Welcome to the latest “Getting to know” – questions that need answering. It’s based on the old Getting to know you threads that I occasionally post on the message boards here on TORn, so those familiar with them will know that the questions can be a little crazy and the answers even crazier.
This month we’re asking questions of self-described Online guy at Weta Workshop and all round top bloke, Magnus Hjert.
Note:A photo gallery follows the text and videos, click for larger versions.
The mill at Hobbiton Movie Set
NEW ZEALAND — During the world premiere of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” New Zealand wisely took the opportunity to show journalists from around the world (and Australia) a lot of the amazing things its island nation has to offer. TheOneRing.net was part of one of the tours and rather than regurgitate all the footage, photos and writing we gathered at once, exactly when all the other journalism outlets of the world did, we thought it would be great to disperse it and share it over the course of 2013 in the lead up to “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”
After all, Tourism New Zealand’s motto is “New Zealand is Middle-earth” and this is true in so many ways and for much longer than just the weeks after the debut of the film. For example, above is the video made for TORn by fellow filmmaker Dan McBride who shot and edited the video tour you probably have already watched. We, and a gaggle of other media, toured the Hobbiton Movie Set and witnessed Prime Minister John Key open the new Green Dragon building accompanied by a bunch of actors who reminded us a whole lot of a company of Dwarves. (Incidentally, we had just talked to him the day before so when he showed up again, we wondered why we were being followed and what we had done wrong.)
The video speaks for itself but this remarkable property is, as far as I know, unique in all the world for its ability to transport visitors inside a book, or a movie for that matter. Being there doesn’t feel like walking on a set, rather it feels like immersion. It looks, smells, sounds and feels like one imagines Hobbiton would if you could take a magic wardrobe to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The Hobbit holes scattered about are, more or less, as they were for filming of “The Hobbit,” movies. It seems safe to assume we will see more of The Shire in subsequent movies and in the Extended Edition on home video before the end of the year.
At the Green Dragon
Meanwhile, not far from Auckland, sits this unique and amazing tourism experience. The still functioning sheep and cattle farm where the now-permanent movie set is placed, is owned by the Alexander family, as it was when discovered for “The Lord of the Rings,” films. Their television rugby match interrupted by strangers led to parts of the family farm being among the most beloved locations in fantasy film and literature. Now visitors take tours daily, either by booking directly through the farm or through travel agents, tours or cruise ships. There are several options available, including overnight farm stays, private tours and lunch options. Matamata, as authentic a small New Zealand town as you will find, serves as a gateway to the farm, offering transportation daily and had just opened a visitor’s center when we visited.
Hamilton is also near with more accommodations and an airport. Not far from Auckland, 160 kilometers in fact, visitors can easily manage the two hour car ride. It goes without saying that driving through the countryside is spectacular as well. My dream would be to meet with TheOneRing.net staff and friends in The Green Dragon, which can be reserved for private functions. They serve food and drink and I just bet you can guess what size the ale comes in. Weddings have and will happen here. The atmosphere and the finish on the place are just as good as you hope they are. In truth, for movies fans and Tolkien fans, the entire movie set experience is simply magic.
Waitomo Caves Black Water Rafting
Some tourists will hop off the cruise ship or land in Auckland and make the farm their only stop in the region and in my opinion if you made it all the way to New Zealand and don’t see more of the region you are doing it all wrong. The tour also provided us the opportunity to visit the world famous Waitomo caves. They contain the exceptionally cool glow worms and there are different ways to experience it all, including the black water rafting experience that I couldn’t resist. Hamilton serves as a good gateway to both spots and neither is to be missed. In the gallery below I will drop in a few Waitomo photos but it is an entirely different story to be told and if there is any need to explain the importance of caves to Middle-earth, you might be at the wrong website.
The region is full of food and drink, excellent accommodations and plenty more worth-while excursions. We will tackle them all in a future story. But add the farm visit and Waitomo Caves to your bucket lists. They really are wold-class destinations not to be missed but especially not by Tolkienites.
