Wednesday, 29 December 2010

New Feature - LOTR Location Reports

In the last few weeks I've received a number of reports from travellers about other LOTR locations that they've been visiting. Most of them have been text only, and occasionally also they've been accompanied by gorgeous photos. I've asked all the senders for permission to repost them in slightly edited versions, so here's the first one - a quick note about the currently most exciting one - Hobbiton!

The report comes from KB from somewhere in Western Europe (anonymity is required since she had to sign the Non Disclosure Agreement!).

[Re.: Hobbiton] I was there and it's terrific! The hobbit holes are mostly ready and look as if you could move in next day and there are lots of nice details you probably will never see in a movie!

The Green Dragon pub and the mill are still under construction and we couldn't get near.

Whether the set will last after the shooting seems still a secret, nobody knows or want to tell. (Or let's put it this way: The guide said he wouldn't know, but he looked very pleased ...) 


So, an interesting report - it sounds very much like Matamata's Hobbiton will be a permanent place, with complete sets remaining in place afterwards. Something else I heard today is that the bridge is apparently made out of steel, solid timber, and actual stone on the outside. I've been sent some photos by a different source, I might post a few  of them a bit later, after I check with them.


  - Jack

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Just before the end of the year - a few unsubstantiated rumours

It's almost the end of the year and I haven't had a proper blog entry out for a while. I have heard a few juicy rumours in the last few days though - unfortunately none of the following rumours I can back up with solid facts, so let's see how many turn out to be correct.


Rumour 1) The reason Sir ian McKellen hasn't been signed up is because he is holding out for more money.

Likelihood of some truth to this rumour - probably about 30% or so. On the one hand I can't imagine Sir Ian being driven by cash, but then again nothing seems to be happening about a contract with him. However, add to that the fact that Andy Serkis hasn't been signed up yet either, and I don't believe it's true. The only reason I'm posting it now is because it came from a reasonably solid source.


Rumour 2) There are currently around 6000 people directly or indirectly involved on the making of The Hobbit.

Likelihood of accuracy - about 20%. This seems like a huge number, and is possibly just hyperbole mixed with a misheard number (600 perhaps?). On the other hand, Weta Digital can have huge numbers of people employed, plus Weta workshop, plus all the other creative companies like set production, costuming, and of course the admin companies, and possibly counting anyone else who is somehow involved, including catering staff to all those people (including a ton of small local companies), maybe that was the "extended" amount.

Rumour 3) A Hobbit Set is currently being constructed just north of Wellington, in Waikanae, consisting (among other things) of a "pointing tree", whatever that may be.


View Larger Map

I'd give this one a 50% chance of being real - apparently a film set is being constructed there, although I have no proof that it's from The Hobbit. I just heard that one this morning, and have no other information on it (yet).


Rumour 4) Matamata's Hobbiton will remain a permanent installation after The Hobbit movie is finished filming, and at least 8 of the 44 hobbit holes have been dug out of the hillside, with enough space for a small bedroom, ready for Hobbiton to be turned into a Bed'n'Breakfast for us "true" Hobbit fans.

After seeing some of the awesome photos from some of my guests who have been to the set, I'm inclined to believe some of these stories. The bridge appears extraordinarily solid, and it did look at one point that some of the hobbit holes were created from the inside out, with enough space to create a small room behind it. Will it be a Hobbit Hotel? That's possibly more wishful thinking than anything else.As a side note, I have in my hot little hands an awesome set of Hobbiton photos that I may post in the next few days, if I have time.


That will do for now - I thought I had another one but I can't remember that one right now. I'll post more as I hear them. As always - these are RUMOURS, and I really wouldn't put any money on any of them coming true. Always interesting though!

  - Jack M.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Tangiwai Rail Disaster movie being filmed at Rivendell

Although I've never seen any signs of a railroad at Rivendell, it seems that it's the perfect place to film a train disaster. A new movie is currently being filmed called "Tangiwai", for NZ tv, and today we arrived at Rivendell (Kaitoke Regional Park) just in time to watch the film crew throw bits of train off the bridge down on the river bed, in the hope of creating that lovely "smashed" look.

Take a look for yourselves - I taped it.

Tangiwai Traincrash at Kaitoke

It's not the best footage but it's fun to see, I hope.

  - Jack

Monday, 8 November 2010

100th Posting on NZ Noldor, and 500th comment as well...! Whoop!

Well, it's probably nothing much, compared to some of the major blogs out there, but I'm quite pleased with it - I've just discovered that this is the 100th blog entry on the NZ Noldor Blog, and earlier today I also left the 500th comment. I'm quite pleased with both of those! :)


Today also marked my official return to full-time LOTR guiding - I have spent the last few months in a temporary office job (*shudder!*), which helped me pay the rent while Wellington Rover Tours was setting up a new tour. The new Rover tour is pretty much ready to go, which means they needed more guides to cover the LOTR tours, so they called me. It's SO nice to be wanted, and even nicer to be out touring again!

We're gearing up for an extremely busy season - one of the points of order at this morning's team meeting was that we shouldn't bother applying for any holidays around January-March 2011, as it looks like all the guides will be needed to cover the amount of prebooked tours. Also there are a lot of cruise ships coming, some of them with prebooked tours, but often also last minute bookings.

The thing to take away from that - if you're planning on coming to Wellington for a LOTR tour, book us sooner rather than later this summer - we're very popular! And of course with the Hobbit now going ahead, it's only going to get more popular, so be quick!

Anyway, that was a quick plug for my (re)new(ed) employer - I hope it wasn't too obvious! :)

  - Jack M.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Hobbit WILL be filmed in New Zealand, after all!

On my browser right now are about two dozen links to websites and facebook pages that are reporting that The Hobbit will go ahead in New Zealand. There are some HUGE celebrations around NZ tonight!

If you want to see our Prime Minister John Key's full press conference, take a look at this page on TV3. They have a 5 minute clip including questions time.

TVNZ also has a page for it here. Their video is about 10 minutes long.

And of course, our newspaper collective, stuff.co.nz had a few words to say on the matter as well.


I understand that the Matterhorn restaurant is the location of an inpromptu party right now. Can't make it myself, but that's mainly because I've been celebrating too much to legally drive there at this stage. :)


Personally, I've avoided talking about the actor's boycott that has taken over this country's news media in the last few weeks, mainly because it was too close to my heart. If the Hobbit hadn't had the go-ahead to be filmed here in New Zealand, I may as well pack up my bags and decide on a new career. Sure, LOTR tourism would still exist, but pretty soon it would stagnate. Pretty much everyone has always assumed (rightly, it turns out) that taking The Hobbit away from New Zealand would amount to lunacy. Frankly, I would have wound down the blog, and gone on with something else less work intensive.

Some of the specific reasons I didn't report on any of it on this blog - it was well reported elsewhere. I usually had no personal angle to add to it. When I did have my own story, I was bound by loyalty to keep things confidential (like the non-unionised actors meeting I attended). If we'd lost the Hobbit, I wanted it to end on a high note ("green light for Hobbit" and "pro-Hobbit rally" for instance), while if we didn't lose it (as it turns out), I don't want three weeks of hatred and spitefulness messing up my blog forever. And let's face it, some pretty awful things were said, and lots of untruths as well.


