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 — more or less.
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 sound stage 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 outside of the director’s tent 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, I was invited 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 or the next day’s schedule didn’t need approval. Others were partners on all of these roles 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, existing 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 for the day’s schedule of actors and extras 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, everything goes through Peter Jackson.
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 my interview with Peter Jackson would happen — it did.
Lunch happened and on the location set of Dale, up on a hill overlooking Evans Bay to Wellington, I was invited to that nearly sacred 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, anything we ate or didn’t eat isn’t clear. 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.
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND — We talked to Orlando Bloom in a sound stage on set during filming of The Hobbit movies. Bloom is a massive movie star, more than he is an actor, he is a franchise actor in series of films that have grossed billions. Of all the folks we interviewed I knew him the least (not at all) and he was the most difficult to read.
I recall that he was nervous but reading through the transcription that doesn’t show up at all. We talked a lot about Rings vs. Hobbit a lot here and that wouldn’t have been my choice. But there are no bad questions, it just feels slightly repetitive. However, after seeing “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” I do understand more clearly of what he was telling us. He was forthright and open.
It is worth a mention that Bloom is a physical actor who mixes it up with stuntees and action full bore. He doesn’t hold back.
If memory serves he was in at least partial Legolas clothes with some green pants and his legs were restless.
Other Q&A interviews about “The Hobbit:The Battle of the Five Armies,” include:
ORLANDO BLOOM: Apologies for munching an apple.
MEDIA: That’s all right.
ORLANDO BLOOM: So, yeah, how’s everyone doing?
ORLANDO BLOOM: How long have you been here?
MEDIA: Yesterday. We got in yesterday.
ORLANDO BLOOM: How long for?
MEDIA: Saturday morning.
ORLANDO BLOOM: All from the States?
MEDIA: No. I’m from Sydney.
ORLANDO BLOOM: Sydney?
ORLANDO BLOOM: States. LA.
ORLANDO BLOOM: Austin?
MEDIA: The One Ring. States.
ORLANDO BLOOM: Oh, yeah.
MEDIA: He exists entirely online.
MEDIA: The district of One Ring.
ORLANDO BLOOM: How is The One Ring?
MEDIA: Honestly, now we’re good. We’re still broke from our last party, actually. But otherwise we’re good.
MEDIA: So, now we’re seeing you out of the full hair and makeup and whatever. How does the process compare this time around, just in terms of duration and ease and whatever, to the first three movies?
ORLANDO BLOOM: To get made up?
MEDIA: Yeah. Have they refined the process so that it’s a breeze now?
ORLANDO BLOOM: It’s about the same for me. I think they simplified it for the hobbit, for Martin, because they came up with those boot ideas which– Actually, I think that was– A great idea by Viggo’s old makeup artist, somebody was telling me actually, funny enough. He came up with the idea for having the feet be boots.
Can you imagine how much time that would have saved? Because on Rings, they had the joint there and it was so visible that they had to– So, yeah, I think it’s– But for me, I just have my ears, and they just pop on and they seal them down in about an hour and fifteen minutes.
MEDIA: It takes that long just to do the ears?
ORLANDO BLOOM: Ears, wig, makeup, yeah.
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND — TheOneRing.net visited the set for a brief time during the final segment of filming, nearly entirely focused on the third film, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.” On the day of this interview Peter Jackson was putting his characters through a highly emotional scene toward the end of the film when one or more characters was in grave peril, perhaps the gravest of peril. In fact, the scene puts the grave in grave peril.
But the production wasn’t filming the action sequence. The camera was on the other half of the scene so instead the camera was focused on Martin Freeman playing Bilbo Baggins watching the grave peril unfold. Freeman’s face and voice spoke volumes about what Bilbo was experiencing. As of press time, I haven’t seen the film so perhaps those who have will know what we watched or perhaps it didn’t make the final cut. Either way, it was an acting lesson from a genuine professional.
The year previous I spent extensive time on set and for a myriad of reasons Freeman was the sole interview of the main cast that I failed to get so I was pleased to finally be able to sit down on set, in a tent on a sound stage and interview the guy who played the title character. There were perhaps five other reporters as well. If any of the following questions from the Q&A are bad, please blame them. A foot massage* for those who can spot the questions for TheOneRing.net (hint, it wasn’t the ones about the ring or feet.) A personal observation is that Freeman is often a thoughtful interview who doesn’t deliver canned answers but I find his words here to be particularly engaging. Sadly, the interview, while reasonable in length left us wishing for more. Continue reading “Martin Freeman talks ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ with TheOneRing.net”
MIRAMAR, NEW ZEALAND — In the final few weeks of filming for “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” a handful of journalists visited Peter Jackson’s set at Stone Street Studios near Wellington, New Zealand to do a final round of interviews during filming.
The invitation included TheOneRing.net. The pack of journos were given a lot of interviews in a short amount of time with the agreement with Warner Bros. to hold them until just before the final film. The veil is lifted and here is the interview, with minimal commentary. (Assume the less good questions aren’t from TORn!)
We met in the mess hall, empty except for us on a windy day. Pace is even more handsome in person than expected, dressed casually but smartly and he gave very thoughtful answers — as you will read — and appeared to be thinking while he spoke. In fact, at the time the interview seemed extraordinary, especially as he talked about his character. Some of these phrases could be engraved and hung somewhere. Reading through it more than a year later, I hope fans enjoy it as much as I do.
We were fresh from Weta Workshop, Academy Award winner Richard Taylor as well as interviewing Academy Award winner Dan Hennah and having a tour of the offices of the Art Department where we saw concept art and models and props of all kinds.
Here is the conversation: Continue reading “TheOneRing.net and Lee Pace on set to talk ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies””
NOTE: Click on any of the photos and then click again to see a much larger version. We think most of these are worth the clicks.
You can smell it in the air and see it in the water and there is just no disputing that Queenstown, New Zealand is a special place. The Hobbit Fan Contest winners left some pretty amazing experiences at Rotorua and especially Hobbiton Movie Set to climb on a plane at head to the south island of the two-island nation.
More than one fan wondered aloud, “How can they rest of the trip possibly live up to this?” And then Queenstown worked its charms. The area is heavily saturated with Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film lore. And while there was always tourism for the majestic Southern Alps and the Remarkables set around a ski resort town that also happens to be the gateway of the world, there will long be an impact there from the six episodes of Middle-earth Peter Jackson delivered. Continue reading “Hobbit Fan Contest: Queenstown, gateway to Middle-earth adventure”