Cast your mind back, not that far, just to early March this year. Cafés are full, bars are heaving, people are travelling and the theatres are packed. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is pulling in the crowds at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne and Nathan Weyers of NJW Designs is gearing up for the regular behind the scenes automation inspection to ensure another perfect show… and then everything changes. Overnight the production is closed there is no work and everyone is told to go home and stay there. It all sounds like a Hollywood movie however we all know that this really happened.
Unable to work in the theatre, Weyers and his team were devastated. The company had been working hard, collaborating with 48 other theatre productions, and this year was to be a time for a new creative direction for NJW Designs. The business was moving to the next level with a rebrand to FORM IMAGINATION and this new name would present the Australian theatre design company as a global player. But as fate would have it another direction lay ahead.
But stepping back a little….
Nathan Weyers owns and operates a theatrical design and fabrication workshop based in Ballarat, Regional Victoria. His love affair with the theatre began when he attended the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) and crystalised in the following 10 years when working in the professional entertainment industry. As a crew member and designer he toured Australia and Asia on such productions as Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins, Lion King and Aladdin and honed his craft through a variety of roles that ranged from Head Mechanist, to Automation Operator and Production Carpenter and everything in between. Concurrently he was freelancing, designing for other smaller productions, until 2016 when he saw an opportunity and established NJW Designs, a multi-faceted design and fabrication hub specialising in the event and entertainment industry.
The NJW Designs hub comprised of state-of-the-art machinery and specialists in design, engineering, drafting fabrication, automation installation and technical management. The business was a great success and Weyers and his team worked across small and large-scale productions that included The Book of Mormon, Frozen the Musical, AURA – Sovereign Hill’s new Sound and Light Show, the Australian tour of Muriel’s Wedding and various productions at the Belvoir Theatre in Sydney and the Australian Ballet Company in Melbourne. However all that changed and this is when Weyers found a new direction.
Moving the office to a work from home scenario in March, Weyers and his core design group tossed around some ideas on how best to adapt and, taking stock of product already at hand, came up with the idea for designing and manufacturing sneeze guards for local cafés and other businesses. With families working and studying from home, Weyers saw another opportunity and designed a flat pack, lap top stand. His design was tweaked, the template made on the CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine, a timber supplier was found and all available sanding supplies were purchased and so FORMEDBYFUNCTION was born.
At night he began to learn about e-commerce in order to build an online store and he investigated social media. Over the next week he designed 20 more products and each day the factory would produce the template and then the item would go online. Aware of waste, and not making for the sake of it, Weyers designed products with a purpose and function, items that would be easily assembled and could be delivered flat packed.
Soon the orders started rolling in, many from friends within the entertainment industry, and Weyers, aware that these colleagues in the Arts had also lost their jobs, decided to donate $10 from every sale to three charities supporting Arts workers. At the moment the business is now so busy that 15 staff are working full time and weekends just to meet demand.
So from devastation to enterprise and hard work, Weyers has re-directed his path and re-invented his journey. The products that he and his team are designing and constructing is sustainable in the long term, affordable and required. He is also venturing further afield and producing bespoke furniture all with a creative’s eye and a carpenter’s finesse. It is indeed Show Time again but for the moment the production is an online product list and the audience is global but sitting at home. It’s not the same as it was but it just shows that adaptability and fortitude can and does achieve a standing ovation.
But that’s not all folks…
Just yesterday Nathan Weyers took five meetings to recommence work on theatre and event productions that had been postponed in March. Things are starting to happen again and FORM IMAGINATION is moving forward with Weyers sorting plans for a global return behind the spotlight. It’s been a ride but now the real Show Time is back.