Thursday, 22 December 2011

Welly-moot number six was a total success!

It's almost 11:00pm, and I just got back from the Embassy Cinema in Wellington, where the 6th Welly-moot just took place. It was the second meeting in the last month - the previous meeting wasn't quite as well attended as I'd hoped, but this one made up for it. All in all I think there were 14 people there, and a lot of business was discussed.

Clockwise from me in the green shirt - Peter Kenny, Todd Rippon, Astrid, Erica, Kris, Viviane, Sven, Kim, Mervi, and Paul. The others joined later.

Apart from myself and my beautiful wife, we met up with Mervi from Finland, and Kris who is living here in the Wellington region. Mervi represented the two Finnish Tolkien Societies, while Kris and I are halfway through setting up the Wellington one (but more on that later). New Zealander Erica from joined soon afterwards, and then Peter Kenny (Australian's Brisbane Tolkien Appreciate Society) and Astrid (Austria's Tyrol Tolkien Smial) came in as well. Peter and Astrid joined me on a LOTR tour yesterday, in fact they are both interviewed on the TVNZ News segment about our reaction to the new Hobbit Trailer.

Also in attendance were Paul from the UK, Brendon and his partner from Australia, and three lost backpackers I found on the side of the hill during yesterday's tour, Viviane, Sven and Kim.

If that lineup wasn't special enough yet, we had a ANOTHER special guest for the evening - Todd Rippon also joined us, and he spoke about his time as an Oliphaunt rider, and his ultimate demise at the hands of that cruel elf, Legolas (but "that still only counts as one!").

Todd had some exclusive photos from his time on the set, which unfortunately I can't reproduce here but were enjoyed by all present (so attend next time!).

During the evening, Peter Kenny also recited some of his Hobbit poetry, which went down a treat, as did the cake and the ice coffees.

Other business of course included a discussion about the new Hobbit Trailer released yesterday. I "happened" to have it with me - it's downloadable from after all, and my iPad 2 does the job very nicely, thank you! In fact I think we played the trailer 3 or 4 times, in all. Also on hand was our newsclip from yesterday, of course (that's definitely bragging rights), and a small clip from The Hunt For Gollum as well, once the discussion mentioned it. It's a solid piece of Middle-earth film, and if you haven't seen it yet you definitely should!

One final point that was discussed was that Kris and I are definitely setting up the official Tolkien Sciety in some form here in Wellington, and that will be announced properly as things happen in the near future. I'm hoping that by the next meeting we will have the official approval from the UK as well. Exciting times!

  - Jack

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Hobbit Trailer released - and I made it to TV News again

By now I'm sure everyone has seen the brand new Hobbit Trailer - just in case you haven't yet, check it out at Apple's Movie Trailer directory.

I got a call from TVNZ this morning, to see if I would be available to comment on the trailer later, for their evening news. I told them I'd be touring with a group of LOTR fans, so they invited the whole group along, to watch it at 4:00pm (local NZ time) on the satellite feed! Well, we didn't have to think about that too long, that's for sure!

They interviewed us all at length afterwards, although most of that was reduced to some very excited soundbites. We got a few words in towards the end though.

You can watch the whole reaction-interview at TVNZ's website.

Overall a great trailer - I had expected more of a teaser trailer - you know, fade in, one quick image, and fade out, and repeat. Instead we got one full of exciting content, and lots of mystery! Was the elf in white actually Galadriel or not (I don't think it was, personally)? Where were the ruins that Gandalf was walking through?

Also, some revealing moments - we now have a much better idea about how Frodo fits into the Hobbit movie (considering his character hasn't actually been born yet). That will put a few minds at ease, I'd say!

One little detail I loved was that Bilbo shows off his (newly found) sword Sting, and the markings on the blade are correctly incomplete - the elfish lettering which appear on it during LOTR refer to an incident that happens during the last half of the Hobbit book, and the writing doesn't get added to the sword until after he vists the Elves again in Rivendell. Well done, Weta Workshop!

All things considered, it was a great trailer. It gave lots of hints that The Hobbit would be part of LOTR's story line, but different as well. Get the old audience back onside, and add new ones as well.

By the way, if you want to keep the trailer, it's actually downloadable from the Apple site.

Monday, 12 December 2011

TORn's MrCere on tour with Rover Tours

I had the pleasure of showing Larry Curtis (TheOneRing's MrCere) around Wellington's LOTR locations last week. We had planned to meet in the evening but unfortunately he was unavoidably detained elsewhere and couldn't make it.

He did manage to write up the tour on's blog, and it looks like he had a good time!

So, instead of meeting with MrCere and Tehanu (also from TORn), I met up with Kristi, who has attended earlier Welly-moots, and we discussed setting up as an official Tolkien Society spinoff - a "Smial". The official plans are now underway, so watch this space!

Meanwhile though - in a week and a half there will be another chance for Wellington's Hobbit friends to get together, again at the Embassy Theatre.

Peter Kenny, from the Australian Tolkien Society will be in Wellington, and he's keen to get together with like-minded people here. Also with him will be Astrid from the Austrian Tolkien Society, so a good get together is promised!

The details of the meeting again - it will take place at the Embassy Theatre on Thursday the 22nd of December at 7:30pm.

Hopefully we'll see you there!

  - Jack

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Two Wgtn gatherings in the next two weeks!

Heads up for all Wellington Hobbit friends - your presence is requested! I'm meeting up with some international guests this month, and would like you to come as well!

The first gathering will be in honour of Larry "Mr Cere"Curtis, from, who is gracing NZ with his presence right now. He's Hobbit-chasing his way across the country, and will be in Wellington this week. On Thursday he will be going to the Weta Cave, but I probably won't be making it to that one. Knowing the Weta Cave, it'll be a seriously geeky affair, and probably very noisy and crowded - no doubt fun, but I've got a better idea!

Instead, I've arranged to meet him and Wellington's own TORn representative (read: TORn founder) Erica "Tehanu" Challis. The meeting will take place at 7:30pm, upstairs at the Embassy Theatre. The big differences between Weta Cave and the Embassy is that the Embassy has (a) seats, (b) coffee, and (c) cake. It'll be a better place to catch up, and have a good old-fashioned chat with everyone.

Meeting two will be a few weeks later - on the 22st of December, just before Christmas, the Australian Tolkien Appreciation Society's Peter "Proudfoot" Kenny will be visiting Wellington, together with Astrid from the Tyrol Tolkien Society (Austria). I'll be taking them on a LOTR tour the day before, and just before they leave Wellington, we're going to meet up once more time.

And of course, we'd like to show the Aussies (and the other Aussies - the Austrians) that we do things properly here in NZ, so we need a good turnout for an evening of Hobbit-loving madness. It will be at the same venue, the Embassy, and will start at the same time, 7:30pm.

So, those details again:

  • To meet TORn's Mr Cere, come meet us this coming Friday the 9th of December at the Embassy at 7:30pm.
  • To meet Peter Kenny, be at the Embassy Theatre on Thursday the 22nd of December at 7:30pm.

They'll both be fun evenings, and you're all more than welcome to come to both, of course! Bring friends!

Can you please drop me a line if you plan to attend, so I can put a few extra tables together on the night?

More fame (but still no fortune...)

Update - the iTunes link has now been posted... also, a direct link to Council of Westmarch's own streaming media server.

