In the footsteps of the Lord of the Rings

Progress report

The last week has been super busy for us. It’s BICHOK* all the way. We’re onto the next draft of Stars Beyond, very conscious of the looming January deadline, writing fast. A month before the end if the novel and while we’re happy with how it’s going, we’d love two more months to polish it. (We don’t really, we’d just procrastinate until that last month. We always do have this last minute panic.)

The book still hasn’t got its final line. It’s done, and the bad guys vanquished, etc., but we never know how to finish these things properly. We’ll keep playing until the very last day.

In other news, our editor sent us a preview of the cover. We can’t show anyone yet, but we love it.

* BICHOK = Butt in chair, hands on keyboard

In the footsteps of the Lord of the Rings

Did you know that a Weta is a New Zealand insect? I didn’t. I do now.

The second tour we did on our Lord of the Rings New Zealand trip was ‘In the footsteps of the Lord of the Rings’, in Wellington. It included … wait for it … drumroll … you guessed it. A tour of a Weta workshop.

It wasn’t technically the Weta workshop (which was a little disappointing, because I really wanted to see their workspace). It was a purpose-built showroom where they took you around and showed you various bits that they’d built and it was pretty cool.

We were allowed to take photographs in the outer room (hence you see Gandalf, and Gollum, and the doorkeeper) but not once you went past the door. Gollum was amazing, by the way. It doesn’t show in the photograph, but his eyes seemed to follow you around the room.

The guide who showed us around worked at Weta (not as a tour guide, as one of the creators). Tip. If you want to work at Weta, I hope you’re at home right now, making things out of matches and pieces of wire and anything you can find around the house. You need to be able to think creatively about everyday objects and show that you can think outside the box.

Past the door we were taken to a series of rooms. I won’t list them all. There was a whole wall of weapons. Actually, I think there were two walls of weapons. One for technological weapons, one for swords and bows and things like that. There were monsters and non-human creatures. (Our guide passed around a hand.) We talked about latex, and how they don’t use it any more, because eventually everyone becomes allergic to it. John Rhys-Davies became particularly allergic, as he was in latex every day. Plus other good stories about the various items—not all of which were Lord of the Rings related.

The two things I loved most. One was the gun was one from District 9, which they passed around for us to hold. It was heavy, deliberately designed with added weight, so the actors didn’t look as if they were carrying around fake weapons. The other was Aragorn’s ranger costume. Sitting in the corner, discreet and quiet and just perfect for a ranger. We weren’t allowed to touch that.

After Weta, we toured some of the locations around Wellington where Lord of the Rings was filmed. Including the site of the very first take. Can you recognise it? I didn’t, but most of the tour did. It’s where the hobbits tumble down the hill. We also saw where they hide from the Nazgul. I’m not sure if that was in the same location, just further down the hill, or another.

Our bus driver regaled us with stories about how, because they didn’t want people to know they were filming LOTR, the crew made the vans up to look like army vehicles and told everyone it was an army exercise. And how they made people up from local martial arts schools like the hobbits do the tumbling. How one of them tumbled the wrong way and missed the mattress below and dislocated his shoulder–and that was the take they used in the film.

On the way we got to see spectacular views of Wellington (including some amazing luxury homes along the beach), and got lots of entertaining gossip. Like how Viggo Mortensen, who is a method actor and used to stay in costume, got arrested at least twice for wearing a sword around the city.

Very entertaining, very interesting, very enjoyable.

Next week—Hobbiton. Come back if you want to hear about it.

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