Magazine article Variety

Weta Workshop: A 'Tapestry' of Interests Weave Riches for the Design House

Magazine article Variety

Weta Workshop: A 'Tapestry' of Interests Weave Riches for the Design House

Article excerpt

WETA WORKSHOP IS THE oldest of Peter Jackson's five companies, and the hardest to define. And that's the way they like it.

Richard Thylor, who runs Weta Workshop with his wife, Thnia Rodger, believes in creative diversity. He has won Oscars in three categories: two for makeup, two in visual effects and one for costume design. It reflects his philosophy, "We can only survive if we innovate every day."

The company built 48,000 individual items (props, costumes, etc.) for "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. For the "Hobbit" trio, the team produced 11,862 prosthetics, with 5,493 of these just for the Dwarves. Approximately 4 tons of silicone was used to make facial prosthetics for all the characters.

In the past year, WW has worked on 30 projects, including six films, plus numerous TV shows and videogames. "It adds to the tapestry of our staff's lives," says Thylor. "It's added to the richness."

Recent projects include the final "Hobbit" film; costuming and prosthetics for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"; designs for "Godzilla" and "Hercules"; merchandise for "DOTA 2"; and materials for films based in China, Hungary, India and the United States.

In association with ITV and Pukeko Pictures, WW is working on the TV relaunch of "Thunderbirds." There will be 26 half-hours to bow in 2015; scripts are written in the U.S., with voices recorded in the U.K., filming miniatures in New Zealand and animation in Taiwan.

During Variety's visit, WW staffers were working on museum installations, a sculpture garden, film projects and books (designed and written inhouse, with 16 published so far).

When Taylor started on 2001's "The Lord of the Rings," Weta Workshop had a staff of 158, only 38 of whom had any film experience.

He promotes the "Jack and Jill of all trades" mentality. There is a roughly 50-50 split of men and women among the core crew of 55. That's also true when the staff is augmented to work on multiple projects, with the additions ranging from 70 to 240.

Taylor is proud that no one had formal training. Some are first-time sculptors he trained. And he's also self-taught: He started sculpting margarine, then moved on to clay.


At a Glance

Weta Workshop numbers


Individual items made for '10TR' trilogy


tons of silicone used for prosthetics


Balance of male-female staffers


Peter Jackson's five NZ companies have big fans, but many are confused by them

In the past two decades, Peter Jackson and his team have created five companies to service every aspect of filmmaking. …

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