With a loud whoosh, a flame bursts out of plasma cutter, before Danny Caldwell lowers his welding helmet face shield.
A fountain of sparks cascades towards the ground as the flame hungrily devours its way through a section of metal.
The plasma cutter is one of the many items in Danny's toolbox of tricks that help create a variety of creative stuff in a large industrial warehouse in Paraparaumu.
Welcome to CKFilmdesign, a costume and film production studio, where a team of artists and master craftspeople provide quality costumes, props, creatures and set design services to the film, theatre and other industries.
Spearheading the studio is owner Charlotte Kelleher, who is the creative director looking after the costume design and fabrication side of the company.
Business partner Danny is the go-to guy in charge of sets and props.
Charlotte's husband, Matt Kelleher, is the commercial manager, and senior dog patter, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the business.
He wrote the screenplay for the film Space Invader, which won various awards as well as the grand prize in the Vision Feast Film Festival in Auckland.
Charlotte was the costume designer for Space Invader too.
CKfilmdesign is a hive of activity, especially when various projects are in full swing and other talented people are contracted in.
"We have quite a wide variety of work," Charlotte said.
Whether it's working on props and fabrication for the World of WearableArt Show, new gowns for the Ministry of Justice district court judges, a creature for Wellington Paranormal, or custom poker tables, the work is always interesting.
"The problem solving is the fun part," Danny adds.
"A lot of the time people have an idea what they want to do but they don't know how to do it."
The coolest area of the studio is a specifically designed "witch's laboratory".
Moreover, it's a bit of a showcase highlighting CKfilmdesign's range of skills.
CKFilmdesign started in 2016 and was based in a Newlands warehouse before relocating to Paraparaumu in April 2021.
It was the brainchild of Charlotte, who has had a passion for design for many years.
In her early 20s she trained in fashion design in Wellington before taking on a corporate path for about 10 years as she and Matt raised two small children and needed income security.
About six years ago she had the opportunity to get back into her costume design in Saudi Arabia where Matt had some work.
"From there I decided to take the plunge and follow my passion," she says.
"I gave up IT to be surrounded by all this madness and it has grown from there."
Danny has had a long-term career in the movie industry.
"I knew since I was a kid, growing up in Washington, that I wanted to be involved in film or theatre.
"My father was a theatre guy.
"I went to Eastern Washington University and got a degree in electronic media theatre and film.
"I started out stage managing for a mid-level studio, in Los Angeles, and then started freelancing.
"I was a lighting technician initially and then got hooked into the art department and never looked back.
"I worked for MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1 and then into film and became a production designer.
"One of the big ones I did was My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, which was a Werner Herzog film."
Danny came to New Zealand about 10 years ago for "a change of pace and something different" and because his ex-wife told him there was a film industry here "which I had no idea".
He was the stage construction leading hand on the night shift during filming of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit.
"I worked on The Hobbit for about three-and-a-half years before going freelance and working on everything since then."
CKFilmdesign is located in Ihakara St.
- This article first appeared in the Celebrating Kāpiti spring/summer 2021 magazine.