(Post written on 25th October 2010)
I try not to get too political on this blog but I feel strongly enough about this topic to post. The issue at hand is whether the production of 'The Hobbit' movies will stay in New Zealand or if Warner Brothers (which holds the purse strings) will take it off shore to another location - possibly the UK. This has been the consequence of industrial action over terms and conditions for workers on the production. A boycott had been placed on the films earlier this month but was lifted last weekend. Unfortunately Warner Brothers has reportedly lost faith in the NZ film industry as a consequence of the action, and are threatening to remove the production of the films to another country. Executives from Warner Brothers have flown into the country in order to discuss the moving of the films. Today, rallies have been organised and held across New Zealand to coincide with the executives' arrival and thousands have apparently turned up in support of the "Keep 'The Hobbit' in New Zealand" campaign. A report in the NZ Herald quotes one of the rallies' organiser, Mark Harrison, as saying:
"Sir Peter said that these were his darkest days. We want to show our support for him and we want Warner to know that their investment in New Zealand actors and actresses will be safe."
He said opportunities for small-time actors to participate in such a major feature only arrived every 10 years."
As I see it, if the films are moved away, not only "small-time actors" will be affected. What about the skilled technicians, the costume designers and sewers, the set designers, the workers creating the sets, the film crews, the caterers, the tourist operators. (Apparently 1 out of every 10 visitor to New Zealand comes as a result of LOTR). The list of people who will be affected and disadvantaged by a move is almost endless. As a side note, I have to express some slight frustration at the "RAcentric" people who are hoping for the films to be moved closer to them in the UK. The issues are so much bigger and the consequences to the livelihoods of many, make comments like that indefensible imo.
Cynics have pointed out that Warner Brothers may never have intended on keeping the films in New Zealand, (admittedly the UK pound and US dollar has gone down in value making the venue more expensive to use). My argument to that is that when Guillermo del Toro started work on the project, he moved to New Zealand and started work on sets and designs while he was there in 2008/2009. I understood that it was the delays in greenlighting that meant he had to leave the project in May 2010.
A quick perusal of TheOneRing.net meant I could search out a number of links to demonstrate exactly how much work has already gone into this project behind the scenes in Matamata (Hobbiton). I am posting the following with thanks to TORn for keeping such a wonderful site!!
4. Shire is fit for hobbitation again - 29th September 2010 (Take a look at how much work has gone into this!!)
Following is an exerpt from an interview with Sir Ian McKellen in the Sydney Morning Herald, July 8th 2010.
”I’m waiting to hear when the Hobbit is going to be made,” McKellen said. ”We don’t know who is going to direct it. Peter Jackson is currently the producer and he’s currently casting it. I’ve just been to Wellington where I met a lot of people who have been working on it for a year now. The sets are being built. The costumes are being designed. The creatures are being designed. It is all ready to go." SIR IAN MCKELLEN - GANDALF. (July 2010)
Well, we now know that Sir Peter Jackson is the director.
From these links, the reader can see that this project has been underway for quite some time - people have been putting some hard work into the sets, costumes and "creatures" ...... for what, if they move the films???
Now here's an interesting bit of information I posted on C19, but no one picked up as most of those posters don't bother to read my posts (sorry ladies, I promise to be less grumpy if the films stay in NZ). In my search through the TORn archives, I discovered a post written on the 5th November 2009 entitled"Exclusive Hobbit Update: Casting, Monsters, Costumes!" The post talks about the sets that were being built at the time, the animated creatures and even more interesting, the casting!! This quote should be of interest:
"In addition to Bilbo and Gandalf, it seems likely that Thorin Oakenshield has also been cast in every real way except officially. TORn or Variety can’t be handed a name but somebody is Thorin and they have probably been texting with del Toro and McKellen. Those three roles are the ones that demand the most screen time...." (5th November 2009).
Interesting snippet, isn't it!! Note the date, RAcentric ladies??? Isn't this the time he had to pull out of Charlie? How wonderful to be texting Sir Ian, though!!
Back to the real point of this post. Has all this work been for nothing? Will New Zealand lose 'The Hobbit' films?
In response, I can't express myself as well as Sir Richard Taylor, Head of Weta, who addressed the rally in Wellington today as follows:
"New Zealand is still the greatest destination in the world for film making," Sir Richard told the crowd.
"There's been great deal of debate over the last 10 years on what the Lord of the Rings has meant to New Zealand ... The most critical thing is that the Lord of the Rings has employed a nation of young New Zealanders to believe they can do this for a living, that they can do art for a living and that they can indelibly stamp the culture of New Zealand through their artistic prowess on the world-stage.
"And that is something that must continue."
Signed: Grumpy Mulubinba