In the past two decades, Peter Jackson and his team have created five companies to service every aspect of filmmaking. These are among the most accomplished but misunderstood film companies in the world.
That’s because each was started without any hoopla. Ever since Jackson’s 1994 “Heavenly Creatures,” his films have gotten more ambitious, creatively and technically. So these companies were created to meet the needs of Jackson and the growing film industry in New Zealand. And after they were born, each started working immediately.
Even though filmmakers such as James Cameron and Steven Spielberg have been enthusiastic collaborators, many in the industry are confused about the structures and goals there.
Aside from Weta Digital, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, there are four other companies: Weta Workshop, Park Road Post Production, Stone Street Studios and Portsmouth Road film-equipment company.
The various toppers, with typical Kiwi humor, sat down in Wellington with Variety to dispel some misperceptions.
1. The five companies are not designed solely to work on Jackson’s films. In the past year, for example, Park Road worked on 40 projects; Weta Workshop contributed to 30.
2. They are not just for blockbusters. With Jackson’s six Tolkien films and Cameron’s “Avatar” franchise, the companies have gotten typecast. But this year their workload included lots of TV, a documentary, a $100,000 NZ indie and film restoration.
3. They can handle every aspect of a production, but the soup-to-nuts approach is not required. Each of the five companies can be responsible for its specialty (design, editing, sound, VFX, etc.) throughout the life of a project — or can contribute just a few weeks’ work. The five sometimes work together, but often separately.
4 It’s not necessary to relocate. The companies in Wellington have recently worked on productions based in India, South Africa, China and the U.S. For “Tintin,” they connected daily with Spielberg, who was in the Aegean.
Park Road Post general manager Cameron Harland sums it up: “We want people to know that New Zealand is open for business.”