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East County Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020 1 year ago

Myakka couple follows the Lego brick road

Myakka's Tyler and Amy Clites compete on 'Lego Masters.'
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

While Myakka  City resident Tyler Clites tinkered with Lego bricks every day, his wife, Amy, tinkered at the piano.

Until now.

The piano will have to wait.

Tyler Clites needed his wife to partner with him when they forged into the spotlight as competitors in the new Fox

television series “Lego Masters.”

After the first three episodes (the show began Feb. 5), the Clites are looking strong in the 10-episode competition. So far, their highlights have included constructing a farm-inspired section of a theme park with a ride that drops an egg from a chicken. They also have built a green one-eyed space monster who was dropped off a ledge and exploded.

With seven episodes remaining, only Tyler and Amy — and the other 18 contestants and show producers — know the outcome.

“We’re having watch parties with friends,” Amy said. “We can’t tell them how we did.”

“We’re sworn to secrecy,” Tyler said.

Their friends are even putting together wagering brackets on who might win.

The couple said it is exciting to see their work converted into a finished television product and then shared with others. Amy said she’s convinced her husband is one of the best Lego builders in the country.

The monster build was Tyler’s favorite personal build, and it was the judges’ favorite for the space-themed Episode 2. The pair stuffed the monster with loose, red Lego, so it would look like its guts were coming out as it exploded.

“There’s something cathartic about building something and seeing it destroyed the way you imagine it,” Tyler said.

'LEGO MASTERS' host Will Arnett talks with Tyler and Amy Clites about their concept for design. Arnett did the voice for "Batman" in "The Lego Batman Movie."

Tyler, who grew up in Brandon, has a degree in film from University of Central Florida and now creates and photographs Lego sets for a living. He works for Build Better Bricks, which sells instructions for creating 3D Lego art. A subsidiary company also sells Lego sets with instructions.

Tyler started building with Legos as a toddler. He had the larger Duplo Lego blocks but became enamored instantly after getting the small Lego pieces.

“I was obsessed with them,” he said.

He has used them ever since while  building a reputation for his skills in the Lego community as a teenager and during college. He began landing commissioned Lego art pieces and two years ago started working for Build Better Bricks.

Amy, who grew up in Lakewood Ranch, teaches piano and is the owner of Key Touch Studio in Lakewood Ranch. She had not played with Legos before the competition. Her role at home has been to help sort the Lego bricks back into bins after Tyler finished creating a new model.

Although Tyler said most Lego builders dislike sorting the pieces, Amy found it to be relaxing.

“I’m a very organized person,” she said. “I didn’t know that would prepare me [for competition]. I knew all the parts and pieces.”

News of the show spread, and friends and colleagues of Tyler encouraged him to apply. Ultimately, the show’s casting department recruited him. When he had trouble finding a partner — his friend Sean Mayo, of Maryland, could not take off the time from work — producers suggested Amy join him.

Amy was surprised when he told her over dinner, but she was up for the challenge.

“She picks things up really fast, so I didn’t have any doubts,” Tyler said.

In October 2019, they reported to Los Angeles for filming. Each episode took three days to film, and contestants

Amy and Tyler Clites show of the "newlywed" house — modeled after their Myakka City home — they created to use during promotion of the television series. It even has their Lego room in it.

generally had about 15 hours to design and build each challenge. Full filming took seven weeks.

“It was definitely the ultimate Lego bootcamp,” Amy said. “I loved working with my husband. I loved seeing ideas turn into 3D form and then have the resources, millions of bricks, at your fingertips.”

Together, they felt they had the skills to be top builders. They had great design, experience, time management and organization.

“We had a lot of fun,” Tyler said of the experience. “We always felt very proud of what we created.”

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