Make believe with Weta Workshop

Have you ever wanted to bring your imaginary world to life? Perhaps make that relic look as if it were found in the caverns of a fearsome creature’s lair, or give that toy laser gun scars from an intergalactic battle?

Hannah Goldblatt measures a piece of cloth for fit, against a female manikin.
School of Design lecturer Hannah Goldblatt

Victoria University of Wellington is partnering with Weta Workshop, Wellington’s five-time Academy Award-winning concept design and manufacturing facility, to offer a five-week online course on how to make props and costumes feel believable enough to bring alive any fictitious world you can conjure up. It is the latest offering from the University’s programme of massive open online courses (MOOCs) on the edX platform, several of which have been world-leading.

Starting in early 2020, the course will teach some of the skills that have earned Weta Workshop global acclaim for the physical props, costumes, weapons, armour, make-up, and environments that feature in iconic Hollywood films such as Avatar, Blade Runner 2049, King Kong, The Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings trilogies. Hosted by School of Design lecturer Hannah Goldblatt and Weta Workshop project supervisor Luke Hawker, the course will focus on the technique of ‘world weathering’—making props and objects look like they belong in distinct worlds or realities.

“This course will give students the chance to learn from some of the best in the business, and to really explore and develop the worlds they have imagined. They’ll get to think about how to make their creations believable by learning the theory behind world weathering,” says Hannah.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn how to bring your imagination to life, and we’re excited to be working with Weta Workshop on this course. It will appeal to people wanting to learn practical skills, such as cosplayers and film enthusiasts wanting theoretical knowledge about creating a fictional world, and will inspire people considering a career in the industry.”

With a decade of experience making costumes and wearables for film, television, and theatre, Hannah is ideally placed to encourage innovation from students through the School of Design’s trial-and-error design approach, while also giving them a feel for the realities of the industry.

“This is a first explorative step into online learning for Weta Workshop, and it’s a course that anybody can try their hand at,” says Luke.

“It’s one small component of what our artists and technicians do, but it’s an important skill to master. World weathering requires makers to consider the context and history of their prop or costume. By understanding this, story worlds immediately become more believable.”