John Dykstra: the man, the myth, the legend

By By Matt Gardner

By Matt Gardner

John Dykstra, a special effects pioneer, visited the U film department last Tuesday to discuss his experiences in Hollywood.

The two-time Academy Award-winning special-effects supervisor explained the joys and pains he faced on his first film, “Star Wars.”

“I was hired by George (Lucas) because of the work I did at Berkeley University developing the first computer-controlled camera. The camera was able to move through exposure. With that, we were able to slow time down, which made everything look more realistic,” he said.

Dykstra recalls “Star Wars” as the highlight of his film career.

“It was a great time. What drove us was our enthusiasm. We were all in our early 20s-some of us in our teens,” he said.

“(On ‘Star Wars,’) we worked 20 hours a day. Sometimes, while waiting around at night, it would get cold. So, we would get into the hot tub and relax. That was always the time the executives would show up and see us ‘busy at work.’ The executives gave the studio the title ‘The Country Club’ because of our work ethic.”

After filming wrapped on “Star Wars,” Dykstra won an Academy Award for his contribution to the film; however, Dykstra and Lucas had a falling out before the film’s success (Lucas claimed that the special-effects team did not deliver all the shots that he wanted).

When asked about how he feels about Lucas remaking the old special effects for a new DVD sales campaign, Dyskstra said, “It’s his movie.”

Between the question-and-answer sessions and his brief description of his success, Dykstra showed a few clips of his work. One of the clips came from the cult classic film “Caddyshack.” Dykstra was responsible for the creation of the gofer.

Following the clip, a student from the film department asked Dykstra, “Why did you make the gofer sound like a dolphin?” Dykstra looked down at the ground (clearly enjoying the question and reflecting on the past experience) and said, “You just had to have been there to understand?it was late,” he said.

Dykstra has decided to move into the director’s seat for his new film “Skin and Bones.” The film is in preproduction with Hood River Productions, a film company based in Utah.

“Hopefully everything works out and we are able to shoot the film here,” Dykstra said. “I know that it would be a good thing for this state.”