Dykstra, John 1947- (John C. Dykstra)

views updated Jun 11 2018

Dykstra, John 1947- (John C. Dykstra)


Full name, John Charles Dykstra; born June 3, 1947, in Long Beach, CA; married Cass McCune, September 15, 1996. Education: Studied industrial design at California State University at Long Beach.


Agent—The Gersh Agency, 232 North Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210.


Special effects designer, visual effects, recordist, director, and producer. Worked for Institute of Urban Development, Berkeley, CA, c. 1975-77; Industrial Light and Magic (special effects company), head, c. 1977-78; Apogee, Inc. (special effects company), Van Nuys, CA, founder and supervisor, 1978-82; cinematographer, National Science Foundation; special effects designer, "Voyage to the Outer Planets," Ruben H. Fleet Space Theatre, San Diego, CA; (with Douglas Trumbull) producer and creator of amusement park rides and aircraft simulator films; inventor, Dykstraflex camera.


American Society of Cinematographers.

Awards, Honors:

Academy Awards (with others), best visual effects and development of facility oriented toward visual effects photography, 1977, and Saturn Award (with John Stears), Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, 1978, best special effects, all for Star Wars; Academy Award nomination (with others), best visual effects, 1979, Saturn Award (with others), best special effects, 1980, Video Premiere Award nomination (with others), best audio commentary, 2001, all for Star Trek: The Motion Picture; Emmy Award, outstanding individual achievement—creative technical crafts division, 1979, for Battlestar Galactica; Caixa de Catalunya, best special effects, Catalonian International Film Festival, 1985, for Lifeforce; Saturn Award nomination (with others), best special effects, 1996, for Batman Forever; Academy Award nomination (with others), best visual effects, Golden Satellite Award (with others), best visual effects, International Press Academy, and Saturn Award nomination (with others), best special effects, 2000, all for Stuart Little; Academy Award nomination (with others), best visual effects, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best visual effects, Phoenix Film Critics Society Award nomination (with others), best visual effects, Online Film Critics Society Award nomination (with others), best visual effects, Film Award nomination (with others), best achievement in special visual effects, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Saturn Award nomination (with others), best special effects, 2003, all for Spider-Man; Hollywood Film Award, visual effects of the year, 2004; Academy Award (with others), best achievement in visual effects, Visual Effects Society Award nominations (with others), best single visual effect of the year and outstanding visual effects in a visual effects driven motion picture, Golden Satellite Award nomination (with others), best visual effects, Film Award nomination (with others), best achievement in special visual effects, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Saturn Award (with others), best special effects, 2005, all for Spider-Man 2.


Film Work:

Special effects designer and special photographic effects, Silent Running, Universal, 1972.

Special effects designer, special effects cinematographer, and special photographic effects supervisor, Star Wars (also known as Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope, La guerra de las estrellas, and Star Wars IV: A New Hope), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1977.

Special effects designer, special effects supervisor, and producer, Battlestar Galactica, Universal, 1978.

Special miniature effects designer, Avalanche Express, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1979.

Special photographic effects supervisor, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Paramount, 1979.

Special effects designer, Caddyshack, Warner Bros., 1980.

Special effects designer (with Robert Shepherd, Roger Dorney, and Al Miller) and special visual effects producer, Firefox, Warner Bros., 1982.

Special effects designer (with John Grant) and special visual effects, Lifeforce (also known as Space Vampires), TriStar, 1985.

Special effects designer and second unit director, Invaders from Mars, Cannon, 1986.

Special visual effects designer, Mac and Me, Orion, 1988.

Special visual effects supervisor, My Stepmother Is an Alien, Columbia, 1988.

Special effects director, The Unholy, Vestron, 1988.

Special creative consultant, Spontaneous Combustion, Taurus, 1989.

Visual effects head supervisor, Batman Forever (also known as Forever), Warner Bros., 1995.

Visual effects, Batman & Robin, Warner Bros., 1997.

Visual effects, Contact, Warner Bros., 1997.

Foley recordist, The Assignment, 1997.

Foley recordist, Little Men, 1998.

Senior visual effects supervisor and second unit director, Stuart Little, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 1999.

Foley recordist, The Highwayman, Sterling Home Entertainment, 1999.

Foley recordist, A Friday Night Date (also known as Road Rage), 2000.

Automatic dialogue replacement (ADR), Going Back, 2001.

Special effects supervisor and visual effects supervisor, Spider-Man, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2002.

Visual effects designer, Spider-Man 2 (also known as Spider-Man 2.1 and Spider-Man 2: The IMAX Experience), Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2004.

