That mix is increasingly reflected in the workshop's structure: Weta's self-consciously morphing into a creative entertainment shop, an interbreeding pool for idea sex. Acevedo now spends half his time on digital work, and the gap between digital and everything else is vanishing.
New people, presumably hired because they're good at something and Weta has noticed them, don't just get trained in their specialization. They're thrown in the deep end, pushed around lots of different areas and ideas. In some ways, this works against the career specialization that has dominated film and is coming to the fore in game development. The advantages are clear on projects like Gollum, where cross matching between the physical artists and CGI people produced innovative digital skin textures that neither side had been able to achieve in isolation.
For Acevedo, the aim is cross-fertilization of ideas, applied to as many different areas as possible: "Nobody really holds secrets for themselves; everybody shares, which allows you to grow, and everybody feeds off each other in that way." The different backgrounds and wide skillsets are crucial, "otherwise you've got a whole bunch of the same people in the same room, and there's nothing new to feed off."
I'm sitting there on a nice day in the southern seas, surrounded by banshees and demons and plastic fumes, and a picture whoomps into my head: game development studios that look like a giant darkened bedroom, row upon row of identikit young men with comp sci, game development and design degrees. Monochrome idea sex in a genetic wading pool. Games that are clone-stamped like artillery shells, the same damn thing delivered over and over again with a bang and some flashing lights.
Maybe we're learning the wrong things from the movie business.
The Coming of the Plague Rats
Lucy Cant, 21 years old and smart as an electric eel, didn't need to sign up for the lottery. She came out of a local high school four years ago liking fine arts and physics, went for an industrial design degree because it sounded halfway between the two, did well, won an award and got hired at Weta.
There's a fantastic simplicity to it that Acevedo (and I) would probably have killed for.
Cant, too, has been thrown into the Weta blender: From her industrial design base she's had a go at 3-D modeling, fabrication, laser cutting, machine printing and milling. She's getting good with some of Weta's favorite software packages, including the digital sculpting program Mudbox. "Weta's not very hierarchical; everyone here is trying to learn new things. You do get specialists, but they're helping other people, you're helping them, it all cycles round. Every time you make a little discovery, you go running round and show people, and you're like, 'Hey, look at what this does.'"