While you are here, please enjoy other videos from the premiere. First, actors talking about rings:
And Red Carpet highlights.
A map of the New Zealand region with Auckland and Matamata.
A detailed map of where The Hobbit Move Set is located near Matamata.
The door of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
Seems like a good place for a party
An average human male (Dan McBride) stands in front of a small Hobbit door.
The mill at Hobbiton Movie Set
Water at Hobbiton Movie set
They may not like boats but Hobbits have docks.
The visitor’s center in Matamata, New Zealand.
Flower at Hobbiton Movie Set
Actors look on at the opening ceremony of the Green Dragon
Still water, a view of Hobbiton Movie Set
For scale, an average sized adult (MrCere) at a Hobbit door.
A Hobbit window at Hobbiton Movie Set
Flowers and door at Hobbiton Movie Set
The interior of the Green Dragon
At the Green Dragon
By the lake and the mill sits the Green Dragon
The exterior of the Green Dragon
The bar at The Green Dragon
Detail of the carved green dragon in the Green Dragon
Floor plan on the wall of the Green Dragon of the Green Dragon.
Inside the Green Dragon
Door and menu at the Green Dragon
At the Green Dragon
Interior of the Green Dragon
Waitomo Caves black water rafting with glow worms.
The creative forces behind television’s “The Amazing Race” wants to put Tolkienites, including TheOneRing.net readers, in a competition based reality show with a fantasy flair. TheOneRing.net spoke with casting director Paul Gordon about the new series that is coming to a major television network this year. Expect an announcement and promotion soon.
“There is a potential for people to live out their dreams and we want to give them a platform,” Gordon said.
The concept of the show, called “The Quest,” is to put fans of genre entertainment in a competitive environment tailored to highlight participants’ love of fantasy and adventure.
“It is cool, it is “The Amazing Race” in Middle-earth.”
A “Lord of the Rings,” Executive Producer is also on board. The project has been on the drawing board for a while, but now all the pieces are together – except finding the cast.
“We don’t do profile shows – this is not ‘Jersey Shore.’ This is not ‘Honey Boo Boo.’ The drama here is not, ‘That B!#@% stole my milk!’ There is no contrived drama, we don’t need it.”
Instead, the show wants to find people willing dive in fully and accept the quest to be a hero.
“We want people who are willing to go there with us. We want people who love this stuff. We are definitely looking for personalities – competitive people – not people sitting in a house. You are competing. Where it is LARP or D&D or baseball or basketball, you are going to get revved up.”
TORn tried to find a lead on age or interest or demographic or type that would help land roles but Gordon insisted that on a big network, they were casting a wide net, looking for personality and especially one character trait: “We love people who are competitive – we want this to be important, we want to see them go for it. They might be quiet competitive, might be sneaky competitive, there are many different ways to be competitive.”
He also tried to stress that there are television shows around that poke fun at those invested in niche entertainment and that is not this show.
“Big networks go after everybody (for their audience) and we also look at it as a teaching show. People look at things like DragonCon as unusual – we want people to understand why people do this.
“People laugh at this and say that is not our thing and a lot of what we like to do is teach people.”
“It is so similar, it is shocking to me. It is more familiar than you realize. There are whole sections at Eagles games – people go there and pretend they are something else and think they affect this thing. If they only knew how similar they are!”
Those wishing to enter the selection process can do so by email or by showing up in select cities at early-season conventions to meet with the Emmy winning folks behind the camera. Anybody able to show up in person at the following events, he promised, will be considered.”If you show up to an event, we will look at every single person. ”
The production will be looking in the following cities:
Seattle (coinciding with EMP Fantasy Exhibit Opening) – April 25
Chicago- C2E2 – April 27
Texas – Dallas Comic Con – May 18th
Phoenix – Comic Con - May 25
New York - No event planned yet, will hold VIP invite event for those in the area who apply
Philadelphia – Wizard Con – May 1
This Thursday Gordon will be in Seattle to meet potential candidates, mail TheQuestCasting@gmail.com with the subject RSVP Seattle. They want your name, age, location, a photo, your interest and why you would be perfect for the show.
