Here's How MythBusters' Jamie Hyneman Got Involved With Special Effects Work

As part of the MythBusters, Jamie Hyneman is very well qualified to explore and debunk urban legends we tend to believe. And to confirm or bust the myths, the team usually has to do several tests and jerry-rig a way to make explosions happen. Hyneman, together with his mythbusting partner Adam Savage, and the rest of the MythBusters crew have experience building these contraptions from their time working in special effects. But Hyneman did not start out working in the industry; in fact, he never even studied engineering.

Hyneman grew up in an apple orchard in Indiana. While he helped out around the farm, he admitted to being a difficult child, to the point where he ended up in juvenile detention in California before his parents brought him back home. Hyneman graduated with a degree in Russian from Indiana University. And though he'd often play around with tools as a child, he pursued different passions and held various jobs.

According to DesignNews, Hyneman has been a linguist, an animal wrangler, a wilderness expert, and a chef. He lived in the Caribbean for several years and worked as a divemaster and a boat captain for his own charter boat company. Even though he was basically living in paradise and getting to swim from a beach for a living, Hyneman was ready for a new adventure. Like the organized person he is, Hyneman sat down and figured out what his next steps could be.

He really researched it

Speaking to, Hyneman said he researched possible new careers and made a list of his interests. And he didn't just make a pros and cons list; he actually went to a library and studied up on what these different jobs entailed. He landed on special effects, particularly animatronics.

He'd already had an interest in sculpture but didn't want to be stuck working in only one medium. Hyneman felt special effects offered him a creative outlet while touching on various disciplines in addition to art. He liked that special effects demanded more hands-on work, wasn't repetitive, and, most of all, let him collaborate with several different people. To him, it was important that his work didn't end up sitting on someone's shelf, like a sculpture eventually would, but would reach far more people than an exhibition. 

By this time, Hyneman had told his wife that he was bored in the Caribbean, and set sail for New York, explained the book MythBusters: The Explosive Truth Behind 30 of the Most Perplexing Urban Legends of All Time. There, he found a job as an assistant in a few New York special effects shops. Eventually, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area so he could work in more movies. The Bay Area, home to Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and Lucas Films, offered Hyneman that chance. He told he found a thriving community of artisans there who brought diverse, unique talents to the work they were doing.

Then he made several commercials and movies

The move to California greatly advanced Hyneman's career. Before MythBusters, he managed to make special effects for over 800 commercials and several popular movies, such as Arachnophobia, Naked Lunch, and Robocop.

In 1996, Hyneman opened his own special effects shop, which featured heavily in MythBusters. The name M5 Industries stands for "models, machines, miniatures, manufacturing, and magic." As DesignNews wrote, M5 struggled a little bit as the film industry moved away from practical effects and into computer-generated special effects. Hyneman wanted to see what other revenue streams were possible with M5. That's when he got the idea for MythBusters. Hyneman pitched the show to Discovery Channel, he brought in former Battle Bots collaborator Savage, and the rest is history. The show built most of its experiments within M5 and Hyneman got to flex his special effects knowledge in the name of science.

These days, Hyneman still runs M5, though he uses it mainly to pursue his personal projects. He's been working on a firefighting tank that he hopes can be of use during California's infamous wildfires, and developed a prototype for electric shoes. Hyneman may not have begun in special effects, but his love for building things definitely stayed with him far beyond MythBusters. Not bad for a guy who used to bring tourists to beaches.