This is almost completely unrelated to Tolkien (aside from the concept of writing and story-telling), but it is another one of my projects that I would like to promote just a wee bit.
Before I discovered the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, I had already given my heart to the science fiction genre. Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Daniel Keyes - these were some of the writers who had an influence on me as a child. By the age of eight, I was writing full-length stories of my own - mainly science fiction, but with some thrillers and crime stories here and there (after I discovered local author Stephen King).
Point being: before I set out to become a credible Tolkien Scholar, my dream was to become a well-known and respected author. Additionally, I have always been very passionate about the English language (perhaps too passionate, according to some); hence my newest project: a blog devoted to the English language (spelling, punctuation) and to writing in general.
I will admit that I am a stickler when it comes to spelling and grammar, and in the course of working as a freelance editor/proofreader have been encouraged to pursue teaching. So why not start a blog? In time, I also hope to be able to post some of my original pieces - film and book reviews, nonfiction, fiction, and so on. So for those of you interested in the non-Tolkien side of my career, look no further.
It's gotten off to a fairly lukewarm start; but that is to be expected. For nearly a month, my Twitter following (@TolkienBritta) lingered at seven; and now, a little over six months later, that number has soared to nearly 700. With passion comes success.
It's not much, but it's slowly growing. And the feedback so far has been encouraging. If you're interested in writing or would like to learn more about the English language (especially if English is not your native tongue), then please check out my new blog, Grammar Nazi Britta. (Yes, the name is a little weak; but it's a start.) And the respective Twitter account for that is @i_Britta (like "I, Robot"; not like iPads or iPods).
As always, I appreciate all of the support and encouragement I've received over the past six or seven months.
25 January 2012
It was announced earlier this morning that the next expansion pack for Turbine’s The Lord of the Rings Online, the Riders of Rohan, will be released this fall! Featuring an increased level cap of 85, mounted combat, and new locations (such as Amon Hen and Fangorn Forest), the Riders of Rohan expansion is going to be huge.
“2011 was another banner year for The Lord of the Rings Online with consistent growth for the game, a successful unification of our European and North American services and the success of Rise of Isengard, our best selling expansion to date,” said Kate Paiz, Executive Producer of The Lord of the Rings Online.
“This is going to be another outstanding year as we celebrate our fifth anniversary and introduce a wealth of new content throughout the year, ending with our arrival in Rohan. One of our largest expansions ever, Rohan is expected to be twice the size of the recent Rise of Isengard expansion and includes the most new game systems and technology we've introduced since 2008's Mines of Moria.”
For more information, visit LOTRO.com
Evangeline Lilly, star of ABC’s hit series LOST, recently spoke with Entertainment Weekly about her newest film, Reel Steel. During the interview, she was asked about her next big role – the warrior Elf Tauriel in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit.
“She is a warrior,” Lilly said. “She’s actually the head of the Elven guard. She’s the big shot in the army. So she knows how to wield any weapon, but the primary weapons that she uses are a bow and arrow and two daggers. And she’s lethal and deadly. You definitely wouldn’t want to be caught in a dark alley next to Tauriel.”
“She’s not in the first film very much,” Lilly responded when asked about Tauriel’s presence in the film. “She comes into the first film near the end, and has a very small part to play. Her role in the second film is much more involved. Although, I have to say, when I first read the scripts and took the job, she had a lot less going on in the second film. I think the role is becoming a bit more demanding than I had expected it to be. There’s a lot more for me to do now, which is a lot of fun, but it’s a little more pressure.”
You can catch a first glimpse of Tauriel in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, in theatres this December.
19 January 2012
Want to be in ‘The Hobbit’? If you’re currently living in the Wellington area and are able to work in the country, want no more!
Earlier this morning, a casting call for ‘Hobbit’ extras popped up on TradeMe. They are seeking men and women over the age of 17 and with flexible schedules to play a variety of characters.
They are currently seeking:
• MEN – under 5’4” (163cm)
• WOMEN – under 5” (155cm)
• BIG MEN – with character faces – 5’9 and over (175cm+)
• MEN with LARGE biceps any height.
