. We had a
hot tub out in the parking lot. It wasnít a hot tub in the sense that
it was heated it was just a hot tub for washing and swimming pool.
Interviewer: Hot by default.
Dykstra: Yeah it was cold and it was cooling and it was during there
were several occasions where people would show up in the studio and
there would be people out in the hot tub and that's why we got the
reputation. Of course they went there at 3 oíclock in the morning.
Dykstra: So you know and we were all focused on doing this. We didnít
realize that it was ground breaking. It was just it was a feast
everyday for our problem solving part of our brain. We loved doing it.
It was just great and it was you know exceptionally exciting.
Interviewer: But it turned out pretty good I think.
Dykstra: Yep it did and we had a great time doing it. That was my
favorite one. And then I donít know I worked on a project called space
vampires in England and it was my least favorite project probably
because of the hidebound nature of the British technicians at that
time. I donít think that's necessarily the truth anymore but got an
awful lot of we donít do it that way here.
Interviewer: Yeah. I
suppose George had that problem in England when he was shooting. Is
that the one called life force in the US?
John Dykstra: Yes. And
I just was one of those fields where you would ask for something and
they would say right mate and then they show up the next day with
something that wasnít at all what you had requested and didnít fit with
the rest of the design of the illusion but it was how they knew how to
do it. So that was a frustrating time. And then the business of you
know creating an ingenuity yeah, absolutely in fact the interesting
thing about it is it's all creative and it's all involved with ingenuity
and it's always seeing something unlike you have ever seen before.
That's what the request always is. And I think that request was solved
with mechanical solutions in the earlier years and now after the
transition sometime around Jurassic Park or whatever we started solving
things with the computer. We did two things, one is your understanding
of a mechanical world became less the criteria and then understanding of
the way to create the illusions in support of the story became more of
the focus. We are always creating illusions in support of the story but
we were always limited by the physics of the real world. In the
computer you are not limited by the physics so suddenly that restriction
was removed and we had an embarrassment of riches. You could do
virtually anything that you could think of but doing virtually anything
you could think of really wasnít particularly effective if what you were
thinking of wasnít in the focus of the story or in the pursuit of
creating a character. So as a transition for me anyway from the world
of the version the sort of the mechanical version of visual effects into
the computerize version of visual effects is, I have had to change my
focus totally to the business of how appropriate the image is for the
telling of the story.
Interviewer: Yeah I have actually used a
bunch of spidey quotes from you from that show in my course so it helps
to hear the same thing again. And after that it seems like that has
shown me something I havenít seen philosophy must be pretty hard when
you are doing a sequel to the same thing, is that true?
Dykstra: Yeah and but you know itís the same old deal and itís been
that same line unlike you have ever seen before since 1977 when I was
involved with Star Wars to you know last week when I ran out of scripts.
So they are constantly looking for imagery that is unseen and the real
trick is to integrate that imagery in a way that tells a story as
opposed to just being spectacle thatís one of the questions here. Yes I
believe that at this point in time there is a huge amount of Visual or
iCandy on the screen and the worst example from there is the new Star
Wars stuff that George had done where he has put so much image on a
screen with so little focus that you just donít know where to look.
Interviewer: Canít enjoy it, yeah because your eye has turned all over the screen.
Dykstra: Yeah and itís embarrassment of riches again you go okay well
there is something interesting and tiny going on up there with something
very big going all over here, something medium sized here and the
screen is all in focus and everything is happening at the same time and
there is no real effort to select out of this cacophony, the melody of
the story and I think thatís one of the big problems with visual effects
these days, just because you can do it doesnít mean you should.
Thatís why that first Star Wars is so great, you get three ships on
screen or exactly where you were supposed to be looking you know who is
who, there is no confusion of what planet you are on and I think you
guys they are right.
John Dykstra: Well you know and I think that
to a certain extent the process contributed that. Once itís since
become much less about process and much more about story I think that
people have become sloppy, you know they can do anything so they do.
And itís like I donít know I have watched so many movies recently where
the scope of the picture was grand and the story was sort of took a
second seat somehow.
