An Afternoon in Wellywood!
Friday Afternoon I went on a bus tour of major spots in Wellywood history.
Wellywood is the Neologism (or is it a Portmanteau?) for the burgeoning Wellington NZ Film industry and community, nestled in the Miramar suburb of NZ’s capital city. There have long been great filmmakers among the Kiwis, but thing have taken a dramatic turn with the ascendance of Peter Jackson.
Peter is a Wellingtonian, and unlike most other NZ filmmakers, he has continued to live and work in his home town, bringing his considerable resources and contacts to his city. Together, they have created an entire film colony here in Wellington’s Green and Pleasant (not to mention Windy) Land.
The bus tour was led by a young man and woman who were steeped in Tolkien Lore, from the films and the books. They were really the highlight of the tour, with all kinds of insider facts and anecdotes. Taking us through downtown Wellington, they gave us a quick tour of the city.
Following this, we headed to Victoria Park, which is a horseshoe shaped Park around the city, where Jackson filmed his first scenes for The Fellowship of the Ring. Over the course of the LOTR films, some 150 film shots came from this location.
Even being so close to the city, it is ideal. A type of California pine had been imported to NZ during the 19th Century, and lo-and-behold, they grew 2 to 3 times faster than they did back home. This meant that the wood did not have time to harden properly, resulting in truly eerie-looking broken branches, and tree-scapes.
We went to three locations, where scenes were filmed. First, as the Hobbits are leaving Hobbiton, they are in the wood at the border of the Shire, when the Nazgul come looking for the Ring-Bearer on their black steeds. The four Halflings have to throw themselves down a hill and under a large tree root to prevent detection.
Second, there is the spot where Frodo had to fling himself down a hill to escape the Ring-Wraiths. Finally, up a trail of scary, arched and broken trees, the spot where we see one of the Nazgul on his horse, looking for the Hobbits was quite recognizable.
After this, we headed into Wellywood proper in Miramar. We stopped for tea and scones at the Roxy, a perfectly recreated Art Deco movie theater, completed with many statues of LOTR characters, and saw a short documentary on Weta, a Wellington firm that creates a hung number of effects, artifacts and costuming for Jackson,’s movies, and for many others as well.
We were then off to the Weta Cave, where we could see a number of examples of their extraordinary work, not only for the Tolkien films, but also for Narnia, Avatar, etc. It was a collector’s paradise! Nothing like standing in front of a life sized Orc, or the Witch-King of Angband!
On the way back, we got insider scoops on where Aragorn hung out for coffee daily during the filming, and the like.
A pleasant time was had by all. The most amazing thing was the great synergy and creativity of the men and women of this industry have put into the creation of Wellywood. Long may they film!
… Sorry for the brevity and typos: Sent from remote on the phone.