• WOMEN with character faces
• MEN & WOMEN – ELVES slim, athletic, 5’5” – 6’4” (165 – 203cm)
The casting call will take place on Saturday, January 28 from 1pm-4pm at the Belmont Hall – Hutt City.
The job posting also stresses that applicants should either have NZ residency or a valid work permit.
For more information, view the casting call here.
17 January 2012
On behalf of the government of New Zealand, Arts, Culture, and Heritage Minister Christopher Finlayson congratulated Sir Peter Jackson on the Golden Globe success of The Adventures of Tintin, a Steven Spielberg film which Jackson produced.
"The award for 'Tintin' as best animated feature is another well-deserved milestone in Sir Peter's already illustrious career," applauded Mr. Finlayson. "The film's state of the art animation produced another wonderful and distinctive fantasy world, and also served as a reminder of the immense contribution he continues to make to the art of motion pictures."
He continued to praise Jackson’s other contributions to the New Zealand community:
"Sir Peter has given back a great deal to the arts in this country. He authored a review of the New Zealand Film Commission that is a basis for ongoing policy work, and in November bought the BATS Theatre building and granted the theatre company a long-term lease. His successes have been good for New Zealand."
Weta Digital is hopeful that Tintin’s success (the film has already grossed $233m USD overseas) will continue to push towards the filming of its sequel, which is set to commence in about twelve months’ time.
Actor and motion-capture advocate Andy Serkis took time off from ‘The Hobbit’ – in which he is reprising his role as Gollum and serving as the film’s second unit director – to attend the 2012 Golden Globes. Naturally, questions were asked about the highly-anticipated two-part film, particularly in regards to another exciting character – the dragon Smaug – who will be brought to life via motion capture, in much the same way as Gollum.
“I can’t give any secrets away, none of those trade secrets,” Serkis responded when asked by MTV News’ Josh Horowitz what the dragon might look like. “I can’t say that because actually it’s still under wraps.”
According to Serkis, Weta Workshop is still working on the dragon’s look, stating that, “It’s still a very secret character that is very closely safeguarded, and it’s still in the design process.”
One thing Andy can tell us about Smaug?
“With an actor like Benedict Cumberbatch playing him, it will be extraordinary.”
16 January 2012
Spielberg called the film a "buddy movie," saying, "It shows a man who is a reprobate and a terrible alcoholic who stops drinking -- and when he does, he accomplishes something wonderful."
Tintin has already grossed $233m worldwide, with a series of Tintin films, based on the comic books by Herge, planned to follow. A Tintin sequel is set to begin filming within the next twelve months.
14 January 2012
"Who is the audience? It is very distinctly different, tonally, to Lord of the Rings until the very end and then you begin to see the world of Middle-earth opening up... but, having said that, we felt that it is the same audience [who will come to see the films] and then you start to worry because it is easy to repeat yourself. It is quite a similar journey, you're going from the Shire to a large, dangerous mountain."
12 January 2012
Back in August, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick Spadaccino (you can view that interview here), a wonderful man whom I befriended after posting an article on my blog about his campaign to be in ‘The Hobbit’ films. With the recent release of the first trailer for ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,’ I thought a follow-up interview with Patrick was in order.
What sparked your interest in being in The Hobbit, and when did you first begin planning your campaign?
I saw a magazine cover (Entertainment Weekly) that talked about the movie and the fact that Peter Jackson might be playing a much larger role in the production than was originally reported. When that turned out to be true, I thought that with him at the helm, this was going to an utterly amazing production and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be part of a story I've loved since childhood.
My campaign was born as a simple idea: create a video of myself doing various Tolkien-themed character voices. But that idea went nowhere because I had no clue (at the time) how to get it to Peter or his team. Then, in February 2011, with the first day of Hobbit filming approaching, I had the idea to leverage some of my other abilities: web design, acting, stage makeup, and photography. So many people have used the power of social media to reach a desired goal; why not me, too?
What was the initial reaction from friends and family like, and has it changed at all since this began?