Interviewer: Yeah I think we saw a lot of
that this year particularly. I would really want to since we are
primarily producing compositors hopefully out of our program here, I
would like to spin that -- as a supervisor towards, how is your dealing
with compositors, how about the team there? Whatís their workload
like? Do you look over there shoulders much, what its like?
Dykstra: Yes, actually I just have them breed and tell them to not make
any mistakes. Thatís the basic deal. Compositing is a tough one and
you know you talked about the business and then understanding of the
photographic medium. The truth of the matter is that, I am sure you get
is film; everybody goes to the theatre and feels as though they are
having as real an experience as they can have that isnít a real
experience. 3D helps that and hurts that you know I am ambivalent about
that. But the whole issue here is the world in the computer
environment is evaluated by the paradigm of Motion Picture. Itís not a
great surrogate but itís a best one we have got right now. So everybody
puts compositing and composition and all of the elements of the
creation of that image up against a comfortable film image. So we are
using film at the paradigm so it really helps to understand all of the
aspects of film and that means there are limitations in terms of its
contrast range, in terms of things like depth of field and how optics
work, all of those issues become the subliminal clues to the individual
who is watching the image on a screen that the thing that was captured
was real or synthetic. And I will go back and lot of this has to do
with how the image is recorded initially, so your compositors may or may
not be generating the object or they may just be handed a piece of
film. But the trick is that you have to be aware that things like
scale, depth of field is a huge issue. If you are photographing
miniatures you have to use a large numerical -- small hole, so you carry
a lot of depth of field because in the real world if you stand at the
corner of the street and you look down the road the building thatís
nearest to you is in focus and everything and the road is in focus
because itís in the distant focus plane. When you make a miniature
suddenly the foreground is out of focus and background is in focus or
vice versa. And itís A Dead Giveaway a lot of people donít know why
they know itís a miniature but they look at it and they know itís small.
Dykstra: Okay so thatís a really important factor of control or focus
and how to integrate it into a composite. For the person in the
foreground who is in sharp focus you put something behind him without
focus itís A Dead Giveaway even if itís just buzzed itís A Dead
Giveaway. So if you are going to do a composite with a foreground
thatís sharp and middle ground thatís not as sharp as it could be you
have to compromising artificially sharp in the middle ground or
artificially soft in the foreground to get the two things to blend.
Understanding a contrast range we know the film has got a huge contrast
range compared to electronic media but it is limited letís say itís
nine stops of latitude. So if you point the camera at the sun, you see a
whiteout unless you expose with the sun in case, in which case
everything around it goes very dark.
Dykstra: So thatís a very essential part of composting that you pay
attention to making the element that you are compositing, have the same
contrast range. So that you are not putting a plate that was
photographed with two stops under exposed in composite with a foreground
element that was one stop over exposed where there is no highlight
detail in the foreground but there is highlight detail in the
background. And thatís a particularly onerous situation because of
aerial perspective which is in reality and in film scenes as they go
further away tend to lose contrast.
Interviewer: And do you find
that you are spending a lot of your production time fixing sloppiness on
set thatís related to those plates?
John Dykstra: Oh yeah we
take out, oh its really stupid now. We are removing the craft service
truck, itís cheaper to have somebody pay that craft service truck out
than it is to take 15 minutes to move it, at $200,000 a day you do the
math. So itís like okay leave the truck in there, shoot it, we will
paint it out. And itís dumb thatís a dumb way to spend your money. But
thatís where lot of the guys that you are teaching are going to start.
Interviewer: Yeah you are the truck guys go fix that.
Dykstra: Take the truck out. Well and itís a great you know I will
tell you what, itís a great way to learn because you are working on a
piece of material that has its innate contrast, depth of field and stuff
built in. So when you are doing your painting, you are learning
everything that there is to know about how you have to make, how you
have to duplicate that captured image which is really important when you
start bringing together pieces that were captured at the same time.
