Director Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, the follow-up to Ridley Scott’s iconic science fiction film, has earned universal critical acclaim worldwide. Alongside stunning visuals and cutting-edge digital effects, the film features monumental physical miniatures, built and filmed in New Zealand by Academy Award-winning Wētā Workshop.
The miniatures build-and-shoot took place in Wellington in tandem with the film’s production in Hungary. Reuniting crew who had worked together on miniatures for The Lord of the Rings, Wētā Workshop was tasked with creating, and subsequently filming, three expansive miniature environments: a Los Angeles cityscape, complete with enormous L.A.P.D tower; parts of the Trash Mesa, a vast ruin on the outskirts of L.A; and a set of colossal pyramid-shaped skyscrapers. Wētā Workshop’s Design Studio was commissioned at an early stage to help conceptualise key scenes for the film.
In Villeneuve’s Blade Runner future, the Los Angeles of 2049 is populated with megalithic buildings on a scale unconceivable in today’s world. Under the leadership of Wētā Workshop senior art director Ben Milsom and production manager Holly Beals, the Workshop crew combined precise 3D modelling and laser-cutting techniques with traditional model-making craftsmanship, to build a series of towering structures; some so large that, even shrunk to as little as 600th scale, they dwarfed the artists and technicians who worked on them.
Lower Hutt’s Avalon Studios, with its purpose-built shooting stages, was the ideal setting to house and film these enormous creations.