Main Reactor goes out on a (severed) limb

Behind the unremarkable door of a nondescript industrial precinct building in the Auckland suburb of Henderson, is a disturbing scene – one part alien birthing unit; one part abattoir; and one part medieval torture chamber.

But rather than prompting screams and a call to emergency services, the gruesome pile of innards from a large bovine and the grimacing severed head of a large bald gentleman is just another day at the office for Roger Murray and his wife Felicity Letcher.

They are the creative and business brains behind world-class special effects workshop Main Reactor. With their team of up to 20 technicians, they have contributed incredibly realistic props, costumes and stage sets for a growing list of local and international feature films, television shows and commercials.

The Shannara Chronicles (MTV and Sonar Entertainment) and Ash v Evil Dead (Starz Entertainment) are two new names proudly added to the company’s lengthening list of credits.

Roger is right at home supervising the use of buckets and buckets of fake blood. For Ash v Evil Dead, that meant up to 150 litres in big scenes, and new ways of chain saws being used to cut things which are a lot softer than a pine log.

Main Reactor, founded in 2002, forged its reputation through a succession of feature film productions including The Last Samurai, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Avatar, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon II: The Green Destiny and continues to shock, thrill and excite worldwide audiences through its work.

The company is a key contributor to Auckland’s screen production industry, which delivered more than $900 million revenue to Auckland’s economy in 2015 according to Statistics NZ.

Main Reactor is renowned for its work on the television series Spartacus for Starz – with its signature bloody gladiator fights lent brutal realism by the magic created in the workshop. The legacy of that work is a ‘library’ of scars which new clients can select from, like a macabre menu.

Felicity says ATEED has helped Main Reactor achieve its growth ambitions.

“Word of mouth is incredibly important in our industry, and it has been great to have Screen Auckland explain what we have done and can do to visiting producers scouting the region. ATEED has also done a lot of work on proposals to improve Auckland’s screen infrastructure, which is crucial for attracting larger international productions.”

Main Reactor’s current focus are opportunities in the global medical industry – particularly for their world-leading work on prosthetics which has attracted the interest of the University of Auckland. ATEED’s international investment specialists have helped connect Main Reactor with potential overseas markets for this new venture.

ATEED is also helping Main Reactor explore potential research and development grants from government agency Callaghan Innovation which could help the company’s work in this area.

Main Reactor’s hugely realistic prosthetics are ideal for testing and training emergency room staff team work. They have already been used at Auckland Hospital and there are plans for the training to be rolled out at North Shore Hospital.

Roger has used his ingenious methods to produce three scenarios for emergency room teams to be confronted with: a nasty stab wound, a burst appendix, and a leg severed by an explosion.

“We are quite excited about the potential for growth. It’s massive really. The medical simulation market globally is huge,” says Roger.

Adds Felicity: “It’s the great cross over between the make believe of the film world and the very real medical world, and something that can actually save lives.”