Profile: Gus Hunter | Pift Pacific Islanders in Film & TV

In June this year (2016) Gus Hunter was inducted into the Massey University’s College of Creative Arts Hall of Fame. The Hall recognises alumni who have made significant contributions to New Zealand’s economy, reputation and identity through the arts. Although you may not know him by name, you can be sure you’ve seen a film Gus has had a hand in – the Lord of the Rings trilogy, King KongThe Chronicles of Narnia series, Tintin, Avatar, The Lovely Bones, Hercules, District 9, Elysium and the Hobbit to name a few. Other films Gus has worked on with Weta Digital include: X-Men, Fantastic 4: The Rise of the Silver Surfer, and The Bridge to Terabithia.

Gus is a concept artist of Samoan heritage from Porirua who has been one of the longest serving and prolific creative members of Weta Workshop.

Listen to Weta Workshop’s Sir Richard Taylor talk about Gus in a Radio New Zealand interview about the induction, where he names Gus as “arguably one of the world’s greatest concept artists in the screen industry”.

From an early age Gus loved drawing and illustration; mainly from comic book inspirations such as those of Marvel, DC and Creepy comic books; but added to this Gus had an interest in the great European masters Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Gus, when leaving school went into the public service but soon decided to leave and become a full-time artist; starting his career as a painter and carver with a Wellington based Maori carving group. Gus soon found he needed to learn more about art, illustration and painting. This meant a return to study and completing a three-year diploma in visual communications and design at Wellington Polytechnic.

After graduating Gus worked as a freelance illustrator throughout the early 90’s where he found versatility meant work; he broadened his illustration style to suit cartoon, caricature, storyboarding, and working on semi-realistic to realistic art styles.

But Gus also wanted to give something back to the community (and particularly Pasifik community). He became involved in teaching local budding artists to illustrate local stories for children’s books that would be produced and printed for their own schools.

Gus’ world changed though In the Year 2000 when an old friend, Jeremy Bennett, who had just started working on the Lord of the Rings, told Gus about the visual effects art department for the LOTR trilogy under the American art director Paul Lasaine.

Gus by then had up-skilled on the use of computer tech as a tool for art creation as digital paintings (a craft uncommon then) and began his path to becoming the world’s best.

P.I.F.T. pays homage to Gus Hunter for all his achievements. He is an inspiration to other up-and-coming practitioners not only in the screen industry but also in the visual arts world, has helped the economy of Aotearoa, and we agree with Sir Richard Taylor when he says that Gus is one of the greatest! Malo Gus.

If you would like to register to work for Weta, check out Weta People.