I was interviewed a few weeks ago by Danbo Brandybuck from the Council of Westmarch, a Montana (USA) based Tolkien community group. It looks like the interview has been edited for release, and has made it onto Middle-earth Radio, and has just finished streaming for the first time.

My bit is in the section The Golden Perch (complete shownotes here). During the interview, one of the things I talk about is a particularly cool visit to the Park Road Post Production facilities - Sir Peter Jackson's studios.

Hopefully it will be available as a PodCast soon as well, so it can be downloaded via iTunes. I'll post a link to it as soon as I know it.

In the meantime, the schedules for a reply are found here. Look for "The Council of Westmarch - The Wardens of Westmarch Ep1".

  - Jack

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

One more update on Manapouri rumours

I received one more update from my source down south (previous reports here, and here).

Apparently while he had some spare time in Te Anau he drove around to one of the lodges, where the Hobbit headquarters were rumoured to be.

He noticed a bunch of markers and roadsigns pointing the way - I've seen the same signs here in Wellington, pointing to various filming locations. They are designed to get a filmcrew, often unfamiliar with the local roads, effeciently to the set without getting lost.

If anyone knows what "LR" stands for, drop me a line? They are most likely the inital letters of the working title of The Hobbit project, whatever that happens to be. For instance, with King Kong the letters were "BPP" (Big Primate Productions).

Now before you all start following the signs to Hobbit paradise, keep in mind that just before you get to the good bits, you'll meet the security crew, who are paid to keep you out, and they're very good at it. I wouldn't suggest tangling with any of them - they are there to make sure the production doesn't get distracted by a thousand onlookers - so PLEASE stay out of their way!

My contact mentioned that the "hired goon" was friendly but looked like he meant business. When asked if all this was to do with "the movie" he replied "it's only a gate". They're happy to talk about the weather but you won't get any Hobbit details from them. I've tried for years here in Wellington - they're very good!

When the "spy mission" was completed, he drove off back home, but was unsure if the large white SUV suddenly behind him was the same white SUV that was parked at the security checkpoint. Quote :
I think I lost him just past the local Bar and Grill where I did a sudden right turn. Recon he might have stopped there as a safe place for a “steak out”.

I reported my story to some locals and heard of a local lady getting frisked at a check point near the Te Anau Helicopter Hanger [JM: presumably to avoid aerial photography of the sets].

All very exciting!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Update on yesterday's Te Anau spy report

I've had a small update on yesterday's report about Te Anau as a Hobbit location - additional material has come to hand that they're looking at Manapouri - several of the Hobbit crew members are reportedly staying there.

My source informs me that "two non-local Jet Rangers Heading South a couple of days ago
in the Direction of Mt Titiroa (our most unique Peak)". Of course, just because they're "non-local" doesn't mean that they are Hobbit crewmembers, however, he went on to say that "There are some Hobbit Crew staying in Manapouri. Word is there are two locations mentioned.. the Mavora Lakes and Te Anau Downs".

I love this James Bond stuff.... Where's Q when you need him!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Brief spy report from Te Anau

I just got the briefest of reports from one of my spies down south:

Te Anau just has been over-run with PJs Film Crew. No word of any battle scenes or the like in the wind.
The information came from the same source as my earlier report, which turned out to be spot-on; the dates are completely accurate.

Te Anau is located close to Queenstown, on the way to Manapouri. Large amounts of LOTR were filmed there, including the Dead Marshes, and parts of the great River Anduin.

He's trying to get some more details from whoever is talking, and hopefully some photos as well. I'll post them when they get here!

- Jack M.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Back from hiatus

It's been a busy few months. I haven't managed to get a lot of blogging done lately, only a few facebook and twitter updates. We've had a few birthdays here at home, and we've had other family staying with us, which always take precedence.

At work, our busy cruiseship touring season has begun again. By the time I come home from a full day tour, I'm usually pretty bushed, and my online activities are generally restricted to be read-only.

In all honesty though, there hasn't been that much to report. The Hobbit production is in full swing but none of it seems to be here in Wellington at the moment - Peter Jackson's various film teams have left Wellywood, and have headed further north and further south. I've seen the occasional celebrity in town but generally they were already reported by other sources.

I don't mean to imply that I've been sitting still - far from it! I've been working on a myriad of LOTR related projects, some for my own pleasure, some for work, and some for the online community. I'll try to get some of the projects online, as soon as I can (or in some cases, as soon as the cloak of secrecy comes off them).

I've also formed a very exciting alliance with fairly new forum - Middle-earth Network. I joined them a few months ago, and it looks like I'm in great company - people like the wellknown artists Ted Nasmith and Jef Murray, and the Tolkien Professor Corey Olsen. Frankly I feel like a hobbit at an Elven dinner party! Still, any excuse for a banquet...

The Middle-earth News/NZ Noldor alliance means I'll have some better resources behind me to get on with some very exciting LOTR related projects - some of which are already underway. I hope to have some announcements about some of them soon - patience!

What I will also report a bit more often, is reports from the field that are not necessarily Hobbit related, but more general stuff. Earlier this year another tree blew over in Isengard (Upper Hutt's Harcourt Park), unfortunately it was a "reference" tree (ie, it appeared in FOTR).

It's been replaced by two new young ones. If there's call for more reports like that, let me know - I'll pop some photos on a bit more often.

Also, is it time for another Welly-moot? I'm keen! Anyone else? Drop me a comment, here or on Facebook!

  - Jack

Friday, 11 November 2011

The Wellywood sign - vote now!

Now is the time to cast a vote for the "Wellywood" sign. Cast your vote here. The vote closes on Friday, November 18 and the winner will be announced on Monday, November 21.

The sign will be located at the entrance to the Miramar suburb. Elsewhere in Miramar you will find Park Road Post Production facilities, the Stone Street Studios, the Weta Workshop, Weta Digital, the Weta Cave, the Roxy Cinema, and huge number of other film industry companies.

There's been a lot of local debate for and against the sign. Personally, I'm totally in favour of it.

The Wellywood sign would be perfect - it yells "film industry", which none of the other options do. That was the whole point of the sign in the first place. Currently, if you are a visitor to Wellington, there is nothing to photograph as an iconic "Wellington film industry souvenir" photo. Paris has its Eiffel Tower, Sydney has the Opera House, New York has the Statue of Liberty. And of course, Hollywood has its sign as well. Our little town isn't important enough for a tower, but a simple sign on the hill would be perfect.

Some of the early options included a giant Weta (a NZ insect), or the phrase "Middle-earth". All cool signs, I'm sure - but Wellywood is more than the Weta Workshop, and certainly more than the Middle-earth films. Even in Wellington, there are lots of people who don't realise the Weta Workshop has been involved in more than 120 movies since the LOTR trilogy; including such huge franchises as Narnia, and the X-Men movies, and of course Oscar nominees Avatar and District 9, and more recently the new Spielberg/Jackson production of Tintin.

The two other options - the Taniwha (a sea-monster from Maori mythology), and the wind-blown Wellington sign - are interesting choices, but neither say anything about Wellington's huge achievemnents in the world's film industry.

"Wellywood" celebrates it in one iconic and easy to recognise sign. Vote now, and lets get this going viral among Wellington's many fans outside the country! Please repost this message elsewhere too!