I'm sure everyone has been reading The One Ring, and perhaps Kristin Thompson's excellent blog The Frodo Franchise as well. Kristin's accurate analysis of everything LOTR/Hobbit related, especially the financial and political side, is always fascinating to read. If you haven't subscribed to her posts, I can highly recommend them.



From here on in, expect the casting rumours, the location rumours, and general film news to be foremost on my mind. The awful uncertainties have finally gone (I hope!), and I can relax a bit and get on with the job of reporting some FUN rumours for a change!

Hope you'll join me!

  - Jack M.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Pro-Hobbit rally in Wellington

I just got back from the pro-Hobbit rally here in Wellington at Civic Square, which was attended by thousands of people. There was a nice positive feeling from the crowd, which was a great change from all the negativity from the last few weeks surrounding the Actors Equity boycott of the Hobbit movie.

There were many famous faces in the crowd - some took a turn at the microphone while others were there simply to support Sir Peter Jackson.

A good turnout from the crowd, too. I estimated around 3000-4000 people or so but I was in the middle of them so didn't get an accurate picture. Let's see what the newspapers and TV reports say about it tonight.

Here's a few photos I took (if you follow me on Twitter you may have already seen some of these - if you don't yet, you probably should consider it).



12:26pm - The first Hobbits have arrived


12:33pm - The crowd is building up. In the foreground are my friend Grant McKenna and my wife Aiko.


12:51pm - Festivities have started - the Maori song Pokarekare Ana is sung, and the first speech is from the newly elected mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown.


12:54pm - Sir Richard Taylor, head wizard at Weta Workshop, gives a rousing speech, and reads a prepared letter from Sir Peter Jackson.


12:56pm - a partial shot of the crowd


1:02pm - Liz Mullane speaks next. She's the casting director from LOTR, and also for The Hobbit.



1:06pm - A good friend of mine and fellow LOTR tourguide, Ted Guise from Wellington Movie Tours, talked about tourism, and The Hobbit's impact on it.


Unfortunately I missed photographing some of the speakers at this point - one of them was Chris Guide, Ted's brother. Also a number of others - crew members, designers, a producer, technicians, etc. (my apologies to those I missed!).I was a bit too busy spotting faces in the crowd. Although Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh weren't there, I did spot Katie Jackson with some friends. I didn't photograph her - I gather she doesn't like the limelight as much as she used to when she played "cute hobbit child" in Fellowship of the Ring. :)



1:20pm - Next up, a speech from Gino Acevedo, SFX wizard extraordinaire (and incidentally Liz Mullane's partner - they met on the set of LOTR, apparently)



1:22pm - Wait, is that Barry Osborne in the crowd (producer of LOTR, and Matrix as well)?

After Gino's speech, Sir Richard Taylor got up once more to address the crowd. Sir Richard is always a welcome sight - people here adore him. He's one of the most gentle people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, with the most contagious sense of enthusiasm. The crowd loved him today.



1:29pm - A few balloons of hope are released - maybe Hollywood will see them...



1:43pm - Peter Lyon (sword smith) and Alan Lee (artist/designer) continue to mingle while the crowd disperses.


After the speeches, the microphone was switched off, and people started to drift away, although slowly. There were a lot of groups of people who hadn't caught up with each other for a while, seemingly. Lots of anticipation from different groups eager to get started. TV crews will no doubt have lengthy reports tonight, but it was the individual stories they won't catch. Everywhere I looked I saw hopeful people wanting to get started on this film.

This gathering was truly a show of unity aimed at the Hollywood executives, who are expected in the next few days. Let's hope it was enough.

- Jack

Saturday, 16 October 2010

GREEN LIGHT ON THE HOBBIT!!!

It's finally official - The Hobbit is going ahead! I've just this minute received a press release from Peter Jackson's office, confirming the details. Rather than summarise like other blogs have done, I'll just post the whole press release here so you can read the whole lot at once...:




For immediate release
OSCAR WINNER PETER JACKSON TO DIRECT “THE HOBBIT” IN TWO INSTALLMENTS
Peter Jackson Set to Direct J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” In a Two-Part 3D Production of Extraordinary Scope
 (Los Angeles, October 15, 2010) The two films based on “The Hobbit” are now greenlit and will begin principal photography in February 2011, under the direction of Peter Jackson, it was jointly announced today by Toby Emmerich, President and Chief Operating Officer, New Line Cinema, Alan Horn, President and Chief Operating Officer, Warner Bros. and Steve Cooper, co-Chief Executive Officer of  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

“Exploring Tolkien’s Middle-earth goes way beyond a normal film-making experience” Jackson says, "It’s an all-immersive journey into a very special place of imagination, beauty and drama. We’re looking forward to re-entering this wondrous world with Gandalf and Bilbo - and our friends at New Line Cinema, Warner Brothers and MGM”.

“Peter is a filmmaker of incomparable ability; having him return to Middle-earth to produce and direct is a dream come true. A true original, Peter is a gifted story-teller, visionary director and pioneer in film technology,” said Emmerich. “Reuniting with Peter, Fran and Philippa truly makes it feel like we are going ‘there and back again.’”
“There is no human being on the planet as qualified as Peter Jackson to direct these films,” said Horn. “Peter is incredibly talented and has the creative vision and experience to bring this beloved property to life in a way that no other filmmaker could.  And the team of Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens has proven through their work on the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy that no one is more skilled at transforming Tolkien's written words into a vibrant, living language that makes the audience believe they are not merely visiting Middle-earth, but actually living in it. We couldn’t be more thrilled and look forward to seeing ‘The Hobbit’ take shape under Peter’s stewardship and the team he is putting together.”
"MGM is excited to move forward and add to the successful 'Lord of the Rings' franchise," said Cooper.  "Under Peter's direction, the films will undoubtedly appeal to fans of the original 'LOTR' trilogy and also bring the stories to a new generation of fans."
Jackson, who directed all three “Lord of the Rings” films, will helm the two films back-to-back, telling the story of “The Hobbit” in two parts. Jackson will utilize groundbreaking visual effects and his incomparable story-telling to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel to the big screen. Both Hobbit movies will be filmed in Digital 3-D, using the latest camera and stereo technology to create a high quality, comfortable viewing experience. Jackson also co-wrote the screenplays with Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro.
“The Hobbit” is being co-produced by New Line Cinema and MGM, with New Line managing production, Warner Bros Pictures handling domestic distribution and MGM distributing internationally. Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Carolynne Cunningham are producing the films, with Phillipa Boyens as co-producer and Ken Kamins as executive producer.
The Oscar-winning, critically acclaimed LOTR trilogy grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide at the box office. In 2003, “Return of the King” swept the Academy Awards, winning all of the 11 categories in which it was nominated, including Best Picture – the first ever Best Picture win for a fantasy film. The trilogy’s production was also unprecedented at the time.

