Mike Fink

Mike Fink's CV makes for impressive reading. He worked on 1982's Blade Runner as action property supervisor. He then progressed to the role of visual effects supervisor on 1983's WarGames - a role he has held on a number of critically acclaimed movies since. These include Braveheart (1995), Mars Attacks! (1996) and X-Men (2000). He is currently involved with filming Constantine (due for release in 2004) and pre-production on Superman (due for release in 2005). Darren Rea caught up with him as X-Men 2 was due for release on DVD and video...

Darren Rea: How did you originally get started in this industry? Was it by a happy accident or was it something that you'd always had your eye on?

Mike Fink: I started in the film business to make some money on the side to support my art career. I loved what I was doing, and one thing led to another until I was fully enmeshed and having a great time.

DR: Looking back at all the projects you've been involved with, which would you say you're the most proud of and why? And which, if any, do you look back on and wish you had had more time/money/better brief to get the job perfect?

MF: This is a short question with a long answer that I'm afraid I don't have time for. I'm most proud of WarGames, Batman Returns, Braveheart, Mars Attacks!, and X-Men 2.

There is not a show I've done that I didn't wish I had more money or time. The better brief issue is different, and is a discussion I don't think I can do without citing examples, which I'd rather not do with my limited time.

Just suffice it to say that the clearer the intended goal of an effect, the better the effect will be.

DR: What are the worst and best things about the industry that you work in?

MF: Besides the people I work with, the best is the implementation of new software and hardware to create effects each year that I could not have done the year before. The worst is the level of politics that has been brought to what I do. Since visual effects budgets are often 20% or more of the budget of the type of films I work on, there is a great deal of scrutiny and questioning, and a bit of second guessing, that is difficult for me to deal with.

DR: You've been in the industry for a number of years now and have witnessed the move over to CGI effects. Do you think that CGI has improved the quality of movies produced or that other areas of the production can take a back seat because so much focus is on the visual effects?

MF: I don't think that CGI has improved the quality of movies produced one bit. It has changed the scale and the complexity. No other areas of a production can take a back seat to visual effects. Visual effects only work when they augment the story being told, and that means that all aspects of the production contribute what is needed. Visual effects can be just like a badly staged fight scene. A lot of action and no story. I always work to avoid that situation.

DR: How has CGI affected your role in the industry? Is it something that you embrace, or does it make your job harder?

MF: It has made my role harder, and it is something I embrace. There is increased complexity in every shot, and there are some real brain twisters in what we do. The challenge is constant and great fun. CGI has opened up a world in which there are few restrictions. Creativity in that environment can run crazy and be counterproductive. It's always great fun when you use the power we have to help create good stories.

DR: How do you find working on sequels? Was there an element of pressure that working on X-Men 2 you had to top what you had already achieved in the first movie?

MF: I was disappointed with much of my work on the first X-Men, so it was just a short hop to wanting to top what we had done before.

Although there was some pressure from outside to do better, my own self generated pressure was quite sufficient.

DR: How do you constantly come up with new ideas to keep movie audiences in awe of what is on screen? Is there much left that hasn't been done? Or is it just variations on a theme now?

MF: I hate to sound like a broken record, but it all depends on the script. I have been lucky on the X-Men pictures because Bryan Singer crafted films with good characters and story. This makes my job easier and keeps the effects fresher. The only reason the audience gets the feeling that they are looking at something they've seen before is because that particular film has not delivered a strong enough story. I take my cues from the characters and their situations to come up with the effects we create.

DR: You've been involved with some classic films (like Blade Runner and Braveheart) but are there any movies that you wished you'd been a part of and if so why?

MF: There are directors that really seem to understand the power of visual effects to help tell a story. Tim Burton is one, and I always lament when I can't be involved in one of Tim's films. Bob Zemeckis is another, and except for a brief stint on Back to the Future, I've never worked with him. So it's not so much which movies, as which director.

DR: If you weren't employed in your current role, what would your ideal job be?

MF: I would still be in the film business, and would most likely be a DP or a Production Designer. Although there are days when I just daydream about being a compositor on one of these films. Sitting quietly and doing my work.

DR: Can you tell us something about your current work on Constantine (which comic book fans will know as Hellblazer) and what are your plans after that?

MF: I can't really discuss Constantine other to say that it has some cool characters and sequences. Like X-Men, we are trying hard to stay faithful to the comic book so that the fans will not be disappointed. I have no plans after Constantine yet. I hope to keep working, though. It's what I like best.

DR: Thank you for your time.

With thanks to Liz Silverstone at DSA

Twentieth Century Fox's X-Men 2 is released on DVD and Video from the 10 November 2003

Order your copy of X-Men 2 on DVD for £9.99 (RRP: £15.99) by clicking here
Order your copy of X-Men 2 on video for £11.99 (RRP: £14.99) by clicking here
Order your copy of the 2-disc DVD collection of X-Men 2 for £14.99 (RRP: £22.99) by clicking here

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