Again, you can cast your vote here.

  - Jack Machiela, from the NZ Noldor blog

PS - in case this is reposted and the hyperlink is lost - the voting link goes to

Friday, 9 September 2011

Welly-moot #4 report - great meetup!

No excuses - I'm late with my report! It's already been five days since the fourth Welly-moot took place at Wellington's Embassy Theatre, and it was a great success!

The only bit of confusion happened at the start of the meeting - our meeting's start time coincided with the Embassy's start time of the Grease movie nostalgia session, and they'd arranged for a live Rock'n'Roll band to be entertaining that audience before their movie began. Unfortunately they were still playing in "our" spot when we got to the cafe.

Luckily though, they were fun to watch, and the singing (and dancing!) stopped just as I started getting worried, so that all worked ok.

All in all, the Welly-moot attracted a good size "crowd" of hobbit lovers, including some familiar faces, as well as some new ones.

Welly-moot #4 - the biggest one yet!

It was really nice to catch up with Emily again (second from the left in the photo), she attended the first Welly-moot as well. Rachel (far left) was here at the Embassy for the previous meeting, while Ryan, Jenifer and little Hawk (front and centre) have been to all four Welly-moots so far - well done and well met!

A few days before the meeting, I got an email from Ayako, a lovely Japanese woman from Palmerston North, and she came to the meeting with her husband Randall and daughter Rio, as well as a friend Maki with her daughter. The day before the meeting I had Kumiko on my tour - another Japanese woman currently living in Wellington with and her son, and they also both came today. Add to that my wife Aiko, and it quickly became the Japanese contingent of the Welly-moot. (Aiko managed to avoid the camera's eye by volunteering to take the photo - everyone else is at the back on the right). Tolkien is still very popular in Japan as well, it seems!

Some very special guests also joined us - two of Weta Workshop's best designers/inventors/wizards, Warren and Kim Beaton. I met Kim a few years ago, and have had the pleasure of taking them both on a tour around the Wellington region last year. Since then, they've (a) invented some animal-leg stilts, (b) designed a complete cinema for Peter Jackson, (c) are working on a certain Middle-earth movie that starts with "H", and (d) got married, so you could so their year has been reasonably active.

All in all, a rowdy and fun afternoon. The discussions I was part of included the inevitable Rugby World Cup, and the recent snowfalls in Wellington. Also, for some reason, Legolas's presence in Wellington seemed to be a hot topic. Everybody seemed to want to know where to find him (don't worry, Orlando and Miranda, your secret is safe - I certainly don't know it)!

The other rumours currently floating about are the sheer number of "absolutely confirmed" (read: totally not confirmed) filming locations for The Hobbit around the end of the year. Queenstown, Dunedin, Nelson, Te Anau, and Wellington are all contenders, apparently. The studio isn't giving out actual confirmations, so we'll just have to wait and see. Personally, I'm obviously waiting for Wellington locations to add to our tours in the future.

In order for me to entice Ayako to drive all the way from Palmerston North with her family for our meeting, I had promised to take them to the Mount Victoria LOTR location, which we did at the end of the day. The Embassy Theatre is actually on Mt Vic anyway, so that wasn't far to drive. Ryan and Jenifer joined us as well, and we ended up re-enacting the hobbits' famous "Get Off The Road" scene, before parting ways until the next meeting.

I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did - and if you didn't/couldn't come this time, we'd love to see you next time!

  - Jack M.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Welly-moot #4 - Hobbit meeting on 4th of Sept

I flipped a coin in the air and decided it was time to have ourselves another Hobbit meeting. They're always fun, and enjoyed by everyone there. So, here are the details:

What : Welly-moot #4
When : September the 4th, at 2:00pm
Where : Embassy Theatre, upstairs in the cafe
Who : All Hobbit friends in Wellington on the day (that's you!)
What to bring : Money for coffee & cakes, yourselves.(*)

(*) and cool stuff to show off, if you want to! A good old fashioned Show'n'Tell!

The agenda for the meeting : we all turn up, and have a fun afternoon, meeting old friends and making new ones.

I have set up a facebook event for it as well - if you're on Facebook, add yourself to the attendee list here.

Looking forward to seeing as many of you there as possible!

- Jack M.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

MEN Extras required in Wellington!

Last week, it was widely reported that 3 Foot 7 Ltd had put out a call for ELF Extras via New Zealand's job seeking website,

Originally, the advertisement stated :

We are currently looking for slim men 17-30 years and between 165cm – 178 cm or 5’5” -5’8” AND slim women 17-30 years between 165cm – 173cm or 5’5” to 5’8” to play ELF extras.

I've just revisited the site, and it seems to have changed completely. It now it says :

We are currently looking for MEN based in the Wellington region aged 30 plus, medium - large build, 5'8" - 6 foot (175cm - 183cm) Character faces, beards, missing teeth - all good.

I'm not sure if that means they're still looking for Elves or no longer - I guess it pays to respond quickly to these advertisements!

I'm also not sure if they're looking for MEN as a race (as opposed to ELVES), or MEN as a gender (as opposed to WOMEN extras). I've put my application in just in case - I didn't qualify for the ELF call, but this time I'm in!

Bonus - it no longer requires applicants to be slim and pretty, in fact being larger and ugly may just count as a plus! So, watch for my name in the credits!

So if you live in Wellington (a requirement, I'm afraid), apply quickly before it all changes again!

- Jack

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Retraction - Laketown not located as previously reported

It appears that the previous rumour about Laketown having been found was incorrect. Although there is a large movie being filmed in the Duntroon-Kurow area, it is apparently NOT The Hobbit.

New information has come to me which suggests that it is in fact a movie called Mister Pip, which will star Hugh Laurie (from the TV hit series House and the classic Black Adder). Hugh Laurie has previously worked with Stephen Fry on a various projects, notably the comedy show A Bit Of Fry and Laurie.

Of note also is that Mister Pip is being directed by Andrew Adamson, who directed the best two Shrek movies (1 and 2), and the best two Narnia movies (1 and 2). Sounds like Mister Pip, (and any eventual sequel?) will be great (although I'd skip Mister Pip 3)...!

So, no Laketown location yet. That's what you get with rumours!

Keep them coming though! If you've heard anything else please drop me a line!

  - Jack M.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Another two possible locations?

I've heard two interesting but fairly non-specific location rumours from another source.

 To start with, some of the locals in Te Anau are reporting that some "Hobbit people" (their phrase, not mine!) are putting feelers out for mass accommodation in that area around Late November/Early December 2011. Does that mean they'll be out there filming around then? As far as I know, no actual bookings have been made anywhere, so "wait and see" is probably accurate......

View Larger Map

Also, apparently there's "something large" (movie set related) being set up near the town of Middlemarch, inland from Dunedin. The indications I'm getting is that this was also Hobbit related, but I couldn't get that confirmed. Middlemarch is approximately an hour drive from Dunedin, so it until some of these stories firm up, it's probably not worth anybody's time to get out there and investigate...

View Larger Map

So, nothing solid here at all, just the usual rumours and speculation! Nothing changes, in other words! :)

If anybody has heard any other rumours, please drop me a line!

  - Jack M.

Laketown located?

Update 16-Aug-2011 - Rumour retracted...

