A dream job on mortal engines
When Christopher Dean’s wife suggested a move to New Zealand to complete her Ph.D., it presented a unique opportunity for the Arizona-born arts graduate. Studying graphics and computer science in Wellington helped Christopher land a job as Effects Technical Director on Mortal Engines.
“I’d always had my eyes on Weta [Digital] and I had a look into master’s programmes in Wellington and everything lined up perfectly.”
Christopher joined an increasing number of American students who have chosen to study creative arts in New Zealand.
I ended up studying graphics and computer science at Victoria University of Wellington and that helped me land a job as Effects Technical Director on this epic film production,
Based on the novel by Philip Reeve, Mortal Engines is set in a world many thousands of years in the future and begins as the Earth’s cities roam the globe on huge wheels, devouring each other in a struggle for ever diminishing resources.
“The scale is really exciting. When things are extraordinarily large, they tend to move really slowly but they need to look terrifying and thrilling so that’s a challenge.”
The film was directed by New Zealander Christian Rivers, and the screenplay penned by New Zealanders Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. Production took place entirely in New Zealand.
The filmmakers and studios chose New Zealand to film Mortal Engines due to its world class crew, talent, technicians and facilities. More than 1,000 New Zealanders were contracted during principal photography. Around 98% of the crew were New Zealand residents.
“New Zealand offers some of the best and most talented crews we have worked with,” said MRC. “We have been incredibly impressed by the collaborative atmosphere of the entire team and its unmatched ability to oversee a film adaption of this magnitude.”
A dream of working at Weta certainly played into Christopher’s decision to choose to study in Wellington.
Victoria University had advertised that they had connections to Weta, a couple of my professors were working at Weta and lecturing, and there were scholarship opportunities, so I thought I’d have a try.
“I was fortunate to be accepted onto Weta’s internship programme when I was a year into my studies. I started in the effects department and helped out on the third Hobbit movie. It was so surreal – it was a magical dream experience. After the internship I went back to Victoria to complete my thesis and, just as I was about to finish, I had an email from the Head of Department at Weta asking if I could come back as Effects Technical Director on a new project – Mortal Engines.”
Christopher said studying in New Zealand was a great experience which prepared him extremely well for working in the film industry.
“The programme at Victoria, the professors, the other students, were all a great fit for me.”
I found the programme challenging, compelling and the resources within the film community in Wellington were outstanding.
“My course work directly prepared me for the work I’m doing now. There was a lot of collaborative work with other students, and the technical assignments which were given to us as homework often developed into course-long projects. I found the pacing and the technical challenges were very similar to what I’m facing now and daily life on the job.”
“I’ve had nothing but great experiences since coming over,” says Christopher. “It was one of the best decisions of my life.”
About the contributors
Linley Boniface is a contract writer for Education New Zealand. She is based in Wellington, her favourite city in New Zealand. A former journalist, Linley spent a year in Montreal, Canada, as a secondary school student.