Tuesday, March 24th, 2020 at 10:05pm by Benjamin, BZPower Reporter
[Source: Nuju Metru]
LEGO Masters is more than halfway through its first season of American reality TV, and BZPower's Nuju Metru (Aaron) continues to impress us in his ups and downs with build partner Christian each episode. Aaron, as the â€śClark Kentâ€ť on Team Clark Kent and Superman, brings his impressive knack for creature building, structural design, and storytelling to every challenge. BZPower chatted with him before the show began, and now we dive into the juicy bits as we ask about his highs and lows, his spectacular builds, and what happens off-camera. Read on for more on LEGO Masters and who we're rooting for.
On LEGO Masters, teams of two compete to wow the judges, Amy and Jamie, LEGO set designers and theme managers, and to upstage the other teams. Aaron and Christian are one such team. Aaron blogs about his LEGO builds here, both professional commissions and hobby endeavors. This includes summarizing the thought and design process behind each week's LEGO Masters build. His build partner is his friend Christian, who shares his LEGO life on Flickr. Together, they've had some great moments on the whow. Today we get an in-depth look at what life was like being on LEGO Masters.
BZPower: Hey Aaron! Thanks for making time for another interview. How's life?
Aaron: I'm good. Thanks for accommodating me on this [phone call]. Been pretty crazy busy these days and it's easier for me to talk.
BZP: You're a teacher, right? So consistent Monday through Friday schedule?
A: Yes. And then on top of that I've also got commission work I'm doing, and my blog, and posting Instagrams, and getting content ready. There's all this stuff going on. (Plus planning my wedding.) It's pretty crazy lately.
BZP: Congratulations! When's the wedding? You know, some BZPers have made BrickFair VA their honeymoon before.
A: Hahaha! End of May. Actually, I can't make BrickFair for this year. We're going to Australia.
BZP: Now, first, congratulations on earning the Golden Brick on the first episode! What were you feeling when you got that? How jealous were the other teams?
A: Thank you. Christian and I were quite excited. It was such an honor to receive the golden break. Obviously the competition was at that point at its largest so to get recognized was such an honor. Beyond that, it was so cool to be the first team in LEGO Masters US history to win a challenge. That was pretty amazing. I think it really put Christian and me on the map and in people's awareness and the awareness of the other teams. I think we put a target on our back after that point. But you know, all in good fun and everyone was very supportive, very proud of us and I felt super pleased with that as well.
BZP: Second, recently, you turned the Golden Brick in for immunity against elimination. How did it feel making yourself vulnerable for future challenges? Do you think that was the right decision in Episode 4?
A: Well, I think it was the right thing to do. Christian and I, we built a model we were very proud of. It was not exactly what the Brick Masters [Amy and Jamie] were looking for on that challenge. And for us that challenge was so much about storytelling and about nailing the genres that were given to us. He and I just didn't really deliver in that regard. I mean, we had a build that was very clearly a romance before the twist, but with the twist, you know, combining romance and fantasy, which we've already sort of done unconsciously, and thriller, it just proved to be too much. So that was a challenge we couldn't really surmount. We put forward the movie we're proud of, but we knew that using the Golden Brick was also the best. That was the best time to do that.
Having the Golden Brick was both a blessing or a curse. It was a blessing because you had an awareness of immunity, right? And you knew that you could fall back on that if you needed it, which was great. But it was also a little bit of a burden, because, like I mentioned, a lot of teams have it out for you. They're like, â€śI want to get your golden brick.â€ť And the Brick Masters as well expect really good things. They give a lot of constructive feedback to all the teams, but being a team with the Golden Brick, I think they expect as much as possible from us and it was a little bit weighty to carry that around.
Also I feel like having that brick meant having that safety net in some ways, that it did keep us a little bit from really building like our lives depended on it. Building not just to scrape by, not just to survive, but building to win because there was no other option. So that was it. It was invigorating certainly to build without the Golden Brick. But you know, we've done without it on our first challenge. And that still turned out great. And I think our work post-Golden Brick also speaks for itself, and I'm very proud of what we've done without the Golden Brick as well.
BZP: Now let's talk about building: What was the part selection like?
A: It was fantastic. I mean, in terms of basic elements, bricks, plates, color variety. It's all great.