Last night I heard an interesting rumour from one of my spies who is currently in the South Island. She's been spending the winter in the beautiful Waitaki Valley, somewhere inland between Oamaru and Timaru (which in turn are between Christchurch and Dunedin).

She's heard from a source that "a big movie" is being filmed somewhere between the towns of Duntroon (population 114) and Kurow (population 339), along the Waitaki River.

Coupled with reports (here, and here) of Luke Evans (playing Bard the Bowman) and Stephen Fry (playing Master of Laketown) coming into New Zealand for their scenes, is it possible that the next location to be filmed is Laketown?

View Larger Map

Note also its proximity to the town of Twizel, which was previously used for LOTR's Pelenor Fields battles.

My contact is hoping to get more details by next Monday. Of course, none of this is confirmed or official in any way, and in fact, it may not even be The Hobbit movies at all! That's certainly happened before (Rumour 3 on this previous report turned out to be non-Hobbit, for instance)...

We'll just have to wait and see. Hopefully another report next week!

  - Jack

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Elf-Alert - Orlando Bloom arrives in Wellington!

Earlier today, there was a report from his wife Miranda Kerr that he'd left for New Zealand last night, but I've just had it confirmed by one of my spies - Orlando Bloom has been sighted in Wellington.

Apparently the first place he visited was the Scorch-o-Rama cafe (formerly known as the Chocolate Fish Cafe) in Karaka Bay, on the Miramar Peninsula. Which just happens to be the same cafe Andy Serkis visited first when he returned as well.

If you've joined me on a fullday LOTR tour, that's where we generally have lunch. :)

So if you're reading this, Orlando - welcome back to Wellington! Couldn't have caught us on a nicer day!

To everyone else out there - keep the rumours coming! Photos would be great! :)

  - Jack M.

Monday, 25 July 2011

A cold day in Rivendell

The last few days, the weather has been brutally cold (for Wellington, at least), but today was a recordbreaker during my time as a tourguide.

On tour today, the weather started to close in as we drove north. It was hailing and sleeting at the River Anduin, but after Isengard it really began to look grim. We continued further north, and drove over the hills into the Pakuratahi Valley, where the Kaitoke Park is situated (and Rivendell within the forest).

As we drove over the hillrange, a totally new sight greeted us, and the "grim" turned to "fairy tale".

July 2011

In my seven and a half years as a fulltime LOTR tourguide, I haven't seen Rivendell like this. Once, in 2004, there was a slight sprinkling of snow on the ground but this was full on. Compare this picture from then (and note the old style sign was still there, as you'll see in Ian Brodie's LOTR Location Guidebook):

August, 2004

If you've been to Rivendell before, you may remember this tree as well:

Tree opposite Frodo's Bedroom
Today it looked like this:

The park was full of Wellington children who couldn't believe their luck; snow - closeby, AND during their school holidays. In fact, all along the road back there were cars stopped beside the road with snowball fights breaking out, and snowmen being built. Hopefully for them the snow stays for a few days, but now that I have my photos I'm happy for the sun to return! :)

One more photo:

The Rivendell information sign

I drove through the area late yesterday, and there was no snow there at all, so this all happened in the last 24 hours. Awesome!

  - Jack

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Welly-moot #3 was lots of fun - another success!

We got together today for the third Welly-moot, at the Embassy Theatre. It was a lot of fun, and some good discussions were held.

Around the table (clockwise from the left): Paul, Ryan, me, Moritz, Kristi, and Rachel. Aiko took the photo.

The group wasn't as big as I'd hoped, but there were some good reasons for it - the cold southerly probably deterred a few people from coming out (at least, it felt pretty cold to me but then I've just had a week in Darwin, Australia, so I'm possibly not the best judge at the moment). Also, it seems that the Wellington City Council had chosen today to make about 30 events (almost) free today - the zoo was free, the Wildlife Sanctuary was free, the council-sponsored city tourbus was free, etc. Hard to compete with that!

Various subjects came up, mostly Hobbit related, but also other movies - Avatar vs Fern Gully; Matrix vs Inception; Harry Potter vs Star Wars to name a few of the more heated discussions.

Kristi had details of a local Victoria University (hosted) course on Tolkien's elven language Quenya, and I may have more details about that in a few days. Also, of course, the Blu-Ray releases of the Extended Editions came up, and the sessions at both the Embassy as well as the Roxy theatres in town. Unfortunately due to my ill-timed vacation and the four day notice we got from the NZ suppliers I've missed both FOTR as well as TTT, but I should be able to make it to the ROTK, I hope.

One plan that was discussed was to have a local Marathon Session at one of our homes, with a projector and microwave popcorn. Maybe it's time to put a weekend aside soon, and invite as many as will fit into our lounge?

All in all, I think the Welly-moot was fun, and I look forward to our next one! The Embassy looks like a permanent venue for them. It's bigger, reasonably convenient to park close to, and of course very relevant - the LOTR parade photos still grace its walls!

Looking forward to seeing more people there next time though!

  - Jack

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Date finally set for Welly-moot #3 - June 26th.

After much deliberation (and some procrastination), I've finally decided on a date for the third Hobbit meeting - and a new venue as well.

The Embassy Cinema in 2003. The Fellbeast has since been decapitated by Eowyn. (photo (c) Jack Machiela)

For those who didn't attend the last few times, the Welly-moots are just a casual meeting of Hobbit fans from around the Wellington region (and the occasional Aucklander!). We meet up with the intent to discuss Hobbit related subjects but end up just getting together for a coffee and cake at a local cafe instead. The meetings are 95% social, and about 5% announcements. They are 100% fun, 110% chaos and occasionally the noise level goes up to eleven.

The details for this month's meeting are as follows:

Date : June the 26th, 2011
Time : 2:00pm
Location : Upstairs in the Embassy Cinema (10 Kent Terrace)
Bring : Hobbitty Rumours, and Money for Coffee

NB - the venue is yet to be has now been confirmed - it can still change.

 There is no agenda for these meetings - so far there have been minimal speeches, and only a few "formal" announcements of any type. I've had some giveaways in the past, but I haven't decided this time yet. The meetings are more a way for getting Hobbit fans together. We're all excited by Sir Peter Jackson's new movies!

There's no cover charge, although the venue will know we're coming this time (and will expect us to buy their coffees etc).

I would appreciate if you could RSVP via my Facebook page - that way I'll know if the venue has become too small again.

See you there!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Hobbit filmset spotted on the highway?

I thought I'd share this lovely series of photos that were taken by one of my passengers as I was driving towards Rivendell - they appear to be parts of... Rivendell?

We were driving on State Highway 2, heading towards Upper Hutt, and the Kaitoke Regional Park where the Rivendell set was based for LOTR, when in the distance, I couldn't help but notice an interesting cargo on the back of one of the trucks in front of us. I had my iPhone lying beside me on the seat, and handed it over to one of my passengers, who took these photos (all except the last one when we had stopped for a traffic light):

The pictures appear to show a piece of very nice "stone" masonry, with curved tiles on a fairly large wooden base. Also, underneath some camo plastic, there were what appeared to be pre-fabricated wooden fences of some sort. See for you self - all the pictures can be clicked on for a larger view.

We drove beside the truck for a little while, and my passenger took a few more pictures. Please excuse her reflection in the glass; it was a very sunny day here in Wellington today.

