Welcome to the latest “Getting to know” – questions that need answering. It’s based on the old Getting to know you threads that I occasionally post on the message boards here on TORn, so those familiar with them will know that the questions can be a little crazy and the answers even crazier.
This month we’re asking questions of self-described Online guy at Weta Workshop and all round top bloke, Magnus Hjert.
Kelvarhin: Thanks for joining us this month Magnus, as always we’ll start with grammas favourite question…
What was your favourite cartoon when you were growing up?
Magnus: I grew up in Sweden on a rich and varied comics diet consisting of Tintin, Asterix, The Phantom, Spirou et Fantasio, its spin-off Marsupilami, Iznogoud… but my all-time favourite (that I still read) is Tintin.
Kelvarhin: What was your favourite toy as a kid?
Magnus: My Märklin train set… it initially provided much entertainment for my father and uncle, as I believe I was about three when I got it for Christmas. But it was awesome when I was older and could build model buildings etc.
Kelvarhin: Some of the TORNfolk (Tehanu, Garfeimao, deej and entmaiden) were in attendance to help Weta and the Neonatal Trust break the Guinness Record for most sandcastles built in an hour. They know that they built enough, but Guinness requires a lot of documentation and time to certify the results, and they’re wondering if you’ve gotten the official results from the world record Sandcastle Build last November?
Magnus: I don’t actually know the answer, but I promise I will find out from Martin Baynton, who is the main link between Adventure Wellington and Weta Workshop. I was on that beach myself, covering it on behalf of Weta. The event was organised by Adventure Wellington and Weta Workshop helped out with buckets and quite a few crew, including Richard, Tania and many others.
Kelvarhin: What is your favourite location in NZ?
Magnus: I’ve lived here now for 10 years and I have many favourites. But that’s a bit of a cop-out, so I will try to pick one. To narrow it down little by little, the region called the Wairarapa is about 90 minutes’ drive away from Wellington and is predominantly a rural area, but with a twist – it’s one of New Zealand’s premier wine regions. Small towns that 50 years ago were as rural as rural can be have blossomed with the increased interest the wine has brought to the region. On the way to my favourite place, you pass through several of these, Featherston, Greytown, Carterton. When you get to Masterton, you take a right and head for the coast. And after driving through orchards and sheep stations, you get to Castlepoint. A Pacific beach community with a spectacular lighthouse and rock formations, a fantastic beach and a camping ground. And very little else. The weather is often unforgiving, but lying in a tent, listening to the ocean… it doesn’t get much better. Oh – I just realised you probably meant shooting location? Well, other than Hobbiton which is truly AWESOME, a favourite is the Dimholt Road/Paths of the Dead at Putangirua Pinnacles in… you guessed it: The Wairarapa.
Kelvarhin: What are your most favourite places, of all the places you’ve been to in the world?
Magnus: Monterey, California. Montpellier, France. London, England (lived there for 7 years). Copenhagen, Denmark (being from Malmo in Sweden, Copenhagen is a natural place to hang out – back then it was a 45 minute boat trip away. Now there’s a bridge…). And Wellington – on a good day… 🙂
Kelvarhin: What movies or television shows are you into right now, apart from The Hobbit?
Magnus: Star Trek: Into Darkness was awesome – I went with a band of colleagues and everyone was pretty much in agreement it was a great film. With two kids of 6 and 10 years, I watch a LOT of ‘children’s’ flicks – like Wall-e, How to train your Dragon (and Riders of Berk) and love it, but Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, House MD, Doctor Who, Sherlock and even the occasional UK detective show/murder mystery re-run like Midsomer Murders, Morse, Miss Marple, Hercules Poirot… I’m easy to entertain…
Kelvarhin: I’m a child of migrants, and I know you’re originally from Sweden, so I was wondering what inspired your move to New Zealand?
Magnus: I was dragged here kicking and screaming by my Kiwi wife… nah, it was actually the other way around. I get itchy feet staying in one place for too long and when we were living in London (where we met and wed) and expected our first child, we decided there were healthier places to bring up children than south London, so we chose New Zealand. Thinking we’d only be here for 4-5 years and then perhaps go to Sweden (where all my family is). But then I got my job at Weta – as close to my dream job as I’m ever likely to get – and we’ve now decided not to up-root the kids, but stay here for at least as long as they want to stay. Then we’ll see.
