An SF convention! In Brisbane! Rare as hen’s teeth, you might think. But Supanova has rolled into town from Sydney, and is set to keep Brisbane’s geek collective – including myself – happy for a few weeks.

Unusually, though, I’m horribly disorganised and don’t arrive at the RNA Showgrounds in Brisbane until midday. This is a Bad Thing(tm). Bruce Hopkins was supposed to hit the stage at 10.30am. As I wander through the gates, I console myself with the thought that he’ll be on tomorrow and that maybe I can corner him for a few words during the afternoon.

The first thing I note is that there’s quite an impressive crowd – I twist and turn my way through the press of people as I figure out where everything is.

Lots of comic stalls – every comic store (and hopeful artist) in Brisbane must be represented here. Ooooh, Borders. Must stay away, books could be excessively tempting. I hurry on without stopping.

Around the corner is the WETA stall. Now, I’ve been reporting on the amazing stuff WETA which dreams up for ages, but seeing it in the flesh (or is that polystone?) is something entirely different. These things are truly incredible. For starters, they’re larger than I imagined. Most of the statues are two hands high, and the busts about half that. The colours are fantastic. Even the Frodo statue – which always struck me as a bit off in pictures – looks really good.

Standouts are the Watcher in the Water, an armoured Easterling and Gimli posing amid the ruins of Moria with his axe. I boggle at them for a bit – idly pondering the pile of cash sitting in my wallet. Even a rabid hater of dust collectors wouldn’t mind owning one of those, surely. There’s also several sets of tiny replica weaponary arrayed on a smallish plaque that are seriously impressive.

I introduce myself to the people on the stand, and chat with Bill Hunt (prosthetics expert with WETA FX) for a while. Bill tells me he has worked with WETA virtually since the inception of the film, but it’s obvious he’s lost none of his enthusiasm for the project. He’s still like a little kid who’s been handed the keys to a chocolate store. If this is typical of the enthusiasm, friendliness and dedication at WETA, it must be a remarkable place to work.

Our conversation covers a huge amount of ground, some of which he later raises again in his presentation and Q&A. I’m sure you’re all salivating to hear what he had to say, but you’ll have to wait for my fuller write-up tomorrow.

I wander on, stumbling across the Trading Card Game guys doing demonstrations and running a competition. I confess to Paul – the guy organising the comp – that I have no idea how TCG works. He tries to explain the process to me as he plays. The strategy aspect is fascinating.

I slowly get the feeling of how everything functions as he and his opponent take turns to attempt to corrupt/kill each other’s Ringbearer (or reach the game endpoint) first. The balance of the game sways back and forth. Each player uses Fellowship companions to defend their Ringbearer, while using “dark” card to attack their opponent.

At Helm’s Deep Paul’s opponent, David, is unable to attack. He doesn’t have the right cards, even though he’s in a very strong position. It proves a critical point and Paul prevails a short time later, getting to the game endpoint and claiming the win.

I watch another game before I decide it’s time to move on. EA’s there previewing the RoTK game, as well as a couple of others. I watch people play for a while – it’s very action oriented. Lots of hack and slash.

However, I only see the Paths of the Dead sequence, so it’s difficult to gain any sense of the plotline. One thing I do note is the appearance of the Dead – robed, ghostly figures with large shields and halberds. I idly wonder if this is some sort of hint as to the appearance of the Dead in the film.

The person playing Aragorn “dies” mid-sequence, so I don’t see the exit of the Paths. I’m too incompetent at Console games to have a go and humiliate myself before the assembled masses.

Over in another section of the building, Bruce Hopkins sits with the other special guests. There’s an enormous line of people attempting to get David Prowse’s (Darth Vader) signature. I don’t really recognise the other guests – I need to work on my geekiness, I guess.

Bruce Hopkins is wearing a t-shirt that reads “Isengard Swim Club”. He explains that it was given to him by some people from the United States. Appropriate considering the hours he spent on the flooded Isengard set. Even if the reverse does read “Team Elf”.

I ask him how he maintains intensity and focus when (as is the case with acting) you sometimes have to do take after take. He replies that in the end, it boils down to the fact that it’s what actors are paid to do. But he also adds that he finds a personal focus and inspiration from the enormous effort that goes on behind the scenes, where hours (or even weeks) might be spent creating a scene for him to come into just to say a few lines. He says it’s his way of honouring their work.

I get the sense that this sort of attitude and incredible work ethic defines the cast and crew of Lord of the Rings. Bill Hunt says as much while describing the time when Viggo Mortensen lost part of a tooth during a battlescene and didn’t stop to look for it until the scene finished.

“No-one wanted to drop the ball,” he says simply.

The Supanova convention concludes today at the RNA showgrounds in Brisbane.