Part 7: The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest | Day 5: Wellington, WETA & meeting Sir Peter Jackson

This blog is part 7 of my journal about my unexpected journey to New Zealand, as winner of The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest!

Day 5: Wellington

With mixed feelings we left Queenstown this morning: it was already the last day of our adventure in New Zealand. I really didn’t want to leave the beautiful city of Queenstown, but today’s activities were the ones we have all been waiting for: visiting Weta Workshop and meeting Peter Jackson at the private screening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Unveiling Smaug at Wellington Airport

Air New Zealand flew us to the Middle of Middle-earth: Wellington. At the airport of Wellington I was so excited to see the larger than life installments made by Weta Workshop of the Eagles with Gandalf (a fun detail: on Gandalf’s hat there is a weta bug) and of Gollum cathing a fish. We were all surprised when Richard Taylor, the founder, creative director and head of Weta Workshop was there to welcome us in Wellington! (For the muggle readers: Weta Workshop is the company which created all the costumes, weapons, props and (digital) special effects on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and many other movies). For this special occasion, he unveiled a new installation on the airport together with us! Jake Hudson, the youngest Wizard of our group, had the privilege to unveil a huge head of Smaug, with moving eyes and smoke coming out of his nose! Even the local news was there (watch the report of New Zealand 3 News here). And we were featured on the Weta Facebook!

Gollum at Wellington Airport
Gollum at Wellington Airport (Photo by Amy Earl)
wellington airport gandalf weta
Sculpture of Gandalf on a Great Eagle
Richard Taylor welcoming us on Wellington Airport
Unveiling a new sculpture of Smaug at Wellington Airport
Natscha Webb (Air New Zeland), me and Emma Bell (Tourism New Zeland) at Wellington Airport
Natscha Webb (Air New Zeland), me and Emma Bell (Tourism New Zeland) at Wellington Airport
weta facebook hobbit fan fellowship
The Hobbit Fan Fellowship on the banner of the Weta Workshop Facebook page

Roxy Theatre

Our next stop was Roxy Theatre, where we were welcomed by Jamie Selkirk (editor and producer), Tania Rodger and Richard again. We we were treated with a presentation by Weta Digital on production design by Matt Aitken (Weta Digital effects supervisor) and Daniel Falconer (designer and concept artist). Matt showed us the process of creating and layering digital effects like in the scene of the eagles’ rescue (Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire) with all its different angles. Daniel Falconer designed the real cool stuff in the movies like Arwen’s sword. He showed us concepts and photos of the design process of armour, weapons, architecture and costumes, “and enjoyed having an audience he could ‘geek out’ to, diving into First Age Middle-earth history references”, like Amy beautifully wrote in her blog.

On the way out we got a gift from Tania: authentic 35 mm celluloid filmstrip from The Lord of the Rings. Arjen and I were given shots of Frodo and Sam walking in Rivendell and Aragorn leaning over the dying Boromir from The Fellowship of the Ring.

Roxy Theatre in Wellington
Roxy Theatre in Wellington (Photo by Amy Earl)
Welcome in Roxy by Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger and Jamie Selkirk
Welcome in Roxy by Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger and Jamie Selkirk
film strip lord of the rings
35 mm film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Weta Workshop

Next up was one of my favorite memories of the whole trip: actually visiting Weta Workshop! We did mini workshops of making chainmail, how to create fake blood, sword making by smith Peter Lyon and some lucky few of us got applied prosthetic hobbit ears by Gino Acevedo. I took a shot and went on a photo with Richard Taylor. I was wearing my own made chainmail necklace and he said he really liked it! ❤ I was in nerd-heaven. They also retrieved props and weapons from them movies that were stored for years, especially for us to see. In a little shop we bought a map of The Shire and a Weta Workshop t-shirt.

