Peter W. Anderson (BFA 67), left, accepting his Oscar at the Academy’s Technical Achievement Awards with Douglas Trumbull. (Credit: Michael Yada/©A.M.P.A.S.)

profile / alumni / photography-and-imaging
October 25, 2014
Writer: Carolyn Gray Anderson

Master of Art and Science

Peter W. Anderson (BFA 67)

Earlier this year, Photography and Imaging alumnus and visual effects master Peter W. Anderson, ASC, accepted the 2013 Gordon E. Sawyer Award, an Academy Award for technological contributions that have brought credit to the film industry. “Without the sciences what would the art be?” Anderson asked as he hefted his Oscar. “Without the art, what would the sciences be?”

The Eau Claire, Wisconsin, native came to moviemaking when technology was shifting from analog formats (he famously hand-built components of the spaceship models for Steven Spielberg’s 1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind) to hybrid technologies that led to innovations in visual effects. Since 1982, he has developed modern 3-D systems for cinema, theme parks and IMAX.

He has supervised visual effects on no less than 45 film and TV projects that include The China Syndrome, Splash, the Battlestar Galactica series and documentaries on subjects as diverse as African wildlife and the band U2. As the Science and Technology Council’s resident historian, Anderson led the development of an archival database of Scientific and Technical Award nominees dating back to 1940—ensuring a record of those who have improved the industry.

Without the sciences what would the art be? Without the art, what would the sciences be?