There was a really good selection of Technic--better than I expected. Although there were some times when you know the contestants were rushing through Technic faster than the challenge team knew how to restock, because we all need friction pegs, and of course when you have ten teams run through friction pegs like they're water, you're going to need to restock those very often. There wasn't Bionicle, as I've said before, unfortunately, but still a lot of good joints. Good hinges, plate (modified)--the selection was really pretty good. There were very few times when I found myself running up against a challenge where I was like, â€śAh, it only I had this brick,â€ť and couldn't think of another solution to work around it.
BZP: No Bionicle, but we did see a Hero Factory minifig helmet in a few shots. What was the minifig selection like?
A: Yeah, I know those did pop up a little bit. The minifigures selection was really interesting, and I kind of wonder where they source minifigs from, because we had everything from Modern LEGO City type torsos, just your run of the mill kind of stuff like construction workers and sweaters and just basic city minifig torsos. Everything from that to stuff like those Hero Factory helmets, and even some of the 90s Western characters as well.
Christian and I used a lot of the Alien Conquest minifigs [from 2011]. Like there was all kinds of stuff there and it was really cool to get to use not just current pieces on many things, but also more vintage ones. I think that gave a fun flavor to a lot of builds that wouldn't necessarily have been achievable using standard sitting minifigs.
BZP: How many storage trays were you allotted? Were the build tables big enough to your liking?
A: Build tables, they were quite bigger than what I have at home. But of course, when you're working with two people and you're working on something that's much larger than you would normally build, that table space does get kind of crowded. You have to make frequent trips back [to the Brick Pit]. There was a dump bucket that you could just shove miscellaneous parts into if you needed them out of your way. For my system at home I use a lot of really carefully sorted bin, bags, etc. And it's all within, you know, arm's reach of where I'm working on it. With the Brick Pit, there's a lot more running involved. But the sorting was immaculate; everything was exactly where it was supposed to be. And the time spent running was kind of made up for once you came to learn where this stuff was in the Brick Pit. You could just grab it. You didn't have to dig through any boxes really. Which was a luxury, honestly.
BZP: Did anyone ever need pieces other teams had?
A: Rarely. Usually there was enough brick to go around for everyone. But there was a time when Mixel joints were in very high demand. I must admit Christian and I were part of the problem. This was during the cut in half challenge, and we were building that squid with all the tentacles that had to be very pose-able. So knowing what we were going to build, I grabbed a ton of those right out the gate. I was like, â€śOh, we're gonna need a lot of these for tentacles.â€ť Other teams found themselves needing them too, and I had them but I was going to use them. So I kept them.
That was an unusual circumstance. In almost every other case, there were enough parts to go around for everybody and the challenge team did an amazing job of keeping things stocked for us and making sure that people's needs got met.
BZP: What was the schedule like? For a 15 hour build, or even a 9 hour build, I would guess you'd be given at least two days in the studio. How were lunch breaks and bathroom breaks handled?
A: There were breaks. We built for maybe 15 hours, but that was split up over the course of sometimes two or sometimes even three days worth of work. When the clock was running and you had to go to the bathroom, you could but you'd be dipping into your own time so most people didn't do that. Usually the longest you'd be working in a row would be about five or six hours. By I guess union rules for the crew, we were forced to take lunches so they took lunch and we took lunch at the same time. But yeah, it was usually the build periods were not longer than five or six hours. Although you go in the next day and they have to make sure you're wearing the same outfit, that your hair matches, all that sort of stuff for continuity.
BZP: What about talking in the confessional cutting into build time?
A: Those were all shot after the builds finished. So we're talking in the present tense as if things are happening now in that reality show trope, but those are all shot after the builds themselves.
BZP: Do you get to touch up the builds after the clock hit zero? Stand up any fallen minifigs, make sure the motors are running, etc?
A: Almost never. The only exceptions to that were things like, and it's not really touching up, if we were using motorized components. There's a pairing process where you get the Bluetooth technology working. Since you don't want the batteries to be draining all the time, you usually wouldn't have that paired except for when you were presenting your build. You want it to work as well as possible. If I had to go into a structure, take off a lid that I designed the cover of battery box, turn the battery box on, make sure it was working, put the lid back, that sort of thing we could do, but they were very careful not to let us adjust the build after we had turned things in
BZP: We've seen teams go from high criticism to high praise from the judges (and vice versa). How do you overcome constructive criticism from the judges?
