A report from Matt in Melbourne: “I thought I’d write to you about an event that just took place at the Treasury theatre here in Melbourne Australia as part of the Popcorn Taxi program.

“Andrew Lesnie (Oscar winning Lord of the Rings DP) was in attendance and shared stories of Oscar night, film making, his career and its humble beginnings, how technology affected the rings trilogy, the pros and cons of digital film grading and how the effect heavy Babe films prepared him for LOTR among many other topics. Andrew came across as a very funny, likeable and enthusiastic guy who has a genuine love for what he does, very inspiring. It was great to see his early work and refreshing to see that he wasn’t ashamed or too hung up to show us some of his very early unpolished material.

“He shared stories from his early career (including filming a Mad Max behind the scenes documentary) up to his current role in the LOTR trilogy. He and Peter hit it off immediately when meeting and the amazing attention to detail of the Weta artists was one of the deciding factors to him signing on board as DP. He also mentioned that he and Peter shared a common vision that character acting and storytelling, as well as a solid script be the basis of the film. (a certain un-named fantasy film franchise maker could learn much from this)

“The big news here I guess is that he has seen a work print of The Two Towers which he said runs at 2hrs 15 mins (I do not know if this was before or after this years pick-up shots, which he said mainly consisted of character development scenes previously reported)”

[However we have news from Jack which contradicts this: He said “While attending the San Diego Comic-Con, I had a few opportunities to chat with Richard Taylor. One of the first questions on my list to ask him was: “Are the next two movie going to be as long, or longer than FOTR?” He answered by saying (and I quote):

“Oh definately. THE TWO TOWERS running time is going to be around 3 hours and 20 minutes long.”]

Back to Matt’s report: “Andrew mentioned that the second film is very different than the first and that it is much bigger in scale and scope. He also seemed genuinely excited about it in a way that seemed like his honest opinion unlike the hype that seems to pour from Rick McCallum’s mouth whenever he seems to open it. The Two Towers will also be 100% digitally graded (fellowship was approx 70%) thus bypassing the quality losses associated with anamorphic optical stretch which he seemed to think was a more relevant issue in terms of quality loss than interneg/pos printing/duplication from the original film negatives.

“He was involved with the pick-up shots earlier in the year and expects to be involved in the pick-up shots next year for Return of the King. Also of interest was his involvement in the lighting of the 3d sets and elements, not typically a job of the average DP. During the night some Fellowship footage was screened courtesy of Village Roadshow which was an excellent, pristine quality print. I don’t remember it looking this good when seeing it even on opening day at the first screening here in Melbourne.

We were also privvy to a screening of the quite funny behind the scenes doco about the Sean Astin directorial debut ‘The Long and the Short of it’ which was shot on high definition, making use of many key LOTR cast/crew and facilities. This documentary further illustrated the bond and enthusiasm shared by the cast and crew of these films. All up Andrew was a great pleasure to hear speak, like I said earlier, he was an incredibly likeable, down to earth ‘no bullshit’ kinda guy. It was easy to understand why he and Peter got along so well. If you live in Melbourne, dig LOTR and the work of Andrew, I cannot imagine a better night out. With so much talk of the pros associated with digital grading I would have liked to hear Andrew’s opinion on digital image aquisition via 24p high def but I guess there is only so much you can fit in an evening. The night was put together by Popcorn Taxi and was MC’d by Melbourne’s own Head Film Geek Paul Harris”