-wbp-

That is the best news possible! The original dream-team is reassembling from the top down - apart  from Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens as script-writers and (co/exec) producers, Carolynne Cunningham and Ken Kamins are also back at the top.

At this stage I'm not going to quibble about the 3D thing - I'm just so happy it's actually going ahead!
I'm sure there will be a 2D version for those of us who prefer storytelling over gimmicks.

Now all we need is the actors unions to strike a deal, and we can begin! Let's hope it'll still be in NZ...

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Tree down in Isengard - Sound familiar?

It looks like the hard winds have claimed a victim in Isengard this morning.





At least there were no orcs involved this time, eh?


- Posted from the field by Jack M.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Update on preliminary casting call - it's official!

====
Further Update 24/9/2010, 7:00am: The prelim casting call has also now been listed on TradeMe's job section.
====

Update 23/9/2010, 12:21pm : Also check today's article in the DomPost, also posted on stuff.co.nz.
====

Moments ago I received this email from Matthew Dravitzki, who is Peter Jackson's spokesperson:

The advertisement is official and came from our production.  A preliminary casting call means:  We don't have a green light, but we do need to be prepared in the event that we get one!  That means having a little look around Wellington for scale doubles as advertised.  This is NOT an extras casting call and anyone who doesn't meet the advertised height requirements will be turned away.


When cast, actors playing Hobbits and Dwarves will be normal adult size.  The characters in the books are sized differently, as you know.  Scale doubles appear in some wide/reverse shots in place of our actors, and with other adult actors when we need people to look smaller - or taller.  A visit to the behind the scenes content on the LOTR movies might jog your memory.


I don't have any news for you on greenlight, director or cast.  There's no update from LA at this time.  


The NZ Dance and Drama Centre is simply being used as a venue for this casting call, and is not the home of our casting department.


I hope this answers your questions.
It certainly answered mine!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Almost green light?

Today the Wellington Dominion Post newspaper carried an advertisement in the back for Hobbit doubles...tall and short people only!



I have it on good authority that this comes directly from the studios, this time it's the real thing.

It's not quite a green light but we must be getting awfully close!

- Posted from the field by Jack M.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Stansborough Experience closes its doors...

Not good news today - Hutt Valley's local newspaper The Hutt News reports that LOTR's textiles creators Stansborough is closing its doors to tourists. Apparently the lack of visitors are forcing it to reconsider their priorities. It looks like the parent company Stansborough Fibres is staying but the huge and incredibly noise looms are looking for smaller, less expensive premises.

Stansborough were the people who created material for Ngila Dickson's fantastic elven cloaks that the fellowship receives from Galadriel when they depart Loth-lorien. I think they also provided the beautiful cloaks that Gandalf wears.

Apart from LOTR, Stansborough did work for the first two Narnia movies, the movie Waterhorse, the TV Series Kidnapped, the awesome vampire flick 30 Days Of Night, and Avatar, as well as a slew of others that they're not allowed to talk about yet.

They were also picked to be used for The Hobbit - let's hope that's still going ahead!


I have been to visit them several times, sometimes with paying guests, sometimes with family - it was always a great experience, and it was easy to see they truly loved what they were doing.


Barry Eldridge with one of the 100 year old looms, creating elven cloak. The looms were incredibly noisy. (click on photo for larger image)



A closeup of the Elven textile as it comes off the loom. Already you can see the incredible detail woven into the material. Although it looks quite coarse, it's actually very soft, but quite hardwearing. (click on photo for larger image)


The newspaper article also reports that the will be a "massive garage sale of fabrics", this Saturday the 11th of September, at 100 Hutt Park Rd (Seaview), from 8am till 3pm.

Incidentally, the movie's cloaks are still available from them, online.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Hobbit Announcement due on August 21st?

========================
Update, Aug 10th, 2010 - further information has come to hand earlier today but I couldn't get to a computer earlier. Essentially, it doesn't look like there will be any announcement on the 21 of August, and it really is just a private function happening at the Weta Cave, so if you were thinking of making a special trip out from elsewhere in the world just for the day, please don't bother. You'll be better off coming in on the 22nd, when the Cave is actually open to the public again. Also, they'll have the new displays up by then, so do come on the 22nd. It'll be worth your while, I promise, especially if you haven't been to the Weta Cave before.


I also want to make an observation that seems to have bypassed a few of you out there - I set this blog up so I can post all the juicy rumours I hear, and for no other reason. If sometimes I don't have the full information, then keep in mind that 99% of the time I'm simply not privvy to it. I just happen to be in a good position to hear ground-level stuff, which unfortunately sometimes turns out to be incorrect. If you've followed my blog over the last year and a bit, you'll know me well enough that I sometimes speculate wildly, have a tendency to run off at the mouth/keyboard, am not always diplomatic, and yes, occasionally just plain rant (get me started on 3D, go on... I dare ya).

If you can't handle any of that, hit Ctrl-F4 now please. If you want to stick around, I promise I'll let you know anything I hear that I can publish without damaging my sources. Usually I'll be the furst to publish, and sometimes it's even true.

If, on the other hand,  you want to hear extra stuff that isn't juicy enough to make it onto the blog, follow me on Twitter and Facebook (buttons on the right of this page).

========================
Update, Aug 9th, 2010 - Kristin Thompson has responded to my query on her blog.
========================

I got a message today from a friend of mine who had visited the Weta Cave a few days ago, and spoke to a few other visitors there about the Cave's annual refurbishment (which started today), and was told that they are also closed for a "private function" on the 21st of August, which is a Saturday.

The staff were quite annoyed about it, apparently, since it's not been announced to them what function it is for (ha! that's what secrecy feels like, guys!)


So I spoke to a few people on the phone tonight, and I've been able to piece a few things together. Now, by August the 22nd it may turn out that my 2+2 equalled 5, so let me just give you the information I have right now:

  1. The Weta Cave is shutting for 5 days to refurbish - something that took only 2 days last year
  2. About a week later, they're closing again, for a very secret private function
  3. A different contact told me that apparently a lot of LOTR/Hobbit related sets and props are being taken out of storage at the moment. The contact was unclear about why it was happening, but there was a certain urgency about it, and apparently this is a very recent development as well, so nothing relating to the reports at Hobbiton being rebuild (which are all true, incidentally). The idea was that these props are being taken out of storage for some local (Wellington) purpose, in the next few weeks.
All the people I spoke to in the last few days seem to think an announcement is imminent, and morale is at a high here in Wellywood at the moment.

Couple that with the known stuff that's been going on earlier this year -
  1. MGM Studios apparently need to have about 10% of the film in the can by the end of the year, or they'll lose the filming rights. (I don't know the full details about this - perhaps a better person to comment on this might be Kristin Thompson who seems to have her finger more on the pulse of the various studios' financial and legal details, and runs the excellent blog "The Frodo Franchise"?
  2. The recent pressure on the studio to start the movie is mounting - Sir Ian McKellen wants to get started, Sir Peter Jackson is just seemingly going ahead as though there's actual money at stake, and Guillermo del Toro has already walked away - The Suits at MGM and Warners MUST surely see that they have to get started asap?
  3. Brad Pitt was recently in town. Apparently. And eating curry, no less. That can only mean one thing. (he was hungry?)
Ok, except for the last item, I'm putting my money on the big announcement happening  on the 21st of August.

