WELLINGTON – This could well be one of Wellywood’s best kept secrets – there is a Filipino connection to ‘The Hobbit’. He is Philippines born Darwin Go, 32, a special effects wizard who was recently promoted to VFX Supervisor at Park Road Post. Actually, there’s another Filipina working in the same company as a Data Wrangler.
According to Tourism NZ, over the past decade Wellington has risen to become internationally recognised as a film production and technology hot spot. It’s also become, “a magnet for animation and post-production heavyweights around the world,” providing special effects wizardry for the multibillion-dollar visual effects industry.
Park Road Post Production is a state-of-the-art facility that has created movie magic for numerous Hollywood mega-busters. It is part of a neighbourhood of creative companies that includes Weta Digital, Weta Workshop, Stone Street Studios and Portsmouth Rental, that are all linked to movie mogul Sir Peter Jackson.
“Here at Park Road I’ve been involved in a number of films that have come through the company,” says Go. “I did work behind the scenes on ‘Lovely Bones’ and did VFX work on a local feature, ‘Tangiwai: A Love Story’, ‘Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D’, ‘The Orator’, ‘Mr. Pip’ and ‘The Hobbit: Unexpected Journey’, to name a few.”
Go was “born in Tondo, grew up in Quezon City and lived in Makati”. In the Philippines he was “an arts major rather than a science major. I completed my studies at De La Salle University – College of Saint Benilde. I majored in Multimedia Arts (AB-MMA), which is kind of a wild card course. I was in batch 2 of the course when they started. It tackles lots of different media platforms from Web design to Video Production, Graphic Design, Interactive Design and 3D Animation.”
“With regards to VFX, I always thought that I was going to be a 3D animator back in university. To my disappointment that didn’t exactly work out or pay my rent even. So I shifted to video production.”
His small studio in Makati offered video production and motion graphics services; his title was creative director. “Our clients were mainly event management companies and we made below-the-line ads – mainly promotional materials and press release videos.
“I met people from Mowel Fund and started editing for them. I had also kept in touch with some university friends who had gone into the advertising world; that’s how I got into editing ads and making motion graphics for them.”
Go recalls that in 2007 he didn’t have a clue what ‘Lord of the Rings’ was when it screened in Manila. “But I enjoyed it very much and got hooked on it. I did my research and was really impressed with little New Zealand pumping out a major feature trilogy that pretty much conquered the world. It says a lot about passion for films and what they do, so that attracted me to explore my opportunities here.”
New Zealand was “an adventure” for Go and his wife. “We thought we’d give it a shot and see how this country goes. Five years on we have a daughter and couldn’t be happier! But the door is still open for me to try out other countries for work, particularly Australia or Singapore with its warm weather. But for now New Zealand is home and most likely it will be for the long term.”
Go believes that there are a lot of Pinoys in the film industry. “I say industry because quite often you can jump from one role to another happily and that happens quite a lot,” explains Go. “There is so much to learn and enjoy in just the film industry alone and with the advent of technology the lines are easier to cross.
“The main thing I can see is that there should be more government support for talented Filipino filmmakers, so more Pinoys can be in it. Filipinos are very talented and very artistic in almost any form of art imaginable; it’s the support that is lacking.
“I also think the choice between paying your bills and doing what you love back home can be a very difficult thing, so mostly they end up in the AD world where the money is, but the real passion is left wanting.”
For some, like in the case of Darwin Go, relocating is the only way to pursue dream jobs. “There are also lots of Filipinos working in ILM Singapore producing world class visual effects for films. I met one former ILM employee here who is now freelancing at Weta Digital.
“I’ve always wanted to direct a Filipino Feature or Short in the Fantasy/Sci-fi genre. I’m not sure when that will happen; hopefully I will get the opportunity.”
By Sheila Mariano and Mel Fernandez