On the right you can clearly see the "stone" wall - on the left is the camo sheet with the fences underneath it. The odd shape at the bottom of the wall is actually my passenger's knees reflected.

In the photo you can see the wooden structure that is holding the wall up.

Another view of the wall from the back of our van.

And a better view of the wall, with more detail intricate patterns of the stone tiles. This stuff reminds me of the architecture of Rivendell.

And I took this picture myself, when we were positioned right behind the truck as we were waiting for a light to change. A different angle of the fences and the wall.

We followed the truck for a while, until it turned off just before Upper Hutt. So unfortunately it doesn't look like the Rivendell sets will be rebuilt at Kaitoke Regional Park - at least, not yet!

  - Jack M.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Scoop! Hugo Weaving spotted in Wellington!

Finally, then, the news that I'd been waiting on for so long. Now that Orlando Bloom is all but confirmed; John Rhys-Davies has approached the studio last week; Sir Ian Holm is due back; Elijah Wood has been signed up; Sir Christopher Lee has indicated that (health allowing) he'll reprise his role as Saruman; Sir Ian McKellen is back in cloak and pointy hat; and Andy Serkis has donned the lycra suit with all the dots on it one more time - there was really only one person missing from the reunion list. We were still waiting for one very important cast member, espcially since the current set being rebuilt in Stone Street Studio is Rivendell.

About an hour ago I received news from one of my more reputable spies, and he has reported seeing Hugo Weaving here in Wellington this afternoon, shopping at Common Sense Organics, the fruit and vege market in Wakefield Street. Of course he shops organics - he's the lord of the Elves, for goodness sake!

Lord Elrond Half-Elven, fading into view?

It's probably a bit too hasty to assume that he's here to be in The Hobbit, but I can't think of any other reason why he would come here right now, just when they're discussing Rivendell scripts. It's certainly not for the weather (it's howling a cold southerly gale out there at the moment).

Certainly good news, no matter what!

  - Jack M.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Gimli to visit PJ's studios today

I heard from a friend who attended John Rhys-Davies' presentation at Wellington's fantasy convention Armageddon yesterday that John is planning a visit to Peter Jackson's studios today.

It was unclear if he would be there on official business or if it is merely a social visit.

Is there hope for Gimli's visit after all?

- Posted from the field by Jack M.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Interview, with ... me?

A few weeks ago I mentioned on my Facebook page and my Twitter acocunt that I'd been interviewed by another blog (Middle-earth News).

I've been reminded that not everybody has Twitter or Facebook yet, so if you missed my awesome interview on, you can find it under the header "The Man Who Walks LOTR Everyday"...The interview touches on things like what it's like to be a LOTR tourguide, here in Middle-earth Central; Wellington New Zealand.

The short answer is "it's great!" but if you want a bit more detail than that, read the whole interview. :)

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Why Costa Botes won't do "Making Of The Hobbit" documentaries (even if he was asked)

Earlier this month, the long awaited Blu-Ray versions of the Extended Edition of LOTR were announced, and although no previously unseen extra material was mentioned, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the rarely-seen and hard-to-get “Behind The Scenes of LOTR” documentaries will be included on the box-set.

These documentaries were directed by Wellington director and long time friend of Sir Peter Jackson, Costa Botes. Costa was a Peter Jackson fan since the very early days –he had a (very brief) role in PJ’s first movie, Bad Taste, where he gets ripped in half by a lethal automobile “accident”.

More actively, Costa co-wrote and co-directed the mockumentary Forgotten Silver together with Peter Jackson, and has since created a very interesting body of work on a diverse range of subjects such as the creator of the Jelly-Belly sweets; the annual Nepal Blues Festival; and the plight of the rare Canadian Eskimo Dogs.

I recently caught up with Costa Botes online, and asked him what he thought of the unexpected inclusion of his work on the new LOTR Blu-Ray box.


JM - The first question I have for you is about your name - how do I pronounce it? Is it like "boats", or (like I keep hearing) "boh-tehs"?

CB - My name is pronounced Boh-Tess, accent on the first syllable. Thanks for asking!

JM - Good to clear that up! And it  looks like your LOTR documentaries have been re-released on the LOTR extended edition on Blu-Ray, finally, although apparently it's a “limited edition” release.

CB - Right, first I've heard of it [was when the announcement came through on March 7th].

JM - Wow, they don't even tell the director when they release them? I did wonder about that, yeah.

CB - New Line never consulted or even told me when they first released them- they originally got the aspect ratio wrong, missed a prime opportunity for commentaries, made some annoying edits ... the biggest thing is they should have made an effort to put them out as a standalone set, rather than squeezing the fans yet again to buy the original films. I did not like taking the blame for that when it was no choice of mine! Left a very bad taste (no pun intended). But in whatever form, I'd rather they were out than not, if for no other reason than my docs - I believe - properly acknowledge all the rank and file techs and artists who sweated blood to make the movies happen.

JM - I'd have loved to see some of that missing footage though... Orcs, singing Stand By Me... :)

CB – Yes. Unfortunately, the Studio obviously felt it wasn’t worth the cost or hassle of licensing the rights. But you do get to hear them sing our national anthem. I just tried to capture the truth, “warts and all”, just like PJ asked. That was his only direction to me. The Extended Editions are a terrific source of oral history, but somewhat miss the fun, and sense of humour people showed in adversity. I think that spirit was key to the whole LOTR enterprise.

JM - Yeah, you nailed it there. The New Line docos say "we're all beautiful people, and everything went great, 100% of the time", where your ones say, "the weather was against us, everything broke, people got angry - but we persevered and did it anyway". I think it tells a truer story.

CB - On balance I had a very privileged 'rings side' seat at an unrepeatable spectacle, and would not have missed it. Happy to sit out the next one though.

JM - Actually, I hope you'll get the same "rings side" seat again (nice pun, btw!) - I'd love to see the same style docos for The Hobbit! Maybe we should start a "Costa Botes needs to get involved in The Hobbit" Facebook petition...

CB - No, I really don't need to get involved in the Hobbit. That holds absolutely no interest for me whatsoever. I wish Peter and his team well, but my focus is on my own work these days. best of luck to the Hobbit, but I have no interest myself in undertaking any such project again. Been there, done that.

JM - No worries, I wasn't really about to set up a facebook page :)

CB - I'd be happier if they had let me complete my docos as intended - with music and film-maker commentaries. But grateful for small mercies. Imagine if all we had was the National Geographic special [Ed: originally included with the boxed set of FOTR].

JM - Actually, you know, I never actually saw the National Geographic one...

CB – It was malarkey. It killed me to have to supply them with footage. The people involved were pleasant enough, but their take was absolutely one-eyed. Into the cultural blender where everything comes out the same flavour – bland vanilla.  I'll have to write down the whole story one day. There's a limited account on my web site that gives the gist, though you'll have to read between the lines a bit.

JM - It would have been nice to see your take on the Making Of The Hobbit - I always enjoyed your docos more than the Hollywood stuff. It seemed more kiwi, in so many ways.

CB – Thank you. But it could be argued the studio have provided well for fans. Too much choice? Is that bad? At least my stuff wasn't buried. My take was clearly out of synch with the Hollywood way. They do things differently there! But the three docs have eventually escaped, and only a little different than I intended.

