Wini­ata carves ca­reer in films

Matamata Chronicle - - News/opinion - By SAN­DRA HUNTER

When Wini­ata Tapsell be­gan learn­ing his tra­di­tional carv­ing skills within his Maketu whanau as a 15 year old, he never for a mo­ment dreamt that these would take him into the film in­dus­try.

‘‘It be­came a whole new world for me,’’ he said.

‘‘It cer­tainly changed my life and it’s a priv­i­lege be­ing part of it and work­ing with so many tal­ented peo­ple.’’ His new ca­reer was def­i­nitely a far cry from carv­ing meet­ing houses around the coun­try but one he em­braced with the same pas­sion he had for Maori carv­ing.

Now based in Welling­ton, Wini­ata has worked as a set carver/sculp­tor for the past decade, his ca­reer be­gin- ning with the Lord of Rings tril­ogy.

These days, he is draw­ing plenty of in­ter­est from Mata­mata passersby and over­seas vis­i­tors alike as he sits by the foot­path, in the shadow of the Mata­mata i-Site, carv­ing pieces for the Gate­house.

Busy as he is, Wini­ata rel­ishes each op­por­tu­nity of shar­ing his pas­sion both for carv­ing and the Gate­house project with all who stop to watch the crafts­man at work – one mo­ment a young mum and her pre-school­ers, the next an in­ter­na­tional trav­eller wait­ing for his bus to Hob­biton.

While he be­gan carv­ing solely in wood, Wini­ata now works with ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing poly­styrene, rock and con­crete to achieve the nec­es­sary ef­fect.


‘‘I spent five years work­ing at [di­rec­tor] Peter Jack­son’s man­sion at Master­ton,’’ he said.

‘‘ The big­gest piece I carved was from 22 tonnes of con­crete.’’

A film set fore­man, Wini­ata’s skills have helped cre­ate sets such as jun­gles and canyons that trans­port movie go­ers to times and places be­yond their ken.

‘‘A set can take two to four months to com­plete, then two to four min­utes film­ing,’’ he said.

Whether tra­di­tional carv­ing or film set work, Wini­ata said his carv­ing al­ways had a pur­pose but it took him a while to work out just what that was.

‘‘While I was work­ing on River Queen I re­alised what it was,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m telling sto­ries.’’

Skilled: Wini­ata Tapsell carves a sur­round fea­tur­ing oak leaves and acorns for the Gate­house door.

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