Speaking of spotting Famous People in Wellywood - did anyone else in Wellington hear about Steven Spielberg and Daniel Craig being here this week? The Dominion Post and Stuff didn't report those two, I think...

  - Jack M.

Weta Workshop in refurbishing mode

The Weta Cave is closed for the next week, to change all their displays, except one (the skeleton dog from The Frighteners is most likely staying since it's so fragile - nobody wants to move it!).

As is often the case at Weta, everything is completely shrouded in secrecy. The staff at the Cave themselves don't seem to have any clear idea about what they're going to see when they get back to work next week. Apparently they were asked for suggestions but nothing has come back to them as to what final decisions have been made in the meantime.

From what little I have heard and have tried to piece together, I am hoping there might be more Lord Of The Rings stuff, possibly some stuff from The Water Horse, maybe a few actual swords from The Last Samurai, and maybe even some preview stuff from the new Narnia movie Voyage Of The Dawn Treader. I'm expecting more horror stuff as well though - maybe even some gory details from Peter Jackson's early zombie movie Braindead (aka Dead Alive in the USA).

Specifically, I'd like to see a little less of Dr Grordbort's Raygun collection. I am a big fan of it, but it seems to be taking over the Cave a little too much for my liking. I think the staff are also a bit tired of having to explain to everyone what it's all about, and why there's no movies of it.


Actually, what I'd really like to see is Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger's first creations - maybe some political satire puppets, or a certain trumpet perhaps?


Once the renovations are complete, I'll do my best to get some shots of the displays, and will post them here as soon as possible. Expect to see an entry in a week or so.


Anyone else have a favourite item they'd like to see?

  - Jack M.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Another nail in the coffin of the 3D industry

I was just reading a report from some recent studies of the 3D movies recently released, on NZ's news site stuff.co.nz.

It looks like the love affair with 3D movies is already past its use-by date. Wait - already? What am I saying - it took longer than I expected.

In short, some figures from the reported findings:

  • December 2009 - Avatar 3D, approx 71% of the audience watched in 3D
  • March 2010 - How To Train Your Dragon 3D, approx 68% of the audience watched in 3D
  • May 2010 - Shrek Forever After 3D, the figure had dropped to 61%
  • July 2010 - The Last Airbender 3D, down to 56%
  • Later in July 2010 - Despicable Me 3D - 45%

And still they haven't figured it out - "Critics say part of the problem may be the technology itself". Nope, it's the fact that the audience isn't clamouring for 3D in a cinema. It's a solution desparately looking for a problem to solve, and there isn't a problem. We like 2D. Really, we do!


I saw three other quotes this week on the subject. The first one is from the film critic Roger Ebert, and is listed at the above link as well (near the end) - "3D is a waste of a perfectly good dimension and Hollywood's current crazy stampede towards it is suicidal".

 The second one was a figure I saw on theonering.net, from ComicCon'2010. Apparently they conducted a survey during their panel, and found that "out of 450 people surveyed, 450 don’t want 3D for ‘The Hobbit’". Sounds like the audience really doesn't want it, doesn't it? Ok, so 450 isn't a huge scientific sample, but at ComicCon, they're pretty dedicated film watchers. I'm hoping the eventual makers of the film listen to the audience.


The last quote I unfortnately can't find back right now (it was on a podcast that I haven't seen transcribed anywhere). Apparently, when Sir Ian McKellen was in Wellington, he me up with some of the Weta technicians, one of whom asked him what he thought of Avatar 3D, to which he replied something along the lines of "you know, theatre is in 3D?"... classic. Obviously he wasn't too impressed with the "advances" in technology. Go Sir Ian. :)

In essence, that's what the big bucks have been trying to emulate - the theatre experience. For some reason, it's what everyone is supposed to want (but very few actually do).


I know I've blogged about this a few times before, (ok, ok, they weren't so much blogs as rants), but I feel very strongly about 3D. It was a gimick in the 1950's, it was a gimick in the 1960's. It's still a gimick now. If they ever solve the "stupid glasses" problem, I'm prepared to look at it again but I doubt very much whether we'll all still be talking about 3D in 2012 ((before the apocalypse, obviously)). It'll be a long forgotten fad by then, and all your expensive glasses and 3D TVs will be under your beds, resting in peace with your slinkies and your hula-hoops.

You can quote me on that in 2013.

  - Jack M.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Sir Ian McKellen's time is running out...

(caution : rant ahead)

Sir Ian is currently in New Zealand performing Waiting For Godot, and was tonight interviewed on TV... he talks about various theatre related before the interviewer asks him about The Hobbit. The interview has been posted on TV NZ's Youtube account


Round about 5:54 into the clip, he is asked about delays in filming, at which he says that he has other things he wants to plan as well, implying that the studios had better get a move on if they want this movie to be a reality.


Ok, so we lost a terrific director already - or rather, we've already lost two. Originally Peter Jackson might have said "yes" if he hadn't been screwed passed over by Newline Cinema. After all the legal dust had settled, Peter was busy making other movies. So, Guillermo del Toro came aboard. In the meantime a new problem has arisen, with MGM going down the gurgler. Del Toro walks, after hanging on for far longer than I would have.

In the meantime, Wellington has been quietly preparing to start on the production, with or without funding. Peter has famously approached only one person to be recast (verifiably, anyway) - Sir Ian McKellen. He was supposed to be here in March 2010, then April, then July, now November, and probably January 2011 soon. He is now also starting to make leaving noises though.


My question to MGM and their the stockholders - are you really this blind, deaf and plain dumb that you're hanging out for a few hundred million, when we all know this movie will make so much more, providing (and this is the kicker) you actually get started ASAP? The longer you wait, the less The Hobbit will make, because it will suck, and the fans will walk away. The people at the top are walking, why wouldn't we fans as well? Giving MGM debt extension after debt extension is a complete waste of time if they don't actually start making The Hobbit. You've already lost James Bond - what else do you have on the horizon that would warrant the continued mucking around?

MGM needs a shakeup. I'm obviously sympathetic to people in trouble, but I find it hard to think of "people who owe billions of dollars" as "people who worry were their next meal is coming from". Get on with it already - and if you just can't, then sell up and let someone else do the job already!

We're tired of waiting.

  - Jack M.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Update on Noldor Blog

After an extended blogging sabbatical, it's probably high time I started updating this thing again. :)  Truth be told, I just  haven't heard anything newsworthy recently, or at least nothing that wasn't already widely reported by other sources. I think we all know by now that Guillermo del Toro has walked away from The Hobbit production. I have very little else to add on that matter except to say I'm genuinely sorry to see him leave the project. I had the pleasure of meeting the man on several occasions, and he struck me as perfect for the job, also given his previous movies. Alas, it was not meant to be.