They're used to my creative bent, so most of them viewed this as business as usual. Some, while they admired the effort, thought that a successful outcome was always an impossible long shot. Maybe true, but I believe in the impossible! I live by faith in all things, great and small. If this was part of God's plan for me, it couldn't be stopped. But I still had to play my part. I'd spent a long time dreaming of this campaign; now it was time to act. My wife has been very supportive, although she found the sight of me in Orc makeup very disturbing.
How many different sources have you reached out to in order to get the word out about your campaign?
Too many to count or remember, although I do have records somewhere in the disaster area that is my desk. I've reached out mostly to newspapers and TV news stations, and also approached several talk show hosts. I have received a lot of wonderful, generous coverage in New Zealand, which was ideal. But I've never heard from anyone on the production team.
What are some of the craziest ideas you’ve thought of (or that have been suggested to you) to help spread the word about your campaign?
Three come to mind. One person suggested I go to New York in full Orc makeup and costume and try to get on the Today show. Not a bad idea, but I was in some ways strapped by practicality. I have a day job, and I had to set some limits on taking time off and spending money on this campaign.
The other idea was not so much crazy as crazy expensive. I wanted to pay for a billboard in New Zealand, right on the road leading to Weta Digital. But the cost was astronomical for someone like me.
Lastly, my childhood friend suggested, and I quote: "Go naked. That'll get his attention." Sigh.
What have you learned about public relations and promoting yourself from this experience?
I learned a surprising lesson: though the world has been made much smaller by technology, it can still be a HUGE undertaking to reach a single person. I mean, I'm ranked fifth in a Google search with the keywords "hobbit movies." Fifth! Marketers pay big bucks for that kind of search engine success. And yet, no one from Peter Jackson's team has seen my site, or if they have, they are not interested in contacting me.
Still, I learned a great deal about the value of internet ads. They were very effective in gaining initial support. I also learned not to be discouraged by "haters," of which there were refreshingly few. If you believe in what you're doing, you can ignore unkind remarks.
For anyone who has plans to do something similar, what advice do you have?
Be prepared to be PATIENT, and never take offense when people don't seem to be interested in your endeavor. After all, it's your dream. If you want other people to get on board, you have to sell it and make sure you're visible in the right areas (something I'm still not sure I achieved). Lastly, if you're going to do something, do it with passion, do it with all your heart, and do it believing that you can be successful.
Have you thought about writing something based on your adventure, such as a personal journal or an online blog?
My brother actually recommend I do that. I already journal every day, so I at least have a private record. I'd love to create a more public account, but I think that such a chronicle would be far more interesting if it ended with my name in the credits of The Hobbit movie!
What did you think of The Hobbit trailer?
I loved seeing and hearing Gandalf and Bilbo once again! As wonderfully long as the Lord of the Rings trilogy is, my wife and I always come away saying "I wish it was longer!" We've yearned for more of that wonderful world that Tolkien created and Peter Jackson so vividly, beautifully brought to life.
I did notice a lot of dialog I didn't recognize, but that's to be expected. There is a large amount of narrative in The Hobbit book, so a lot of the interactions between characters will have to be filled in.
There was nothing I didn't like in the trailer itself...it just made me desperately impatient for December 2012. I will reserve judgment about some of the dwarf costumes and characterizations. A lifetime of reading The Hobbit has left me with some of my own particular expectations, and the photos we've seen so far are not always as close to the book's descriptions as some Tolkien fans would like. But bottom line: I have faith in Peter Jackson's vision. ...and regarding the trailer as it relates to my campaign, I still think there's time for me to be involved. I'm really not particular about where I fit in...I'd even be happy as an Easter Egg segment on the Blu-ray!
If the Hobbit movies wrap without you, what will you take away the experience?
I am intensely proud that instead of just dreaming about this, I actually went out and did it. There were some personal commitments in the fall that kept me from doing everything I would have liked, but I'm still grateful I was able to pursue my dream in this way. I do struggle with procrastination, and I'm glad I successfully bucked that tendency.
I'm very thankful for all the support I received from people whom I've never met face to face. The Tolkien community is truly a community, and it's been great becoming a more active part in it. Most important, I've made some wonderful friends along the way—my gracious interviewer chief among them!
