Wellington businesses brimming with Weta Workshop inspiration

Weta Workshop founder and exhibition creative director Sir Richard Taylor with the larger than life Gallipoli machine ...
MICHAEL HALL

Weta Workshop founder and exhibition creative director Sir Richard Taylor with the larger than life Gallipoli machine gunners in the Te Papa exhibition.

Weta Workshop is a shining star of Wellington's creative sector but the company's influence continues to spread across businesses in the city, providing knock-on economic benefits for the capital.

The city is brimming with Weta Workshop inspiration — from costume-making businesses, eye-catching restaurant décor and public sculptures, to theatres, stunning museum exhibits, and movie-themed tours.

Chief executive, Sir Richard Taylor set up Weta Workshop with his partner Tania Rodger in the backroom of their Wellington flat in 1987 and is still involved in all projects, from concept through to delivery.

Visitors take a tour around the Weta Cave.
WETA WORKSHOP

Visitors take a tour around the Weta Cave.

Weta Workshop grew out of Wellington because it was a fertile ground for creativity and craft, he said.

Wellington was a place talented artists, craftspeople, inventors, technicians and innovators could put down roots and draw up the inspiration they needed.

"If you can imagine it, and you're prepared to put in the yards, you can do it all right here."

Former Weta Workshop artistic director Kayne Horsham said Wellington's reputation as a creative capital had played a key ...
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

Former Weta Workshop artistic director Kayne Horsham said Wellington's reputation as a creative capital had played a key role in success of his business Kaynemaile.

A real can-do creative culture was now as prevalent as a gusty north-westerly in Wellington, he said.

"The workshop owes a debt to its incredible home. I hope the work we've done and will continue to do throughout the city goes some way to saying thanks to this wonderful place called Wellington."

The five-time Academy Award winning design studio and physical manufacturing facility services the world's entertainment and creative industries and is also a tourism destination.

Before 2008, fans who made the trip to Wellington could do little more than peek over the fence, so the Weta Cave was set up to give visitors something more and in 2013 the Cave was transformed into an immersive, behind-the-scenes tour.

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A Thunderbirds Are Go behind-the-scenes experience was launched recently.

From a tourism perspective, Wellington has become synonymous with a collective of Weta companies, including Weta Workshop, Weta Digital and Park Road Post Production, that have worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

In 2013 "Wellywood" earned $700 million from film production alone, with four out of every five Kiwi film dollars generated in the capital. In full production Weta are among the biggest employers in Wellington.

Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency chief executive Chris Whelan said creative industries were a core part of Wellington's regional economy, and the screen sector was world class.

"It's great to see top international production companies seeking out the full service offering available in Wellington, including studio facilities, modelling, visual effects and post production."

The latest figures from Statistics New Zealand's screen industry survey show Wellington continues to be the film hub of New Zealand, contributing 79 per cent ($645 million) of all feature film revenue. In 2014, the Wellington screen sector generated $712m in revenue.

Former Weta Workshop artistic director Kayne Horsham founded his business Kaynemaile in 2002 after working on chainmail costumes for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

After he finished working on the movies, he invented and patented a plastic moulding system that created mesh.

Wellington's reputation as a creative capital had played a key role in his company's success, he said.

"It is about not just having a creative economy in Wellington but also an honest economy. It is what enables us to survive and prosper."

Weta links recently helped deliver a space age video for Wellington musician Thomas Oliver.

The 29-year-old enlisted the help of Weta Workshop and producer Hayley Gray, to create the three and a half minute clip for his video, If I Move to Mars.

It features Oliver floating serenely in space, lap-steel guitar in hand, as illuminated space debris glides past him. Weta Workshop's Ben Hawker and Stephen Lambert created the video in their free time, working on it after work and during weekends.

It is understood Te Papa plans to further collaborate with Weta Workshop and international partners after the success of Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War exhibition.

Te Papa chief executive Rick Ellis said touring plans would help shape the museum for another stellar year in 2016 and cited Gallipoli as one of the main "destination" drivers for the museum's 1.56 million visitors this year.

As of Sunday January 10, 509,799 people had visited the exhibition, making it the  most visited exhibition ever at Te Papa.

Meanwhile, Sir Peter Jackson's Great War Exhibition  at Wellington's old Dominion Museum is also proving popular and will remain open until 2019.

The exhibition, which commemorates the significant part that New Zealand played in World War I, attracted more than 100,000 visitors in its first six months.

The Weta team has also worked on art and various exhibitions throughout the city.

The well-known Wellington harbour sculpture, Solace in the Wind, was created by Weta Workshop's former head of sculpture, Max Patte.

Taylor allowed him to use of Weta's premises to make his sculptures and now Patte has branched out into a business making stunning light installations.

Stansborough Mill in Petone weaves movie magic. The business makes natural woollen outfits for movie blockbusters such as Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, Narnia and Spartacus.

Weta Workshop also sponsors the costume and film category at the World of WearableArt. This year's winner, Joanna Peacock for her To Be Or Not To Be design, will be flown from her home in the United Kingdom to take part in a four-week internship at Weta Workshop.

Weta Workshop was commissioned to create the Tripod statue in Courtenay Place to celebrate Wellington's film and television industry.

The Rugby World Cup 2011 sculpture, Jack Ilott Green, near Civic Square was also created by the Weta team, as was Wellington Zoo, animal themed climbing frame for The Nest Te Kōhanga.

In September, Wellington's provincial rugby team mascot, Leo the Lion, was given a facelift from Weta Workshop costume designer Bryce Curtis.

 - Stuff

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