On a personal note, I've "pulled a Del Toro" myself (as a friend of mine phrased it so delicately). After working for only three and a half days over the last two months,  I've decided to resign from Flat Earth Tours. I still think they have a lot to offer people - they also run Wine Tours, Cultural Tours, Wellington Historical Tours, etc, but anyone who knows me will realise I need more Tolkien in my life than they were offering me. It wasn't a decision I took lightly, but a necessary one. I have rent to pay and cats to feed!

So I'm considering all my options, of which I'm sure to write about at length, at a later date. In the meantime, I know some of you were planning to come to New Zealand on one of my tours with Flat Earth - if you're already booked in with them, I'd say stick with that booking (ask for Todd, he's a fantastic guide as well). If you were hoping to have me as your guide, I can run a private tour instead, but please get in touch with me as soon as possible so I can arrange dates etc.


I'm not sure what the future holds, but it's pretty bright. There's lots of excitement on the horizon - apart from anything else, The Hobbit will surely start at some point. If you been following me on Facebook or Twitter, you'll know that I like to drop obscure hints about rumours I am not allowed to speak openly about - I've been hearing from almost all my studio contacts that the mood is very hopeful, closer to the sources. Surely the MGM creditors must by now realise that the longer they wait, the less money this project will make since all the good people are leaving (no, not me, I meant GDT, dummy!). Time is of the essence. If the first Hobbit movie is rubbish, there will be less audience for the second one, so the stakes are high to do it right. Perhaps Peter Jackson will direct after all (or should I say "Derek"?) ...


Few other things have happened here in Wellington of late. Richard Taylor has turned into Sir Richard Taylor, although Tanya Rodger was passed over for a Queen's honour (this time). Sir Ian McKellen arrived here today for a week to perform a play. And we're expecting there will finally be a "Wellywood" sign in our hills, but that seems to be dragging its feet. I'll be amongst the first to post photos when it happens, I hope!


One small but significant event on the horizon - the Weta Cave has announced that they will be closing for a few days in August (from the 9th to the 13th), for their now annual makeover. No word on what the new displays will be, I couldn't get anything useful from Anna, although Steve mentioned that some of it may be from "one of the movies he's in" - I didn't actually realise he was in anything, so that didn't help me at all - thanks Steve! :)

If you haven't been to the Weta Cave since before July last year, get there quickly before they change everything again - and then revisit after August the 13th for the new stuff!



Hopefully I'll have more news for you again soon. Keep watching!


  - Jack M.

Wellington NZ casting update - finally!?!

-----------------------------
UPDATE  Thu 2010-07-01 - 10:09 - ...and Star Now has now also closed applications. False alarm, folks - The Hobbit has not started yet, no agency should be taking your money just yet.
-----------------------------
UPDATE  Tue 2010-06-29 - 18:41 - it looks like the Hobbit references have been wiped off their site again. Hold on while they stabilise...

The information is still listed here on this "talent-supplier-to-other-agencies", Star Now Ltd. Let's see how long till they fold as well.
-----------------------------
UPDATE  Tue 2010-06-29 - 17:21 - the information has also just appeared on Kam Talent's own website. Apply through their site if you live in Wellington!
-----------------------------

I've just been alerted to some exciting news (thanks Heike!) - Auckland based Talent agency called Kam Talent is setting up an office in Wellington, and is looking for Hobbit Extras and Featured Extras! Peter Jackson's office is NOT yet involved though - so I 'd be a little cautious about getting over-excited just yet.

My source at 3'7" Limited, the company who will eventually be shooting The Hobbit, has indicated that there is no green light yet - and "WHEN and IF we have a greenlight and shoot start date, we will set up our own extras team who will sort through the mountain of applications we already have, whether they are with an agent or not. People should look out for official casting calls in local newspapers, or join a local Wellington agency" (my bolding and emphasis).


My suspicion is that perhaps Kam Talent is jumping the gun a little, so that when 3'7" Ltd actually has their real casting calls, they will be able to supply the studios with a ready-made list of potentials. So before you read the rest of this entry - be aware this is STILL NOT and official casting call. That WILL still come, and you'll hear it from the studio, most likely either through this blog, or through The One Ring blog.

That said, read on! This information came from Kam Talent themselves. Kam Talent was also involved with The Lord Of The Rings casting, as well as a host of other productions, so it probably is all on the level. At the time of writing, this information does not yet appear on their own website, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time. A quick call to their Auckland office confirmed that they are definitely looking for people.

The information I've received suggests they are looking for people of any gender, aged 5 to 70, physically fit and natural looking men, woman and children of all nationalities and shapes and sizes. Also, men, woman and children with natural long hair - men with beards/mustache and character faces would be an advantage. I guess I will start growing my moustache again!

Furthermore, and this is the news we're all waiting for - "We are looking for small adults that are five (5) foot and under". Um, three foot seven, perhaps?

If you have children who are interested (or you are a child!), make sure you know that they need to be self-confident, and are able to listen to directions, and follow orders. All children should of course be accompanied by their parents or guardians.


So if the studio is saying they'll hire both directly as well as through agencies - so why would you join an agency? Are there advantages? As far as I can tell, there are some, but you pay a (small) price for it as well. For one thing you can relax about missing the official casting call, since the agency will handle all that. They will also be able to put your photo and CV through in the correct format so you don't have to worry about that either. Essentially, you're buying piece of mind. According to the Kam Talent website, they charge up to nz$150 per person, which is only deducted from your first fee - so no work, no fee. If all you're looking for is a chance to appear in your favourite movie, and aren't that actively involved in keeping an eye out, than an agency might be the perfect thing.

On the negative side - the studio may already have enough extras applications ("...the mountain of applications we already have..."), and may not use the agency.

Exciting, isn't it? :)

As always, I hope to see you on the set!


  - Jack

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Miramar Cinema renovation is in full swing

Update : "Peter Jackson" has been changed to "Sir Peter Jackson". :)
====================
The old theatre building in Miramar that is owned by Sir Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, and Jamie Selkirk, is finally being renovated. It looks like Jamie Selkirk's prediction for a September 2010 opening might be pushed back by six months though!

In September last year, NewsWire reported that the opening would be around September 2010. However, in March this year, the the Wellingtonian quoted Jamie Selkirk that "...[the Wgtn council's building-]consent takes longer than you think", and estimates to be six months behind schedule as a result. That would be mean a March 2011 opening then.
 
The nature of the work has meant the almost complete demolishion of the rear of the building, leaving only the facade up. It currently looks like this:



Compare that with this photo from September 2009, and it's clear how much work has already been done:


The two shops/art galleries at the base of the building have been emptied, of course. I'll keep a close eye on the building - if anything changes I'll update it here.

  - Jack M

Friday, 2 April 2010

Bag End Miniature - a first look, straight from the Weta Cave

I was at the Weta Cave yesterday with a group of people, about 20 minutes after the first two Bag End Miniatures were put on display. I'm trying to get a link here to the Weta Workshop's page on it but their site is currently down, so this will be updated later.

