MIRAMAR, New Zealand — The director’s tent. Inside a sound stage or outside on location, it is a constant and central fixture on a movie shoot. It is home base for Peter Jackson and his team.
It is sacred ground – well almost.
The decisions made inside it, by the team, under Jackson’s direction, are crucial to the project where it is determined what will later happen in front of the camera.
So every day, whatever happens to a set or a soundstage overnight, the tent is there set up and waiting for the core of the shooting unit.
Editor Jabez Olssen, Script Supervisor Victoria Sullivan and First Assistant Director Carolynne Cunningham call it home during the shoot. Cunningham is out a lot, Olssen and Sullivan less so and Producer Zane Weiner is always near. Jackson’s assistant Sebastian Meek is in and out at all times, bringing badly needed tea and watching the door from outside to eliminate distractions inside.
Jackson lives on tea and Meek has a talent for having it handy at the perfect moment.
SETTING THE SCENE
In April, 2012, as a representative of fandom via TheOneRing.net, to be on set during five weeks of the filming of the Hobbit films. At the time, it was still scheduled to be two movies and the production had just settled in to shoot in studio instead of on location. Much was unknown then, that now is completely familiar to fans.
When I first arrived at Stone Street Studios, the publicity team took me to set, showed me the ropes and left me to my own devices during the rest of my stay to meet folks and get interviews, which was great. No time and no need for babysitting.
I was there to be a good guest and to observe. Two weeks later I was definitely convinced I had no chance of talking to Peter Jackson, except for an occasional, “Hello, how are you getting on?” from him during my time there.
Fans world-wide know from production diaries, how exhausted Jackson gets during the shooting phase of filmmaking. It is important to really understand why.
Peter Jackson is a busy guy. Particularly when he is shooting, there is a lot to do in a day and a lot of people that need to understand his vision in order to do their jobs well; he is the hub of the great spinning wheel.
He is the director, a writer and a producer — each a big job on its own. Many films have one of each of those, or several of some, all working together. But Jackson was all of them at once and combining titles didn’t mean there was less work to be done. Just because he was reviewing shots didn’t mean the script didn’t need his touch or that the art department didn’t need his input as a director or the next day’s schedule didn’t need approval. Others were partners on all of these fronts but they also required Jackson.
In a day he might need to meet with the effects supervisor, set designers, concept designers, costume designers, the composer or see actual costumes for approval or changes to name just a few of the many things that require his time. He will confirm the schedule with his Assistant Director, producers and spend time with the Second Unit Director Andy Serkis to make sure all is to his liking. They need sets built, greens grown, sets decorated, concept guys working ahead, materials guys building everything, maximizing actors’ time, feeding all of those people, screening extras, bringing in the right number of prosthetic artists and on and on. In short, there is never a shortage of people who need Jackson’s input to work on his vision and it takes the logistics of, dare I say, planning a battle with five armies.
In short, he has to sign off on pretty much everything.
Those are the reasons “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” and his other Hobbit movies are genuinely Peter Jackson movies. It also means he is booked.
THE FINAL HOURS
And so it was, the last day of my time on The Hobbit set, after several assurances that it would happen — it did.
Lunch happened and on the location set of Dale, up on a hill, I was invited to that director’s tent to sit and talk with PJ, just the two of us alone. (One editor asked me if we ate together in the tent but I don’t think so, but why many memories are crystal clear of that meeting, I just have no idea.)
I had been inside before, but not often. The day I shadowed him, I spent several hours, trying to melt into the background. This was his sanctuary and office.
Is the third and final Hobbit movie complete? There is some evidence to suggest it is, as social media folks from Weta Digital say they have finished the long, long job of bringing Middle-earth to the cinema.
From as good a source as a source can be, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” is not only virtually done as you read these words, this is the final day of production on the film. Keeping in mind that New Zealand (where, if you haven’t heard, the films are made) is 16 hours ahead of Hollywood, the following quote comes to TheOneRing.net from the future, Friday morning:
“Today is the day!! The last reel goes out the door tonight.”
We have also learned from two sources that Weta Digital delivered its final shot Thursday night, leaving the final touches on the final reel of the final film. Pure speculation here, but that must be an emotional process, knowing that the great big collection of talent is completing the task it set out to do years before. And for Jackson and those around him, it is definitely the end of an era.
