Weta Digital is the world’s leading visual effects company behind many blockbuster movies such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong, based in Wellington, New Zealand. Right now they are working on their next movie The Hobbit – but even if I dress up like a hobbit I could not get into the studio, since they are doing the final work on that magic movie.
To actually meet someone who works at a company that created The Lord of the Rings makes me feel a bit like a geek. It is such an incredible masterpiece. In this part of the world, Wellingtonians seem to think it’s normal to meet these people or to play a role in the blockbuster movies they create over here. It is like the nature here – unreal.
Interviewing Victor Huang was pure fun. Down to earth and full of positive energy. I asked a lot of questions on how to find talent and make them deliver and grow. I got a feeling that it’s a lot about creating an ecosystem of people whose function is to deliver superb material. To call it corporate culture would make it too two-dimensional: it’s deeper than that. It’s more like the fantastic nature here – where every creature has its role to play. If talent does not grow in harmony with the Weta forest it will not be able to deliver world-class material. My impression is that this unique forest has a DNA that makes the team much more important than just one individual. To keep the forest young and vibrant, talent has to grow at a speed and in a direction that is demanded or they will have hard time to keep up with competition (they get thousands of CVs from all over the world). I asked if social skills are more important than technical. Victor says that visual effects are a blend of art and technology. You need the best skills from both sides coming together to create Academy Award-quality work. To work at Weta you have to be amazingly talented and gifted, but social skills are not a disadvantage (film-making is teamwork).
What I find specially interesting in their business field is that because they deliver a product that is so visual on the screen, some in the audience can challenge their skills and say to themselves, ‘I can do this better.’ Since they deliver movies so advanced, they have to create their own software to be able to create their magic so few can compete with them.
Victor could easily be working with coaching to make a team deliver beyond their expectations. And that is what this interview was – beyond what I could imagine. I thought it would be about movies but it was much more. Next time I will dress up like a Hobbit in order to get into the studio.
In the picture, me, Victor Huang and Jack Yan.