This past week, the New Zealand Government and executives from Amazon TV held a meeting in an effort to address concerns about a lack of studio capacity in Auckland. This planned 5 season LOTR series is a big production that will require quite a lot of studio space for filming, post production facilities and local crews, so of course they want to make sure the resources exist that they need. It appears that a decision or deal may be made within the next month, so we don’t have long to wait. You can see the source of this story at Stuff.Co.NZ.
You may be wondering why Auckland and not Wellington, but that is easily explained by the fact that the Avatar trilogy of films currently in pre-production will soon be moving into full production. While the Amazon LOTR production will be big, Avatar is going to be much bigger, and there may or may not be enough room for both as far as studio and post-production facilities go.
This leads to a much bigger debate on whether or not this new series should look and feel much like the existing Middle-earth films or whether it should blaze its own path for design and locations. The appeal to any production of not having to look for too many new locations can’t be understated. Film and TV productions are always having to research and locate interesting places that fit what the production needs, so the fact that so many locations in New Zealand have already been established as feeling like Middle-earth is a boon. But then, there are hundreds of beautiful places around the world, and with chunks of filming now happening in studios, does it really matter where those studios are? Is it possible that Amazon can do location filming in New Zealand and Studio work in London, Hollywood or Vancouver? Or why not film in British Columbia, or Northern Ireland or Slovenia for that matter?
For those of you who have been lucky enough to visit the Hobbiton set (like me!), you know how magical it is to wander among the well-tended gardens and Hobbit-home facades, to rest in the shade of the magnificent party tree, and to enjoy a pint at the Green Dragon Inn. However, as most of us are aware, the Hobbiton set is surrounded by a 560 hectare (approximately 1,400 acre) working sheep and cattle farm owned and operated by the Alexander family.
Stuff.co.nz recently recounted a bit of the history of the Hobbiton and how Hobbit holes and sheep continue to coexist nicely in a quiet corner of the New Zealand countryside:
“Right alongside the tourism business is their sheep and beef operation, on probably the country’s most-visited farm. While not many of the tourists see the whole farm, the stock is still very much in the public eye, meaning Craig [Alexander] has to be strategic in where he farms stock because of the occasional gate left open by an unsuspecting tourist. Hobbiton is also ring-fenced with paddocks for stock on either side. “If we’re driving a mob of 1500-2000 ewes down the main track and there is a [tourist] bus going through that can be pretty frustrating.”
While the farm is family-owned and operated, Hobbiton is a 50/50 partnership between the family and Peter Jackson. “Today, the tourism venture has about 70 permanent staff and twice that number over the busy summer season. It’s given the Matamata district a huge boost in earnings and the region is now thriving.”
A group, that displays one man with 500+ Facebook friends, has started a GoFundMe page to build a 1 to 1 scale replica “of Peter Jackson’s depiction of Minas Tirith, as seen in his Lord of the Rings films.”
For American readers, if my pounds to dollars calculator is working right, that is about $2.8 billion, an ambitious amount to raise on IndieGoGo, or really any crowd funding site, or really, by any method. Still, the project would be a dream to visit and would create an economy all its own and would provide years of good media material as the world watched its progress.
“We aim to create both residential and commercial properties, allowing for sustainable growth and a high quality of life,” Jonathan Wilson says on his intro page. He also breaks down the cost, a little bit, to say, “The vast majority of this expense will cover building costs – £15m for land, £188m for labour and £1.4bn for material.”
As some of you may have noticed, my March madness really was spent in Middle-earth! In the month I spent in New Zealand, I had the immense pleasure of visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata. Journey with me now to the Shire to experience your own adventure in Hobbiton!
And please feel free to peruse the photos below!
A quaint little home
Which way to go?
A vegetable garden
Barefoot in Hobbiton!
A very happy hobbit!
The tree atop the hill
The door is cracked… Bilbo must be in! Or is it Frodo?
Hmm, definitely Bilbo, since we know Frodo is out reading his book
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.
The winners of last month’s Hobbit Fan Contest that got to go to New Zealand and watch an in-progress cut of “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” and experience the beautiful scenes of the north and south islands and the hospitality of Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand, won their spots by producing short films.
As reports from the experience suggest, there was a great bonding of the 75 winners and their guests during the week-long tour of Middle-earth. These bonds are on display in a “thank you” video that the group organized to give to Peter Jackson and all the many folks who helped make the trip amazing. There is even a nod to TheOneRing.net which honestly touches us.
Turns out that crew can make a pretty great video with parts from all around the world. Their sincerity and appreciation really comes through and will make all fans proud. Enjoy! #HobbitFanContest
Brisbane tabloid The Sunday Mail sent writer Neala Johsnon across the pond to New Zealand in June 2013 for a stint on the set of The Hobbit during pick-ups. This article finally popped up in the paper’s mag last weekend.