But anybody in fandom can send in an application to TheQuestCasting@gmail.com, Seattle or no. Include in that email: Your name:
Your hobby/fascination: (Tolkien, Game of Thrones, LARPing, Cosplay) What makes you perfect for a show like this:
If they like what they see, they can schedule an interview or, worst case, they will Skype with candidates.
“We have 13 Emmy’s, nine with Amazing Race. No one (in reality shows) can say that. We are doing award-winning stuff and we never do a show that is fake.”
Profiles Television is behind the show.
So where will all this happen?
“I can’t tell you,” Gordon said, “But it is pretty freaking cool.”
Once again it has been a long time since I posted in this series, but what with the run-up to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure and the reaction to it, TheOneRing.net has been a busy place, and now we’re coming up on The One Expected Party on Oscar night! But I’ll delay no longer.
In the first entry I recalled getting the permission to interview the filmmakers and going down to start my work, back in September-October of 2003. The second one dealt with my first interview and tours of the Three Foot Six office building and the Stone Street Studios. Now, more of the facilities I visited.
The Film Unit
My third full day in Wellington was Wednesday, October 1. Melissa Booth called and said I could come to the new Film Unit building to meet Barrie Osborne. He, as I cannot stress often enough, was the one responsible for getting me New Line’s permission to interview the filmmakers for my book. This meeting, though, wouldn’t be for an interview. (I interviewed Barrie twice for the book, first a couple of weeks later and again during my third Wellington visit in December, 2004.) He was driving out to the old Film Unit facility that afternoon to give the people working there, sound mixers, editors, and other post-production crew members, a pep talk.
As most readers know, the race to finish The Return of the King was on by that point, and a lot of people were working long hours. I was told that Barrie often gave these pep talks, and the filmmakers really appreciated them; it was part of what gave the production that feeling of being one big family. I could at least introduce myself to Barrie and ride with him to the Film Unit; the half-hour drives there and back would allow us time to talk about my project. (more…)
This week, Vanity fair is looking at Oscar nominated films in a recurring feature called “Sketch to Still.” The series focuses on the creative process of making movies. This week they are talking to Oscar nominee Peter Swords King about his work in makeup and hair design for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit movies.
The dwarves’ look is also influenced by their lifestyle. “They drink a lot—their manners are really bad at the table. Any person who’s drunk all their lives, their nose is going to get quite red. All they do is eat meat. It’s not a very good diet. They live outside, so they’re beaten, battered, and bruised,” says King.Once the sketches were perfected, the filmmakers began casting. At this point, the hair-and-makeup team fit the actors for wigs, as well as prosthetics.
On a day usually marked by celebrations, we are very sad to report the untimely death of our Kiwi friend, Mike Hopkins, who worked alongside American compatriot Ethan Van der Ryn as Sound Editors on the LOTR Trilogy. Mr. Hopkins (pictured on the left with Van der Ryn) would go on to win Academy Awards for Sound Editing on two of Peter Jackson’s films: The Two Towers and King Kong. He and his friends were rafting in the Tararua Range when their watercraft capsized. The complete story can be found here at Stuff.co.nz.
Ringer fans have in the past met Mr. Hopkins at public events and our own Oscar Parties held for LOTR cast & crew, where he showed extraordinary humility and appreciation for the love showed by our unique fandom. The staff of TheOneRing.net are deeply saddened at this tragic news and extend their sympathy and prayers to Mr. Hopkins’ surviving family and friends. We wish him godspeed on his new journey, certain that he can make the thunder of Heaven sound that much sweeter to the ears of the Divine.
