Sunday, 13 September 2009

LOTR filming Day One 10th anniversary in the "too hard" basket?

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.


  1. Well, THAT boils my blood!
    Give me FOTR than biking anyday.

  2. @Celtic Traveler

    That was my first reaction too, but this shouldn't be a anti-mountain biking. They have as much right to exist as Ringers do - I just get annoyed with the Wgtn City Council when we don't get any consideration from them. Can't the bike track get redirected?

    On the other hand, at least the WCC has put up a few signs on the hill - no other council around the country has done that much. Even Peter Jackson's various companies have done little to recognise that people are still coming to NZ for this.

    LOTR is being swept under the NZ carpet somewhat, I fear. How do we address this constructively?

  3. I think celebrating the 10yr anniversary of the release of FOTR makes far more sense, and would mean a great deal more to the larger population. What's more, it's also the year the first Hobbit film will be released. Double reason to celebrate...

    Your enthusiasm is to be applauded, but to suggest LOTR is being ignored by NZ couldn't be further from the truth. Rarely is NZ's name muttered internationally without LOTR being followed soon after. Were 20-something Oscars not recognition enough?

  4. @Anonymous

    You misread me, I think - I don't think NZ is being ignored by the rest of the world - only by ourselves, within NZ. In fact, you prove my point - everytime it's being muttered INTERNATIONALLY, it's synonymous with LOTR. The Oscars (17, btw) were given years ago, but not by NZers.

    Here in NZ, it's very tough to get anything done officially. I'm currently trying to get some official LOTR names on film locations (expect a blog entry on that at a later date) but with little succes - nobody here thinks it's important enough.

    The most common question I get from NZers when I tell them I'm a LOTR tourguide is "what, people are still coming here for that? I thought it was long gone". I've been fielding that question for the last five years, and expect to get it plenty more times in the next five years.

    I know you want to remain anonymous, but can I ask you what country you live in?

    - Jack M.

  5. Ohhhh...would have loved a triple showing at the Embassy....that would have been brilliant!

    Surely with the power of the Internet there can be have an informal meetup somewhere for a few of those pints?

  6. Jack, I see where your desire to celebrate the day is coming from, and I think it's just plain sad that there's a lack of interest from, seemingly, everyone about.

    And yikes, poor you - you've been spearheading this initiative behind-the-scenes and now at the 11th hour it's all come to naught.

    I have a suggestion, and though I can't guarantee any results, I'm thinking "why not throw it out there?"

    Check your FB Message Inbox ;)

  7. Awwww, how disappointing. It seems while the rest of the world is still alive to LOTR, NZ itself's completely forgotten about it. Hope you can manage to organise something, I'd certainly try to come along.

    Darn, just realised I hadn't made the last post anonymous, and deleting it did't delete my name. Ah well, probaby not many creepy LOTR fans ;)

  8. Oh, their interest will return very quickly when filming starts up for The Hobbits and those tourist dollars begin to mount up again... but that, of course, will be a bit late for this moment.
    We here in NYC will be celebrating with the showing of FotR with live orchestra and chorus at Radio City Music Hall on the two days preceeding and a panel discussion on the day, Sunday...

  9. @Eorl

    Thanks for doing that - let's see how things move along. I've been very busy with my actual life the last few days (just had my birthday, for one thing) but I'm still keen to organise something if there's more than one of me attending.

    - Jack M.

  10. @Laurie

    (deleted your last post for you)...

    Keeping checking back here - if anything is still happening, I'll make sure it's posted here. I'd love to meet a bunch of enthusiastic Wellingtonians at some stage - enthusiasm breeds more enthusiasm, I've always found...

    - Jack

  11. @Timdalf

    I expect you're right... I think there will definitely be a 10th anniversary for the release of the movies (ie, december 2011, 2012 and 2013) but I can't believe we're waiting for two years for an excuse for a party over this!

    Have fun at the NYC event though! I'm sure I'll read all about it on various blogs...

    - Jack

  12. @Tyellas

    Don't worry, you're on my list of people to email if anything does happen... :)

    - Jack M.

  13. Well, good luck on that event. It must be terribly frustrating to be snubbed in so many ways! But the 10th anniversary of filming does seem to be one to celebrate.

    Are there any Tolkien Society groups in Wellington? I know we have one here in Los Angeles, and they have all sorts of LOTR related events. If so, you may want to see if you do anything through and/or with them.


  14. I would totally celebrate. I need to make it to New Zealand sometime...

  15. @Esme (Anonymous)

    I don't think there's a LOTR group here, at least I've never come across them. Very odd, considering our recent (10 year) history - you'd think there'd be a ton of groups out there.

    Maybe I should start one - anyone have any idea how to go about that?

    - Jack

  16. Hey - an LOTR/Hobbit group is a good idea.

    A spectacular idea - and would be a good excuse to down a few pints...

    Count me in...

  17. Maybe the projection in the Embassy but it will be in the Summer...nothing sure yet..if i have news will let you know..

  18. @Anonymous

    Re. Projection at Embassy - there is certainly something happening behind the scenes - I have news but I can't talk about it yet. Watch this space.

    - Jack M.