Special effects supervisor and visual effects consultant, The Dreamless, Aspect Film, 2008.

Visual effects supervisor, Hancock, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2008.

Film Appearances:

Himself, Making the Amazing (also known as Making the Amazing: "Spider-Man 2" and Making the Amazing: The Making of "Spider-Man 2"), Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2004.

Himself, Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997—Beyond Batman: Maximum Overdrive-The Vehicles of Batman and Robin, Warner Home Video, 2005.

Ray Harryhausen: The Early Years Collection, Sparkhill Productions, 2005.

Himself, Amazing! Exploring the Far Reaches of Forbidden Planet, Warner Home Video, 2006.

Himself, Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001 (documentary short), Warner Home Video, 2007.

Himself, Standing on the Soldiers of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001, Warner Home Video, 2007.

Television Work; Series:

Special effects designer, special effects supervisor, visual effects supervisor, and producer, Battlestar Galactica, ABC, 1978-80.

Special effects, Galactica 1980 (also known as Battlestar Galactica), 1980.

Television Work; Miniseries:

Special visual effects, Alice in Wonderland (also known as Alice Through the Looking Glass), CBS, 1985.

Effects supervisor (Canada), Amerika, ABC, 1987.

Special effects supervisor, Out on a Limb, ABC, 1987.

Television Work; Movies:

Special effects designer, Starflight One: The Plane That Couldn't Land, ABC, 1983.

Special effects, Something Is Out There, 1988.

Television Work; Pilots:

Special effects and producer, Battlestar Galactica, ABC, 1978.

Special effects designer, Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman II, NBC, 1989.

Special effects, Shivers, 1989.

Television Work; Specials:

Assistance, The Astronomer (also known as Triple Play II), PBS, 1991.

Visual effects supervisor, On the Red Carpet: Oscars 2002, ABC, 2002.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Science Fiction Film Awards (also known as The 5th Annual Science Fiction Film Awards), 1978.

The 50th Annual Academy Awards, 1978.

Clint Eastwood: Director, 1982.

Masters of Fantasy: Joel Schumacher, Sci-Fi Channel, 1997.

Empire of Dreams: The Story of the "Star Wars" Trilogy, 2004.

VH1 Goes Inside: "Spider-Man," VH1, 2004.

The 77th Annual Academy Awards, 2005.

The 80th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2008.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

"Motion Control: Unforgettable Shots," Movie Magic, 1994.

"Battlestar Galactica," Sciography, 2000.

"Behind the Ultimate Spin: The Making of Spider-Man," HBO First Look, HBO, 2002.

Attack of the Show!, 2005.


Video Games (as Director):

Sewer Shark, 1992.


Contributions to Periodicals:

"Directing Effects," Back Stage, April 19, 1985.



International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 4: Writers and Production Artists, St. James Press, 1996.

Dykstra, John

views updated May 18 2018


Special Effects Supervisor. Nationality: American. Born: Long Beach, California, 3 June 1947. Education: Attended Long Beach State University. Career: 1971—first film, Silent Running; 1973—left film to work for Berkeley's Institute of Urban Development; 1975—returned to movies as first head of George Lucas's special-effects lab, Industrial Light and Magic; 1977—special-effects supervisor on Star Wars; 1978—left ILM to form his own effects company, Apogee, which produced visual effects for television's Battlestar: Galactica, served as visual-effects supervisor and producer of first five episodes; 1979—received Academy Award nomination for work on Star Trek: The Motion Picture; 1982—dismantled Apogee Productions commercial division; 1995—pioneered use of computergenerated images as special-effects supervisor on Batman Forever. Awards: Academy Awards for best visual effects, and scientific/technical special Academy Award for invention of the Dykstraflex motion-control computerized camera system, both for Star Wars, 1977.

Films as Special Effects Crew:


Silent Running (Trumbull); The Andromeda Strain (Wise)


Star Wars (Lucas) (special photographic effects supervisor)


Battlestar: Galactica (Colla) (effects-unit supervisor, co-pr)


Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Wise) (special photographic effects supervisor); Avalanche Express (Robson)


Firefox (Eastwood) (supervisor)


Lifeforce (Hooper) (supervisor)


Invaders from Mars (Hooper) (supervisor)


My Stepmother Is an Alien (Benjamin) (supervisor); The Unholy (Vila)


Batman Forever (Schumacher) (visual effects supervisor)


Batman & Robin (Schumacher) (visual effects)


Stuart Little (Minkoff) (senior visual effects supervisor)




By DYKSTRA: article—

"Directing Effects," in Back Stage (Hollywood), 19 April 1985.