Interested in learning more about Patrick’s campaign to be in ‘The Hobbit’? Our initial interview, which includes more about Patrick and the process of getting into Orc character for his audition videos, can be found here. And show your support by following him on Twitter (@BeInTheHobbit), liking his Facebook page, and visiting his webpage!
11 January 2012
Following a fire on the set of The Hobbit back in May, which left two crew members with minor burns, the studio has increased its veil of secrecy.
The fire started when a sculptor with a battery screwdriver was working on a prop pillar coated with polyurethane foam; sparks ignited fumes from the foam, and the man, who had half of his body inside the prop, suffered superficial burns to his nose and face after his head was engulfed in flames. Another worker suffered burns on his hand while beating the flames out.
One investigator on the scene reported that he had been asked to fill out a confidentiality agreement, which a spokeswomen for the Labour Department said was not signed, noting that, “Department of Labour health and safety inspectors have a legal right to enter a workplace.”
Due to the lack of serious harm, the Labour Department did not launch a full investigation. They did, however, discuss ways to prevent a similar accident – among them, using tools less likely to cause sparks.
Firefighters who signed confidentiality agreements with the studio and Weta Workshop months before filming began – something Paul McGill, the Fire Service’s operations and training director, says the organization does not usually do – were unable to discuss the situation with the media.
“However, personnel at the Kilbirnie fire station, like most Wellingtonians, are very conscious of the importance of the ground- breaking digital film industry to the city,” McGill added. “It does not set any precedent for our work with other companies or organisations.”
A spokeswoman for Three Foot Seven would not comment on the incident, stating that key staff members were currently away.
09 January 2012
Joining the growing list of supporters in the “Oscar for Andy Serkis” campaign is his Rise of the Planet of the Apes costar, James Franco.
In an article for the Deadline website, Franco wrote:
"Andy Serkis is the undisputed master of the newest kind of acting called performance capture, and it is time that Serkis gets credit for the innovative artist that he is.”
"This is not animation as much as it's digital 'makeup'. There are plenty of Oscar-winning performances that depended on prosthetic makeup to help create the characters: John Hurt's in The Elephant Man, Nicole Kidman's in The Hours, Sean Penn's in Milk. Those actors depended on makeup artists to augment the look of their characters, but the performance underneath came solely from the actors.”
But the Academy does not currently recognise motion-capture performances as being worthy of an Oscar; not even so much as a nod. With CGI still being a relatively new film-making technique, many audiences do not fully understand the kind of work that is involved in bringing a character like Gollum or King Kong to life on the big screen.
However, by the time I hit the eighth grade, I managed to make my birthday and Christmas money last longer, until I had finally saved up enough to purchase one of the more inexpensive items available on the Internet. I turned to My Precious Fantasy Webshop, which offered an affordable replica of the One Ring for just $35 (http://www.myprecious.us/jewelry/one-ring.php). I desperately wanted a Ring of Power, and I wanted one that I could wear with me all the time and not have to worry about losing or being robbed of. I ended up purchasing Frodo's Ring with black lettering.
I wore that thing all throughout high school, only taking it off to shower. As you can see, some of the gold plating is only just starting to wear off (only around the inside, though), after having been worn nonstop for almost four straight years. I still haven't upgraded to a more expensive replica, as this one is just perfect - the details, the craftmanship, the durability; not to mention, it came in a beautiful velvet pouch.
A recent auction on TradeMe – which offers an exclusive opportunity to meet Sir Peter Jackson and visit the set of The Hobbit – has closed at $14,490. The auction was part of a fund-raising campaign for Ray Avery’s charity Medicine Mondiale, which designs products and other technologies to help the developing world.
The winner, whose name has not been disclosed, will be allowed to bring a guest to the set, but will be forced to sign a confidentiality agreement and refrain from taking any photos.
TradeMe also held an auction to have the team at Weta Workshop design a cast of the highest bidder’s face, forever suspending their features in time and turning their face into a piece of art. The Workshop, run by Sir Richard Taylor, has created facial casts for a variety of celebrities, including many Lord of the Rings cast members. The auction closed at $1,845.
