Studio Spotlight: Wētā Workshop

Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Artist: Jeremy Hanna

Wētā Workshop works across a variety of disciplines servicing the entertainment and creative industries. Known predominantly for their conceptual design and physical manufacturing for feature films and TV, they also design and make collectibles, video games, location-based experiences, and have a tourism arm.

We had the chance to speak with Wētā Workshop Design Studio Art Director Adam Middleton, who described the studio’s goal as “always to create something inspiring and original.” Find out how Wētā’s impressive facilities, talented team, and unique creative processes have helped build the film worlds of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, District 9, Blade Runner 2049, Ghost in the Shell, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters among many others.

How does Wētā contribute to a film’s development?

We often fall into the pre-production to production stages of a project, mainly due to our physical manufacturing work. However, our Design Studio does a lot of pitch work for clients during early development, as well as post-production VFX design.

Our manufacture division offers services in a variety of areas, including specialty costumes, armour, creature suits, special make-up effects, prosthetics, props, animatronics, weapons, physical VFX reference, set pieces, vehicles, and miniatures.

Within the Design Studio we conceptualise worlds, characters, costumes, creatures, robots, vehicles, props, and more. When engaging on any project, we like to call ourselves temporary experts because research is an important part of our process in grounding each design to the world it sits in. 

From here we start to ideate, conceptualising, and generating new ideas based on the research we’ve gathered and collaborate internally and with our clients to review our ideas and working with the feedback. We continue to refine design throughout the process until we have delivered on a brief. 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Artist: Jeremy Hanna

What are the Wētā Workshop facilities like?

Has it been challenging to conduct your work remotely during COVID?

Because of our location, we are used to working remotely with clients. So, in many ways we haven’t had to adapt the way we work too much with COVID. Zoom calls are regular occurrences with international clients and our Manufacture team is well equipped to deliver products anywhere in the world.

Sometimes the time difference can be helpful as we can have things ready for review by the time our client wakes up on the other side of the world. 

Untitled Project – Artist: Adam Middleton

Wētā has worked on many incredible projects since 1987. Can you walk us through some highlights?

It’s hard to pick favourites, though it’s tough to look past The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003). It’s certainly the project that put us and New Zealand filmmaking on the map. We have recently been showcasing some original concept designs from those films on our ArtStation page which people are loving.

Other notable projects include District 9 (2009). After the Neil Blomkamp Halo project fell over, it was Wētā Workshop’s first real foray into sci-fi design and manufacturing work. It helped establish the way we approach world-building on large-scale productions to this day.

Ghost in the Shell (2017) was another notable highlight because of the opportunity it gave for our Design and Manufacture departments to collaborate. As the film was also shot in Wellington, it was a rewarding experience to visit the sets and see costumes/props/weapons we had designed and built being used in our home city.

The end of this year will be big for us with several projects being released, one of them being Dune, where we were fortunate enough to be involved, so stay tuned for that work on our ArtStation page.

Untitled Project – Artist: Dane Madgwick

What is it like being a high-profile Studio in the ArtStation community?

For several years now, ArtStation has been a huge part of the way we demonstrate our service offerings to potential clients. Clients have engaged with us because they have come across our ArtStation page.

It’s also a really great way for the artists to share their work with the world. We are really proud of our designs and love engaging with our design community and seeing what other studios, designers, and artists around the world are getting up to. It’s really inspiring for us.

Where should people go to learn more about Wētā?

Our ArtStation page is the best place to view the recent work from our Design Studio while our website has a more in-depth breakdown of our services in Design and Manufacture and the other areas of Wētā Workshop.

Studio accounts like Wētā’s can be linked to ArtStation’s Studios Directory, designed to connect outsource studios with companies looking to hire talent for upcoming projects. Learn more about ArtStation Studio accounts >

Ghost in the Shell – Artist: Nick Keller

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