"My Stepmother is an Alien Sci-fi comedy. Full Array of Tricks for Stepmother," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), December 1988.

American Cinematographer (Hollywood), July 1995.

"Digitizing the Dynamic Duo," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), December 1997.

On DYKSTRA: articles—

Back Stage-Shoot (Hollywood), 16 October 1992.

Clark, Michael, on Batman Forever, in Shoot (Hollywood), 14 July 1995.

Reid, C., "John Dykstra Effects Supervisor," in Cinefantastique (Forest Park), vol. 29, no. 1, 1997.

Vaz, M.C., "Freeze Frames," in Cinefex (Riverside), September 1997.

* * *

John Dykstra is arguably the most respected and sought after special effects supervisor working in Hollywood. He has built a deservedly stellar reputation for ingenuity, organizational skill, and thorough preproduction planning. In the 1970s, he set the visual-effects standard for both the Star Wars trilogy and the Star Trek films, two of Hollywood's most popular science-fiction film series. Dykstra is also a pioneer in the use of computer technology for visual effects, from the computer-controlled Dykstraflex camera system developed for Star Wars, to the extensive use of computer-generated image animation in Batman Forever.

Dykstra started his career studying at Long Beach State as an industrial designer. According to Star Wars promotional material, he was kicked out of school before earning a degree. He began working with Douglas Trumbull, a veteran effects director (whose work included effects for Victor Fleming's Wizard of Oz and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey), as part of the effects crew on Trumbull's science-fiction thriller Silent Running. From Trumbull, he learned techniques on matte filming and miniature work, skills he would put to great use throughout his career. Following his apprenticeship with Trumbull, Dykstra joined Berkeley's Institute of Urban Development, where he was involved in a sophisticated project coupling cinematography and visual effects with the construction of miniature cityscape models. Here, he further honed his skills with miniatures and camera effects. In June 1975, George Lucas and Gary Kurtz asked him to handle visual effects for a film they were working on called Star Wars. As a result, Dykstra became the first head of Lucas's new special effects studio, Industrial Light and Magic.

Industrial Light and Magic would evolve into the premier Hollywood special-effects studio, doing the effects for all three Star Wars films as well as Terminator II and Jurassic Park, among other films. Dykstra won two Academy Awards in 1977 for his work on Star Wars. The first award was for best visual effects, while the second was a scientific/technical special award for his invention and development of the Dykstraflex motion-control camera system. The innovation of combining computer programing with camera work would be an essential link to the computer-generated imaging currently being utilized by Hollywood's special-effects producers.

In 1978, Dykstra left ILM to form Apogee, his own special-effects company. Through Apogee, he produced the first five episodes of the television series Battlestar: Galactica. He also supervised the special effects for the motion-picture version of Battlestar: Galactica. Later, he worked with director Robert Wise on the first motion picture version of an older television science-fiction phenomenon, Star Trek. In 1979, Dykstra earned another Academy Award nomination for his work on Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Dykstra dismantled Apogee in the fall of 1982, due to the lack of commercial work, the company's primary source of clientele. This turned out to be only a minor setback. Over the next decade, he would work with esteemed directors Clint Eastwood (on Firefox), Tobe Hooper (Lifeforce and Invaders from Mars), and Richard Benjamin (My Stepmother Is an Alien). Though none of these movies was a blockbuster, he continued to innovate, maintaining his reputation for creativity and organization.

This reputation resulted in a job as visual-effects supervisor on Batman Forever. Dykstra's work here proved worthy of his reputation: Batman Forever was the top box-office draw for 1995, largely due to the special effects as well as Jim Carrey's over-the-top performance as the Riddler. The effects called for by director Joel Schumacher and the script were more than a single effects studio could deliver on its own, thus Dykstra decided to subcontract with many different effects labs.

Much of the organization of this picture was deciding what to do with real actors and sets, what to do in miniature, and what to do in computer-generated images, or CGI. Dykstra determined that the stunts called for were too dangerous for a human stuntman to perform. As a result, many of the film's stunts were "performed" by high-end computer-generated animation. These animated segments were compiled by Dykstra at his Warner Bros. office in Burbank, where he was linked with the firms via real-time digital fiber, letting him judge the quality of each shot as it was being crafted. Dykstra and his crew combined computer imaging from the many subcontracted firms, each firm responsible for a different element (such as lighting, blurring motion, background matte paintings, etc.) of the final composite.

John Dykstra's contribution to cinema is substantial: from the Dykstraflex motion-control camera system utilized in Star Wars, to the computer-generated image animation of Batman Forever, Dykstra has proved himself to be an organized supervisor and an innovative special effects visionary.

—Mark Johnson

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