Christmas brings to mind the timeless, poignant image of a mother cradling her newborn child.
At this rather apt time of year then, TORn’s music geeks are pleased to bring you an exclusive interview with Hilary Summers.
An alto hailing from Wales, UK, Hilary recorded “Gilraen’s Song” that plays over the scene where Aragorn kneels in reverence before his mother Gilraen’s memorial in Rivendell, and whose lyrics hark back to the words once spoken by Gilraen herself.
Little boy, little one, night is falling, come into my arms, let me hold you safe. But still you run through the twilight, lost in your play, slaying demons in the shadows. Little boy, little one, full of grace, full of joy, oh, my heart will break,
For I see it in your eyes… you are your father’s son, not your mother’s child.
Join us in this exclusive interview as we talk to Hilary about her experience recording the song for The Lord of the Rings.
In amongst all the excitement and celebration of the new Hobbit movie, tonight the very sad news has broken that Eileen Moran, an Executive Producer at Weta Digital, died in New Zealand on Monday this week. Moran worked extensively with Peter Jackson and the Weta team, including on The Lord of the Rings movies and The Hobbit movies. She missed the Hobbit premiere last week because she was in hospital. You can read more here. Everyone in the TORn community would like to extend deepest sympathies to her family, her loved ones, her friends and her colleagues.
A decade ago, Matamata was a sleepy country town in the middle of the North Island, well-placed for travellers in need of a comfort stop and a takeaway snack. Today, it is better known as Hobbiton and is one of the country’s star tourist destinations, attracting 1.9 million visitors over the last 10 years. It is poised for a fresh invasion starting this Christmas which seems certain to top that number over the next decade.
It all began in 1998 when movie director Peter Jackson took to the sky in a small plane in search sites to film his planned trilogy of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
His target was a piece of countryside untouched by concrete buildings, power poles and roads that he could transform into Hobbiton, the primitive village home of Tolkien’s small, hairy, Hobbit people.
A family farm outside Matamata, set about halfway between the provincial capital, Hamilton, and the tourist city of Rotorua, and complete with Tolkien’s so-called “party tree” and a lake, proved perfect. (more…)
This entry begins my recollections about the places where The Return of the King was still being worked on when I showed up at the end of September, 2003. They are scattered mostly around the Miramar peninsula, which was and is sometimes referred to as “Wellywood.” I gradually visited all of them to interview filmmakers or to get tours to familiarize me with the facilities that Peter Jackson and his colleagues had built up. That process had happened during the 1990s, but it accelerated to a breathless pace as the infrastructure for accomplishing the three parts of The Lord of the Rings were built and expanded.
Those facilities have grown even further as King Kong, Avatar, and now The Hobbit have been made. This is the story of how I discovered them in 2003 and 2004. (more…)
As part of their series on fandom, Vulture has profiled our one and only Tehanu. They talk to her about the founding of TORn, her famous banning from the sets, the resultant meeting between TORn and the movie makers, her views on The Hobbit films and what she’s doing now.
As we wrap up our “World Hobbit Day” festivities, we at TORn are pleased to bring you one final piece of our celebratory specials via an exclusive interview with Aivale Cole (nee Mabel Faletolu).
For fans of Howard Shore and the music of The Lord of the Rings films, Aivale (credited as Mabel Faletolu on the soundtrack of The Fellowship of the Ring) perhaps needs no introduction. For the rest, you probably recall that most heartrending of voices that engulfs the broken Fellowship as they emerge from the darkness of Moria and grieve over Gandalf’s fall into Khazad-dûm.
That piece was sung by none other than Aivale, a vocalist hailing from Wellington, New Zealand. Back in 2001, she recorded the solo piece with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
Join us in this exclusive interview as we catch up with Aivale who, after more than a decade, takes us back to that “crazy but exciting” time when she worked with Howard Shore and Peter Jackson, and also shares a rather amusing anecdote involving Ian McKellen.
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