Films buoy builders

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By NI­COLA STE­WART ni­cola.ste­

It was about 10 years ago when Mata­mata builder Dar­ren Roa first agreed to ‘‘fix a few of the hob­bit holes’’ on the Alexan­der farm.

Film­ing of Peter Jack­son’s Lord of the Rings tril­ogy had wrapped but cu­ri­ous Tolkien fans con­tin­ued to show an in­ter­est in the re­mote prop­erty.

Rus­sell Alexan­der, now the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Hob­biton Movie Set Tours, asked Mr Roa to help him re­pair what was left of the tem­po­rary film set.

More than 200,000 peo­ple have since vis­ited Hob­biton, and when the idea sur­faced to re­build the iconic Green Dragon pub, Mr Alexan­der wanted Mr Roa for the job.

‘‘When we started [in May last year] the plans still weren’t fin­ished,’’ Mr Roa said.

‘‘We just had to make it work, so we could be a lit­tle cre­ative.’’

Un­der the di­rec­tion of The Hob­bit art di­rec­tor Brian Massey, Mr Roa and his team spent six months work­ing on the unique build.

‘‘There’s no other build­ing in New Zealand like the Green Dragon,’’ he said. ‘‘It was way, way dif­fer­ent to any­thing we had worked on be­fore – the plans are to­tally dif­fer­ent, the ag­ing of the tim­ber . . . but the ar­chi­tect and the de­signer were very, very good at their jobs.’’

Mr Roa’s team worked along­side Welling­ton-based set builders to com­plete the job in time to co­in­cide with the re­lease of The Hob­bit: An Un­ex­pected Jour­ney on Novem­ber 28.

‘‘The hard­est part was we should have started a month or two ear­lier, so there was a lot of pres­sure in get­ting it done and it was ba­si­cally fin­ished the day be­fore,’’ Mr Roa said.

‘‘Some­times we were work­ing up to 60 or 70 hours a week.

‘‘Work­ing through win­ter was pretty try­ing. We had a lot of rain and there was about a month we were work­ing in mud up to our knees.’’

Mr Roa man­aged the con­struc­tion side, and was re­spon­si­ble for putting up fram­ing, beams and gib board, as well as some of the in­tri­cate in­te­rior.

It was a step out­side the com­fort zone for the team, who typ­i­cally work on houses and res­i­den­tial al­ter­ations.

‘‘We learned a lot do­ing The Green Dragon. It was very in­ter­est­ing work.’’

With five weeks to go un­til the of­fi­cial open­ing, Mr Roa handed over to the set de­sign­ers to com­plete the project and moved on to an equally un­usual project – the i-SITE Gate­house.

‘‘The i-SITE was a lot eas­ier be­cause ev­ery­thing we did there, we had al­ready done at the Green Dragon,’’ Mr Roa said.

With an equally tight dead­line to meet, Mr Roa and his team con­tin­ued to put in the over­time.

‘‘Fun­nily enough, we ac­tu­ally en­joyed the long hours,’’ he said.

‘‘We were happy to fin­ish though, be­cause we were all get­ting pretty tired.’’

Mr Roa said work­ing on The Green Dragon had been the high­light of his build­ing ca­reer.

‘‘It does blow quite a few peo­ple away when they walk in there.’’

One of a kind: The Green Dragon pub at Hob­biton.

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