Michael Fink

    Professor and Chair Film & Television Production



    Michael Fink began building miniatures as a young boy, and then expanded his miniatures to encompass entire tableaux, which he would photograph in the hallway of his parents’ home. He continued experimenting with photography and effects of all sorts until he left his early endeavors behind while pursuing a B.S. in Business from California State University, Northridge, which he received in 1966.

    Michael was promptly drafted into the Army, and served until late 1968. Following the Army, he worked as an investment manager in San Francisco. Michael then took a leave of absence in 1971 to attend the Art Institute of San Francisco, receiving a B.A. in 1973. In 1975, after moving to Los Angeles, he received an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts.

    Michael began working in film on “The China Syndrome” in late 1977 to support his fine arts career. He was seduced by the film business in short order, finding in it a perfect environment for his creative side. He “cut his eye teeth” on films such as “Star Trek the Motion Picture” and “Bladerunner” before becoming a Visual Effects Supervisor.


    Michael received his first Visual Effects Supervisor credit on “War Games”, where he supervised the creation of computer graphic images depicting missile nuclear war scenarios, creation of computer graphic and video material, and miniatures. This required the innovation of entirely new graphics software and the design of three custom film recorders, since appropriate off-the-shelf recorders and the software to control them did not yet exist. He supervised the design and installation of the first real-time 24 frames per second computer system for displaying data and simple graphics (it was 1982) on 120 video monitors simultaneously. To ensure consistent storytelling, another original system provided maximum flexibility and speed to the director and crew by keeping the entire set (including a massive strobe system designed specifically for “War Games”) in frame sync with video and computer displays, multiple motion picture cameras, and a dozen “process” projectors. The film was nominated for a BAFTA Award in the U.K.

    On the film “Buckaroo Banzai” Michael implemented for the first time a real time color (16 colors!) 24 frame per second computer graphic system for use on the set of the motion picture, in addition to designing and executing the many optical composites involving miniatures, matte paintings, and live action elements.

    On Project X, Michael designed and supervised the production of 3 hours of computer graphic flight simulation material for use in the film, and directed 2nd unit aerial work.

    Michael joined the DGA in 1987 and received his first official 2nd unit director credit on “The Seventh Sign”.

    In 1988, Michael saw Kirk Gibson hit the game winning home run in the first game of the World Series between the Dodgers and the Oakland A’s.

    Michael produced and directed the first real time demonstration of the integration of computer graphics with high definition video in 1989 (Symbolics and Sony HDTV). The piece was interactive with the participants, and was hugely successful, creating lines of eager “actors” at shows such as the NAB show in Las Vegas. He subsequently directed a “sequel”, which was unveiled in Tokyo in 1990, and was shown throughout the U.S. that year.

    In 1993 Michael received an Academy Award nomination, and a BAFTA Award nomination, for “Batman Returns”. He supervised the creation of the first photo-real computer graphic creatures in a feature film that faithfully replicated existing, living, beings (penguins and bats).

    In 1993, Michael directed the first Coca-Cola “Polar Bear” spot, which may be the first public showing of a computer graphic creature with three dimensional fur, and which spawned a series of Coke spots that followed for years.

    In 1995 Michael joined Warner Bros. in starting a new venture – Warner Digital Studios – a full service visual effects facility. Under Michael’s direction, Warner Digital grew to 150 people, and produced highly lauded effects on films such as “Eraser”, “Mars Attacks!”, and “Batman & Robin”, as well as commercials and special venue films.

    Michael was honored in October 2001 at the Premio Imaggine in Milan, Italy for his contribution to the art and science of digital filmmaking.

    In 2008, Michael received an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, and a BAFTA Award for Best Special Visual Effects for the film “The Golden Compass”.

    After completing work on “Tropic Thunder”, Michael joined Prime Focus, Ltd., to lead the North American visual effects group, and to guide the development of a global visual effects pipeline between North America, the U.K., and India.During his tenure at Prime Focus, Michael oversaw visual effects for films such as “G.I. Joe”, “New Moon”, “Avatar”, “Tron Legacy”, “Sucker Punch”, and “Tree of Life”.

    In addition, Michael serves as Adjunct Faculty member at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, on the Curriculum Review committee at Savannah College of Art and Design, and is an Advisory Board member at SpaceCam Systems, Inc. – a provider of stabilized camera systems for motion picture photography. He is on the Executive Committee of the Visual Effects Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and is a founding member, Board member, and former Vice-Chairman of the Visual Effects Society.

    Michael, his wife Melissa Bachrach, and their son, Alex, live in Los Angeles.