A report has appeared in Scotland’s Daily Record stating that representatives of Amazon Studios were scouting filming locations for their Lord of the Rings TV project in Scotland over the summer. This story is light on details, so we at TORn are treating this information as rumors, for now. These location scouts purportedly traveled as tourists, checking out various locales around Scotland, which offered the opportunity for a meaningful connection with the local communities.  Continue reading “Is Amazon Studios scouting LOTR filming locations outside of New Zealand?”

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?

HobbitonFor 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.”

Read the full article here.

Minas TirithA 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.”

He hopes to raise £1.8 billion. Continue reading “Crowd funded Minas Tirith pricetag: £1.8 billion”

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!

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MIRAMAR, New Zealand — The director’s tent.

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.

Jackson7SETTING 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.

Peter JacksonHe 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.

Solid.

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.