Sorry, this entry looks like it's going to be another rant. Originally it was going to be a short account of where things went wrong but it's looking like it's a bit longer than that. If you don't like rants, please skip to a different page.
Still here? Read on...
Despite telling many people about it for months, and attempting to call in more than a few favours, it doesn't look like the 10th anniversary of the first day of filming of the biggest movie ever filmed in New Zealand (if not in the world) is going to be remembered by anyone other than myself and a few hardcore LOTR fans here.
October the 11th was Day One, when the first scenes were being put to camera on Mount Victoria right here in Wellington. The now famous scenes of four hobbits hiding under a tree root, and then running away from a Nazgul are well known to everyone we take to the location - I've actually taken people who haven't seen the movie yet, recognise the scene as soon as we walked in (apparently they recognised it from the trailer or from the posters).
In the last five years, I've personally taken literally thousands of people to the spot, sometimes three times a day. Various tour companies visit the location - I work for Flat Earth Tours but Wellington Rover goes there as well, as does Wgtn Movie Tours, and Hammond's has a few tours that visit it (although they're not actually LOTR tours, it's still a point of interest to most people). Of course, Red Carpet Tours come through every month or so, when they tour the country. And finally, there are a large number of LOTR fans who simply purchase Ian Brodie's LOTR Location Guidebook, and find it by themselves. I've even seen various official roadmaps for sale in NZ that include little golden rings all over the map.
I would estimate that at least 15,000 people visit the location every year. And almost all of them come to stay in Wellington for at least one day, and probably two.
So, figuring everyone would understand how important this would be, I approached a few people about 10th anniversary plans.
First, I asked the Embassy Cinema if they were interested in showing the complete trilogy. Apart from its physical proximity to the first film locations - it's located at the foot of Mount Victoria, and less than a mile from the movie locations - it also has a rich LOTR related history. In fact, it would be fair to say that the building would no longer exist if it hadn't been for Peter Jackson - he was the chairman of the "Save The Embassy" trust, and saved it from being turned into a carparking building.
Once the $4.5million dollars of council money was spent on renovating it, it became the magnificent venue it is now. The first two movies had their Australasian premieres here, while Return Of The King enjoyed its world premiere in the same place - an event that drew anywhere between 120,000 to 300,000 people, depending on whether you believe CNN (300k) or everyone else. Even a conservative figure of 120,000 people isn't bad for a city of (then) approximately 150,000.
At first, the response from the Embassy was positive - they were interested in doing something for the 10th anniversary, and would definitely look into it. Everything went very quiet for a month or two, and after enquiring again I was told we'd "missed the boat on this one", and the day had already been booked for other movies. I wondered if we could perhaps squeeze Fellowship into the day's schedule, but apparently not. An email came back with "there are no plans to play LOTR in October. There are plans for some screenings perhaps during the summer but nothing has been confirmed as yet".
Hmm. Ok. Next. Perhaps Peter Jackson's office was planning something then - I had heard some murmerings but nothing solid. So I emailed Peter's spokesperson, who is sometimes curt but always courteous. His reply was simply "no truth to that rumor, I'm afraid". So that's a no-go as well, it seems.
I floated the idea with Weta Cave staff but it never went further than that - or at least, I've heard nothing of any plans (and they have in fact denied that there are any plans).
So about a month and a half ago I spoke to someone at the Wellington Council, who have in the past been quite receptive to these things, and I proposed a few possibilities, like an early morning hobbit's breakfast on the lawn below the filming location, at Ellice Street (where incidentally also the Dunharrow scenes were filmed for ROTK). It all fizzled out unfortunately, and I've heard nothing back there either.
I figured, maybe then just advertise online that I'd be on the hill by myself if anyone wanted to join me for the day, put on a couple of hairy feet and a wastecoat, that sort of thing. Sort of a desparate "last resort" plan really.
It sounded feasible at first, but I hadn't counted on the power of the council's complete lack of consideration.
Last time I was on the hill, this new sign had been put up, advertising the upcoming mountain bike race. Yes, the date is the 11th of October. Incidentally, the route of the mountain bike track has the bikes riding directly over six of the eight film scenes' locations, making it completely impossible to take tourists to the location during a race.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for mountain bikers, and I do think they should have a place to ride - but the Wellington Town Belt is literally miles and miles long - couldn't we exists side-by-side instead of on top of each other? We can't move this (by now) historical site, but they can surely move the track a few meters east or west?
I must admit, I'm close to admitting defeat. If anyone local wants to contact me with good plans, please do. I think it would be a shame if the largest Wellington entertainment project ever had its 10th anniversary skipped through lack of interest. Surely we haven't forgotten so soon? I mean, everyone came to the party in 2003, where are they all now?
Please drop me a line if you live local, or if you have any other suggestions. I had plenty of time to organise something when all this began, but these last rejections came through in the last few days, and we're running out of time.
Alternatively, maybe I'll just get into a few brews on the day. I hear it comes in pints now.
- Jack M.