A lot of tired workers at Weta Digital will be getting sleep soon but the filmmakers now begin the job of promoting the film around the world, starting with the world premiere in London.
There is of course the extended edition of the final film, but heading directly to the home video market is different from unfurling a film in a theater. But there you have it folks, this is the last work week for the full post-production team on The Hobbit. Fans will feel an era has ended as well. The original, more speculative article follows below.
Director Peter Jackson – who if you paid careful attention to the latest Hobbit trailers, also directed a trilogy based on The Lord of the Rings – likes to push deadlines and make changes on his films up to the last moment. He was clear at the world premiere of the first Hobbit film about how he literally made changes the night before the premiere.
So is the film finished or is just Weta Digital’s work finished? Or is only a division of Weta Digital’s team finished? Nobody who knows is saying for sure (although we have asked!) but it is very possible “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” has had its finishing digital touches added and is complete. All this inspired by the pen of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Galadriel and Gandalf at Dol Guldur.
Typically the director or some combination of the director, producers and studio work on the film until they nail down its moments, beats and running time. Then the digital team finishes the film, working and polishing as much as time and money allow. With Jackson films, Weta Digital finishes parts way ahead and parts at the very last minute, working with the director closely. Concurrently, the score and sound effects are being mixed into the final finished product.
The film is shot in high frame rate, 3D and sound comes in a variety of format choices at the cinema including the most complicated and best sound: Dolby Atmos. All of these processes take time. In other words, there may still be a lot of details to get done before the film is done, but finished or not, the end is near and it is like twilight on the final day of Middle-earth movie making. Only clips for the inevitable extended edition remain and then, Jackson and company will soon say goodbye to Middle-earth forever.
Beginning last Saturday and running through to September 4, TheOneRing.net is hosting a Pledge Drive (see the banner at the top) as well as a bunch of auctions for some really cool memorabilia and collectibles.
The day-to-day operation of the website, and the events we host, require a lot more resources than when we first started nearly 15 years ago. We sometimes find it hard to ask our readers for the help we need to keep running, so we began discussing what it is that makes TheOneRing.net worth helping out. It started out as a search for the Top Ten Moments of TORn, but the list got so long because each staff member had their own idea of important moments in TORn history. Here, instead, is something more encompassing: Ten Ways TORn helps serve Tolkien and Lord of the Rings fandom (listed in no specific order).
And, if you enjoy what we do, consider a donation (no amount too small, because every bit does help!) to keep us running!
If you can’t, that’s fine as well — keep reading, commenting and contributing. Because TORn is as much you as it is us!
Today join us again for our weekly webcast TORn TUESDAY, as we our big presence at the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con as we present all the juicy dish on THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG!
Let’s have a closer look at what brings such huge interest and different fandoms together at this amazing show — and prep you for what we will reveal during our presentation! Bring your questions and comments to the chat!
We launch TORn TUESDAY every week at 5:00PM Pacific: brought to you by host Clifford “Quickbeam” Broadway and producer Justin “I Make Excellent T-shirts” Sewell — Our innovative live show includes worldwide fans who join us on the Live Event page with a built-in IRC chat (affectionately known as Barliman’s Chat room). Be part of the fun and mischief every week as we broadcast *live* from Meltdown Comics in the heart of Hollywood, U.S.A.!
WE APOLOGIZE that there is no available archive of this particular installment on our YouTube channel —- it was a “sneak preview” after all!
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With The Hobbit back in production this month, a couple of new sets are up at Mt Crawford in Wellington for a 10 week stint of new and pickup shots:
Fairfax NZ news spoke to to Sir Peter Jackson’s spokesman, Matt Dravitzki, said the site on Miramar Peninsula was being prepared for a few days’ filming as part of 10 weeks of final-cut shooting for the last two installments of the trilogy.
“We’re back filming in Miramar for 10 weeks, here till early July. We will be filming on Mt Crawford for a few days.”