As The Sunday Mail — especially its longer, feature-style magazine articles — doesn’t really make its way online at all, here’s the article re-typed in full for TORn readers. Beware minor movie spoilers, there are a couple of new lines of movie dialogue below and more information about the situation in the ruins of Dale in the lead up to the final battle. (more…)
Our French friends Tolkiendrim today revealed a brand-new still of Gandalf and Bard conferring urgently within the ruins of Dale.
They also teased that they’ll be debuting a long set report (50 pages long, apparently?) on Monday with inside details and interviews from their staffer Benjamin’s time on set in 2013. We’ll be endeavouring to bring you translations of all inside goss. (more…)
This adorable video makes an excellent addition to Air New Zealand’s more lighthearted and fun approach to safety videos shown at the beginning of every flight.
Kiwi filmmaker Taika Waititi has taken two Middle-earth fans and placed them in the middle of an Epic Journey, surrounded by Hobbits, Dwarves, Orcs and Elves, and some of them are the actual actors from the films. All the bases are covered, seat belts, electronic devices, life vests, etc, but there is a very definite Middle-earth vibe going on. (more…)
We’ve seen lots of photos of the Dale set in that was erected at Maupuia bush on the Miramar peninsula not too far from stone street Studios. But I don’t think we’ve ever seen one from above. Until now.
Ringer Duncan sends us the below image that he discovered on applemaps (which, weirdly, redirects to googlemaps but yano whatevs).
As contests go, this is one for the ages. And it should be, since it heralds the beginning of the end of the final installment of Middle-earth movies at the hands of Peter Jackson and his movie-making team. It’s also the final cinematic trumpet blast from the director’s home country of New Zealand that has stood in as a real-world wonder for the fictional world of author J.R.R. Tolkien.
Fans from around the world will have a chance to win a trip to see New Zealand in all its glory if they win the trip that will take them eventually to Wellington to watch the first screening of “The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies,” with its director. Along the way they will stop at iconic locations the length of the island nation that helped create the cinematic Middle-earth. No doubt that will include a stop to the Hobbiton Movie Set on the farm where more than a decade ago, the literary village and home of Frodo Baggins left the imagination and books to became tangible as it was constructed for Jackson’s LOTR trilogy.
Many websites will help host the contest and TheOneRing.net will sponsor the portion of the contest that is for “the rest of the world.” Read on for details!
HOW TO ENTER
Entering the contest is a multi-step process (and this is not a replacement for the rules) but each entrant will need a Twitter or Facebook account to get things started. Then four challenges will be presented by each contest sponsor website but the primary judging is to be based on a video participants are asked to submit (two minutes or less). If you want to participate, we urge you to read the rules completely and to comply.
WHO CAN ENTER
Through TheOneRing.net, you can enter if you aren’t from one of the following nations: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mainland China, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom (including Channel Islands & Isle of Man), United States and any country to or on which the United States has embargoed goods or imposed targeted sanctions, such as Cuba.
So readers in Austria, Greece, Romania and the like (just picking off the top of the writer’s head), welcome to the show. For the readers from the nations listed above, your portal to the contest will be elsewhere. For example, those in the United States can go right here.
If you do enter from a nation that isn’t yours, you aren’t eligible so we recommend not trying it. Those wishing to enter TORn’s portal and are from the correct nation need only click RIGHT HERE!
Since it was first announced at Comic-Con International in San Diego on 27 July 2014, upwards of 25,000 people have already registered their interest to participate. We at TORn expect that number to be obliterated quickly.
ABOUT THE PRIZE
Contest winners will land in Auckland, New Zealand, before embarking on a specially designed itinerary to iconic filming locations–the highlight being a special visit to Hobbiton, the famous home of the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins. Fans will enjoy a private tour through the 12-acre site, with a close-up look at the 44 Hobbit homes. (We have been and maybe its time to trot out those photos and video!)
The Hobbit Fan Fellowship will also visit other key film sites throughout New Zealand’s Middle-earth chosen by Sir Peter Jackson and end in Wellington for the ultimate film fan’s dream – a private screening of the final film, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” with Sir Peter Jackson.
About The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Directed by Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies features a screenplay by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro, based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. Jackson also produced the film, together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh. The executive producers are Alan Horn, Toby Emmerich, Ken Kamins and Carolyn Blackwood, with Philippa Boyens and Eileen Moran serving as co-producers. Production took place at Jackson’s own facilities in Miramar, Wellington, and on location around New Zealand. Post production took place at Park Road Post Production in Wellington.
For more information and to enter The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest visit
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