JM - True enough, and although it may not be entirely your ideal version, at least your name is forever favourably attached to it in the public's minds, at least. And to your film making skills. That can't be a bad thing!

CB - I'd like to think so. Though I’m obviously keen to move on. I'm interested in stories about compelling, passionate characters. Not so much in making movies about other people making movies.

JM - I can see that was the case in Forgotten Silver, but how did you ever agree to doing the LOTR docos in the first place then? It's not really about the person but about the process - at least the versions they ended up releasing?

CB - The aspect of documenting LOTR that interested me was showing how a whole lot of compelling, passionate people united to do the impossible, from PJ on down to the guys who hand knitted 5 million plastic rings to make chain mail. It was a hell of a story, and who could resist that? But it was made up of a lot of stories, and by and large I am more interested in singular tales where I can exercise some degree of authorship. Make sense?

JM - Yeah, a lot of sense. As a LOTR tourguide, I tell exactly those stories all day, five days a week. I think I know where you're coming from there - if they were boring stories I wouldn't still be doing it seven years later. It explains Candyman as well, which I enjoyed tremendously.

CB - No, nothing boring about LOTR. The process of making those movies was an amazing adventure, which I did my best to capture and honour in the retelling. It's national folklore now.

JM - Indeed it is. So, what are you working on at the moment then? Or is it all the usual totally secretive stuff? :)

CB – No, nothing secret. Candyman has just been released in the US, and is establishing itself as a modest cult favourite. I’ve just finished editing a feature documentary called Daytime Tiger, which is about a writer with bi-polar (manic-depression) who is forced to choose between his creativity and his wife. It’s pretty startling. And I’ve started editing a film I shot in northern Canada called The Last Dogs of Winter, about an obsessed loner who has spent the last 40 years maintaining a colony of Eskimo Dogs – the rarest breed of dog in the world. The kicker there is he keeps the dogs in an area shared with wild polar bears. Most of my work since LOTR has been done completely independently, retaining ownership and creative control. Also using digital tools I first adopted documenting LOTR. So I guess even if I was a little unhappy with some aspects of that big studio experience, it changed my life and career for the better.

JM - It sounds like you're certainly keeping busy. Your touch will be missed on the Hobbit but the other projects you've been working on sound fascinating too. Thank you so much for your time!

For those interested in following Costa Botes' other works, he has provided links on his blog to purchase them on DVD, and YouTube links for further interviews.

 - Jack M.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Wellywood Map by Daniel Reeve, now available for purchase!

The LOTR touring company I work for, Wellington Rover Tours, has always given away a map to our guests at the end of the tours. This map was originally printed by the Wellington newspaper, the Dominion Post, back in 2001 when the first movie was released.

The old map, no longer available.

Although the map was a fine reminder of your visit to Wellington as it showed the whole Wellington area complete with quite a number of LOTR locations, I was never quite satisfied with it. Some of the locations were inaccessible, or too far away for our tour. Some of the text accompanying the map was incomplete, or downright wrong. Of course, back in 2001 the LOTR shoot hadn't completed yet so the newspaper did the best they could, given the limited information available.

When my boss informed me in December last year that we'd almost run out of the printed maps again, I took the opportunity to develop an idea I've had for a while - to create a custom-made map of "our" Wellington region, done in a more suitable style, and by the best Cartographer around - Daniel Reeve. Daniel Reeve of course created the maps for Peter Jackson's movies, for Lord Of The Rings as well as for King Kong and Narnia, and almost all of the written material for LOTR - he is a supurb Calligrapher and all-round artist, and often hosts artists sessions for Red Carpet Tours as well.

I was aware that Daniel would probably be working on The Hobbit movie soon, so my window of opportunity was limited. I got in contact with Daniel late last year and incredibly, he agreed to do the work. The result is fantastic - see what you think!

The maps were published a few weeks ago, and we've been quietly handing them out to our guests. Also, if you remember from my entry on the second Welly-moot last week, Wellington Rover Tours donated a map to all attendees (at a cost of over $250 - thanks to my boss Scott!)

The response has been 100% positive, and in fact we've had so many enquiries about them that we've decided to make them available online. So if you've been on a Rover Rings tour and would like an extra copy for a friend, or if you haven't been able to make it down to New Zealand yet but would like a map in the meantime, here is your chance!

We've decided to keep the costs down to give everyone a chance to get one, but we're only making 100 available in this first instance, to see how that goes. The maps are NZ$24.95 plus NZ$7.50 shipping and handling wordwide, and there's a link on the page to see how much that will be in your own currency.

As long as they are available, the map will have a permanent link from the top of my blog here, look for the "Wellywood Map" link at the top of this page.

I'm very keen on feedback - please drop me a line with your thoughts!

  - Jack M.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Welly-moot #2, a chaotic but fun time

I've just come back from the second Welly-moot meeting, a coming-together of Hobbit fans here in Wellington, although at least one of the attendees had come from Auckland just to attend (well done, Haldirriel)! The first meeting was attended by 12 people - this time it had gone up to about 17. I think next time we'll have to find a "proper" venue! If anyone has suggestions for the next meeting, mail me!

A variety of subjects were discussed at the coffee meeting - Barbara had recently been to Hobbiton, and had printed her photos, so we all got a look at the almost finished sets there (I understand they are now completed but the photos were taken just before that). I didn't get copies - and I'd be prevented from showing them here in any case...

I'm currently trying to source a group-photo from Brian, who took a few snaps at the meeting (I'll post it here as soon as I have it). Brian is a huge Hobbit fan, and likes to collect news clippings. Brian had brought with him a large folder labelled "The Hobbit - Book 4"; yes, he has already filled three books just on The Hobbit! At home he has 22(!) large volumes filled with LOTR newsclippings!! Brian's partner Suzie was also there, as was their son Harrison.

Nicolás has recently moved from the Milford Sound in the South Island, and is currently looking for a house here in Wellington - he's hoping to get a job on the set in some way.

Also attending today were four US students from Wellington's Victoria university, three of whom I'd "rescued" off Mount Victoria a few days ago while they were taking photos of the wrong tree. The three are currently studying Film Studies here in NZ, while the fourth is a Psychology student. A bunch of Hobbit geeks together is probably a good homework assignment for a Psych student! (Unfortunately I didn't get names, so if you're reading this - drop me a line?)

Heike was there as well - I met her some time ago through the blog, she's left quite a few comments on the blog over the years. Today Heike brought me some home-made jam made from local wild blackberries - I've been eating the berries all over the region (Rivendell, the River Anduin, the Hobbiton Woods, and Brego's River all have blackberry bushes!) so the jam will go down nicely - thanks Heike! It will be enjoyed...

Jenifer and Ryan, and little Hawk, were there as well, although they were at the far side of the table (from me), so I'm afraid I didn't spend as much time talking to them as I wanted to this time - the same unfortunately went for Brendon and his partner Keryn. Brendon did bring his amazing copy of The Hobbit book, with at least twenty autographs in it!

I turned up with my lovely wife Aiko, who unfortunately had some other business to attend to for the rest of the afternoon, so she left me to it. I brought along my brand new map, recently created by Daniel Reeve (LOTR's Cartographer) for Wellington Rover Tours. I wanted to use the meeting to "officially" introduce the map to the world, so now that that has been done, I can start talking about them properly. If you look at the top of this page, you'll see a link to the "Wellywood Map" - if you want one as well, they are now available for purchase.