In-case you haven’t noticed, the writer of the article did accidentally type the second movie title as ‘The Demolition of Smaug.’ Mistakes happen! Follow the link for the full article and some new SPOILER imagery. [Click Here]
We are very privileged today to share with you an exclusive spread from HarperCollins’ April 9th release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles II: Creatures & Characters. Compiled by one of our favorite people at Weta, Daniel Falconer, this follow-up to the first Chronicles book highlights all of our favorites from the film. Check out the Bilbo Baggins spread below (click for a larger version) and pick you your copy on the 9th! [On Sale at HarperCollins.com]
In addition, HarperCollins and Warner Bros. are teaming up to give away 10 Blu-ray™ Combo Packs of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as well as these first two books in the Hobbit series. The giveaway runs now through 4/9. [Giveaway]
Attention NZ fans! You can now get a chance of watching the 30 minute live webcast sneak peek at ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,’ hosted by Peter Jackson, if you pre-order The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from these stores The Warehouse or The Mighty Ape.
There are a limited number of access passes from both websites, with The Warehouse ending this offer at 12pm on 22/03/13. There are a limited number of 500, so pre-order soon.
The webcast will be held on Monday, March 25th at 8am! NZTime.
The DVD-Blu-day release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on March 19 heralds our chance to get a “first look” at the second installment of the movie trilogy The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Peter Jackson will live-host the sneak peek, which will stream over the internet on March 24 at 3pm EDT.
TVNZ reports that it is believed the sneak peek of the second film will last somewhere between 10 to 20 minutes — but details are yet to be confirmed.
TVNZ says that there is no final word on whether an extended version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be released — but Jackson hinted one was in the works at the Wellington premiere of the film last year.
Bootnote: Somewhat bizarrely, New Zealand Hobbit fans apparently have to wait until May 1 to purchase their copy, while it’s available in the UK from 8 April 2013.
There are several different versions available, all offering different goodies and extras. We recommend this excellent guide by TORn staffer MrCere and Ringer TheHutt if you want to compare the various versions and sets side-by-side.
Sharon Eberson from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interviewed “Tolkien scholar” Janet Brennan Croft she is a consultant for the film-makers of the Hobbit movie trilogy.
Her job for “The Hobbit” filmmakers is to make sure that writers are not bringing in outside sources because the rights are for specific Tolkien works.
She said has made continuity suggestions as well. “They have fixed some of the things I have mentioned [in the first film], but I don’t know if it was because of what I noted,” she said. “They are changing things all the time; the film was different than the last script I saw.”
For the majority of the world, the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was just a simple visit to your local cinema. But for Ringers like us, one does not simply walk into…theaters. What did you do to celebrate the release of the latest adventure into Middle-earth? Did you participate in a TORn Line Party? Maybe you took the whole family out for a long overdue special night? Maybe you got together with your closest friends and dressed up like Hobbits, Wizards and Dwarves! Whatever you did, we want to hear about it. We have a form below where you can submit your Ringer Report and send us a few images. We can’t guarantee we will post all of the reports, but we will post a lot of them! This is your chance to shine in the spotlight of Tolkien fandom! We look forward to your reports…[Link to Form] (more…)
For most of you, you’ve had at least your first viewing of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.‘ TheOneRing.net is proud to bring back our ‘Ringer Reviews‘ – a unique opportunity for fans to share their thoughts on this first installment of ‘The Hobbit’ Trilogy from Peter Jackson and crew. This is not just a simple text form. Among broad questions concerning directing and acting, we also get into specifics, so beware of Spoilers! (Ie, don’t fill in a review until you have seen the movie!!!) Once your review is posted and approved (we are simply moderating to keep things family friendly), share it with friends and family through the social tools right on your own personal review page!
If sharing your thoughts with the world is not enough incentive…we are going to be giving away some great prizes over the next week to randomly selected reviewers. We’ll be contacting winners with the email they use when submitting their review. Prizes will be doled out over the next few weeks, so stay tuned to TORn’s homepage for winner announcements!
Also, we are going to be working around the clock to approve your reviews as they come in, so please be patient with the dedicated efforts of the TORn staff. [Ringer Reviews]
UPDATED: We at TheOneRing.net where lucky enough to snare a really good spot right next to the three trolls created by Weta Workshop, on the Red Carpet at the Wellington Premier of the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on the 28th of November. In these videos are some of the actors we met, plus a few that flew past (Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Any Serkis) like the wind! I think I can safely say it was an amazing experience for all off us.
At TheOneRing.net party two nights earlier we were able to meet a few of these actors. So they recognised us as they went past — and as luck we where at the right place at the right time.
Watch our exclusive video from the red carpet below:
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