Jon Van Dyke
After a 4 year stint in the United States Air Force, Jon Van Dyke followed his desire to work with animals and attended the nation's only college that housed a zoo, which offered a "by invitation only" two-year course in exotic animal training and management.
As one of only fifty chosen out of the one thousand applicants, Jon began his studies and work with exotic animals, specializing in large cats: cougars, leopards, lions, and tigers.
Shortly thereafter, a position became available in Las Vegas working with the famous white tigers of Siegfried and Roy's magic show. The opportunity was too good to pass up, and Jon jumped at the chance. This lead to a wealth of knowledge and an offer to work for a film studio trainer who specialized in big cats for Doug Henning's magic show.
After four years of taking "hits" [fake animal attacks], small acting roles and two real attacks, Jon was offered an on-set training job. He worked with Mel Gibson, and trained "Max" for Lethal Weapon 2. The film began the first of nineteen years worth of feature films, television shows, and commercials.
Working on such notable television shows as Frasier, Ellen, Friends, Thirtysomething, L.A. Law, Lambchop's Playhouse and Doogie Howser as well as the feature films Terminator 2, Twister, Little Nicky, Crazy Beautiful, Two Days in the Valley, Point Break, Iron Will and Mars Attacks set Jon up perfectly for the next phase of his career.
A call came from Motion Picture Corporation [MPCA] producer Jeremy Kramer stating that Brad Krevoy was producing the dog movie Breakfast with Einstein and the opportunity arose for Jon to take the next step as a 2nd unit director.
A three day "token" second unit job turned into a twenty three day shoot; with second unit covering wide master shots with principal actors as well as designing and shooting major animal sequences. According to producer Jeremy Kramer, Jon's second unit was a major reason why the film came in on time and budget.
When another small budget dog film PING! was in need of a second unit director, the animal coordinator suggested Jon. This ten-day shoot would once again consist of shooting lead actors and executing major dog sequences.
In addition to his second unit work, Jon graduated from Writer's Boot Camp and studied screenwriting with renowned teacher Jeff Kitchen, which resulted in the completion of several feature scripts.
On his way towards a directing career, Jon was sidetracked by a call to work on a week long shoot in Death Valley. That job was with a small Chihuahua named "Sugar" for director Tim Burton, which became an excellent opportunity for Jon to have access to and to study one of the premiere directors in Hollywood. Impressed with Jon's ability and on set demeanor, Tim Burton hired him to train "Poppy" for the feature film Mars Attacks. After the completion of that film, Tim continued to keep Jon in his employ for the next nine years.
Now back in preparation for directing his first feature film, Jon has completed a 35mm trailer for his script Bad Things Happen At Night, a 16mm trailer for a second script called Sticks and Stones, as well as a mockumentary, spoofing MTV's show Becoming. Also, Jon's short film shot on High Definition at the Sony "LAB 24P" workshop, was one of 6 projects chosen [out of more than 70 projects completed] to be blown up to 35mm and screened at a special screening for Sony executives. That short has since been screened for the DGA and at a Sony High Def seminar in Hong Kong and was a crowd favorite at the Los Angeles Short Film Festival.
What industry professionals say about Jon:
The following selection of quotes comes from letters of commendation
presented to Jon (available for review):
Brad Krevoy, Motion Picture Corporation of America, on “Breakfast
Jon “delivered outstanding performances as a dog trainer and
coordinator” and “made a tremendous contribution to the picture as
a second unit director”.
Jeremy Kramer, Producer, on “Breakfast With Einstein”
“He understood the constraints of our budget and schedule but
managed to never compromise the results.”
Kelli Konop, Line Producer, on “Breakfast With Einstein”
On Jon serving as both 2 nd Unit Director & Head Animal Trainer:
“Our film was very demanding as we had elaborate scenes…at times
he was running back and forth between two sets…delegated and
communicated with the crew so well that we never missed a shot.”
She particularly valued how “Jon operated in the solution… always
focusing on how we could increase production value without
increasing the budget.”
On directing the actors with the animals “
He seemed to anticipate the actor’s needs so well that the performances were right on.”
“As a line producer I have the opportunity to work with many
directors and Jon was a definite natural… animals & children is the
genre Jon seems to have mastered.”
Tim Burton, Director
“I have used him exclusively as my dog trainer. I find his skills in this
field to be exceptional, both professionally for my films, and personally.
Jon is a person with outstanding character and also one with the
capability of numerous talents as he extends himself graciously into the
field of writing and directing.”
Unique traits: Exotic and domestic animal trainer