I'll write up another blog entry about that a bit later, but at the Welly-moot I had arranged with my boss that Wgtn Rover would donate a map to all attendees (they are usually $24.95 each). So thanks to Wellington Rover Tours there were a few lucky people there today! The other way to get yourself a map is to come on a LOTR tour, and we'll give you one!

I also tested interest for a possible Wellington Tolkien Society that I've been thinking about starting due to a total lack of a NZ chapter. There seems to be enough interest in it for me to pursue that further, so I'll be talking to the UK Tolkien Society in the next few months to see what I'd need to do.

All in all, it was a fun afternoon - it was very noisy and chaotic, there wasn't really an agenda other than "let's meet, drink coffee, and talk", and everyone had a great time! On to the next one!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Garrett Robinson should work on the Hobbit

I met up with a fellow blogger the other day, he's come all the way from the USA with a single goal in mind - to get a job working on The Hobbit. His name is Garrett Robinson - I'm expecting to see his name in The Hobbit credits somewhere.

Now, I get a lot of email from all sorts of wonderful people who ask me for a job on The Hobbit, something I'm afraid I REALLY can't help you with - if I could do that, I'm sure I'd be working on The Hobbit myself. Garrett seems different though - he basically got himself sorted out, went through the official channels to get a proper Working Holiday Visa for a year, left his life back in the USA for as long as it takes, and is currently making a video blog about his efforts to get onto the set. The blog is here:

Garrett and me on Mount Victoria, Wellington

He's got a good sense of humour about it, which I think prompted me to contact him when I found out he was in Wellington, and I spent a very pleasant morning with him. Originally it was just going to be a coffee at the Botanic Gardens, but pretty soon it was another coffee at the Embassy Theatre, and then a fun wander around some of the Mount Victoria LOTR locations. He filmed some of it, and the result is up on his blog. If you've got 6 minutes, it's a lot of fun to watch. If you've been on one of my tours, it's worth a look as well - there's some unexpected angles that I can't take everyone on during the "regular" tours, but this took us on an unexpected path, and we saw other stuff. Take a look for yourself!

  - Jack M

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Gandalf and Gollum arrive in Wellington

Warning: Heavy use of NamesDropping(tm) in this post! You have been warned!

In case you missed the news, Bilbo and the 13 Dwarves have arrived in Wellington last week, and are currently on some sort of Dwarven Boot Camp, whatever that may entail. Of course, a few other big names are expected to arrive in Wellington, so I've had my beady little eyes open and my not-at-all-pointy ears flat to the ground.

I've been doing alright - I was out with a LOTR tour group last Saturday and we ended up sitting at the table next to Andy Serkis! He graced us with a quick talk but it looked like his minder was rushing him along to the next meeting. I basically had a chance to welcome him back to Wellington and wish him well for what sounds like a long shoot for him - he usually ends up doing three times the amount of work just to get his physical and digital personas to match up on screen. He remembered me from the last time we met, which would have been close to five years ago, just after the King Kong release.

One of my sources told me later that he met up with Sir Ian McKellen at a local theatre on Saturday night, so Gandalf is back in town as well. I had assumed he was still on his Indian holiday but apparently that has finished now.

After Saturday lunch, and during our Weta Cave visit I ran into Sir Richard Taylor as well, who promptly told me off for calling him "Sir Richard", hehe ("just Richard, thank you!"). He mentioned a few other people who'd been at the workshop in the last week, including Seth Green. He didn't mention why Seth was here - I got the feeling it was just a friendly visit rather than anything official. Still, Seth is always very conscious of his (lack of) height - perhaps he's faced it and is applying for a Hobbit role? (email me, Seth, and I'll apologise for that one!)...  :)

It was quite a full-on day - Rivendell was still being used for that video game being filmed by Lee Tamahori (called "Cardinal", apparently although that may just be the working title), although that didn't interrupt our  LOTR tour. Apparently Shane Rangi was there as well although I didn't spot him. Having said that - there was a bunch of people in some great costumes, including one who looked like a humanoid lion/cat person - it might have been Shane in the suit! No photos sorry - their security looked stronger than me.

Isengard was full of people attending the Jousting Tournament, and on Sunday we briefly ran into LOTR's Sword Smith Peter Lyon who told us that this year he didn't take part in the Jousting but ended up relaxing from the sidelines for a change.

To top it all off, Mount Victoria and its famous "Get Off The Road!" scene was virtually inaccessible due to an all-day mountain bike race happening, which happens occasionally. I think we had enough famous people to make up for the missing location!

All in all, quite a day! I'm expecting more days like that in the next few weeks, so now is a good time to book on a tour!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Official Casting Call for Elves!

Wellington's official call for Elven extras has appeared on TORn and TradeMe (NZ's auction and jobsearch site).

Applicants have to be between 17 and 40 years old, and women have to be at least 175cm tall (5'9"), while men have to be slightly taller at 183cm (6').

To apply, just turn up to the address listed, and get in line - I'm sure most of Wellington will be there (at least those tall enough).

Alternatively, if you can't make it there on the day - there's an "Apply Online" button on the TradeMe site, they will send you an application form instead. Please though - they will have LOADS of applications to deal with - only apply if you actually pass the height test! There will be other calls later for different races (I'm hoping for open calls for Men and Dwarves later).

Note also, that this is just the Wellington call - there may be others later in NZ cities closer to you; at least if you're in New Zealand. If you're not - perhaps that working holiday visa is becoming a good idea? (NB - having a visa is not a guarantee of getting into The hobbit, obviously! But NOT having a visa is a guarantee of NOT getting into the movie).

On a personal note - annoyingly, my son can apply although I'm too short. I expect that it will be years before he'll let me forget that. Maybe I'll get in as an Orc or something later, and we'll fight on opposite sides of the Battle of Five Armies. Let's see his pointy little ears then! Kids! Pah!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Filming of Cardinal seems to have begun

Driving through Rivendell today, we passed a large ancient stone structure and an old tree that I'm sure weren't there yesterday. It looks like the filming of the video game has begun, as I blogged about a few days ago.

To the left, an ancient stone clearing. To the right, a tree being moved into the forest. All perfectly normal.

 Building up to an ancient ruin of some sort. Made from Styrofoam.

It also looks very much like the name of the game will be "Cardinal", and not "Monk" or "Abbott", as I'd previously reported. After work, just before I got home, I noticed a few new signs around my own suburb, marked "Cardinal", with the distinctive look of the film industry's directive signs.
The bottom sign is new

Cardinals turn left?

From the sounds of things, the filming at Rivendell will be from the 16th to about the 19th of February, however, these signs I photographed are closer to Wellington City and probably point towards Makara, where a lot of filming was done as well - notably parts of Black Sheep, and of course a few scenes of our very own Lord Of The Rings. Specifically the part where Sam, Frodo and Gollum walk past the old statue of a king with its head removed, when the evening sun reveals the blossom on the king's head.

I'll keep my eyes open in the next few days, there might be some LOTR people about - or perhaps even Hobbit people?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Welly-moot #2 - Second Coffee Meetup in Wellington

After the resounding success of the first meeting last month, I've decided we're going to have another one early in March. I'm hoping everyone can make it to Floriditas Cafe again, at 2:00pm on Sunday the 13th of March.

