NMU Grad's Influence on Filmmaking Remembered

John Prusak (DAFT photo)

NMU 1970 art education alumnus John Prusak, who became a legend for growing the filmmaking community in his hometown of Detroit and launching the careers of Oscar winners, is featured in a posthumous tribute article in the June issue of HOUR DETROIT magazine. His 60 film credits included camera operator for Michael Moore's Roger & Me, but most were for local, independent projects that often related to the city he loved. For a half century, Prusak also was an instrumental member of the Royal Oak-based nonprofit Digital Arts, Film & Television (DAFT), which offers related training for students and teachers.

Prusak died in March of COVID-19 complications, years after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, the article states. He attended NMU to avoid following his brother's path of “running with a rough crowd,” said his wife, Barb. Prusak earned a master's degree at the University of Michigan and started teaching art at Lincoln Elementary in the Wayne-Westland. He participated in a DAFT Focal Point seminar in 1972 and, based on the piece he created, was asked to help teach it the next year.

Those who were influenced by Prusak over the years through Focal Point seminars and/or DAFT's Michigan Student Film Festival included Doug Blush, who has won Academy Awards for his work on the documentaries 20 Feet from Stardom and The Elephant Whisperers; Dan Scanlon, who was a storyboard artist on Pixar's Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 3 before writing and directing Onward, a 2021 Golden Globe and Academy Award nominee; and Douglas Chiang, vice president and executive creative director for Lucasfilm, who was handpicked by George Lucas in 1995 to head up the art department for episodes I and II of the Star Wars franchise. All credit Prusak with contributing to their career success in the HOUR DETROIT article. Read it here.

Prusak in teaching mode with children at the DAFT Summer Animation Camp (Kathy Vandert photo)
Prusak in teaching mode with children at the DAFT Summer Animation Camp (Kathy Vandert photo)
Prepared By

Kristi Evans
News Director

Categories: Alumni