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Non-Industrial Light and Magic NZ Exclusives

NZ Exclusive Listing
 NZ Exclusive home
 The Jafas Have Landed
 Tehanu's Second Trip to Hobbiton
 Tehanu Goes to the Auditions!
 Non-Industrial Light and Magic
 Hobbiton in Spring
 WETA Closeup for Technophiles
 Waltzing Around Wellington
 Tehanu’s set visit: Hobbiton
 The Y2000 Mordor Walk
 Last Alliance Set Report
 Looking for Weathertop
 Shadowfax and Other Famous Horses
 One Year of Filming
 Kiwis in Middle-earth
  more coming soon

Michael Martinez’s article got me thinking….I don’t know much about film, and so I found his comments fascinating. I’d like to respond to what he’s written, drawing from what I do know.

Martinez put his finger on some very interesting aspects of filming down here in NZ, and his comments about the light and the UV radiation reminded me of something. Here, when the sun is shining, we get a light that is so intensely blue and clear it makes the horizon sharp enough to cut your eyes. And yes, it burns! So the actors will be slathering on the sunblock every day if they value their fair skins at all.

They will also be slathering on the insect repellent. Parts of New Zealand – notably round the Fiordland and Te Anau, where we’re told they’ll be filming – have New Zealand’s equivalent of the blackfly : Sandflies. They form a continuous biting haze around any exposed skin, and they can find (and bite through) the tiniest gap in your clothing. Repellent works, but I wonder what it’s going to do to the actor’s makeup to be continually smearing on sunblock and repellent against sandflies. Plus the little blighters will look hideous if they’re flying around on camera all the time.

It’ll make Midgewater Marshes a doddle to act, if they film that sequence. No imagination required there at all.

Back to the light, then: A few days ago I was looking over at the volcanic plateau, my preferred pick for Mordor, which is currently covered in snow. It occurred to me that the light up there is too brilliant for Mordor. Much as I love all that tortured black lava, and the fumaroles and the fields of lifeless scree, the sheer sapphire intensity of the light is too much. It makes the landscape unreasonably beautiful despite its desolation.

It seems pointless to film there since everything has to be made gloomy and shadowed. So maybe there’s truth in the rumours that Mordor will be elsewhere overseas. Somewhere with grubby light. But that’s my ignorance about film speaking; for all I know there are cunning things done with filters that can turn everything sepia.

Martinez hopes that all that cloudcover in the southwest will be good for the Rohan and Gondor scenes when the gloom of Mordor overtakes them. I always imagined those places would be filmed in the wide plains and rolling downs of Otago and Canterbury. Often it’s dry there and the spacious sky has that peculiar blue intensity even when it’s overcast, so once again that brownish gloomy pall of Mordor is going to take some doing to achieve. Further off in the rainy West there’s trees, trees, trees…..people gave up clearing the forests for farming on the West Coast when they saw that their livestock went mouldy over winter.

"The vast differences in landscapes present a major challenge too….Jackson would have to show four forests before getting the Hobbits to Rivendell, three more before getting Sam and Frodo to the pass Cirith Ungol, no less than five rivers, three lines of hills, two or three separate parts of the same mountain chain for two mountain chains, and a plethora of small woods, hills, villages, farms…"

I guess the point Martinez is making is that the film units will be all over the place at any one time, and I think he’s right there. He can’t be saying that Jackson will have any trouble finding enough forests and hills. I’m looking over the detailed maps that hikers use, and I can’t tell you how much of absolutely everything there is down there. Finding Middle-earth locations that PJ uses is hopelessly like looking for a needle in a haystack of possibilities.

Snow….you can always find snow in NZ, though it disappears off the North Island during most summers. You don’t have to hike very far or very high to find it in the South Island, certainly not to the point where the air becomes thin.

Rain, shine….Martinez was told that the North is drier than the South, and that’s partly true. Mainly the rainfall is determined by the topography: The area to the east of the Alps is one of the driest in the country despite being far south. The West Coast can rain for weeks without stopping.

Martinez was wondering how Jackson was going to make use of all the climates and landscapes at once. As I understood it, Peter Jackson was going to be doing a certain amount of ‘remote directing’ so that scenes will be filmed simultaneously all over the country. But I’m sticking my neck out here, I don’t know that for a fact. Filming is going to go on for long enough that the film crews will be able to wait around for any kindof weather or light that they want, and it will come along. They’re talking about an 18-month time commitment from some of the actors, so if they need a snowstorm for Legolas, they can be pretty sure one will come along….

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