So how was my day 2 in New Zealand? Well, this happened:
Buuut, of course, there’s a little bit of story first.
On our first day in New Zealand, we’d tried to visit the Weta Cave but had gotten there nearly an hour after it had closed, so we started off the second day by trying again. This time it was open, with a bonus.
It turns out that yesterday was the day Weta dropped the curtain on a new opportunity for their fans: a public, guided tour of Weta Workshop. They’ve never done this before, and they’re only trying it out now. If it doesn’t turn out to be workable for them, the program will be cancelled.
Ryan and I were in the very first tour group. THE VERY FIRST TOUR GROUP.
No cameras are allowed inside the workshop, so there’s no photos to share, but you don’t have to sign an NDA. That guy in the picture up there is Mark, and he was our tour guide. Hell of a nice guy. You could tell he was not exactly well-practiced at this yet, but he tried to keep a good flow of explanation going as we moved through the place. At one point I felt like I was dominating the group a little too much, asking questions of Mark when hardly anyone else did, so I backed off and just let him spiel.
Mark, interestingly enough, is one of only a couple people who have ever interned at the workshop. Tanya, one of the production heads, happened to run across him when he was in college (uni down here) and recognized his talent as a painter, so brought him in as an intern.
Near the end of the tour, there were two sculptors working on personal pieces. Apparently that kind of thing happens a lot at the workshop, guys who work there are free to use the space whenever they want.
This was when I truly missed my camera. Both of the sculptures were incredibly beautiful. One was a smaller model, about 12″ high, of a viking warrior with axe and shield. The style the sculptor (Steven) was using was very rough, no fine details or refinement, just rough, raw imagery of a badass warrior. He actually asked our opinion on it.
“Do you think I should neaten it up a bit? You know, make it a bit more finely detailed.”
“Not that my opinion matters for dick,” I replied, “but I wouldn’t. I think that style looks totally great, it’s not really anything I’ve seen before, and it feels totally appropriate to a Viking badass.”
He pursed his lips and rotated the sculpture on its pedestal, considering, then nodding. “I think you’re right. I’ll leave it as is.”
The other sculptor, an extremely nice guy named Craig (who looked like a Viking) was working on a bigger-than-life-sized statue that is actually intended to be a monument at the Wellington Naval Memorial. It’s a gigantic piece, consisting of Poseidon in the center with a trident raised forward like a lance, and he’s either riding or standing in front of a giant kraken whose tentacles reach out from around his sides to envelop anyone viewing the statue from the front. Just at Poseidon’s feet there is a small mermaid riding the wave of his fury.
I was in utter awe. “How long will that thing take you?” I asked, pointing at Poseidon (he has to complete the statue in three parts).
“One week,” he replied simply.
We stayed in the workshop just as long as we possibly could, long after our thirty minutes were up. No one minded. No one tried to usher us out. The rest of the tour group slowly trickled out the door, but not us. Eventually we simply looked at each other, realizing that our eagerness to stay was starting to turn into a desperation not to leave, bordering on pathetic.
Afterwards, we headed to Molly Malone’s pub, completely in awe of the experience we’d just had (and completely ignorant of how our night would turn out). We had a couple of pints and regaled the (Irish) bartender with our journeys.
The day before, we’d seen that a park down here was having screenings of the Lord of the Rings films. Tonight was the Two Towers, so we figured we’d head over and check it out.
As we left the bar and began walking through the streets of downtown Wellington, the wind picked up and the sky became overcast.
On the way to the park, we encountered two guys walking down the street in Lord of the Rings costumes (random Rohirrim, nothing special). They told us they were going to a fan premiere party at a nearby hotel. The party was being hosted by TheOneRing.net (interestingly, the very same website I scooped last time I was here in New Zealand). We considered going to the party instead of the film showing, but then found out it had a $125 cover charge. We wished them well and continued on our merry way.
The film screening turned out to be a crowded affair. The crowd was extremely lively, cheering every orc’s death and laughing at every antic of Merry and Pippin. But the wind got worse, the sky grew darker, and I felt the first couple of drops of rain start coming down. Ryan and I discussed it. We were cold, it was starting to rain, we’d already seen this movie, and a few blocks away there were hundreds of nerds having a party.
The steep cover charge paid, we entered the Amora Hotel ballroom where the pageant was being held. Immediately I noticed that Jed Brophy, one of the dwarves in The Hobbit, was the master of ceremonies for the evening. So as soon as he stepped off the stage, we grabbed an opportunity:
So it was good. Everything was cool. Completely by chance, I was reunited with Jack Machiela, the awesome tour guide who took me around Welly the last time I was here.
We took photos with many of the fans who had come in cool costumes.
Then, Jed Brophy got back up on stage. The crowd got hushed.
He said, “Guys, we’ve got a real, real special treat for you tonight. May I welcome up to the stage Mr. Peter Jackson and Elijah Wood.”
The place went so pants-shittingly berserk, my eardrums nearly burst.
Peter got up and gave a very lovely speech, which Ryan partly recorded:
Then came down and took photos with the fans, including the one with us at the beginning of the post. You can’t imagine how much I respected him. He stayed at the party for well over two hours, just to make sure everyone got their chance to meet him, to shake his hand, to get his autograph and a photo. The man is so kind and respectful of his fans – as any celebrity should be. And considering the massive press of people trying to get to him, I can only imagine that takes a lot of energy and, you might say, courage.
It’s probably for that reason that they (we) love him so much in return. The guy standing next to me was tall, gangly, covered with acne, and was literally shaking from head to toe – I could feel it through his arm that was pressed into my side by the pressure of the crowd.
After we’d gotten that picture and a couple of others, I had to go outside to have a cigarette. There was only one other smoker out there. We greeted each other warmly and compared photos we’d gotten with the various celebrities now circulating around the ballroom. We joked heartily about being the dirty, smoking outcasts of the party. And then Elijah Wood came out and had a smoke with us.
I got to shoot the shit with him for like ten minutes. It was absolutely amazing. We talked about the industry and how rough it could be to break in – he definitely hadn’t forgotten. I commended him on his audition video for Lord of the Rings that he’d submitted (it’s on the Behind the Scenes DVDs for the films) and he thanked me. He also laughed at my shirt and said he completely agreed. I considered offering to give it to him, but thought at the last moment that that might have been weird.
From that point, the night descended into a madness of partying, laughing and drinking. There was a costume competition, and the top three places won tickets to the world premiere of The Hobbit (FUCKERS FUCKERS FUCKERS). But the good stuff had already happened for me, and I could not have been happier. I let myself get sucked into the celebration, simply enjoying the rest of my night.
I’ll leave you with the rest of the photos of me with awesome people.