I "happened" to have a camera with me, so I thought I'd share some close up photos of this totally stunning, gorgeous piece of art. This is what it looks like from the front.

The front door is opened - there will also be an "open edition", which won't have the inside sculpting. So, perversly, the open edition will be a closed sculpure, while the closed edition (individually numbered) will have the open sculpting, viewable from the rear. These photos show the limited edition.

Here's the view from behind:

There are six rooms in total, no more than about an inch tall, and totally filled with Bilbo and Frodo's clutter. The detail is absolutely amazing. It must have been tough getting paintbrushes in there! My photos don't do it any justice at all, but take a look.

From the left, we see the bedroom:

The Hallway, with open door:





The Lounge(*):

The Dining Room(*):

A Reading Room(*):

And a Rumpus Room(*):

I think this is possibly one of Weta's finest miniatures. I understand this edition will be limited to 111 only (Eleventy-one), but I may have misheard that - I was too entranced with the piece to pay much attention to the information provided.

The other edition will be unlimited, which I think is also a first for Weta - they will be able to reproduce it in unlimited numbers. Unfortunately, that won't of course include most of the detail above (really just the top photo), but it'll be a great piece in your display cabinet (and mine)!

  - Jack M.


(*) I've probably totally misnamed the rooms - if anyone knows the actual names, drop me a line?

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

New Weta Miniatures on the horizon?

I was talking to a guy in the last week who brought news from Hong Kong (my spies are everywhere!), where Greg Broadmore's exhibition of his Dr Grordbort range of guns and accessories are being displayed. This travelling exhibition was originally set up in mainland China, in Chengdu. All the proceeds for the exhibition there went to support the victims of the big earthquake in the Sichuan province in 2008.

I haven't spoken to anyone who saw the exhibition in Chengdu, but I was shown some very interesting pictures (although very briefly, and very small photos) of the displays in Hong Kong. Specifically, I saw a new LOTR miniature that I hadn't seen before, of Gollum creeping up a precipe of some sort. I would approximate from the scale that the statue was roughly the same size as the one that came with my The Two Towers (Extended Edition) DVD boxed set, way back in 2003, so about 15-20cms tall. He looked pretty awesome! Is this Weta's new miniature, after the soon-to-go-be-released Pillars of the Kings? Btw, if you want that one, be quick, since it's apparently very close to sold out already, through pre-orders.

Unfortunately I don't have copies of the photos, but I'm more than happy to publish any sent to me (hint!)...


So, I did a bit of a search online, and although I couldn't find any Gollum miniature photos, I did come up with this picture, of Dr Grordbort's range, specifically the previously announced (but never mentioned again) Goliathon 800 Moon Hater miniature:


So, apparently it does exist already! It wasn't clear to me whether these displays were in the Exhibition or in the attached Weta shop, but it would have been awesome to see them!

This piece I didn't recognise at all - it may have come from a graphic novel or something. It certainly looks stunning though![Update: according to the good folks at the Weta Collectible forums of The Shadow And Flame, they represent the Earth elite forces, from the Victory book.


I did see Gollum amongst the photos though - but this one is fullsize, and is either the faux-bronze or the actual bronze - I suspect the faux-bronze since it's had to be hauled to Hong Kong!



I also recognise this piece - this was done in full-size, outside Blizzard Entertainment headquarters in the US (thanks to The Shadow And Flame for the info).

It seems to be a much smaller version of the giant statue. Merchandise? Faux Bronze? Artist Conceptual Proof of the real one? Your guess as good as mine!


But the best is still to come - I searched further online, and found this - it looks to be a new range called "Guardians of the Garden".

Quote : "A Weta original. A range of small bronze sculptures of fantasy creatures riding on Eurocentric forest animals, getting up to mischief in your garden. They bring alive your garden with irreverent humor, childhood fantasy and beautiful art". Gorgeous!

NB - I love the "not approved" comment on the photos - I wonder how my source came by them then? Weta Ltd is usually VERY careful about what they let out of their sights!



It certainly looks like Weta is beavering away in the background, and is certainly not sitting still while they wait for The Hobbit to go ahead!

  - Jack

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Merry and Pippin return to Loth-Lorien?

Warning : this is a human interest story, and may contain kittens. You were warned.


I'd love to give you some actual news, but the studios are a bit silent at the moment, and we're stuck with "fireman rescues kitten from tree" stories.


Last week I took a group around the region on a LOTR tour, and discovered that there are new tennants at Loth-Lorien. It appears that the owners of the gardens at Fernside (the property where Peter Jackson filmed the Loth-Lorien scenes as well as the Gladden Fields scenes where Smeagol strangles Deagol) have obtained two kittens. They were incredibly friendly (unless you're a butterfly), and followed us all around the property, right from the carpark through the gardens, around the lake, and back to the car again. All up, I would estimate at least a couple of hundred meters.


Note the bridge in the background - you'll see the same bridge in the Fellowship Of The Rings, for instance where Legolas tells Merry and Pippin, already in the boat, that "a small bite of Lembas will fill the stomach of a grown man", as the two are picking their teeth clean of a good second breakfast.


Anyway, enjoy the pic, in liue of actual news. If nothing else, it may reassure you that I'm still here. :)

  - Jack

Roundup of lesser things

Another two weeks have passed since the last entry, and not a lot of official stuff has happened. The green light on The Hobbit still hasn't been lit, and although there's some movement in some of the actors (notable Sir Ian McKellen), nothing official has been announced. Frankly, from a news perspective, there's nothing going on at the moment - but at least I'm honest and up-front about that.

The local newspapers, both Wellington's as well as Auckland's, have been busy sensationalising things even more than usual. I can't believe people buy papers anymore, when the truth is so easy to find these days, online.


The announced Wellywood sign

The first botched newsreport of course was the announcement by the Wellington Airport that they are in the final stages of putting up a big "Wellywood" sign in the Miramar hills. The required Resource Consent has already been granted by the Wellington City Council, so apart from a high court appeal (fairly unlikely), it looks like it's all going ahead, and around June we will have ourselves something to actually photograph with pride. The airport's lawyers seem quite certain that all the legal requirements have been met as well, so I can't see anything else in the way.



I think they're planning on "Wellywood" but this has appeal, no?

The Dominion Post however, decided to make it a huge public spectacle, with online surveys and by opening comments on their website (through stuff.co.nz). Of course, there was a lot of backlash from the Great Unwashed, but that's always going to be the case. The Beehive (NZ's government building) was treated in the same way when it was first announced (well, similar anyway; that was pre-blogging), and now nobody talks about it anymore, but tourists come daily to photograph it. The national Museum Te Papa caught a lot of flack at the time of construction, but that's quitened down. Hell, I'm sure the Eiffel Tower got a lot of complaints when it was first announced/built, and now look at it. Hard to imagine Paris without it.

My personal pie-in-the-face award goes to local yokel (and mayoral candidate, no less) Jack Yan, who decided the best way to run for Wellington mayor would be to alert the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce about it, so they can sue the current Council. Nice going, mate - that's one less vote for you. You're costing the city money and tourism before you're even elected.

