School of Cinematic Arts Directory Profile

Directory Profile

Michael Patterson, B.F.A.

Professor of the Practice of Cinematic Arts

Affiliated Divisions:

John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts

Work Phone: 213.821.4396

Michael Patterson is a director, designer and animation artist working in visual music and immersive design. His animated film Commuter, along with 7 Patterson + Reckinger music videos, are in The Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection. He is currently a professor in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California.

After graduate studies at CalArts with artist Jules Engel, Mike was brought to the attention of record executives with his Student Academy Award-winning animated short Commuter. Employing his unmistakable drawing style, he began his career in music videos in 1985 by animating the epic MTV hit Take on Me for A-Ha. Teaming up with his wife Candace Reckinger, they directed a string of MTV hits that include, Suzanne Vega’s Luka, Sting’s Be Still My Beating Heart and Opposites Attract featuring Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat, which won the Grammy Award for Best Music Video in 1990. Their videos have received MTV, Billboard, MVPA, and American Music Awards..

In his 20 years directing TV commercials, Patterson worked extensively in a mixed media style, merging live action with animation and motion graphics. While directing at Rhythm and Hues Studios, his national TV spots earned numerous awards including two Clios and airings on the Superbowl.

Patterson began teaching at USC in 2007 and continued his work in visual music by expanding into live and immersive forms. In 2010, Patterson and Reckinger  collaborated with symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and a team of their USC students and graduates to create an expansive 5-screen visualization of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The 35-minute live work immersed the classical music audience in animated imagery. It premiered in January 2011 with live orchestra at the gala opening of Frank Gehry’s New World Center in Miami Beach, Florida. In 2012, Mike and Candace directed another team of students to create a fully animated music video for Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra classic, Mr. Blue Sky. In 2015, Mike and Candace created and performed 7 visual music works for live performance. These include Arcadiana by composer Thomas Adès, And so the Wind Blew… by Gene Koshinski, sqsqsqsqqsqqqqqqqq by Tristan Perich and Mideragami by Veronika Krausas. 

To celebrate the opening of the USC Village campus in 2017, Mike and Candace directed an animated visualization of Make Our Garden Grow by Leonard Bernstein from his operetta, Candide. The massive projection-mapped animation work spanned 5 buildings and the 9-story Village tower. The piece was performed with live symphony orchestra, chorus and soloists.

Mike produces and co-created Rhythms + Visions / Expanded + Live (2011, 2013, 2017), these immersive outdoor experiences feature contemporary visual music and live music performances by internationally renown visual artists and musicians. These large-scale outdoor events feature original visual music, projections, interactive installations and VR.  In June of 2018, Mike directed and designed projection exhibits and lighting for Getty Unshuttered, an outdoor experience at the Getty Center Museum, Los Angeles. 

Patterson and Reckinger’s music videos has been featured museum exhibitions. Animation artwork and storyboards from A-Ha's Take on Me and Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat's Opposites Attract appeared in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit, Stay Tuned: Rock on TV and Spectacle: The Music Video, the first ever museum exhibit to celebrate the art form of the music video.

Patterson received his B.F.A. in graphic design from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1980 and attended the M.F.A. program in Film Graphics at CalArts in 1981/84. He has been a member of the Directors Guild of America since 1993.