Kiwi Post-Production House: From Epics to Micro-Budget Works

Park Road Post Weta Peter Jackson

Of the five Peter Jackson companies in Wellington, Park Road Post wins the prize for the snazziest HQ.

As each company started up, it took over warehouses or other spaces available in the suburb of Miramar. But Park Road, which debuted with 2003’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” was built from the ground up. The massive building includes two large mixing theaters (where editors can sit next to mixers, and music and dialogue editors have their station); a smaller pre-mix room; three DCI projected DI/Grading theaters and a large picture department alongside the sound department.

There is also a 170-seat screening room with art-deco figures in deep blue and gold (one worker described it as “Hearst style,” a reference to Hearst Castle in San Simeon) and twinkling stars of Southern Hemisphere on the ceiling.

Starting in 1941, the New Zealand government oversaw post-production for local filmmakers, via its National Film Unit. But it decided a decade ago to sell the facilities to Australia. Jackson realized the loss of services and infrastructure could be a fatal blow to the country’s film industry. So Park Road was born.

Park Road does 40 projects a year, handling post-production on works ranging from big-budget pieces like “The Adventures of Tintin” and “Master and Commander,” to micro-budget local films, as well as documentaries and restoration work.

“We don’t think of it as a business first. It’s about creating something great,” says g.m. Cameron Harland.

He adds that their constant challenge is to look and sound better, to make tech advancements and upgrades. But supervising senior re-recording mixer Michael Hedges adds: “The enemy to good sound is to worry about technology. You have to worry about what’s on the screen. Technology has to match that.”

The staff also includes five toppers: Dean Watkins, head of production; Vicki Jackways, marketing; Louise Baker, corporate services; Amy Shand, picture; and John Neill, sound. PRP generally sends Phil Oatley (head of technology) and Ian Bidgood (technical director and color scientist) to NAB.

The Park Road team has been going to places including Los Angeles to lure production to NZ. Any pushback from Hollywood? No, says Harland, “because you can’t hard-sell something like this. You let the work speaks for itself.”

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