Dykstra: So I think thatís a critical element. So you got contrast,
you got depth of field, you have got a color. And color is really
tough. The biggest problem with color especially in composting is not
just within the composite itself, actually itís from scene to scene,
because no monitors are the same, I know how expensive they are, how
often they are calibrated, they arenít.
Dykstra: And if you put a monitor in a room with a window and a
monitor a in a room without a window and you look at the same image on
the two monitors, it will look completely different. If you take two
individuals and take them into a room and have them do a digital match
for a film element you will find that no two people use the same 3D
color look up chart to achieve the end result. Peopleís eyes vary that
much. So itís a very subjective thing and one of the problems of course
is that everybody thinks their perception of whatís going on is right.
Some people are weak in the red, some people are weak in the blue, some
people are weak in the green so what I find is the way to do this is
you make a swapbox, itís hideous, I hate it. I like walking around much
more than I like sitting in the room. But you bring everybody into the
room and to the same monitor and you bring their material into that
room and then you look at it on the same monitor and because you are
the, you are making the decisions you go itís too red. Now we may go
back to their monitor, it doesnít matter that not the same red as the
monitor that I viewed it on, they just know itís too red. So they take
red out, on their monitor they bring it back itís less red on my
monitor, I am happy. I am using digital, I am using DLPs, the Texas
Instruments digital what it is Digital Light Processors
John Dykstra: Anyway--
Interviewer: Which are very nice I think.
Dykstra: Right. Well I used the Xenon Light Source and I used the
mirrors and I had the filters matched up, the start filters can be made
to work with a 3D look up table. But I got to the point where I was
finalling digital shots using the electronic projection and I was
getting a matched film.
Interviewer: Wow excellent.
Dykstra: Yeah and it took a long while and lot of money to do it. But
and it will and itís going to get easier to do. But that for me anyway
in the future, I will be looking at composite not on the workstation at
the individual artistís location but on a single monitor in some fixed
location where the environment remains the same.
Sure. Do you think there is a big percentage of stuff that gets cured
with the final color correction or are you really -- ?
Dykstra: I am a big fan of horsing the color around at the end, you
have already put the things through so many filters that itís silly. I
prefer to have the raw file transferred in the middle of the total range
to get maximum and I even do things where I will photograph the same
subject with two different exposures to make a high dynamic range
John Dykstra: And I keep the
bit depth as high as can be handled by the systems that are available.
And I ask them to put the color corrections in as a override so that the
raw file is never manipulated until it reaches its final step for
output and so all of the color correctionís right along as an adjunct.
And they are applied each time the composite is shown and then those
final color corrections are integrated in the final composite step when
they go to the digital final. But then I tend to have the director
photography evaluate the work in my environment and I have done that
three times and the director of photography in each cases used the
material that we color corrected in the DLP suite as the reference for
the rest of the movie.
Interviewer: Oh excellent wow.
Dykstra: So that was and that was doing the color correction on the
fly, in other words we werenít, it wasnít going, making a composite and
then overlaying color corrections because as you know if you select one
element at one end of the contrast range and other element the other end
of the contrast range and use filtration to bring them closer
together. When we start to skew, the global filtration things go right
and they go bad fast because there is just not that much information in a
Interviewer: Got you. You donít want to be pushing what little bit you have around right?
Dykstra: Well itís dumb okay. So letís say I got two stop over
foreground and two stop under background I bring them both together at
one stop and then at the end of the day I decide to bring letís get all
the stop, all of a sudden the one that was two stops over is backward
John Dykstra: And the detail
just isnít there I mean there is nothing there. So when you got zero
information you end up with flake and it looks like it, you end up with
real contrast problems. And color goes the same way. I mean you can
skew the color as much as you want but everybody knows and itís a
compromise. So if you have two pieces of film that have different color
balances and you take and put lot of green in one and lot of red in the
other, it may look on the monitor but if you go in at the end of the
day and the guy decides to give the entire scene a green or a red hew,
give it a red hew then the green element thatís already been pushed its
going to, tend to go grey. So its, you have to think ahead. You canít
just work on the image thatís before you, you have to think about what's
going to happen to the image and I like to try and help the compositors
as much as possible by not having a lot of skew go into the image after
Interviewer: According to my clock John we are running out of time, are you good to go or you need to take off?