Kelvarhin: What was the most difficult thing about organising Wetas surprise for TORn’s 10th Anniversary?
Magnus: Getting everyone to the same courtyard at the same time. Gino from Weta Digital down the road, Richard Taylor from somewhere in the building, Guillermo del Toro from 3 Foot 7 and then getting the crew to pick up some props and waving them around. We had many false starts on different occasions, but in the end we got it together. Woohoo! Man, that seems like a long time ago now… I was very nervous directing Guillermo del Toro, but he was very good about it. 🙂
Kelvarhin: How long have you been working for Weta Workshop and how did you come to be involved with them?
Magnus: I’ve been here since 2008 and I owe it to my sister-in-law who found the ad in the paper…
Kelvarhin: Working for Weta sounds great, but being a marketing manager sounds like hard work… is the line between being on the job and dreaming sharp or fuzzy? Is there even a line?
Magnus: That’s a great question… I’m gonna have to think about that one… Right – I’m back after having answered a few other questions in the meantime. The answer is – there is no line… my job is a constant intertwinement of fantasy, fans, fiction, collectors, artists, logistics, writing and just saying ‘awesome’ a lot. Weta is not a normal workplace – we who work there tend to forget.
Kelvarhin: Within your position at Weta, you must have been involved with some very surreal situations (perhaps meeting certain people, taken part in certain events and so on). What is your most memorable moment?
Magnus: There are many… in my first week, one of the Workshop technicians, Jordan, drove up and down the road outside on his rocket powered bicycle. A few months later I was recording a sound bite with Bill Farmer (Goofy since 1986) on a podcast and suddenly Michael Winslow (officer Larvell Jones in Police Academy) chips in with a Mickey Mouse impersonation… And meeting Sir Ian McKellen – again for a podcast interview… it’s all a bit surreal in hindsight, but while you’re doing it… it’s fantastic.
Kelvarhin: What item do you like the most of all the items made by Weta? And why?
Magnus: Ooooooh – that’s a tough one. The Minas Tirith shooting miniature – I have never seen it in real life, but the impact it had on me in LOTR when I first saw it on screen… man! Barad-dûr and Orthanc likewise – I’ve seen both of them outside David Tremont’s workshop while he was working away on the collectible models. Of the things you can take home… Peter Lyon’s swords… probably Andúril… words cannot describe how epic they are and how powerful you feel with one in your hand.
Kelvarhin: I have heard workers from Weta get a chance to buy the things they make (the collectibles). Have you ever not bought an item and later regretted that you didn’t get it? If yes, what was it, and why do you regret not getting it?
Magnus: Yes – I admit to being a complete sucker for Greg Broadmore’s rayguns… and my favourite is the Goliathon 83, which is now sold out. While it was still in stock, I couldn’t afford it. But if I ever get a chance to buy one…
Kelvarhin: What is it like seeing all these cool Collectibles before the fans get to see them? Also, how hard is it to hold that from the world?
Magnus: A) Orgasmic. B) Extremely. 🙂
Kelvarhin: If you were making a car commercial, what Weta Workshop items would you include?
Magnus: Rayguns – ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’. It’s a mantra in Ingolstadt as well as at Grordbort Industries. Although it would be in English undoubtedly. ‘Advantage through Technology’.
Kelvarhin: And lastly, if you were a dwarf in Thorin’s Company, which one would you be?
Magnus: Easy – Bombur. A little known fact is that I have “arse-modelled” for our Bombur collectible, showing the sculptors what it looks like when a fat guy runs… up and down the Weta Workshop car park. And Leaflock from The Shadow and Flame’s Weta collectors’ forum actually turned me into Bombur in the S&F Christmas card for Weta. So I feel a strong affinity with the guy. I have included the image Leaflock made.
As always thanks to all our message board regulars, DanielLB, SirDennisC, Ataahua, Elessar, Brethil, elaen32, entmaiden, dernwyn, Kaede, grammaboodawg and Rosie-with-the-ribbons, for this month’s questions.
If you would like to ask any questions yourself, just head over to our Message Boards, the sign up process is pretty painless. A lead post for questions is made at the beginning of each month on the Main board. Or you can just check Main for each months interviewee and email me your questions at email@example.com.
Till next time from TORn’s resident Tiger.