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February 8, 2016 / cmfletcher

Deep in Middle Earth

Today was LOTR geek day  with Wellington Movie Tours. Totally worth the money and time. Peter and I were the geezers, everyone else on the tour were of the backpacker generation and we all had a  blast. The deal is, they take you to the sites, but before you get there they play clips of the movie that show the scenery and sets, so you really get a sense of what the filmmakers accomplished.

We started at the quarry which had  been transformed first into Helm’s Deep and then that set changed and used for Minas Tirith (if you have no idea of what I am talking about, read LOTR or watch the movies, it is worth the time). The first picture shows the quarry where the sets for Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith were built. The second shows Ted, our guide, showing us where they filmed part of Gandalf’s ride to Minas Tirith.

We also learned cool things about the movies like the fact that Viggo Morgensen, who played Aragorn, didn’t want the part, but his son persuaded him to take it. Later, his son got to be in the movies as an Orc — the first orc Viggo killed! I was and am totally blown away by what goes into making a movie. This trip has opened my eyes to the complexity of the project, and the achievement of a director such as Sir Peter Jackson.

We went to Kaitoke Regional Park to find the setting for Rivendell. One of the cool things about the tour was that our guide, Ted, had us pose in the places as the characters. So someone became Legolas, for example. The NZ government has woken up to how big a deal LOTR and The Hobbit are for tourism, and so have rebuilt a gate for Rivendell: the  the round edges above are swimming noodles covered with the plastic to make the gate. There was a swing bridge in the park;  I crossed it not once but twice — facing my fears!

After lunch at the park we went to Mount Victoria woods where the first day’s filming took place — the hobbits were confronting the ringwraith, and rolled down the hill. Apparently one of the stunt men who actually rolled down the hill dislocated his shoulder in the stunt! Ted, our guide, had volunteers from our tour pose as the hobbits. He then created the scene where the hobbits are hiding from the ringwraith – so someone was the tree, the horse, the tree roots, the hobbits and, of course, the ringwraith.

Finally he had some people recreate the shot of the mounted ringwraith on the top of the clearing. As you can see, it was all tremendous fun and very instructive about camera angles etc.

Then we went to Weta Workshops for a tour. AMAZING! No photos except from the front area and outside with the trolls from The Hobbit, since the props are the property of the various studios and production companies. Fascinating to see the talent, time, energy and money expended to make a film look right.

We finished up the day at the Weta Cave, the shop for all things Weta and LOTR or the Hobbit, and then the outside of the production facilities Sir Peter Jackson has built in the Wellington area.  On the film about the horses in LOTR (the Riders of Rohan is one of my favorite parts), one of the quotes was that the 100th rider was as important as the stars. Good spiritual principle. We learned that after filming was finished, the horses were sold, and Viggo Morgensen bought not only the horse he rode through the films, but also one of horses for the woman whose job was training horses — she would never have had the chance or the money to get it for herself. What a great guy!

This has given me so much to think about — the complexity of making a movie, the different creative talents that all are necessary for a great film, the importance of character and collegiality for a film company, and how much film speaks to most pe0ple who may never read the original books. Probably one of the best days in terms of benefit to my teaching of this sabbatical.

 

 

 

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