08 January 2012
(Click to enlarge)
|Poor Théoden won't slay many foes with a bent sword!|
These figures are beautifully handcrafted in the US by Rawcliffe, and are based on the books, not the films. I wanted to start posting some of my collection to help add more variety to my blog, and these guys seemed like a great starting point.
|Éowyn and Merry fight the Witch-King|
|Pippin, Merry, Théoden, and Sam|
07 January 2012
To find your Mythgard Regional Chapter(s) and become a member, visit Mythgard Institute's Mythgard Meetups page.
For the list of spring 2012 courses available at Mythgard, click here.
The enrollment deadline is January 13 - that's just 6 more days. What are you waiting for? Apply for M.A. credit or Enroll to Audit now!
06 January 2012
Many thanks to my good friend Jack for sending me this one! LitReactor.com posted a story on their website titled “Top 10 Best Book to Movie Casting Decisions,” and two of our favourite Lord of the Rings cast members made it onto the list.
Sir Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis were applauded for the transformation both actors went through for their roles as Gandalf the Grey/White and Sméagol/Gollum, respectively, in The Lord of the Rings films. Of Serkis, writer Meredith Borders called Serkis’ perfomance “abidingly creepy and somewhat heartbreaking,” and noted her excitement over both actors’ return for the upcoming Hobbit films, also directed by Peter Jackson.
Others who made it onto the list include Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, and Judy Garland as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.
05 January 2012
Earlier today, USA Today published a gallery of twelve movie stills (some old and some new) from this year’s upcoming and highly anticipated films – among them, a new photo of Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman) from Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which will hit theatres in 2D, 3D and IMAX this December:
In a recent interview with Empire Magazine, Benedict Cumberbatch spoke about his dual roles in The Hobbit, and let slip a possible spoiler regarding the conclusion of the two-part adaptation.
Spoiler alert – if you don’t want to know, stop reading now!
“I’ll be doing bits on The Hobbit in 2012,” he told Empire. “I’m playing Smaug through motion-capture and voicing the Necromancer, which is a character in the Five Legions War or something which I’m meant to understand. (Laughs) He’s not actually in the original Hobbit. It’s something he’s taken from Lord Of The Rings that he wants to put in there.”
If you’ve read The Hobbit, you know that he is referring to the Battle of the Five Armies. And you’re probably also aware that the Necromancer (whom we all know is the Dark Lord Sauron) is driven out of Mirkwood and sent back to Mordor prior to the great battle; yet based on Cumberbatch’s revelation, it seems like he may make an appearance in the final battle, perhaps as a means of providing a transition from The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings.
Of course, there’s really only one way to find out for sure whether or not the Necromancer is present during the Battle of Five Armies: we’ll just have to wait until the release of There And Back Again in December 2013.
03 January 2012
It occurs to me that most of my entries in this blog are not personal in nature and do nothing to help truly connect with my fellow Tolkien enthusiasts. In honour of Professor Tolkien’s birthday today, I’d like to share a few words regarding the impact his writings have had on me.
I’ll start by admitting that I am very much a realistic individual. I have never enjoyed fantasy as I knew it before Tolkien: faeries, wizards, magic – as a child, I could hardly imagine such a world where these things existed. And if I couldn’t believe in it, I didn’t want to read or even think about it.
I was almost eleven years old by the time I discovered J.R.R. Tolkien. Previously, my interest had been in science fiction – Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, and so on. My first step into the realm of fantasy was when, at the age of ten, Brian Jacques’ Redwall series somehow captured my interest and began to take up a great deal of my reading time. I say somehow because from what I can remember, it was basically rabbits and badgers and other furry animals talking with one another and going off into battle and doing other humanistic things that animals don’t normally do. At that point, my mother suggested I try reading The Hobbit; I remember my initial response being a rather snobbish, “What the heck is a Hobbit?” The name alone suggested something completely unreal, and the more I heard the word, the more I convinced myself I probably wouldn’t be interested.