There are a number of anti-wellywood pages on Facebook by the uninformed, but here's a "pro Wellywood" page instead.



The Hobbit in 3D

Probably not going to happen. At least, nothing has been decided but the local rag (DomPost) decided it was a slow news day and stirred things up again using old quotes from TheOneRing.net forums, where Guillermo del Toro earlier this month mentioned that a conversation has been started about whether 3D would be considered or not. He didn't give any answers to anyone, but that didn't stop the local newspaper (and virally, the rest of the world) from waiting for two weeks before coming up with their own "source", an insider! Possibly as high up as either the cleaning staff or the courier who dropped some parcels off that morning, I reckon! Their article adds nothing but more confusion to the already tumultuous grapevine. I expect truth from newspapers, and actual researched articles.

Matthew Dravitski (Peter Jackson's spokesperson) denied that any new information was known, and he's likely to know, I'd think. If he says there's no decision made on 3D, I'll believe that. Matt's track record on keeping us fans informed is pretty solid.



Props Collector
 
Next, there was the matter of the "fraudulent" Lord Of The Rings props. The Auckland Herald reported that a collector had probably been sold shoddy goods when he paid his us$50,000 for an original Sting sword, and promptly got the studios to quote on half of the information as well. A few days later, the whole sorry mess was debunked by the people who should know the facts better than anyone - OriginalProp.com - who did a throrough investigation into the actual story. Turns out, the collector in question (Troika Brodsky) had actually bought the genuine props off the legal owners who won them in a contest.

The contest was well described in Peter Jackson's biography - apparently NewLine was giving away swords and various other props without telling the NZ makers about it. PJ put a stop to this when he reminded them that the ROTK's extended cut hadn't actually been completed yet, and they might not want to get rid of the props just yet. If I recall correctly, he ended up accepting the remaining props as payment for the extended cuts.

So, another pie-in-the-face award to "reporter" Joseph Barratt from the NZ Herald.



Lies, damn lies, and newspaper articles

From a personal perspective, I was involved in the story about the sinking of the Venture (as I blogged about earlier). I was called by Radio NZ, who interviewed me for about 4 minutes. I asked beforehand if I could hear the story before it went out but apparently that's not the "done thing", so I requested that he use positive soundclips, however, by the time it was on the air, all he'd managed to retain was the most negative and out-of-contexts statements possible. That's the last time I'll trust the traditional press.



  - Jack M.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Shane Rangi in Rivendell - with a sword! (photos!)

Earlier this week, I was at the Kaitoke Regional Park - better known here as Rivendell - and as we were walking across the bridge, I couldn't help noticing a group of people standing about 30 meters away. One had a good sized video camera (larger, for instance, than most tourists cameras), one had an official looking clipboard in his hand. The one that stood out the most though, was the big muscular looking gent with no hair and carrying a sword, who I immediately identified as LOTR's very own Shane Rangi!




Shane has appeared many times in our favourite trilogy, often as a stunt double, although most famously in The Fellowship Of The Ring as the Witch-King of Angmar. Apparently he has a T-Shirt he wears to conventions that boldly proclaims "I Stabbed Frodo!", something only he (and Shelob, I guess) could get away with. Shane also played the Harad Leader on top of the Mumak who was dispatched by Eomer's spear. In fact, the first time I met him, I was waiting for someone at Weta Digital to come to lunch with me, and I approached Shane (he also doubled as Weta Digital's receptionist at times), saying "I'm sure I recognise you from somewhere", to which he replied "picture me with a spear sticking out of my stomach"... Nice. :)

Soon, Shane crossed the River, with the others looking on from the near side. We left them to it.




Anyway, as I took my guests for a stroll through Rivendell, Shane's group was walking back to the carpark again. I know better than to ask a group of film-industry people what they're working on - their affairs are subtle, and they are quick to anger, and all that. Closed questions are even worse - they will say both "no" and "yes". (ed: enough with the Tolkien misquoting already!)

I was told that they were scouting for a new production, and one of the group knew the question on my mind - it must have been pretty obvious - and offered "sorry, we're definitely not working on a JRR Tolkien project", something Shane has since confirmed as well. So, it's apparently not The Hobbit then - so what else could it be? What sword carrying production is soon to be filmed in the Rivendell area? Are we getting another Narnia movie here? Shane has just returned from the new Narnia production in Australia, Voyage Of The Dawn Treader. Is the next one to be filmed here? Or will it be a locally made TV series, like Legend Of The Seeker perhaps?



Here's another photo of the rest of the group - if anyone can identify any of them, maybe that could give more clues to the purpose of the scouting trip!

 
Who are all these guys?? (click on the picture for a bigger version)

Let me know what you think!

  - Jack M.

PS - a BIG thanks to Andrew B. for the great photos!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Drought or flood - or, "many meetings"...

In the previous entry I was complaining about how nothing seems to be happening, then suddenly I am flooded with news, or potential news. Unfortunately, I'm so busy with tours that I haven't had a chance to do any digging but I thought I'd just report what I've heard from my spies and from what I've seen myself.

First, the biggest news item - Elijah Wood was spotted in the capital. Though heavily disguised with hats, sunglasses, and jackets, one of my most reliable spies spotted him. My spy unfortunately didn't get a chance to say "hi" to him, so I can't tell you why he was here. Could be he was on holiday, could be it wasn't him (I have no photographic proof) - but Elijah being in Wellington suggests to me that there are exciting things afoot - especially when I add his sighting to the others this week. There's no reason to assume he'd be in The Hobbit, but maybe there's another good reason why he'd be here, so close to the green light of the production?


For some reason or another I have been running in to some very cool people this week. Some of them weren't too surprising, others might have been coincidental as well. There's murmerings of lots of secret meetings taking place in the last two weeks, with big black cars parked outside, all over Miramar.

Apart from the unsubstantiated rumours from other sources, I can personally confirm that Shane Rangi is back in town, back from Australia where he's just finished filming a project. Unusually, he assured me he actually (gasp!) LIVED through an entire movie! Not like him at all, he usually dies at least once, and often more than once per movie.

I also ran into Gino Acevido. He's always pleasant and polite, and is a master at making people feel comfortable. He always appears to be very chatty, but afterwards I always realise he's not given anything away that he shouldn't have. Now, seeing him outside Weta Cave isn't that unexpected since he works in the same building a lot of the time, but I haven't met up with him for a while now. Could be just a coincidence.

I could at this point names-drop and mention that I've recently been speaking/emailing/facebooking/twittering with Richard Taylor, John Howe, Costa Botes, Ian Brodie (and sighted Jamie Selkirk), but it was all on unrelated matters, and unfortunately none of them mentioned anything related to The Hobbit.

John Howe did suggest that he may be releasing another artbook soon, and when that comes out he'll probably be autographing it down at the Weta Cave again (something the good folk at the Cave have also let slip) but I've heard nothing specific yet. John Howe has produced a number of very good books featuring his artwork in the past, and this one should be another excellent read.

