My house, my bubble: As New Zealanders stay home to fight COVID-19, Fiona Connor is talking to well-known Kiwis about what's helping to pass the time, while learning more about their craft and passions.
With five Academy Awards to his name for his awe-inspiring work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and King Kong, Sir Richard Taylor has done a lot to put New Zealand under the world's spotlight.
The Weta Workshop founder started the design studio in 1987 with wife Tania, and over the past three decades watched it grow into one of New Zealand's most celebrated successes.
Today their facility, which now boasts over 58,000 square feet, houses a passionate crew bringing to life miniatures and bigatures, weapons and armour, prosthetics, props, creatures and costumes to complete extraordinary cinematic experiences.
Never-ending passion and enthusiasm enable him to focus on being a critical thinker while building ideas formed in his imagination, gaining him at least 30 national and internationally-acclaimed awards during his career.
Despite missing his creative hub desperately, even in lockdown there is a lot keeping the 2012 New Zealander of the Year busy at his home in Hataitai, Wellington.
The Weta Workshop founder is continuing to plan exciting new projects with his team, while spending quality time with Tania, daughter Amelia and their fur person, Lottie.
Here he tells Newshub what's keeping him busy, the advice he will never forget and his wise words to others wanting to make a lifestyle out of a hobby.
Fiona Connor: What's the average day looking like for you at the moment?
RT: My assistant Ri is still managing my daily diary, so I’m usually on my first call of the day by 9am in reviews or creative discussions with our team, or client calls or management meetings. We have been working hard on our new location-based experience for Auckland, so the creative thinking, design and making is still going on while we are working from home.
It's a pretty full-on day even in lockdown, but it’s great to see a good proportion of our team still busy on a variety of projects that thankfully are still needing work.
FC: What have you been ticking off the chore list?
Even though we have a postage-stamp-sized garden, as a family we have been building a miniature village and cliff-side railway out the back of the house for the past few years.
The lockdown has given us the chance to focus on this a little more, and to get a few more paths and staircases in amongst the buildings.
FC: Is there anything about lockdown you've been struggling with? What's been helping?
RT: I am desperately missing being in the workshop. I have the great pleasure of doing a job that I would otherwise be doing as a hobby and getting to work with an amazing group of friends and colleagues each day.
I have struggled therefore not being able to go in and be a part of the daily hub-bub of workshop life. Sanity is definitely the ability to talk to a large number of the team daily as we dream, strategise and plan our way out of this in the weeks or months to come.
FC: With extra time at home, what have you been reflecting on?
RT: I think, like most people, the situation that we're all in is creating the deepest reflection.
Many things are running through my head each day with respect to this, and it certainly gets you appreciating even more fully the things that we are so blessed with, living in a city like Wellington and a country such as New Zealand.
FC: What attributes do you believe have allowed you to find success within your craft?
Being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every day – just like Squirrel Nutkin.
FC: What's your favourite piece of advice you have kept front of mind as you have tackled various endeavours or challenges?
RT: "Just pour the concrete and bugga the boxing," – Ian Taylor (Taylormade, Dunedin).
FC: What words do you give others hoping to pursue their passion as a career?
RT: Love of who you are, love of what you do, love of who you get to do it with and love of who you do it for. Without love, it is probably going to be pretty half-assed and lame.
FC: What takeaway food are you missing the most?
RT: The extraordinary Thai food cooked by the most wonderous Chef’s at Nakhon Thai in Hataitai. The Hataitai Thai is the best Thai in town!
FC: Are there any shows you have been binging?
RT: We recorded His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman on Sky and watched all the episodes over three evenings. This was fabulous family TV viewing, and watching it with Tania and our daughter has been a real treat (as we loved the original books so much).
FC: What is something you will never take for granted again?
RT: The ability to pop over the hill to the Wairarapa on the weekend and enjoy the countryside and all the beautiful sights that this region has to offer.