We also did a Weta Cave Workshop Tour where we got to see an awesome collection of costumes, weapons, sculptures and designs from all the movies Weta has worked on so far. At the end we received a gift from the Weta crew: a piece of chainmail which was actually used by the dwarves on set!

richard taylor weta
Me and Richard Taylor at Weta Workshop
Gino applying hobbit ears
Gino applying hobbit ears on Melu
Dwarven chainmail weta
A gift from Weta: Dwarven chainmail
orcrist weta
Me with Thorin’s sword Orcrist. It was so light!
Weta Cave
Playing around Weta Cave
Smaug sculpture at Weta Cave
Smaug sculpture at Weta Cave
Trolls at the Weta Cave
Trolls at the Weta Cave

Meeting Sir Peter Jackson

At the end of the day we all put on our finest clothes for the epic final evening. Especially our fellow Wizards from Australia, Amy and Adam, in their own designed and made breathtaking Elven costumes.

Amy at Park Road Post Wellington
Amy in her beautiful elven gown at Park Road Post Wellington
Park Road Post
Park Road Post

I was actually nervous when we arrived at the Park Road Post Production facility, owned by WingNut Films, the production company of Peter Jackson. This facility is where sound for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) was mixed. This was the moment we all have been waiting for: the private screening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies with the director himself! After a drink and security check, we all took a seat in the beautiful art-deco movie theater with a ceiling like a starry sky.

Here the masterminds behind the movies waiting for us: Joe Letteri, senior visual effects supervisor and has won five Oscars, Jed Brophy (Nori in The Hobbit) and Philippa Boyens, writer of the screenplay of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and who has won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the KingOf course this panel wouldn’t be complete without the biggest fan of all: Sir Peter Jackson! It was an unbelievable moment when he came in, everybody cheered. We all got the chance to ask them questions before the screening. Among the fans there where a lot of aspiring filmmakers, including me as an aspiring screenwriter, and Peter Jackson said to us:

Don’t give up. When you don’t give up you distinguish yourself from those who do. And then you will get there. – Peter Jackson

We presented Peter a thank you card and a tea mug. Before the movie, he warned us: he only slept for 3 hours since he was in the middle of the post-production of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. So the ones who sat next to him had to keep him awake.

Hobbit Fan Fellowship card peter
The thank you card from The Hobbit Fan Fellowship to Peter

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Since Ann from Belgium had found the Ring on day 3, she got to sit next to Peter! Now it was finally time to see the final movie of The Hobbit trilogy: The Battle of the Five Armies as the first audience in the whole world! You all probably have seen the movie by now and it was epic right?

Private screening with Peter Jackson
Private screening BOTFA with Peter Jackson

What I find really special about the screening was the fact that the movie wasn’t finished yet! There were shots with green screen on the background and certain digital effects weren’t finished yet. Remember when the were-worms come out of the ground followed by an Orc army? The whole army wasn’t there yet! On screen there was only a moving text with ‘Orc army’. Also in the gorgeous scene at Dol Guldur where Elrond, Saruman and Galadriel are fighting the Nine, the Nazgûls where only white, square models. I was blown away when I saw the finished movie later and how they created those spirit like Nazgûls! A funny one was the entrance of Beorn during the battle: he changes from a human into a *poof* (not animated) bear, instead of a beautiful morph like in the final movie. It was such an amazing experience to see the unfinished movie like this.

The movie ends with the heart breaking song ‘The Last Goodbye’ by Billy Boyd. I think nobody kept it dry. The song meant so much at this moment: the end of this epic adventure, to have to say goodbye to the friends we have made, to have to leave this beautiful country, but also the last movie about a little hobbit. No more movies about unexpected journeys in Middle-earth. After a year, I still cannot listen to this song without shedding some tears.*snob* So we created our own meme:

meme last goodbye

After the screening Peter Jackson signed something for everyone and had a little chat. I could see he was so tired, but he spoke to all of the 150 fans. We were on the last row and it took probably more than an hour before we got to him, but I managed to gave him some Dutch sirup waffles or ‘stroopwafels’. He also signed my copy of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey EE. Finally, we made a group photo with Peter. Then we were taken back to the hotel for our last night in New Zealand.

signature peter jackson
My copy of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey EE signed by Peter Jackson and Jed Brophy
Hobbit Fan Fellowship with Peter Jackson at Park Road Post
Hobbit Fan Fellowship with Peter Jackson at Park Road Post

In my last and final blog about my unexpected adventure in New Zealand I want to thank everyone involved and share my most precious memories. For now, here is the final video diary by Tourism New Zealand:

Part 5: The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest | Day 3: Hobbit & LOTR Filming Locations

This blog is part five of my journal about my unexpected journey to New Zealand, as winner of The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest. Today we flew to Queenstown and did a tour around filming locations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in Paradise.


