The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began … Now far ahead the road has gone, and I must follow it if I can. – J.R.R Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
As a child, I loved watching The Academy Awards with my mom and sisters. We would eat popcorn, and gaze for hours at a sea of endless crinoline on the arm of pressed tuxedo perfection. As we watched for glimpses of how the magic of the big screen comes into being, we were mesmerized, captivated, and inspired by people pushing the limits of their creativity for our entertainment.
What better way to celebrate that childhood memory than taking my children on a visit to a remarkable movie design studio in Wellington, New Zealand called the Weta Workshop. As we learned about each step of the design process from concept through manufacturing, we passed the white witch from Narnia’s wand, countless shields and swords from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and life-sized figures of TinTin next to ethereal images from Avatar. As many fantasy figures and their worlds enveloped us, we passed artists caked in clay, molding something real from something imagined.
Sometimes I resist the behind the scenes. The real world is so realistic that I often just want movies to perform their magic without knowing how it was accomplished. This experience was different. I came away more wonderstruck that I could have ever been without the knowledge of the process.
The films we learned about at Weta Cave require such a high level of creativity, collaboration, faith, talent and passion that it is nothing short of genius. It is as if getting a glimpse into the layers of the creation that absolutely must come together, somehow makes the movie more alive and magnetic. I believe the understanding of what it takes, even at the basic level I achieved during the tour, is what separates those who work on films from those who make cinematic history.
It became evident to me, as my eyes darted to every corner of this workshop, that film making is a collection of best practices from the past, a reflection of the possibilities of our day, and an emblazoned vision for the next generation … “The Road goes ever on and on, out from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone. Let others follow, if they can!.” J.R.R Tolkien The Lord of the Rings