A: Well, it's different for everyone. It's a very personal response in terms of what your communication style is, how you respond to feedback, what kind of feedback is good for you. It's obviously a very high stress environment. And all of us, you know, we're wanting to do our best every challenge. So when you get constructive criticism from the Brick Masters, who you know your fate is in their hands, to a certain extent that feedback is very important to listen to, to integrate. I think it's, for me, when I got that feedback, I never felt like it was unfounded, which was really nice. The Brick Masters know what they're talking about. They're giving you adjustments that are solid, and so I always wanted to do my best to integrate or improve based on what they were saying.
BZP: Let's go beyond the builds now: Who decided on the wardrobe? You're often wearing a suit jacket, some contestants get more casual. Plus for multiple days of filming, don't the clothes start smelling? Are you saving the BZPower shirst for later?
A: No, I didn't have any of those with me, unfortunately.
Before the show had to send in pictures of some wardrobe choices that we thought were good. And then you know, there was a process where we would kind of get coached by the wardrobe team and they say, â€śOh, we like to have this, do you have more things like that?â€ť This is kind of at the end, over the course of the weeks leading up to the show shooting and maybe the first week of being in LA. The wardrobe team kind of settled on what everyone's personal look was and what they wanted to show, you know, that sort of thing. And I think, for me, and Christian having sort of the Clark Kent/ Superman branding, you know, they wanted me to look like Clark Kent. So they leaned into the more formal aspects of my wardrobe, nothing I'm uncomfortable with. (Like it wasn't like I was wearing a tux.) But that was just the aspect that I think they wanted to highlight. And so ultimately, those decisions were from wardrobe, but most of the clothes that you see on the show belonged to contestants themselves.
BZP: Consistency, but smelly clothes?
A: We would have our clothes washed every night if you're wearing them for the show. You would you take them off and then they would get cleaned overnight for us the next day, which is very nice. It was then I got probably 10 haircuts when I was in LA also from the hair and makeup team because they want to stay consistent. You know, they want they want everyone's look to be static. So that was that was pretty cool.
BZP: What was it like being around Will Arnett all the time?
A: I mean, the guests were all really sweet. very gracious. Very funny. Will himself is honestly so nice and so approachable, which I didn't necessarily expect for, you know, a celebrity of his caliber, but he was very excited to be there. He was having a great time with all of us. Created a good rapport with many of the contestants. He's a cool guy; I was really grateful to get to know him and work with him.
BZP: What about meeting some of the guest judges? Like Mayim Bialik, Phil Lord, Chris Miller, Terry Crews...
A: It's very cool. As I said on the show, The Lego Movie directors [Lord and Miller] was a big deal for me because I just love The Lego Movie, and it was so cool to get to meet some of the minds behind it. Terry Crews was extremely gracious and gentle as well. You'll see more of what he does in the [next] episode. It was fun to have an extra presence in the build room. Usually they wouldn't be necessarily as active in the feedback or on the floor with the contestants. They're more there to shoot bits with Will--stuff like that. But it was really cool to have them around.
BZP: Did you and the teams hang out after the cameras stopped rolling? What was the night life like?
A: Yeah, we, I mean, all the contestants, we got extremely close with each other. We all stayed in those same hotel. A lot of times after a day full of building, everyone's kind of burned out and we would all just go back our separate ways. But you know, the Mandalorian was coming out at the time of we were shooting so everyone, on Friday nights, we'd all go and watch the show together in someone's room. We would oftentimes go out for food together, sometimes weekend excursions. And, generally speaking, we were spending tons of time together with these people. So we all got very close. And that translated both on and off the set.
BZP: What wisdom have you learned from building in such close quarters, under time constraints, with a build partner, that you'd like to pass along to fans?
A: I mean, so many of us, myself included, usually build LEGO solo. And for me, the reason I do that is because it's my way to siphon the fact that I love it. It's also like a kind of a re-gathering activity. You know? I'm an introvert. So doing something creative by myself for a while is one of the ways I recharge myself. Working with a partner is a different experience. But it's not a bad experience by any means. I was nervous about working with a partner going into the show, because it's not something I did very often, but it's really cool to have someone there who you can bounce ideas off of, and who you know. In the case of Episode Five with the building collapse that happened to Christian and me, to have someone there who has your back, who's there to help you up, keep you hyped, and support you in this stressful endeavor, that was really a blessing. I feel very lucky to have had Christian as my partner in this experience because he was exactly what I needed.
BZP: That's wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Anything we didn't get to?
A: No, I don't think so. You've been very thorough, and thanks for doing this in a way that was easier for me to accommodate. I really appreciate that.
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