The Hobbit Movies - More Turmoil Than You Knew (with video from NZ)

The version I had growing up...
UPDATE: The movies will shoot in NZ after an agreement between all the parties was reached!  To read about the resolution, click here. To get a better understanding of the dispute and the impassioned opinion of a nervous LOTR geek who lurves her some Peter Jackson and New Zealand as Middle Earth, read this blog...

About this time every year, Jake and I dig into all of the Lord of the Rings movies. We watch the special features, the movies, read some Tolkien, and just generally geek out over the stuff. Maybe it's the holiday atmosphere that begins to arrive once Halloween is over that makes it just the right time to dig into old English material.

All the trades have been reporting problems with The Hobbit movies for over a year now. There were rights problems, Guillermo Del Toro had to finally leave the project as a director because everything had stalled out for so long and he had other contractual obligations. After that, we all waited with baited breath until Peter Jackson himself stepped up to say that he would direct the two films.

So now we know the films will shoot in February, the question is WHERE will they shoot? Why does it matter so much? Perhaps because New Zealand is such a gorgeous and unique landscape that it's the only one physically capable of standing in for the rich fictional environment of Middle Earth. Perhaps because the country's economy has so desperately come to be built upon the film industry there...because if The Hobbit films don't shoot there, chances are other films scheduled to shoot there will pull up stakes too. The reasons are numerous. Most important to this geek living in the American mid-west and having no practical reason to care...I find that the New Zealand film industry and the LOTR films in general have created a kind of hopefulness about film that probably hasn't been felt since the days of classic Hollywood and Chaplin. Peter Jackson, with his renegade style of filmmaking at the local level (his locality, of course) has become a new figurehead for a generation of geeks, dreamers and closet creatives.

I just want to see Jackson, the films, and New Zealand soar yet again.

Several casting announcements have finally been made in the wake of all the trouble. See a tentative cast list HERE. (And it's a smashing one if I do say so myself. Viva la Martin Freeman!)

So what's all the fuss been about? AICN posted this video that gives a very in-depth and personal look at the issue through the New Zealand looking glass. Peter Jackson appears to be so frustrated by the entire process that he might even come to tears.

I worked on one student film and a few indie productions, and I can remember days where things were so tense I wanted to scream and cry and walk off set. So I cannot even begin to imagine the sheer stress of a production that has been this troubled for so long in a country that so desperately needs its film industry. Watch this video to begin to unravel the drama that's holding up The Hobbit between actors unions and Miramax...warning: this clip contains heated language from several people, Peter Jackson among them. But I think it's all justified.

So please, everyone cross your fingers or hold your breath or pray to Lord Sauron...whatever you can do, to make sure that these movies get made where they belong, New Zealand. It all seems to boil down to political and financial issues, and I guess I don't really know exactly why...but I just really care about this a lot. A lot.

What else grew out of the LOTR productions? The incredible special effects house, WETA Workshops. Here's a fun nostalgic look back at the making of the first film and all of the work that had to happen behind-the-scenes to get it done.

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