Manchester Master Builder Auditions Report [Interview]

James Shields traveled all the way from Ireland to Manchester in order to audition for a master builder spot at the new LEGOLAND Discovery Center there. We announced the auditions last week, and James went to check it out. He’s posted photos for everyone, and graciously agreed to this interview about the process.

TBB: Thanks for telling us about your experiences in Manchester, James. Let’s get started: Was this an all-day affair?

JS: Yes, it ran from about 10am until nearly 5pm.

TBB: Did they give you a building challenge? If so, what was it?

JS: There were two building challenges. For the first round we had 15 minutes to build an animal of our choice. This sounds easy,. but 15 minutes disappears incredibly quickly. I built a polar bear (though it started out intending to be a gorilla). About half of the candidates got through to the second challenge, which was to build a face. Again, it was up to us what face we wanted to build, and what techniques we wanted to use. I went for the fantasy author Terry Pratchett because I’m a fan of his work, and I thought he looked distinctive. Again an hour is very tight for this, so I concentrated on the centre of the face, with a view to expanding it if there was time left over. I built upwards, using sculpting techniques, and was quite pleased with the result, although I only got from the lips to the forehead (it would have been nice to include the beard and Terry’s distinctive hat). There were some excellent builds, and I wouldn’t have liked to be judging, but I was very pleased to get through to the final four and the interview stage.

TBB: Were there a lot of other AFOLs there trying for the job? What about non-AFOLs?

JS: Most of the participants were AFOLs to some degree, and there were clearly some very talented builders. However, one of the finalists hadn’t touched a brick in ten years – he said that Lego had inspired him to become a professional modelmaker using other materials.

TBB: What did the non-AFOLs think of the hobby, assuming they were aware of it?

JS: The one I spoke to said he was seriously thinking of unpacking his old Lego collection.

TBB: Do you think that being an active LEGO hobbiest helped you out in this process, or was that not a factor in what they were looking for?

JS: Definitely. I think the biggest factor was the skills I’ve developed over the last few years. In the interview stage I also stressed AFOL activities I’ve been involved in and how they are (hopefully) relevant to the position.

TBB: The big question for me, was it fun?

JS: Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day, especially the building challenges.

TBB: Is there anything else you’d like to add about the process?

JS: A major part of the event was to win publicity for the LDC, so everything was under the scrutiny of cameras, and we were all interviewed to camera several times during the day. It was made clear that PR was part of the modelmaker’s role, and as a result they wanted someone who can handle it.

9 comments on “Manchester Master Builder Auditions Report [Interview]

  1. Dan Post author

    Leigh, James asked me to make a point of his travel from Ireland to Manchester. I think the bigger deal about it was that he traveled on the same day that he was auditioning, so it was exhausting.

    I’ve also noticed that Europeans seem to think of cities being close together or far apart in completely different terms than Americans do.

  2. Catsy

    It’s worth noting that while they’re not that far from each other in absolute terms, Ireland and England are on different islands/landmasses separated by anywhere from 12 to 100 miles of water. There are ferries, the most direct of which between Dublin and Manchester is about 60 miles across the water. It’s not like flying to Africa, but it’s still not a trivial day trip.

  3. lostcarpark

    Thanks for the comments, guys. As mentioned, distances between European cities tend to be smaller than in the US, but we do have a few bodies of water that get in the way.

    I left my house about 6:30am on Friday, drove to Dublin Airport, got a 7:45 flight to Liverpool (I could have flown to Manchester, but when I was booking it was a little too expensive), got a coach from Liverpool airport to Manchester, and arrived at the hotel where the auditions were taking place about 10:30.

    It worked out pretty well as I got to meet up with some of my UK AFOL buddies on Saturday.

  4. lostcarpark

    ^ Yes he did. :-) Huge thanks to Robert Clarkson, and to Pete Reid and Yvonne Doyle for all their help with lifts and places to stay.

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