Did you work on Lord of the Rings?

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Paper, Your Place -

Waikato writer, film-maker Claire Ash­ton gives readers an in­sight into New Zealand’s movie in­dus­try.

No I didn’t …. When I tell peo­ple I’ve worked in the film and tele­vi­sion in­dus­try in Welling­ton, I’m in­evitably asked if I worked on Lord of the Rings, and the short an­swer is, no. This an­swer is in­vari­ably greeted with sur­prise and then dis­ap­point­ment that I don’t have tales to re­gale them with. And was I pos­si­bly crazy?

The story goes some­thing like this: I was driv­ing along, eyes peeled for a lo­ca­tion, and eat­ing a pie. This was a par­tic­u­larly good pie, an orig­i­nal recipe Pa­tri­cia’s pie, not the im­poster Tr­isha’s pie, when the phone rang. Of course I an­swered it as it was the era when talking whilst driv­ing was okay. It was Brigit, the pro­duc­tion man­ager of LOTR ask­ing if I wanted to do lo­ca­tions on the movie. I was about to drive into the Mt Vic­to­ria tun­nel, where I would lose re­cep­tion, and think I replied, ‘Nah, it’s okay’, and hung up. Doh.

The fun part of lo­ca­tion scout­ing was mostly fin­ished, and I think what flashed across my mind was that I found it tricky enough to de­cide where to park one por­taloo on a set, let alone half a dozen! The thing is, at the time no one had un­der­taken a film this big in Welling­ton, and I cer­tainly didn’t know that such a thing as the trans­port de­part­ment ex­isted, guys who would move and park the trucks - oh and the loos. Okay, so I think I have spent enough time on the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of shoots.

I never got the call again, I think they had an ‘‘X-file’’ for peo­ple who said no the first time. I didn’t dis­ap­pear into Mid­dle Earth. In­stead I worked on ‘‘the other stuff’’, films like Stick­men, tele­vi­sion se­ries such as Skitz and com­mer­cials. There were other crew who did like­wise of course too. There was enough work, more or less. And when there wasn’t, we made short films, and worked for free on other peo­ple’s short films and fea­tures. I com­pleted writ­ing cour­ses, in­clud­ing a Mas­ters De­gree in Scriptwrit­ing. It was there on a class field trip to the Mi­ra­mar stu­dios (where I saw lots of crew not sighted in years) that I met a hobbit. The main one, played by Eli­jah Woods. He was com­ing out of his trailer, in full cos­tume and makeup. We had a chat, and he was friendly and nice.

As it’s a bit be­yond the av­er­age writer’s bud­get, I have never ac­tu­ally made it into Hob­biton either, though I have driven past, and years ago as a mem­ber of the Waikato Hunt Club, we used to hunt over the Buck­lands road prop­erty, beau­ti­ful rolling coun­try with fan­tas­tic hedges to jump.

So... did I re­gret that de­ci­sion? Hell yeah! My motto in life now? Al­ways, al­ways take the meet­ing.

The Hob­biton movie set re­mains a pop­u­lar at­trac­tion for tourists.

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