Day 3: Hobbit & LOTR Filming Locations

We had to get up early upon our hobbit feet to the airport of Rotorua. With Air New Zealand we flew in a private Hobbit Fan Fellowship airplane to our next destination: Queenstown!

Queenstown Air New Zealand
On our way to Queenstown with Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand Queenstown
Arrived in Queenstown!

Queentown is located on the southern island of New Zealand. My jaw dropped when we got off the airplane: what a different landscape! On the northern island we saw green little hills, but the airport of Queenstown lies in a valley formed by huge mountains with beautiful white snowy tops, close to the azure blue lake Wakatipu. This was probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

We were greeted by the crew of Nomad Safaris to take us on a tour around filming locations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit triologies. The jeep’s license plates were even in style: our jeep’s called Eowyn.

Nomad Safaris Queenstown
With Nomad Safaris touring around Queenstown
emma bell new zealand tourism
In the jeep with the lovely Emma Bell, our host from Tourism New Zealand
Nomad Safaris Eowyn jeep
Jeep’s licensce plate Eowyn

We were brought on top of Queenstown Hill, the filming location of the most epic safety video ever made by Air New Zealand, starring Dean O’GormanSylvester McCoy, Elijah Wood, Richard Taylor and Peter Jackson. 

Here we had a gorgeous view over Queenstown, lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables, or Extendables as Peter Jackson called them, the mountains which he used to represent the Misty Mountains. Moreover, we saw the hill from which Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) falls after the fight with Sharku (Jed Brophy) during the Warg attack in The Two Towers. 

queenstown remarkables queenstown
View from Queenstown Hill: The Remarkables or the Misty Mountains
Queenstown Hill hobbit fan
Me on Queenstown Hill
Panorama Queenstown Hill
Panorama Queenstown Hill
Lake Wakatipu Queenstown
Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown

Next stop was Arcadia Station in Paradise near Glenorchy. To get here, we drove alongside lake the gorgeous lake Wakatipu surrounded by mountains. As the name predicts, Paradise is absolutely stunning! The colors, the mountains, the forests… No wonder that this area were the filming locations of Isengard and Beorn’s home.

Paradise filming location Isengard lotr new zealand
Paradise, filming location of Isengard
Isengard LOTR
Isengard in The Lord of the Rings
gandalf bilbo beorn
Gandalf and Bilbo meeting Beorn
paradise new zealand beorn filming location
Paradise, the filming location of Beorn’s home
tree paradise new zealand
With beautiful trees

On the road to Arcadia Station we received another video message from Peter Jackson in which he announced a treasure hunt. In the forest around Beorn’s home there was something hidden. The one who would find it, would earn a seat next to Peter Jackson during the private screening of The Battle of the Five Armies on our last day in Wellington. The 150 contestants tried to find this treasure, which was a kind of chaotic. But Ann from Belgium and our Wizard team found the precious: a huge golden ring. Go team Wizard!

ann mannens new zealand paradise
Wizard Ann from Belgium with the precious (Photo by Tourism New Zealand)

After our afternoon tea and picknick with mr. Frodo scones we travelled further from Glenorchy to Twelve Mile Delta. Alongside the road where the filming locations of the Elven Lothlórien Woods and the site of the battle of Amon Hen, where Boromir is fatally wounded in the battle with the uruk-hai Lurz and Merry and Pippin are captured.