John Dykstra: What else you have got?
I guess we should really nail that Oscar question that Amanda put up
which I think is pretty important that what happened if once you win
one, are you?
John Dykstra: We donít ever work again. There is
no, we won that. We won the Oscar for the Spiderman movie and I opted
to not go on the 3rd one so itís my own fault. But there
hasnít been much going on since then. Itís just real slow. The
box-office didnít help the movies off this summer.
Yeah itís interesting. How about though your own attitude towards
yourself? Do you find yourself trying to outdo what you have done I
mean just to survive?
John Dykstra: Nah. I mean like its either
you like this or you donít. Itís an avocation. You canít, I donít I
mean compositing as well you have to like the Manouche of it. You have
to not mind assembling things in a way that they can be disassembled to
be repaired. Itís, when I composite, my preference is to compositing
some software that allows me to go back when I look at it and I go you
know the camel that you have got in the background is a little bit on
the red side and letís fix him. And there is an awful lot of stuff
where there is software that where you render it out and if you donít
like one of the elements you canít go back and change it without redoing
the entire composite. I like the idea of having access to each of the
elements as you go. I donít even know what the softwares are anymore,
itís been so long since I have worked on a machine even in a limited
capacity, itís crazy but just to use I love Cineon because Cineon would
give you each of the elements and the hierarchy in kind of an
interesting layout and I think that Inferno does this now too but you
can go in and pick an object and make filtration adjustments, color,
contrast, focus on an individual component, look at the combined
elements as a final image without having to bake it in so to speak.
Dykstra: So I am a big fan of that. And so the whole idea of it being
an interactive process is really critical to me and I think that thatís
the thing I enjoy doing most and while you are in that interactive
process you are not thinking about whether or not this is better than
Lord of The Rings.
John Dykstra: You
are doing what you do. And you know the thing thatís really hard for
people to understand is you work with what you are given and compositors
have to come to know that everything that they get is going to be
flawed because the people who have captured it for him had to meet a
similar set of criteria imposed upon them by others. In other words the
producer says we donít have time to shoot a second plate so you have to
use the one thatís over exposed and guess what thatís the norm, thatís
not the exception. And the idea of being Stanley Kubrick and spending 5
years making a movie, it doesnít happen anymore. The 2 years that it
takes to make a movie like Spiderman or Chock-a-Block and they are
treating the computer generated image much in the way they treated
animation for years which is well if we donít like them we just redo it
but when you have a huge quantity of work just the scale of it is
daunting. You know I mean you do 800 shots for a movie and you start
figuring out how much each of those, how much time each of those shots
requires, itís overwhelming. So you really focused on the work and
keeping your own counsel with regard to the quality that you have
established for the film, and thatís to say you always shoot for the
best possible result but the best possible result isnít always the
highest resolution and the greatest bit depth. You may find that you
have a picture where the photographic conceit is that things are
contrasting so suddenly you have start making everything match the
original, and thatís a real critical part of being involved in this
business is getting consistency and thatís the kind of thing that
contributes to success as in getting an Oscar but itís not something
that is depended upon you pursuing an Oscar.
Interviewer: Yeah, gotcha. What do you do for fun?
Dykstra: Well, I have a racecar, I ride motorcycles, I surf, I do all
of this crazy stuff and thatís a really important part of I mean my
whole I was known sort of for the Star Wars stuff based on movement and
did an awful lot of films based on flight and high-speed travel and sort
of that adrenaline rush is something that I pursue.
Interviewer: Yeah that certainly translated to the Spiderman as well.
John Dykstra: Yeah we shot, when we were doing Galactica I had an airplane we shot plates from the airplane for the TV show.
Interviewer: Oh yeah?
John Dykstra: Yeah. I have gotten time in Lear jets and I had lot of fun doing all those kinds of things.
Interviewer: Whatís next for you?