A "Fluffy" for little Hawk, meticulously made during a previous visit to Floriditas

The other decision I made about it is that we needed a name for the meetings, and I got a lovely idea from Haldirriel. She's a big Tolkien fan from Auckland (original from Pittsburgh) who I had the pleasure of showing around Wellington some time ago. She suggested "Coffee-moot" but I wanted something more specific, so from now on, as you can see in the title of this entry, the meetings will be referred to as "Welly-moots".

Alas, I have no big announcements to make, but so close to day#1 of filming I'm sure we'll have heard other cool stuff by then. If anyone wants to use it as a sort of grown up version of "show and tell", please do! I might have a few cool things with me as well (as long as my current project is finished by then)!

Drop me a line for more detail if you need to, or better yet, ask questions here!

If you can't make it, don't worry, I'll post a report about it afterwards. We're not looking at using Skype just yet, as it was all a bit tumultuous last time, but perhaps in the future that may change. There are places with free Wi-Fi around town, so maybe that's a viable option at some point!

  - Jack

Monday, 7 February 2011

Filmset in Rivendell, (not Hobbit)

I've heard from a few people that there will be some filming going on in the Kaitoke Regional Park, aka Rivendell. Although apparently swords will be used, it doesn't sound like it will be The Hobbit. I've pieced together some details, weeded out the stuff that sounded too fantastical or unlikely, and this is what I think is happening:

- Being filmed are the short movie interludes for a video game, to be shown between advancing levels of the game
- The game is called "The Monk", or "The Abbott", or something similar. I couldn't get anyone to tie that one down
- The park location will be used between the 16th and 19th of February
- The director will be Lee Tamahori, of James Bond and Once Were Warriors fame
- There will be swords, medieval tents, and horses
- Weta is involved, although I have no idea if that's Weta Digital or Weta Workshop, nor do I know at what level they'll be involved

And today, while on tour, we met up with Shane Rangi at Rivendell, who was doing some "reccing" (recconaissance) with some studio crew. He was very friendly, but appropriately tightlipped, of course :)  He did let slip that he'd be a part of the filming next week.

I have blogged about Shane in the past - check out this entry from March last year, where he was also scouting around the Rivendell area with a group of execs. Possibly it's about the same filmshoot?

If I see anything worthwhile next week, I'll be sure to post some pictures!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Peter Jackson hospitalised, Hobbit delayed (slightly)...

Early tonight it was reported that Sir Peter Jackson was hospitalised last night with a perforated stomach ulcer. The good news is that he went straight in to surgery, is currently resting comfortably, and is expected to make a full recovery.

The only minor bad news, is that there will be a "slight delay to the start of filming of The Hobbit". I'm sure things are pretty well on track at the moment, so I expect that this shouldn't impact the project in any major way.

I'm sure everyone will join me in wishing Peter a speedy and uncomplicated recovery! And perhaps some reassurances - although we're all looking forward to watching The Hobbit, please take your own time making it - nothing is worth losing your health over. We'll wait as long as it takes.

  - Jack

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Noldor Coffee Meetup brings eyewitness reports

I just came back from the first "official" Noldor event - an informal get-together of Hobbit fans, at local cafe Floriditas, where the slices of cake were even better than I remembered them, although they'd run out of chocolate cake by the time I got to them. I had to settle for the Apple Crumble, which was great as well.

There were twelve of us, and I reckon I may have to make this a semi-regular event.

Clockwise around the table, starting at the far left: Laura; Ryan & Jenifer with Hawk; Emily; Erica; Annaëlle & Corrado; Brendan, me, Grant & Monica.

Laura is a huge fan of LOTR who has come to Wellington to try and get some work on The Hobbit, and might just get the chance soon. Ryan is a scriptwriter who came with Jenifer on my tour some years ago, and have since moved from the USA to Wellington. Emily is a LOTR fan and a fan-fiction author who is quite an authority on all things Middle-earth, while Erica is famous for being a founding member of About a month ago, I met Annaëlle and Corrado wandering around Mount Victoria looking for LOTR scenes one day while I was touring with a group there - Annaëlle is Belgium while Corrado is from Italy, and they both came to NZ on a working holiday, and will be in Wellington for another month or so before they move on again, probably to the South Island for a bit. Brendan worked in the film industry in Australia and moved to New Zealand about a year ago, he's also hoping to get a Hobbit related job at some stage. I met Grant through this blog a few years ago - he's a big LOTR fan - but I hadn't met his partner Monica yet.

We talked about assorted Hobbit related subjects. Ryan and Jennifer mentioned they ran into John Howe on their way into the cafe today, so Mr Howe is back from his holiday, and apparently production is now in full swing at the studios. Obviously he couldn't divulge any details but by all accounts he and Alan Lee will be working in the South Island with the location scouts first of all, finding and designing new sets and locations for The Hobbit. Very exciting, but also totally vague - New Zealand's South Island is so big that it's generally referred to as The Mainland by its occupant!

Another interesting item though - apparently Martin Freeman (the new Bilbo) and Stephen Hunter (the dwarf Bombur) were spotted in Wellington on Friday night! No photos yet - if anyone spots them again, or any of the others, drop me a line!

While I'm treading the rumour mill, let me dispell a few as well. I've heard from sources at the studio that there aren't quite 6000 people working at on The Hobbit, so I'll file that rumour where it belongs - under "H" for "Hyperbole". However, I suspect there are at least 6000 people who WANT to work on The Hobbit. Count me in on that number.

Another bit of wrong information I posted - the film set at Waikanae I previously reported turns out not to be Hobbit related. I'm still not sure what it is though, but it's definitely not Middle-earth. And I heard another rumour that there was a supposed location by Queenstown where previously the fields outside Isengard's were filmed (when Gandalf rides up to the gate in FOTR) - it doesn't sound like that one was Tolkien related either. So, a rumour killed before I even posted it. Saves time, I suppose.

Next, Hobbiton being turned into a permanent location is still speculation, and no announcements are expected before filming finished (which hasn't even started yet, so don't hold your breath on that one). I've not been able to get any information on the "complete rooms within some of the hobbit holes" Bed&Breakfast idea, so that one's on hold as well. Expect no answer either way until after filming is complete.

Finally, I was correct about Ian McKellen not holding out for more money. It sounds like it was more of a timing issue. So my last rumours post was at most 25% accurate. And that, boys and girls, is why I'm not a journalist. (With a side note to any actual journalists reading this - if you want more info on anything I post here - please contact me first before you run with a story. Chances are I've heard more information than I've had a chance to post, and they are usually corrections or withdrawals. My contact details are in my Google profile).

On a final note - I mentioned that I have some Hobbiton photos that I might post. I've been persuaded not to post them by various people, for very good reasons, not the least being that if we see too much of Middle-earth before the movie begins, it will take some of the shine of the movie itself - something I certainly don't want to be a part of. However, I did want to post one photo taken at Hobbiton - I feel confident that it won't spoil the movie for anyone, and I don't think the lawyers will call me about it. So, here goes:

Yes, even the toilet roll holders are in the shape of Hobbit Holes. Awesome! :)

  - Jack