Hobbit Picknick
Hobbit Picknick
Battle of Amon Hen
Battle of Amon Hen
Battle of Amon Hen forest filming location
Forests where the Battle of Amon Hen is filmed

Twelve Mile Delta is the filming location of Ithilien. Here is where Frodo, Sam and Gollum cook some ‘paters’, encouter the Oliphaunts and are being captured by Faramir and the rangers of Gondor.

nomad safaris ithilien
“That’s where they sat, yeah!”
oliphaunts lotr
Oliphaunts in The Two Towers
filming location Ithilien Twelve Mile Delta LOTR
The filming location of Ithilien, Twelve Mile Delta
frodo sam two towers ithilien
Frodo and Sam at Ithilien in The Two Towers
Our best acting skills as Frodo and Sam
Shot by a Gondor ranger’s arrow
matagouri maori tattoo
Matagouri thorns were used by early Māori as tattooing needles
landscape queenstown
Some beautiful landscapes around Queenstown
landscape queenstown
Some beautiful landscapes around Queenstown

We ended our safari at AJ Hackett Bungy, above de Kawarau River. In The Lord of the Rings this is the river where the Argonath are located. Here we had diner and had the opportunity to zipline and to bungy jump: a 43 meters drop. Like Peter Jackson mentioned, “My brain isn’t wire to jump off a bridge”. I couldn’t agree more, so I didn’t jump, but the brave Arjen did.

AJ Hackett Bungy
AJ Hackett Bungy diner
Bungy platform AJ Hackett Bungy
Bungy platform AJ Hackett Bungy
argonath lotr
Argonath in The Lord of the Rings
AJ Hackett Bungy jump
Arjen at AJ Hackett Bungy

I really understand now why New Zealand is called real Middle-earth. The filming locations we saw today were almost unreal. Everywhere we looked felt like we’re out of this world… in Middle-earth.

Here’s the video blog of day three by Tourism New Zealand:

In my next blog I will tell you about day four of The Hobbit Fan Fellowship journey, when we did a tour with Southern Discoveries around the beautiful area of Queenstown and we shot some zombies in 4D…

Part 2: The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest | The most excited e-mail of my life

This blog is part two of my journal about my unexpected journey to New Zealand, as winner of The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest!

official winners

On the 3rd of October I got the most excited e-mail of my life: I was the potential winner of The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest in Holland! Wait, what… potential winner? What doest that mean?

I was at work when I received the e-mail. My colleagues probably thought I sufferd from a stroke when I tried to tell them the news. They didn’t believe it (neither did I yet), so we all gathered around my desk, reading the e-mail about being a ‘potential winner’. The organisation had to make sure me and my guest met their entry requirements. So like our lives depended on it, we rushed to fill in forms, get our passports (we only had an identification card with which you cannot travel outside of Europe) and an ESTA, all within three days!

Meanwhile on Twitter, #Hobbitfancontest went mad! It was known that 75 winners got a message and how many winners each country had (only one from Holland… a.k.a. me!). People were dying from anticipation (figuratively speaking), but we weren’t allowed to talk about it yet! Finally on the 23rd of October it was official: we were going on an adventure to real Middle-earth, New Zealand! I was so relieved! And we received a lovely postcard from Sir Peter Jackson himself.

peter jackson postcard
A postcard from Peter Jackson

The winners from over the whole world found each other on Facebook and a secret group was created. It was so nice to speak with everyone about the contest, to see all of their videos and get to know each other better. Only seven days left and we would really see each other!

We got even more excited when we got the initerary! We could not believe what Warner Bros, Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand had planned for us: visiting Hobbiton and other filming locations across New Zealand, visiting Weta workshop and of course, meeting Sir Peter Jackson at the private screening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in Wellington!

hobbit fan fellowship initerary
The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Initerary

This was kind of my reaction:

tears of joy gandalfexcited thranduil

I still couldn’t believe that this was happing. But I better start believing, because on October 31st me and my lucky boyfriend got up at 5.00AM to get to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. We travelled from Amsterdam to London, from London to Los Angeles and from Los Angeles to Auckland. A 25 hour flight to the other side of the world. We got closer and closer to Middle-earth. During our flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, we travelled with Air New Zealand, it’s lovely crew and the most epic safety video ever made in the style of Middle-earth, which they show on every flight.

The time difference between Holland and New Zealand is precisely 12 hours (for us the New Zealanders live in the future), so I felt a bit like a time traveller and had no idea which day it was. But according to our initerary, we arrived on Sunday the 2nd of November at 7.00AM in Auckland, New Zealand! Our journey to Middle-earth was about to begin.

Read about day one of our unexpected journey to Middle-earth in my next blog!

“If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.” – Samwise Gamgee, (FOTR)