Before last spring, film and video studies senior Sophia Hernandez had never left the country or even seen the ocean. She had certainly never worked on the production of a professional movie, especially not one as epic as Lord of the Rings.

All this changed when Hernandez boarded a plane headed for New Zealand, where she spent her 2001 spring semester studying at New Zealand’s Victoria University in Wellington and interning for Lord of the Rings.

“I wouldn’t trade my experience in New Zealand for anything,” Hernandez said.

With the help of film and video studies professor Andrew Horton, Hernandez was able to land the internship with Costa Bates, a longtime associate of Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.

Bates was working on the Making of the Lord of the Rings documentary, and Hernandez spent her internship observing the editing. She got to see a lot of the raw footage, but the closest she got to an actual set was a visit to the building where the miniatures for the movies were stored.

The miniatures, she said, were far from small, though. Entire landscapes had been modeled on a smaller scale. In addition, Hernandez said she got to witness many new and innovative techniques, but she was obligated not to say any more about the movie.

“I can tell you that it was the most intimate look at the film industry I have ever experienced,” Hernandez said. She said her experience made her want to go into film editing because of the creativity involved. Hernandez’s experiences in New Zealand also left her hoping to see more of the world.

“It was a time in my life to do something crazy, to prepare myself for an exciting life,” she said.

Hernandez said her experiences with the local culture and the “absolutely gorgeous” landscapes have greatly influenced her. She has now made it a life goal to see as many new cultures as she can.

“I’ll go wherever they let me,” Hernandez said.

Horton said the New Zealand culture has also fostered many exceptional movies over the years. He said he was pleased Hernandez was able to participate in something as spectacular as Lord of the Rings.

Thanks to J Croft for the tip!