Grant Major

Grant Major

AS: As principal photography is going on, do you spend a lot of time on the set?
GM: I start the day on the set, way before call time. I’m the first one there if I can be. But by and large I tend to not hang around on set. It depends a little bit on what’s going on that day. If it’s a very complex day then I’ll hang around for that. In New Zealand and Australia and England we have a Standby Art Director role. The person who leads my onset crew is my standby art director. He keeps me informed on what’s going on and what’s coming up and how the day went. It’s more flexibility for the director on the day without me having to be there.

AS: I heard that Peter Jackson often changes things at the last minute.
GM: Absolutely. He stays flexible right through. Right until the button’s pressed on the camera.

AS: When he does make a change like that would that go to the standby art director or would you get a call?
GM: It would be a bit of both. If it’s something that can be handled on the day by the art director, all well and good. But in that case that person would call me and if I’m close by I’ll probably drop by anyway. We do things a wee bit differently here. Things don’t tend to be quite as locked down as in America on a daily shoot. A bit more invention happens on the day.

AS: You directed your own short film (Undergrowth, 2009). Are you thinking of transitioning to directing films?
GM: I’ve got to earn money! (laughs) To feed my family and things like that! I don’t think changing to directing now is really going to be that beneficial to that. At the same time it’s only a short film but it took up six months of my time, which was in-between projects. I learned a lot from it. To be able to write, direct, and edit my own film was fantastic. I’d been very lucky to raise 100 grand to put into the project, so it was all shot on 35 mil and had all the bells and whistles. A lot of vis effects, a lot of favors pulled in.

I like to keep on the edge of risk with what I do because it keeps me vital. Making a short film was a venture into the unknown. I’d like to do it again with another sort of short film, or maybe a longer film. But I’m not wanting to become a director per se, it’s just a way to stay creative.

AS: How do you feel about not doing The Hobbit? Is that something that you wanted to do or you were glad not to do it?
GM: Both. I was asked about doing it when I was in the middle of another project. And I sort of felt like I’d been there and done that. I’d spent years and years of my life on Lord of the Rings and it sort of felt like it would just be doing it again, really. Also, I wanted to spend time back in Auckland with my family. The Hobbit was in a different city and I’d just become a commuting dad again for another three or four years. So I was happy to turn it away but at the same time I would love to have done it as well. It is what it is. I was offered the work and I was empowered enough to turn it down and work on other things. I don’t like to put all my eggs in one basket. I like to work with other directors and take other opportunities and different sorts of risks.

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About the Interviewer

Tom Lisowski is a production designer who has designed swamp mazes shot in China, crumbling cliffs in Utah, future arenas in South Central, dilapidated tenements and twisted laboratories under luxurious mansions... William Anthony is a Los Angeles-based commercial and editorial photographer specializing in portraiture, lifestyle and documentary imagery... Guest photographer Nelson Cragg is an award-winning cinematographer who shoots and directs television, feature films, and commercial projects. Contact ArtStars: tom@artstars.us