Sir Richard Taylor

Weta Workshop Founder

When did you first realise that you had a different way of thinking?
I went to a small country school in Te Hihi (south Auckland) and quickly began to realise that I had a fascination in art and sculpture even from this early age. I realized I could achieve things of worth through what I could make with my hands as opposed to what I could write with a pen. Through my teens I found that, while my classmates were focused on more traditional school boy pursuits, I was fascinated with the works of Hieronymus Bosch, Giacometti, Rita Angus, Alan Lee and all things in the visual arts. So from an early age I realized that my interests and capabilities within the creative arts would ultimately far exceed the potential I had in any academic pursuit.

What was your experience of school?
I enjoyed school for the most part and attended Wesley College which was very accepting of students of differing capabilities and interests. The great thing at Wesley was that I was left alone to develop my interest in art and along with the art teacher was able to really build the art class that now exists at the school. Wesley prides itself on sporting and agriculture prowess, of which I was in no way interested, and therefore I formed a great focus and commitment for my art. I fortunately chose a tertiary education that did not require me to sit a single written exam for the three years of the course as everything was tested on artistic and practical skills.

How did you get involved in special effects?
I always knew that I wanted to make things with my hands – hopefully sculpture, model making, etc – and when I had completed my graphic design course at the Wellington Polytechnic I was able to enter the film industry and with my partner (Tania Rodger) set up a small workshop to service model making, puppetry and other effects based projects.

What are the main work challenges that you have had to overcome?
I ultimately chose a career that did not require me to work with traditional academic tools so the job I do has allowed me to play to my strengths. Likewise, the (Weta) workshop is a celebration of a group of New Zealander’s that have acknowledged these strengths also and chosen to stray from a more traditional career path. We daily interact and get to create with some of the most talented New Zealanders, many of whom celebrate their diverse uniqueness through their craft and their career here at Weta.

What do you think are some of the positives and negatives of dyslexia?
In our public schooling system, our large class numbers put undue pressure on the precious teaching resource that in turn struggle daily to fulfill the expectations of the ordinary student, never mind those that are struggling with certain learning difficulties. Students need time and attention to celebrate their uniqueness and to be guided towards a future that endorses and celebrates their differences. 

With the right one-to-one focus, acknowledgement and assistance a young person (that is not finding a natural fit in the academic streaming in their school) can still become a unique and impactful member within NZ society.

What advice would you give young New Zealanders who are dyslexic?
Celebrate that you are different to the other 90% of the students around you, because this uniqueness is something that can make you stand out as someone special with wonderful technical and artistic attributes. Find those special attributes and bring them to the fore. Pursue and enjoy the things that you are good at, even if they do not necessarily get you the academic pass at exam time because these skills will be incredibly impacting as you journey into adulthood and find your future career.

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