I still don’t know if my mother has ever read any Tolkien herself, but where I was an avid reader always in search of a good book, she kept insisting that I at least read a few chapters of The Hobbit before completely making my mind up against it. As I wondered whether or not I could get into a book like that, making every excuse not to (“I don’t have time to go to the library, mom!” “I’m sure they won’t have it there!”), my uncle offered me his copy, assuring me that I would love it…
As it turned out, “love” was quite an understatement. There was something about The Hobbit that felt real, not imagined or made up like all the other stories I’d read. Sure, there were dragons and wizards and other fantasy elements throughout, but they were secondary and did not distract from the main plot, which I liked. It felt more like a historical account or a mythological tale – which, having taken several Latin classes at that point, had been heavily taught in school, and therefore were of interest to me.
I quickly moved on to The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, The Lays of Beleriand, Unfinished Tales, The Lost Road and Other Writings, and so on; and the more I read, the more three-dimensional Middle-earth became. When I struggled to “find myself” during adolescence, Middle-earth became a sort of safe haven. I spent more time reading Tolkien and writing “for fun” essays on The Lord of the Rings than I did trying to make friends or socialise with my classmates. As a result, people thought I was a little weird – but when you’re as passionate about something as I was with Tolkien, you don’t really pay that any mind; eventually, my “weirdness” gained me quite a reputation in middle and high school – I believe “Elf Girl” was what they used to call me – and despite making no serious attempts to fit in with my peers, I found myself quickly attracting many like-minded individuals.
Throughout high school, I continued writing Tolkien essays and character analyses in my free time; at one point, I even submitted a copy to a local college professor, hoping for some input. His reception was both honest and encouraging, and I knew from that moment on that I wanted to become a serious Tolkien Scholar and one day publish some of my essays – and maybe, if I was lucky, publish a book or go on to teach a course on Tolkien.
It was difficult to branch out and make myself known back then (before the social networking era); less than six months ago, I made the decision to begin Tweeting, blogging, and actively trying to participate within the Tolkien community, and in such a short amount of time, I’ve already come much further than I thought. Not long after I began this blog, I became a contributing writer for the Middle-earth Network, and am now doing what I had hoped to be doing ten years ago (I still haven’t published a book or taught any courses, but there is still plenty of time for that). And I am even more grateful now than I probably would have been in my youth. As much as I wanted to be a well-known Tolkien Scholar at thirteen or fourteen years old, and despite all of the papers and analyses I wrote, looking back, I still wonder if anyone would have taken a pre-teen self-proclaimed Tolkien Scholar seriously.
But the greatest recompense to have come from my Tolkien studies and participation within the Tolkien community is, as I’ve probably said countless times before, the community itself. Already I have struck up invaluable friendships with many fellow enthusiasts. I’ve connected with people from all over the world, people of various ages and cultures, people who prefer the books over the films (or vice versa); but they all have one thing in common: their love of Tolkien is what has brought us all closer together. And I strongly feel that the Tolkien community is the greatest fan community out there. I don’t think a person could ever find a friendlier group of people.
It is still very surreal to think that it was ten years ago that I first read and fell in love with Tolkien, and that it has essentially taken up half of my lifetime (which, at twenty-one years old, is a decent amount of time to devote to something).
Like I said before, I had – and still have – a very strong aversion to the fantasy genre. I read the Harry Potter series and some of Narnia, and thankfully, I never got into the Twilight series (sparkling vampires? Excuse me?). Despite my lack of interest in fantasy tales, there is something about The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and everything else Professor Tolkien has written that set these stories apart from all the other tales out there. One can really feel the passion that went into creating Middle-earth. I am sure that if he were alive today, Tolkien would be delighted to see the following he has gained and kept over a span of many decades.
It is my hope that I will soon be able to start posting more original pieces on my blog beyond my “365 Days of Middle-earth” and Hobbit movie updates. I am beyond grateful and appreciative of all the support and encouragement I have received so far, and I look forward to seeing what other doors may open for me in 2012.
Once again, thanks for all the support! A very happy birthday, Professor Tolkien!