Artist/Sculptor Dean Nikijuluw

October 27, 2011
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You're watching The Voyage of the Dawn Treader for the tenth time. You watch as the Pevensies sail across the sea, aboard their ship, the "Dawn Treader." You watch as they are kidnapped by slave traders and bravely free themselves and their cousin. You see the sets and the props that brought this magical story to life. But have you ever wondered who is behind those sets, and how they came into existence? That's a question I repeatedly ask myself when viewing films. I often find the people behind the scenes to be more fascinating than those on the screen; the people who truly bring a story to life are those who design and build sets and props; it's those things, more than anything else, that bring a new world into existence.
 
I was recently given the opportunity to interview one of the men who brought this film to life.
 
Rachel- What was your job description when building the Dawn Treader?

Dean Nikijuluw- It's kind of a mess of departments: From the director down to the `invisible army,` which is what the construction department is called. (It's written on our payslips.) In construction, they have all the different mediums to build the sets (eg: the steel shop builds the basic framework for buildings, rocks, the Dawn Treader; anything really. Then the structure is moved to a sound studio where most of the work is done until completion, or film, which is where I come in. 

So artist/sculptor would be my job description for lots of different jobs that may crop up in the art or sculpting department (which was one department,but two teams of sculptor/artists). Fortunately, I was able to do both
 
RH- How much did the script and book effect the building of the Dawn Treader?

DN- I was one who didn't read the book, so if Barry (the director) came over and said he wanted more of a twist in the tail of the Dawn Treader, we would put more of a twist.

RH- What was your job once filming began?
 
DN- Part of the `invisible army`s` job was to build to concept, then vanish, so I wasn't involved with the filming at all. Although anyone was allowed on set (provided you kept invisible) to view filming.

RH- Describe the building process of the ship from start to finish.
 
DN- Building the Dawn Treader actually started with all the accessories like the captain's wheel, the prow, ornaments you would find on a fantasy vessel, the tail; this went on for about 2 months.Then Studio 8 started making the framework, closely followed by carpenters to clad the ship. it actually had to be built specifically to be dismantled, so they could set it in different locations. I think there were 178 odd pieces. While the carpenters were completing the hull, we were working on the tail and prow. When on set, deadlines were paramount, but the ship ran over time, and over budget. But you work until it is done, which I think took 5 months to film. Filming constantly happens. As we were leaving after a 10 to 12 hour day, the film crew was half way through setting up for scene, or moving equipment and sound gear for a completed one. Anyway, when the hull was finished, we attached the prow, tail and shaped and attached the dragon wings. There was blending to do, so we ended up working on the some of the deck. After the ship was built, I spent some time working with the plasterers, completing the `enchanted garden,``the slave market,`and some other sets which were so laden with computer graphics that I couldn't tell where they were in the movie.

RH- How much did the design of the Dawn Treader change from the original design to what we see on film?

DN- I didn't read the book, so the design of the Dawn Treader came to us in a model/marquette about 200mm long. But what you see on film is pretty much what we built.

Dean Nikijuluw is one of the men who brought the magical world of Narnia to life in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. His work is seen throughout the film as you watch the "Dawn Treader" sailing into the sunset, and Edmund and King Caspian fighting their enemies on the Lone Islands. Dawn Treader is as wonderful as it is because of Mr. Nikijuluw.





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