Wednesday, September 18, 2013

So, I'm packing my bags for the Misty Mountains...

The new mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, has declared a state of emergency in Hollywood.  Too many films are being produced in the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.  Seriously. You can read the article in The Guardian here. Apparently his campaign was largely funded by members of the entertainment industry so that he would take a firm stance to keep work in Hollywood.  After seeing how they make films in New Zealand it's no wonder why people are choosing to shoot and edit them there.

It's supposed to be illustrating it's a windy city with the "o" and "n" being blown away but most residents wanted it to read "Wellywood" 

First of all, New Zealand and the other countries mentioned usually give tax incentives.  Then there is Sir Peter Jackson.  He was born and raised near Wellington so when he won the rights to film the epic trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic, Lord of the Rings, he knew exactly where he wanted to film it.  New Zealand has a large amount of diverse locations and climates all within a small geographical distance.

He and his friend, Jamie Selkirk, along with their friends Richard Taylor and his partner Tania Rodger (aside: people in NZ and Australia call their spouse a partner. Another reason I have no idea why gay marriage is not legal in Australia.) had already created the Weta Workshop to help create their movies.

The nondescript entrance to Weta Digital and Weta Workshop

Windows of Weta Workshop exhibit entrance

It seems like more people in New Zealand have the gift of foresight.  Maybe it's because they are stuck on an island and have to figure out how to do things differently.  Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor definitely have the gift of foresight.  Instead of doing things only to create whatever movie they were working on at the time they thought, "why don't we build a workshop so we can expand as our movies expand."  What an idea!  This idea carries over into every aspect of Peter Jackson's vision for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  This is why it looks different to other movies we see today.  Because it is.  It's because they don't just CGI a tree in a scene when they can have someone staple, by hand, 400,000 maple leaves to a tree to make it feel more like autumn.  That tree might not even make it in a scene but the actors know it's there and it helps things to be more 'real'. Then they still add things with CGI later.

Some people call it crazy.  Okay, most people call it crazy but you can't argue with the results.  Jackson knew he needed to find locations for filming but he decided to take the allotted monies and build a database for future reference.  So, he sent out location scouts to take pictures of almost everywhere in New Zealand and then built a computer program to help Directors find exactly what they needed.  This foresight is partially why it's so attractive to film in NZ now.  They didn't just film Lord of the Rings, they built an industry.  They built Weta Workshop, Weta Digital, Park Road Post Production, Wingnut Films, Wingnut Interactive Video Games. Created MASSIVE, a high-end computer animation and artificial intelligence software used for crowd-related visual effects and developed on the idea of motion capture into a completely new artform for actors; performance capture.

The newest building so it's the nicest looking.  They have money now. 

Academy Award-winning Director, James Cameron, just moved to Wellington and is preparing to film the next Avatar movies so the work just keeps expanding.

The Weta workshop and Park Road have now worked on the following films:
     Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Elysium, Man of Steel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Prometheus, The Avengers, The Adventures of Tin Tin, Emperor, Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, Boogeyman, Without a Paddle, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, X-Men: First Class, Gulliver's Travels, King Kong, The Chronicles of Narnia, The A-Team, Robin Hood, The Lovely Bones, Under The Mountain, Avatar, Daybreakers, District 9, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Jumper, Enchanted, 30 Days of Night, The Water Horse, Bridge To Terabithia, Fantastic Four, Black Sheep, X-Men: The Last Stand, Eragon, The Legend of Zorro, Hellboy, Van Helsing, I Robot, Peter Pan, Master and Commander, Perfect Strangers, The Last Samurai, Contact, Heavenly Creatures, The Frighteners, Braindead.

Not to mention all of the TV shows and art sculptures.  In 2000, there were almost no movies made in New Zealand.  That list is all in the last ten years and is growing faster every year. Peter Jackson and his team pride themselves on not cutting corners.  Jackson is extremely meticulous even to the point of reshooting footage for the extended versions after Return of the King had already been awarded the Oscar for Best Picture.

But this is evident in everything they do.  I can't say how much I love this.  My favorite ol' ballcoach John Wooden said, "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over." This is why filming in Hollywood is in trouble. It's not just tax breaks and scenery, it is attitude.

This vision has seen Sir Peter Jackson get just about every award and distinction possible in New Zealand.  They even wanted to name the airport in Wellington after him.  In true NZ style, he declined and said, I'm paraphrasing here, please at least don't do it while I'm alive I'll never be able to go there again. And for that matter not while my kids are alive either because they wouldn't be able to fly anywhere.  So, they had to settle for renaming the terminal "The Middle of Middle Earth".  It has a huge sculpture of Gollum done by Weta.  Awesome!

Sean said it was kinda creepy eating underneath Gollum. I said it was a dream come true. But yes, creepy. 

In fact, New Zealand is just figuring out that they have a good thing on their hands here and marketing accordingly.  It took them this long because they are a pretty laid back people.  It's part of their charm.  "You mean there are people that will come here and spend money because some movies were made here? Sweet as bro! Kia ora!"  Check out this video made by Air New Zealand.

Well, here I've gone all New Zealand-like and written too much about Peter Jackson today and didn't get to my LOTR tour.  Guess you'll have to come back tomorrow to read about that adventure!

Here's a great piece done by Rock Center with Brian Williams with Ann Curry interviewing Peter Jackson.  If you are up for it I recommend you watch the videos.

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