Joe Bleakley QSM

Art Director, Concept Developer


  • Designed the “dressing” of the Ellerslie Racecourse, Auckland, for the “Telecom Derby Day”.
  • Designed the “Meridian Float” for the Cuba Carnival “Illuminated Night Parade” held in Wellington
  • President of The Island Bay Enhancement Trust since 2003. This Trust is responsible for organizing the Island Bay Festival. A 9 day long community festival held annually in February. The 2009 Festival ran from Sat 14th Feb to Sun 22th Feb. Programme details can be viewed on


  • Designer of set elements for the 2008 WOW spectacular held in the Wellington Events Centre
  • Design Consultant for the theatre production “Adagio”, Downstage Theatre, Wellington
  • Developed the concept and headed the design team for the “Telecom Christmas Tree”, a 27m high state of the art light sculpture set up in Victoria Park, Auckland, for the month of December. Highly successful, it will possibly become a permanent fixture in the Auckland “christmas” landscape.
  • Produced the short film “The Heist, Diamonds in the Desert”, directed by Charlie Bleakley, as part of the 2008 48 Hour Film competition. Our entry was a Wellington finalist.


  • Set design for the Australian play “Falling Petals” directed by Jean Betts and performed at Bats Theatre, Wellington.
  • Consultant to the Art Department for “vine” development for the Dreamworks/Vineworks production of the film “The Ruins”, shot at Warner Roadshow Studios, Queensland, Australia.
  • Produced the short film “Hellfire and Angels”, directed by Charlie Bleakley, as part of the 2007 48 Hour Film competition. Our entry was a Wellington finalist.
  • Production Designer of Stage 2 at the Aviation Heritage Centre, Blenheim. This stage involved the display design and installation of World War 1 memorabilia into display cases that had been built in stage 1.


  • Production Designer of Stage 1 at the Aviation Heritage Centre, Blenheim. This stage involved theming and installation of 21 WW1 planes and the design and construction of “walk through” display cases as part of the museum fit out.
  • Designer of the set for the Bizarre Bra section of the Wearable Art Show,
    held in the Wellington Event’s Centre, September 2006.
  • Produced the “48 Hour Film”, “Jake and Angelwhiskers”, directed by Charlie Bleakley. One of eight national finalists out of more than 400 entries. Chosen as a “wild card” by Peter Jackson.
  • Designer for the “Dame Kiri & Friends Gala Concert”, produced by the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, and held in Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre on Sat 11th Feb
  • Nominated by the Art Directors’ Guild (USA) for the Award of Outstanding Achievement in Production Design for Peter Jackson’s remake of “King Kong”
  • Production Designer on the Sad Animals production of Taika Waititi’s 1st feature, “Eagle vs Shark”
  • Set design for the 1st production of Dean Parker’s play “Baghdad Baby”, directed by Jean Betts at Bats Theatre, Wellington.
  • Art Director on Peter Jackson’s remake of “King Kong”.
  • Concept development work in Hong Kong with PPA Communications Ltd and Teamrite & Ims on Christmas theming for The Hong Kong Tourism Boardand the Pacific Palace complex.


  • Awarded the, Art Directors’ Guild (USA), “Honors” award for “Excellence in
  • Production Design: Period or Fantasy Film, 2003” as Art Director on “Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King”.
  • Dec. Designed and coordinated the theming for the NZ premier of Gaylene Preston’s film “Perfect Strangers”, held at Sky City Theatre, Auckland.
  • Chairperson of the Island Bay Enhancement Trust, a voluntary group responsible for organizing the Island Bay Festival. The 9 day festival is held annually in February.
  • Designer of the restoration and alteration of the main auditorium of the Embassy Theatre in Wellington, in preparation for the World Premier of “Lord of the Rings: Return of The King”.
  • Nov/Dec. Designed and coordinated the Lord of the Rings’ Art Department involvement in the party for the New York premier of the film “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” held in the New York Public Library on Dec 5th.
  • Production Designer on Preston/Laing’s film “Perfect Strangers”, directed by Gaylene Preston; starring Sam Neill and Rachel Blake
  • Awarded the, Art Directors’ Guild (USA), “Honors” award for “Excellence in Production Design: Period or Fantasy Film, 2002.” as Art Director on “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”


  • Designer of the Restoration of Foyers at the Embassy Cinema in Wellington
  • Won National Board of Review (USA) Award for Best Production Design/Art Direction for “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”.
  • Nominated by the Art Directors’ Guild (USA) for Award of Outstanding Achievement in Production Design for “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”.


  • Art Director on New Line Cinema production of “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson


  • Began ongoing development work with Gaylene Preston on her feature film “Ophelia”
  • Designer “Swan Lake”, fundraising ball for Royal New Zealand Ballet, at the Aotea Centre


  • Art Director for Grundy film “The Aberration”


  • Concept design and production of 20/20 Vision “Have Your Say” exhibition about the future of Wellington – for the W.C.C. Urban Design Unit.
  • Production design for the NZ shoot of the Swedish film “Christmas Oratorio”, co-produced with the Gibson Group.
  • W.C.C. formed the Island Bay Task Force to develop and oversee the carrying out of a long term plan for the enhancement of the Island Bay foreshore and Community Park. I was one of the original seven and continue to be an active member.


