In 2013, Michael founded Our Rock, Inc. and began beta testing of the Our Rock Project. This 501(c)(3) STEAM education organization is for high school and middle school classrooms around the world. Students are asked to choose a STEM topic, contact a local professional, scientist, engineer or specialists in that field, interview them then write and direct a short five to ten-minute documentary film. The students can then share their work with the world on our groundbreaking virtual video library. The project is free for the participants and our archive is always free to visit and learn from.
In 2017, Michael formed Galapagos Our Rock LLC in partnership with Dean Lyon, a thirty-five year veteran special effects supervisor whose credits include the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Armageddon and Justice League and James Beardon, an entertainment attorney and producer with more than twenty five years’ experience in the industry. Galapagos Our Rock LLC is producing a feature length children’s animation feature film to promote the Our Rock Project worldwide.
Michael Van Laanen is also President of MVL Films, LLC. An award-winning filmmaker with a MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking from MSU-Bozeman, he has written, directed and produced numerous documentaries about our natural world ranging from the Yellowstone Bison conflict to the emotionally charged debate over Embryonic Stem Cell research. Michael also works on documentary films, independent feature films and commercial projects as a freelance cinematographer, producer and director.
Prior to his entrance into filmmaking, Michael was an entrepreneur, business owner and inventor. As part owner and member of the Board of Directors, he co-founded Zaras Industries, Inc., a recognition, award and gift manufacturing company. After serving four years as Senior Executive Vice President in charge of the laser processing division, Michael founded CIM, Inc. Focusing on precision component parts for OEM manufacturers and architectural firms, Michael was the first to bring contract abrasive water jet cutting to the Midwest and was a featured speaker and guest at FABCO conferences. CIM, Inc. grew to become a nationally renowned manufacturer of precision laser and abrasive water jet cutting components with in-house secondary processing capabilities whose client list included NASA, George Lucas and numerous aerospace manufacturers.