Michael has earned degrees from California State University Northridge, San Francisco Art Institute, and California Institute of the Arts, in an attempt to disguise a checkered past.
Michael began working in film on China Syndrome in 1977. He was hooked, and continued working on films such as Star Trek - The Motion Picture and Blade Runner before becoming a Visual Effects Supervisor on War Games, in 1982. He has since worked on over 50 films, including Buckaroo Banzai, War Games (BAFTA Nomination), Batman Returns (Academy Award Nomination, BAFTA Nomination), Braveheart, Mars Attacks!, X-Men, X-Men 2, Constantine, The Golden Compass (Academy Award, BAFTA Award), Tropic Thunder, Avatar, Tron: Legacy, Sucker Punch, Tree of Life, and Life of Pi.
Michael is a founding member, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Visual Effects Society, and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Visual Effects Branch of the Academy. Michael is currently a Professor at the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, serving as Chair of the Division of Film and Television Production – the first VFX person to hold such a position at any university. He also holds the George Méliès Endowed Chair in Visual Effects. Michael continues working as a 2nd unit director, visual effects supervisor, and consultant on visual effects and 3D projects.