  • Production designer for the Gibson Group’s pilot production of “Coverstory”
  • Set Design for Downstage’s production of “Falling From Grace”


  • Art Director for Plumb/Capella International production “The Last Tattoo”
  • General consultancy: – Gibson Group: The Edge


  • Designed and oversaw the construction of “The Mountain”, the central exhibit at Capital Discovery Place (see below) with a team of architects, engineers and artists. It is a 3D labyrinth of pathways and ‘rooms’ designed to include 35 experiences. Completed are the vertical slide, a small theatre with backstage dress-up area, and mirror maze and flying fox for those in wheelchairs.
  • Developed a draft script (with Jean Betts, Para Matchitt and Kim Jarrett) for the live TV launch of NZ Endeavour, Grant Dalton’s entry in the Whitbread round the world race.
  • General consultancy:- Native Landscapes: Seaview Marina Ogilvy and Mather: Rutherford Awards WCC Environment Day: City Park
  • Conceived, designed and produced in partnership with Kim Jarrett the Toyota stand/tent for the Endeavour Roadshow (remote controlled car/yacht race)


  • General consultancy: -W.C.C.: launch of Civic Square
  • Ogilvy and Mather:- Rutherford Awards launch
  • With Jean Betts, developed the Concept Brief for the central exhibit at Capital Discovery Place. Known as “The Mountain”, its aim is to increase confidence and self esteem in children aged 6 – 12.


  • Opening and Closing Ceremonies of The Commonwealth Games:-
  • As a result of the success of the Opening Ceremony, I was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for Public Service (QSM) for services to New Zealand.
  • Contracted as designer (concept development and exhibit design) to work on new children’s museum, Capital Discovery Place, scheduled to open in Wellington in 1992.
  • Produced and designed the Awards Ceremony for the 1990 Pacific Festival of International Nature Films, held in Dunedin
  • In partnership with Kim Jarrett, submitted a proposal to Wellington City Council for the development of the old BNZ site as an enclosed garden, “The Giant’s Garden”. Subsequently was involved for a year on a W.C.C. development committee for the site. Lack of funds killed the proposal.


  • Contracted for fourteen months to work as Concept Designer for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games, specifically to develop and design my concept for the cultural display The Peopling of Aotearoa.
  • Submitted a proposal to the 1990 Commission for a nationwide event unifying the county to open and close the 1990 sesquicentennial events – also submitted a proposal to Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Bassett as the event had the potential to be used to introduce a new New Zealand flag.


  • Contracted by Communicate New Zealand to develop concepts for a New Zealand pavilion at the Fukuoka Trade Fair.
  • Developed concept to presentation stage with Athfield Architects for a fast (health) food restaurant chain prototype for the Japanese marketplace for “Famous Foods”.
  • Submitted landscape proposals (with Kim Jarrett) as part of the group of architects’ presentation to the Wellington City Council for the Wellington Civic Centre, specifically for a children’s garden/park, and for the Civic Square itself.
  • My concept (submitted with Mary Jane O’Reilly as choreographer) for the cultural display section of the Opening Ceremony of the 1990 Commonwealth Games was accepted.


  • Numerous TV commercials for a variety of Wellington companies, working as Designer/Art Director


  • Designer for “Haka”, a Donna Awatere/Geoff Steven production for television – a sort of musical documentary on the Maori Haka


  • Art Director for “Leave All Fair”, a New Zealand film shot in France, based on the life of Katherine Mansfield (a development of the film shot in 1980). Produced by Pacific Films, directed by John Reid, co-written by him, Stanley Harper and Jean Betts, and starring Sir John Geilgud and Jane Birkin.


  • Wrote, designed and co-ordinated the Wellington Sun Festival, a huge pageant and fireworks spectacle on Wellington Harbour (land and sea). A year long project, it involved the co-operation of hundreds of Wellington schoolchildren and the co-ordination of a very large design and production team. Special features of the event were the children’s procession, the fireworks, the large floating structures and Jenny McLeod’s original music.
  • My second child, Paddy, born in August.

1981 – 82

  • Returned to New Zealand to work as Production Designer on John Barnett’s production of the film Wild Horses.
  • Special Effects for Gibson Films’ children’s feature “Rumbletum”

1980 – 81

  • Art Director for English/French workshop film (shot in Paris) based on the life of Katherine Mansfield. Produced and directed by Stanley Harper.
  • Interior Design for Red Mole’s theatre in New York (Pyramid Theatre, Broadway).
  • Was accepted for one of four positions in the Goldsmith’s College School of Art and Design (London) holography course, run by Michael Wenyon. Subsequently offered a position at the school.
  • Worked as a freelance designer in the audio-visual industry in London.
  • My first child, Charlie, born in October 1980.


  • Joined Red Mole Theatre Group as their designer. Designed (and stage managed) their shows at The Balcony in Wellington, at the Ace of Clubs and the Sweet Factory in Auckland, and designed the major show “Ghostrite” for the Maidment Theatre in Auckland, and the Opera House in Wellington.
  • Toured America with Red Mole in 1978/79
  • Designer with the London based New Zealand theatre group Heartache and Sorrow for their 1979 Edinburgh Festival season which included design for Jennifer Compton’s “Crossfire” which won an Edinburgh Fringe First Award.


  • Worked freelance in the NZ film industry as a grip, on special effects, set design and construction and art direction. Worked on many commercials, documentaries and dramas, including:-
    • Art Director on Gibson Films’ production of “Old Man’s Story”
    • Key Grip, Assistant Art Director and Special Effects on Hannay Williams’ production of “Solo”.
  • During this time I also designed and built shop interior and fittings for Narnia shops in Wellington and Auckland.
  • Designed various rock and fashion shows.


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