Dykstra: Iíve got a movie that I am directing for Walden Media at this
Ė Iíve made the deal, itís still in development, itís going to be
computer generated characters in live environments and itís going to be
based on the relationship between the Tortoise and a Hippo that was they
were put together in Kenya at that wild animal sanctuary after the
John Dykstra: So like itís a kids story but thatís good. Thatís what people are willing to see these days.
Interviewer: And is that the script you were just reading?
Dykstra: No, actually I have got several different things that I am
working on right now. That one is the one I have got a deal on.
Interviewer: Oh I see, fantastic. And itís about time somebody gave you the reins.
John Dykstra: Well, we will see. We will see how good I do.
I guess thatís about it. I would like to thank you I think I have got
several weeks worth of class work out of this conversation. It was
great talking to you. You are a real inspiration to all of us and itís
been great talking to you.
John Dykstra: Well, the only thing I
can say and you know this obviously because you have been teaching these
people is that this business is not one that you get into in order to
cross the Tís and dot Iís in order to get ahead. You have to really
love doing it and you have to be willing to make mistakes and you have
to be willing to be put in positions that you donít want to be put into
in order to pursue it. So yeah you really have to have love of it. It
doesnít work to get into to and to just make a job of work out of it.
I am hoping that that accounts for at least a good percentage of our
students, try and still that enthusiasm and I think if I read them a
couple of the quotes out here it will help a bunch.
John Dykstra: Alright good.
Patrick: John this is Patrick I just had a couple of other questions.
John Dykstra: Sure.
I know one of the questions Amanda wanted to ask, maybe youíve already
answered it but what kind of advice would you have for her as a student
trying to get into the industry?
John Dykstra: Well, when I got
into the industry the way I did it was I started out, I used my still
photography background in conjunction with my understanding of how to
build miniatures, both of which I had from when I was very young. And
those were things I did really well and as a result when I went to work
for an outside, when I went to work for Doug Trumbull I excelled in
those areas and as a result he was willing to give me responsibility in
areas where I hadnít proved myself. So you have to find something that
you know how to do and enjoy doing to the point where you excel at it.
And then you use that as your entrťe and the example I would make is
that I am directing this movie and the reason I am directing the movie
is that because of the success Iíve had with visual effects because it
is a visual effects based movie. So you are constantly trading on your
known talents and capabilities to expand your range of influence.
Interviewer: Great answer. Wow.
Patrick: For someone that wants to pursue maybe working for you or your studio or your company oró
John Dykstra: I donít have a studio and I donít have a company and the only people who work for me are hired by the producers.
Dykstra: I hate to tell you that but I, thereís an old joke, you know,
about the business with the boat. The two happiest days of your life
the day you bought it and the day you got rid of it. I had a company
and the same thing applies, I am no longer responsible for employees or
to shareholders, I am an independent at this point. I work on my own.
As far as getting into studios you should look into and I am sure that
you know about intern programs, those are great opportunities. You come
in as an intern and you do make contacts and the people that you know
are important, thatís a critical part of this business, as it is I think
with lots of businesses that involve independent thought and
independent action. So youíve got to come to Hollywood at this point or
actually as it turns out if you want to be in visual effects there is
an awful lot of opportunities overseas right now. The work thatís being
done in New Zeeland is spectacular and they were hiring people from the
US, extensively, same thing in Australia, they are growing companies
they are in if anyone had a bent to become involved in Chinese commerce
there is a huge opportunity opening up in china.
Interviewer: Fantastic. Well thank you John, I appreciate your participation today.
John Dykstra: No problem.
Interviewer: This is fantastic really thank you for it.
John Dykstra: Okay. My pleasure. Good luck guys.
Michael Keyes, stay on the phone. Just wanted to get from you what you
thought you know, wrap up, give us some feedback, what you got out of
today, what your thoughts were.
Michael: Well I already thought
John was awesome. My feeling is confirmed. He is a gentleman, he is
professional, he is really fucking smart. Jeez I donít know, you know,
itís kind of like if I were religious he would be the Jesus because he
is one of the founders of what we do and why we do it. So itís really
been a great opportunity talk to him.