Weta Workshop, Wellington, 22 March 2016: Aboriginal mythology and science fiction collide in high-stakes ‘near fi’ drama, Cleverman, a genre-bending new TV series produced by Goalpost Pictures Australia and Pukeko Pictures for Australia’s ABC TV in co-production with Sundance TV and Red Arrow International. Wellington’s Weta Workshop contributed creature design, specialty hair work and makeup effects and Park Road Post Production provided picture, sound and VFX post production services. It’s an Australasian co-production that’s been dubbed both “ambitious1” and “adventurous2”.
Set in the near future, Cleverman tells the story of an ancient mythological species that must live among humans and battle for survival in a world that wants to silence, exploit and destroy them.
Giving physical form to 60,000 years’ worth of stories from the Aboriginal Dreamtime is no small task, but Weta Workshop’s crew of concept designers, who have lent their talents to the likes of District 9, Elysium and Avatar, relished the opportunity to explore a new world in a ‘near-fi’ future. Armed with knowledge and inspiration from director Wayne Blair, fellow designer Jacob Nash, and the team at Pukeko Pictures, more than 150 designs were created for the mysterious, not-quite-human family of ‘hairies’.
Meanwhile, Weta Workshop Senior Concept Designer Andrew Baker was tasked with dreaming up something decidedly not-human: the nightmarish monster that serves as the series’ primary antagonist.
Once the designs hit the Workshop floor, it was over to a specially-formed crew of technicians to craft the numerous bespoke hair pieces that were to decorate the bodies of the Hairypeople. Led by Hair Supervisor Fiona Sole and Hair and Makeup Designer Kath Brown, individual strands of hand-dyed hair were painstakingly knotted onto sheer lace bases, custom designed for each actor.
Cleverman may have Antipodean DNA but it’s already finding fans in both hemispheres. The first Australian TV show ever to be invited to screen at the Berlinale Special Series, its first two episodes premiered to “thunderous2” applause.
Starring an acclaimed ensemble cast featuring Iain Glen (Game of Thrones), Frances O’Connor (The Missing), and newcomers Hunter Page-Lochard and Rob Collins in the two pivotal central roles, Cleverman makes its highly anticipated small-screen debut in mid-2016.
“Our top priority was to reflect the passion and integrity that the makers of Cleverman brought to the project, by creating stunning imagery that did justice to the overarching ideas of this incredible story.”
-Weta Workshop Senior Concept Designer,
“Aboriginal Dreamtime mythology: what a fantastic and original foundation for a sci-fi story! Weta Workshop was invited to dream up some culturally relevant characters for Cleverman, and our design and manufacturing teams took to the task with great enthusiasm. It is very pleasing to hear the series is getting rave reviews.”
-Weta Workshop CEO and Co-founder,
Sir Richard Taylor
Cleverman is based on the original concept by Ryan Griffen, and produced by Goalpost Pictures and Pukeko Pictures for ABC TV with the assistance of Screen Australia, Screen NSW and the New Zealand Screen Production Grant.