While at the Weta Cave, I did notice that some of the illustrated LOTR and Hobbit books as well as a few Children of Hurin copies all had Alan Lee's autographs in them, so (a) he must be in town right now, and (b) if you want a rare Alan Lee autograph in a Tolkien book, now is the time to head to the Weta Cave.

Also, while on autographed books - the Cave still has Ian Brodie's LOTR Location Guidebook, and Paul Tobin seems to have been in recently, as the copies of his Crafting Of Narnia all had his signature on the front page. Furthermore, Scott Spencer's books on digital ZBrush techniques all had Scott's autographs in them as well! There can't be a lot of books there without autographs, surely!  ((ed: Sorry Scott, I don't have an IMDB link for you - mail me?))

I've been assured that there are a ton of new items coming from the good folks at Weta, including a number of LOTR related ones. One we're all waiting on of course is the new Hobbiton miniature collectible. I've got in on good authority that they are starting to look "very nice" (I was allowed to quote that much, and no more). But they haven't been revealed yet. I'm sure they'll be on the Weta site before they're on mine!


The final bit of news from Weta - the guns of District 9 were released, and almost sold out already. I did manage to get myself photographed with the last few samples though... enjoy!




The guns are quite heavy, and the detail on them is terrific! Little bits of alien gloop and elbow grease everywhere, scratches and dents everywhere. Very realistic. Let's hope they get the "Best picture" Oscar!

  - Jack M.

Monday, 22 February 2010

It's gone quiet - almost too quiet!

It's been almost two weeks since my last post, and although I've had to rush off for a week while my father was in hospital (he's doing good, by the way - and thanks to everyone for their well wishes, also via Facebook and Twitter), nothing much has been happening here in Wellington.

I've been pretty busy with tours in any case, so I've not had a lot of spare time, which is a great problem to have of course.

However, I have been working on and off on setting up some sort of mechanism to offer some souvenirs online - something I've been meaning to do ever since I started touring about six years ago. There's a link at the top of this page called "Precious Things" - I'd be very keen to hear back from people what you think of it. Do you like or dislike the shirt? Am I being too commercial? I promise not to start sending spam your way any day soon!

I'm using an online shop system called Zazzle, which seems to do a fine job of it, and they'll happily take your credit card details etc. The products seem good quality as well, which was my first concern.


Anyway, drop me a line and let me know what you think!

  - Jack

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Venture finally sunk

The King Kong vessel The Venture was finally sunk on Tuesday Feb 9th, around 12:30pm. Originally planned for Monday, the scuttling operation couldn't go ahead due to weather conditons (the last thing anybody wanted was the ship going down on the way there!) but Tuesdays conditions were as perfect as I've ever seen them in Wellington - mirror smooth seas and windstill conditions. Later on in the day I watched a pod of about 15-20 dolphins jumping around the Petone pier.


I couldn't make it out to the sinking, and missed it leaving the dock for the last time as well, but a colleague of mine managed to take a few pics before it left.

(Pictures by Bryn Lloyd)

One of the people who's shown lots of interest in the ship (and who has been involved with other local scuttling operations, is the appropriately named Marco Zeeman, who managed to get close enough to the sinking to document the event - there's a video of the final moments on the local NZ news site Stuff.co.nz.


I saw the lonely red tugboat return into the Wellington harbour around 4:30pm - red, like the executioner's axe.

  - Jack M.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Venture will be sunk Tuesday 8th

Today was going to be the final day on the surface for the King Kong vessel The Venture, but due tothe weather conditions, it looks like it's had a stay of execution by one extra day. According to the Harbour Master, on Tuesday morning at 7:00am, the tug will arrive at the dock, and will tow The Venture out to sea for its final voyage.

I'm working on a tour tomorrow but I'll do my best to get there before work starts, hopefully I'll be able to take a few last pictures of it as it leaves.


Here is a great shot of the venture a little while ago, taken by one of my readers, Tim Prebble. Tim, great shot by the way! It was obviously taken before last week, when it still had both masts! I love the fog behind it! (For those unfamiliar with the area - behind it should be the hills of Miramar, and behind that, the hills of the Hutt Valley)...

(photo by Tim Prebble)


As a side issue, I was interviewed by Radio NZ's Tim Graham last week about it, and although I tried to keep things as positive as possible, they managed to turn my 5 minute interview into three pretty negative sounding soundbites, which is, I suppose, the power of the old media at work. At least he pronounced my name correctly. On the whole though, the piece is well balanced, although it sounded like Peter Jackson was somehow to blame for not covering the cost of the operation...? It hasn't been his ship for what, 4 years or so?

For those who'd like a listen to the podcast, it's available on the Radio NZ website. The link searches on all things "King Kong" so there may be other choice items there (currently there's still an interview from Philippa Boyens there as well). You can also subscribe to the Radio NZ podcasts through iTunes.

  - Jack

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

King Kong's Venture mast removed

I got a call from the Wellington Harbour Master yesterday giving me a quick heads-up to "something I might not want to miss" - one lucky person has managed to secure quite a major souvenir off the now doomed King Kong vessel, the Venture. This morning the crew was due to remove the main mast off the front of the boat (as you can tell I'm not of the sailor ilk, or I'm sure I would have called it the bow or something. Or the aft? Can't remember which is the front bit).

Underway I picked up a few mates who might be interested in witnessing the historical event, and we arrived at the Miramar Wharf just after 8:30am, just in time to watch the proceedings.


As we arrived, the mast was still up, although the rope ladders to both side were already hanging slack. The crane arrived shortly after, and started extending towards the top of the mast. The mast was secured into place with the crane as well as a few other ropes from the side, so that it won't fall to the ground (or worse, on the wet side of the boat) after the cutting is done.


One of the workers started seriously cutting through the mast. The whole process took about a minute or so.



He left a few very small tabs connected, so that the crane was besically keeping it in place.

Here's the cutting process in action (let me know if it doesn't work; it's my first YouTube video) :)



The blue ribbon cable in the photo was one of the last support left, apart from the steel cable above it (not in this picture). Once that was removed, the mast was loose. Here's the final moments of the mast, for posterity;



And off it came. It was a bit of a sad sight, a mastless ship. Especially after seeing it every day, and pointing it out to literally hundreds of people over the last four years.

On closer inspection, the mast did have a few treasures still on it - two lovely glass lamps.


I'm hoping the new owners will put the whole thing upright again somewhere, possibly even in a publicly accessible place. They certainly looked pretty chuffed with themselves afterwards!

 

After speaking to the Harbour Master again, it looks like the final paperwork on the sinking of the vessel will be completed next Monday the 8th of Feb. After that, they will wait for the right conditions - less than a one meter swell, less than 15 knot winds, and two tugboats have to be available for the whole day (in other words, not on a cruiseship day, of which there are four next week). I couldn't help thinking that if we have to wait for a 15 knot wind (or less!) here in windy Wellington, it may not go down for a few more years! But I suspect I'm being overly optimistic (or pessimistic, about our weather).

In any case, its days are numbered. More updates as they come to hand!

  - Jack