Sir Richard Taylor & Weta, I meet the creative genius.

DECEMBER 16, 2013

 Sir Richard Taylor, Weta Workshop

Sir Richard Taylor, Creative Director, Weta.

Academy and BAFTA awarding visual and digital effects for productions like The Lords of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit trilogy, Avatar, King Kong, Prometheus, The Adventures of Tin Tin… and many more –
What is the process you go through meeting an extremely successful, academy award winning, knighted man you really admired for a long time? You make a list of what to talk about. Five minutes before the meeting you rehearse what you are going to talk about, say and ask… then glance at your list to check again…. it is completely different from your rehearsal…
How do you deal with this, adjust the list and hope for the best!
Sir Richard Taylor is nice, really nice. He is also talented, really talented. Busy? Really stupidly busy. A Segway on high speed could not move him from meeting to meeting quickly enough. Successful? Incredibly. You get it. He’s packed with talent and has a heart of gold.
Everyone who knew I was meeting Richard said one thing in common about him, how nice he is. How right they are.
I received a call from someone at Weta an hour out from my allocated 30 minute meeting with Sir Richard, to explain it was just reduced to 20 minutes, with a sincere apology. While waiting for him in reception my 20 minutes was reduced to….. 10 minutes. He is very busy.
He wears an RT radio permanently plugged into his ear. There seem to be a bevy of people telling him where to be and when.
It is intimidating how in demand he is and how fractious it all seems while sitting talking to him. Yet, there is a stillness and intention that when you talk to him he listens, engages and makes you feel like everyone in the room and all the people in his ear from the RT, just melt away.
He takes me downstairs for the photo shoot, amongst the complete manic-ness of it all he offers me a coffee. I look around there is no one else in sight. When he says ‘can I get you a coffee’ he means can ‘I’ get you a coffee. It was of course, delicious, long black. ‘Perfect’ he’s says – ‘no milk’.
We are talking about the photo shoot over my coffee. He comes up with an great idea for a shot, incredible, my dream shot, in an instant we are off to make it happen.
We walk through the Weta facilities and he introduces me to everyone we come across. He is really proud of his team. He introduces me to a guy who has worked for him for 18 years. 18!
We arrive in the sculpture room, where every kind of incredible creature has been created for the bevy of movies to flow out of Wetas effortless hands. Richard stops to mention ‘if there is dirt, it will find me’ he says almost it proudly … ‘I am normally covered in either grease or clay’. I am not surprised, he seems like a big kid living the dream in his ‘candy shop’ so one can imagine him diving in every now and then and evidence of this being somewhere from his ‘head to toe’.
Richard walks over to the wet clay supply and a massive dollop is generously distributed calmly and deliberately all over his hands and wrists. He works it like the mistress of his work he has known all too well for many, many years. Clay seems to be his highly oxygenated eternal blood supply. To my surprise he wipes hands, dripping in clay, across his face. Wow, I think, commitment to the photo shoot. By this point I had almost forgotten why I was there.
My 10 minutes is now approaching 30 minutes. He is gracious, clever and served up lashings of humility. I suggest a photo with the many gold statues and awards at Weta (there are… a few in the cabinet). This makes him feel uncomfortable, uneasy…. ‘too try hard’ he says to me. ‘I agree’ I quickly reply and look down firmly at the ground. Sir Richard wanted to be covered in clay and photographed on his beloved workshop floor, amongst his loyal and talented team.
He reassured me, many times, to make sure I got the photograph I needed and wanted. He is, very thoughtful.
Walking through Weta is like walking through an Aladdin’s cave of every film and production they have ever worked on. Scale models of planes, trams, cars, Golum, Kong, dinosaurs, cool unidentified curiosities and creatures and more are everywhere. Floor to ceiling awesomeness. The walk to the toilet would be, for most fans, an experience to remember. It was for me. I almost got to the toilet and forgot why I was there!? Even a paper towel you dry your hands on in the Weta toilet seems to be sprinkled with golden Weta fairy dust. I nearly kept it.
Weta is hallowed ground. Ground not many of us get to wander around. Whether going to the toilet or sitting in the staff café area and having Sir Richard make you a coffee, it is an experience of a lifetime. Your eyes just can’t take everything in.
You really understand the power of story telling at Weta, the power of film. The power of one guy, an incredible team following his dream and an entire country, his army of fans, marching along merrily with him.
The extremely successful kiwis I have met on the world stage seem very humble about their achievements. Producing something, anything and receiving the first applause is great. But continued adulation is slightly uneasy for a Kiwi.
I really believe that apart from being extremely talented (and nice), very clever and able to deliver what he says he will do, Sir Richard Taylor works hard, really really really hard. I have worked out, if the guy next to you is more talented than you there is not much you can do (maybe something else?). If the guy next to you is working harder than you, that is an easy fix and one that most kiwis get. You just work harder than the next guy and the win will come your way.
The harder a kiwi works, the luckier the kiwi is, right?
It was humbling to met Sir Richard Taylor and a precious time I will not forget. Weta is everything and more your wild imagination can conjure up, with a nice Knight leading the charge on the world stage.
We ask every person photographed for the project what peace means to them. Sir Richard Taylor sat down grabbed the closest piece of paper to him and wrote…. “Committing to caring – never destroying. Richard Taylor. New Zealander”

- Written by DECEMBER 16, 2013

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