Day 5 – Weta Workshop & Daniel Reeve

A day may come when I am bored of this tour, when I am sick of the people and just want to go home. But it is not this day.

Today was our behind-the-scenes tour of Weta Workshop. We walked in and were warned that there is strictly no photography allowed once inside (which would’ve been nice to know before I brought mine in and had to carry it aimlessly for the rest of the tour). We met some of the artists, and began our tour with our guide Matt.

We entered the first room and found ourselves surrounded by suits of armour, swords, bows, guns, models, monsters and other props from films Weta had worked on.

Matt talked to us about the work they do, first discussing the props/weapons they’ve made and the process they use for modelling, casting and production of the props, as well as the different materials they use.

He also discussed the animation work they do at Weta Digital, as well as showing us a video presentation (hosted by Sir Richard Taylor) which covered the films Weta had worked on, its early origins and some of the techniques and processes they use.

No groundbreaking information for me, as I had learned a lot of these things through BTS videos and my own filmmaking pursuits, but still interesting to listen to and hear the stories they told, plus seeing all of the work up-close was a real treat.

After that, we went into another room where they had setup tables and chairs for us, with little workstations, for a hands-on workshop with blood/wound effects. They took us step-by-step through the process for using silicon to make a wound on our skin and then painting it with the fake blood we mixed. Photos were allowed here, but my hands were full of paint, so here are a few taken by our group members.

It was a fun experience, although mine didn’t turn out so well, but it was interesting to try and a fun group activity.

After that, we finished up the tour and bought some more merch on our way out (I picked up a map of the Shire, since we had our special guest later in the day). Then back to the hotel for a group lunch, followed by a presentation by Daniel Reeve, the calligrapher and cartographer for the six films.

He spoke to us about the work he did and showed us many examples of detailed maps, signs, books, letters and just about anything else with writing on it that appears on film. All the scripts for hobbits, elves, dwarves, men, orcs etc. were all hand-drawn by him alone, usually multiple times in different scales. It was really incredible to see.

When the presentation was over, we had some Q&A time while he set up to sign everyone’s merch and had some prints and quotes for sale which he would also sign and add custom writing in any script requested. He did just that for the next two or three hours, while answering questions and taking photos.

It’s refreshing to see someone so dedicated to their work, and still so passionate about it even after twenty plus years. Not to mention his talent; the ability to just write perfect elvish or hobbit script (with differences between “Bilbo” and “Frodo” writing style). It was just a lot of fun and a wonderful experience.

Not really any photos today as there wasn’t much to photograph, but tomorrow we take the (Buckleberry) ferry over to the South Island, and sadly say goodbye to some of our tour group who were only here for the North Island part of the tour.

We had a great night out at Flamingo Joe’s with a bunch of them so we could spend some extra time chatting and hanging out with them before we depart tomorrow. We had some dinner, drinks and nerded out about LotR – my kind of socialising!

Tomorrow we have a super early start, so it’ll be tough getting ready and packed to leave by 7am, at least we’ll be cruising for 3.5hrs to the South Island, so plenty of time to rest and relax then.

To those leaving us tomorrow, thank you for the the past week, you’re all wonderful interesting people. Hopefully we cross paths again someday.

I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye.