Our Sponsor Sideshow Collectibles Send us News
Lord of the Rings Tolkien
Search Tolkien
Lord of The RingsTheOneRing.net - Forged By And For Fans Of JRR Tolkien
Lord of The Rings Serving Middle-Earth Since The First Age

Lord of the Rings Movie News - J.R.R. Tolkien
Do you enjoy the 100% volunteer, not for profit services of TheOneRing.net?
Consider a donation!

  Main Index   Search Posts   Who's Online   Log in
The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
Researching THE FRODO FRANCHISE: Part 1, Off to Wellington without a Handkerchief
First page Previous page 1 2 Next page Last page  View All

News from Bree

Jul 26 2012, 1:15pm

Post #1 of 33 (3211 views)
Researching THE FRODO FRANCHISE: Part 1, Off to Wellington without a Handkerchief Can't Post

[Part 1 in a series from The Frodo Franchise Author Kristin Thompson]

Me and My Book

I'm a film historian by trade. I got my Ph.D. in film studies in 1977 and have written several textbooks and academic books on various topics in the field. In 2007, my book The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood, by Kristin Thompson, came out from the University of California press. As we all wait for the release of the first part of The Hobbit, I thought some of you might be interested in some of my experiences while researching the book. I had a lot of access to the filmmakers for interviews and was given facilities tours during the last part of the post-production on The Return of the King.

I first conceived the book in 2002, when it became obvious to me that Peter Jackson's film (I call the three parts one film, as he does) was going to be very, very important historically for a wide variety of reasons. The technology (the techniques developed to animate Gollum, the selective digital color grading) would be revolutionary. The internet campaign was pioneering, as was the filmmaking team's approach to cooperating with the video-game designers. It was a big franchise film -- and a fantasy at that -- and yet it won the respect of critics and Academy-Award voters as no such film ever had. (The Fellowship of the Ring had won "only" four Oscars, but I knew even then that The Return of the King would be awarded lots.) Somebody should write a book about it, I thought. But probably nobody would, not the way it should be done, with interviews with the people involved. Not while the film was still in production. I concluded that it was up to me. Was it possible, though, to get the kind of access I would need? I set out to find out.

In January of 2003, through a mutual friend, I was put in touch with producer Barrie Osborne. Fortunately, he was interested in having such a book written. Without him, my project would have been dead in the water.

I originally hoped to get to Wellington while pick-ups were still being shot. It turned out not to be quite that easy. Barrie stuck by me through the eight long months that it took for New Line to consider my project. As they requested, I obtained letters from both the Tolkien Estate and Tolkien's publisher, HarperCollins, saying that I wasn't violating their trademarks and copyrights. I promised not to publish my book until after the three parts were out. (They obviously didn't know how long it would take me to write it and especially how slowly academic presses work!) Finally, in early September, I got the go-ahead from New Line, and Barrie said I could come to Wellington soon. The film was well into post-production, with special effects and sound-editing going on. Some people, especially the designers, whose work was largely done, might have time to talk to me. To me the crucial thing was that most of the crew members were still in town, many still working on The Return of the King. As soon as I got the word, I set about planning to go to Wellington.

This series will be my memoirs of the three research trips I took to New Zealand in 2003 and 2004, as well as other trips I took to Los Angeles, London, Copenhagen, and other places where people I needed to interview lived (including Ian McKellen!). After this initial entry, I won't go chronologically but by topics. I'll deal with things like the big spoilers I learned about (and kept to myself) and my talks with all the main designers. Yes, I also interviewed Peter, who generously gave me one hour, and Philippa Boyens and Richard Taylor and many others, some of whom you know from the wonderful supplements on the extended DVD editions.

The roughly three years I spent researching and writing The Frodo Franchise added up to one of the high points of my life, of course. Every single day I spent in Wellington, I thought, "How did I get here?!" In this series I hope to convey something of what it's like to fly to New Zealand and be able to talk to a lot of incredibly talented and friendly filmmakers and see the places where they work. As a scholar, I had been given an unprecedented opportunity. No other academic historian has ever been given such access to an epic film of this sort while it was still in production. For a fan, it was a dream come true.

Preparations on Short Notice

After my eight of waiting and going through the necessary formalities, never being quite sure that the project would ever happen, in early September of 2003 I suddenly faced the prospect of going to Wellington in less than four weeks. I didn't have a place to stay or any idea of whom among the crew I might be able to interview.

These problems were solved by the fact that Barrie arranged for me to have a point person for my stay: the unit publicist, Melissa Booth. As an academic researcher, I had never before had a point person, and after dealing with Melissa, I wish I could have one for every project. (You can see Melissa efficiently handling a small on-set press junket in one of the King Kong "Production Diaries.") My first question when I emailed her was about a hotel. She recommended the Victoria Court Motor Lodge, where some members of the cast and crew had been occasionally been put up.

Not the major talent, obviously; it's not that fancy a place. But it turned out to be a very comfortable and conveniently located base of operations. In fact, I've stayed there on all four visits to Wellington. (I made a quick nostalgic trip for a few days in 2007 when my husband David Bordwell and I had month-long fellowships at the University of Auckland.)

Going to New Zealand at that point was something of a gamble. I didn't know whether I would be able to talk to any of the filmmakers. I figured at the worst I could get some interviews with people from government organizations that in one way or another were connected with the LOTR films. Those appointments I could at least make in advance. By the time I set out, I had arranged to talk with executives at Film New Zealand, the New Zealand Film Commission, Tourism New Zealand, and others. All extremely helpful -- and fortunately I ended up getting several filmmaker interviews and facilities tours on that trip as well.

I immediately booked for a three-week stay in one of the Victoria Court's "executive" rooms, which basically added a bedroom onto the usual studio room. For such a long visit that proved very useful, since I could spread my work out in the main room.

My three weeks of lead time were spent on such tasks as acquiring a professional-standard digital recorder. You could probably actually record sound for LOTR on that machine, but I figured the expense was worth it. After all, my project lived and died by those interviews. It turned out to be very useful, since I recorded some of my interviewees while sitting in a crowded restaurant or with construction going on right outside the window. Only once did some brief passages get lost. I talked with stunt performers Kirk Maxwell and Sharon James in a coffee shop, and occasionally the espresso machine's wooshing defeated even my sophisticated microphone. Prior to my departure for Wellington I also bought my first digital camera. Although I was, of course, never allowed to use it inside the filmmaking facilities, I did take several of the illustrations that ended up in the book. Still, I won't have very many exciting photos to illustrate my series. You'll probably see quite a few frames from the extended-edition DVD supplements, since a lot of what I saw ended up in them.

The Trip

Booking my flights to Wellington was an elaborate procedure. I live in Madison, Wisconsin, which is "flyover territory" in the U.S. You can't get directly to many places, so it took me two flights just to reach Los Angeles, where I would catch my Air New Zealand flight to Auckland.

I have to 'fess up that I flew business class every time I went to New Zealand. That first time, I estimated that my research might take three weeks, but I knew I also needed flexibility. If I got chances to interview people after I was scheduled to return home, I had to be able to change my bookings easily and on short notice. That ended up being a wise move, since on two of my three visits, I stayed an extra week and got some important interviews. As you'll see in the course of this series, the help and cooperation I got from everybody associated directly or indirectly with the film was extraordinary.

Auckland has the only airport in New Zealand that you can fly into from the U.S. The Air New Zealand flight from Los Angeles was twelve hours in those days and probably still is. The trip was wonderful, and Air New Zealand rapidly became my favorite airline. The country is only seven time zones away from Central Time, but it's very far south. I found to my delight that that particular combination allowed me somehow to pass through jetlag and come out the other side by the time we landed at 6 am, Sunday, September 28, in Auckland.

Once through passport control, I transferred to the domestic terminal via a handy shuttle-bus and took a one-hour flight to Wellington. The airport there has a single runway, stretching from just south of Evans Bay on the north to Lyall Bay in the south. Depending on the wind, you might land or take off in either direction, but both ways you come in low over water. That's Lyall Bay in the photo, and beyond it the Cook Strait, with one of the ferries headed for the South Island. The building in the foreground was at the time the headquarters for the film's production company, Three Foot Six. At the time I took that photo, the offices were full of, among other things, people mixing sound for The Return of the King.

Naturally as my flight was landing, I was thinking that this was the very airport that lay just over a ridge from the Stone Street Studios. (Part of the airport side of that ridge is in the foreground of the photo.) Famously the non-soundproofed walls of those studios meant that noise from planes landing and taking off had led to the periodic interruption of shooting. Probably the very plane I was on had often done so. The whole thing became a little more real to me. The giant figure of Gollum reaching for the Ring, which had originally graced the facade of the Embassy Theatre for the premiere of The Two Towers, was in those days still sitting atop the main airport building (see below). I had arrived, not in Tolkien's Middle-earth, but in Peter Jackson's.

Settling in

To get to the Victoria Court, I took one of those small buses that deliver multiple passengers to various hotels and inns. Being one of the last to be dropped off, I got a quick tour of the waterfront of Wellington's beautiful Lambton Harbour, a glimpse of Te Papa Museum, where the big touring exhibition of LOTR artifacts originated, and a look at the downtown area.

The Victoria Court caters primarily to couples and families who are touring New Zealand on their own, and there were often recreational vehicles parked in the lot. Mainly they were staying there before catching the ferry to the South Island. At the time, Wellington wasn't considered much of a tourist attraction. Sure, that area is gorgeous, but much of the rest of the country is even more gorgeous. Things have sure changed since!

After unpacking, I checked out my neighborhood. There was a handy local chicken take-out place half a block away (now, alas, closed), and a little beyond that stretched Cuba Street, that funky area of town with nice restaurants and shops where the cast had often hung out. All of downtown was a short walk away.

The Victoria Court's rooms all have little kitchens, so I figured I could cook for myself most nights. Who wants to eat dinners alone in a restaurant every night for three weeks? Plus I needed that time most days to labels my interview diskettes and, most of all, plan for my upcoming interviews, many of which were scheduled on a day's notice. In those days I had to go to a local internet gaming establishment to get onto the internet and do my email. The gentleman who ran the establishment and took in the money for hourly rental listened to the tale of my project and was most hospitable during all three of my stays in Wellington. Over the next few days, I discovered the ubiquitous New World grocery stores, and laid in supplies. I also walked past the Embassy Theatre, which at that point was closed for the renovations that would make it fit to house the world premiere of The Return of the King, only two months away.

Meeting with Melissa

Any worries I might have had about getting some interviews with the filmmakers were soon set to rest. On 11 am on Monday morning, the day after I arrived, I met with Melissa Booth at a coffee shop near the Victoria Court. I don't think she had been told much about my project, so I showed her an outline of the chapters and told her a bit about what I needed to know. Although I'm sure Melissa had little experience dealing with academic types like me, she quickly grasped what I was up to. Immediately she made up a basic chapter-by-chapter list of the people I should talk to and promised to start making appointments for me to interview them.

Within hours Melissa had set up my first meeting for the very next day. That was pretty easy, actually, since it was with a colleague who shared her office at the Three Foot Six building: Judy Alley, the merchandising coordinator. For a project concerning the whole franchise, Judy was obviously a crucial figure.

Melissa soon set up some additional interviews for later that week. Eventually, though, her duties as unit publicist loomed, and she just gave me the contact information for the people on that initial list and let me set up my own appointments.

That proved a smooth process. Somehow Barrie must have conveyed the message to the whole crew that the production was cooperating with me on my book. I never had anyone evidence the slightest bit of reluctance to talk with me.

To be continued

(This post was edited by Silverlode on Jul 26 2012, 7:24pm)

Forum Admin / Moderator

Jul 26 2012, 7:24pm

Post #2 of 33 (2212 views)
Very interesting! [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series!


"Of all faces those of our familiares are the ones both most difficult to play fantastic tricks with, and most difficult really to see with fresh attention. They have become like the things which once attracted us by their glitter, or their colour, or their shape, and we laid hands on them, and then locked them in our hoard, acquired them, and acquiring ceased to look at them.
Creative fantasy, because it is mainly trying to do something else [make something new], may open your hoard and let all the locked things fly away like cage-birds. The gems all turn into flowers or flames, and you will be warned that all you had (or knew) was dangerous and potent, not really effectively chained, free and wild; no more yours than they were you."
-On Fairy Stories

The Shire

Jul 26 2012, 8:03pm

Post #3 of 33 (2218 views)
work, work, work [In reply to] Can't Post

A nice piece of investigation and hard work.
As usual Kristim Thompson makes the diference.
Please continue with this articles, a good break in the avalance of hobbit news.


Jul 26 2012, 8:52pm

Post #4 of 33 (2237 views)
Agree with previous post, nice distraction from Hobbit events, and [In reply to] Can't Post

fun to revisit the some of the production saga of LOTR. Read The Frodo Franchise a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Looking forward to a "making of" the book if this is what it may be. Also enjoy Ms. Thompson's posts here at The One Ring.


Jul 26 2012, 10:17pm

Post #5 of 33 (2229 views)
Thank you Kristin [In reply to] Can't Post

"She stood there on the platform, waving her handkerchief."

-- Frontispiece The Little Colonel at Boarding-School (1904) by Annie Fellows Johnston

(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Jul 26 2012, 10:18pm)

Kristin Thompson

Jul 27 2012, 12:03am

Post #6 of 33 (2174 views)
Thanks, Pasi! [In reply to] Can't Post

And to others who have posted positive reactions to the beginning of the series. Obviously the fact that The Hobbit looms in the future makes me think back with great nostalgia over a wonderful period of my life (full, as you say, of work, but very much worth it). If these posts offer a little moment of calm in the midst of the excitement of all the Hobbit news (especially lately!), all the better.

I'll keep an eye on the Message Board threads attached to these posts, and if anyone has questions, I would be happy to try and answer them.


Jul 27 2012, 12:44am

Post #7 of 33 (2175 views)
A very interesting beginning [In reply to] Can't Post

I find the scholarly angle a new and refreshing one, having done quite a bit of qualitative research of the sort in other fields.

Thank you, Dr. Thompson!

The Shire

Jul 27 2012, 11:06am

Post #8 of 33 (2191 views)
Barrie W. Osborne [In reply to] Can't Post

With your post (specialy in the end of it) we realize the importance of Mr. Barrie W. Osborne in all LOTR project production.
He understand the importance of the books like yours for the movies and for the industry.
A question:
We all now that Tolkien Estate doesnt have a very good relations with the P. Jackson movies, do you have any kind of problems with them in the preparations of you book?
(sorry for my not so good english).

Kristin Thompson

Jul 27 2012, 1:55pm

Post #9 of 33 (2179 views)
Absolutely true about Barrie [In reply to] Can't Post

I can never emphasize enough how crucial his support was for my book. Those who have read it may have noticed that I dedicated the book to Barrie. I got to watch him in action as a producer a few times, and of course, he's tremendous at that. He held a tremendously complicated project together and made it happen on time--which as we all know was very difficult for the third film especially.

As I mentioned in my post, New Line required me to get letters from the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins, saying that they understood that my book would not violate their trademarks and copyrights. I wrote to them, emphasizing that I am an academic film historian and that I felt the film--whatever one thought of it--was going to be very historically important. I had published one essay on THE HOBBIT in MYTHLORE, so I think the Tolkien Estate realized that I was seriously interested in the books as well. They very kindly sent the required letter, as did HarperCollins. That was a big hurdle, and if they hadn't agreed, that would have killed the project. As at many points in the book project, I was very lucky.

(Your English is quite good--certainly very understandable!)

Tol Eressea

Jul 29 2012, 7:23am

Post #10 of 33 (2131 views)
Awesome! [In reply to] Can't Post

BTW, why did I think that The Frodo Franchise was yet to come out??? I'm definitely putting it at the top of my list!

(This post was edited by zarabia on Jul 29 2012, 7:24am)

Kristin Thompson

Jul 29 2012, 2:40pm

Post #11 of 33 (2170 views)
It wasn't exactly in every bookshop [In reply to] Can't Post

University presses are seldom known for their marketing and distribution strengths. I love the design the University of California Press came up with and the ability to use color illustrations and so on, but it wasn't very high-profile. I must say that TORn gave me a lot of support in getting the word out, as did some other websites.

I hope you enjoy the book, zarabia! I have to say that I'm very proud of it, and a huge amount of credit goes not just to Barrie but to my fabulous interviewees. With all the information supplied by the filmmakers, the game-makers at Electronic Arts, the executives of tour companies and government agencies in New Zealand, and others, I could hardly go wrong.

Tol Eressea

Jul 29 2012, 3:07pm

Post #12 of 33 (2135 views)
I _really_ need to get a copy of this book - [In reply to] Can't Post

- and your next one - when is the next one due out, by the way?


Kristin Thompson

Jul 29 2012, 3:48pm

Post #13 of 33 (2131 views)
You definitely do need a copy, geordie :) [In reply to] Can't Post

If by next one you mean my book analyzing THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS novels, there's no set timeline. I'm giving a compressed version of the chapter on anachronism at the "Return of the Ring" event--two weeks from Thursday! But I haven't had much time to work on it this year. Textbook revision (new edition just out this month) and Egyptological work have dominated. Plus I have two LOTR-film-related pieces to write yet this year. But I hope next year to make some real progress. I don't have a publisher lined up yet, so there's no contractual deadline. This is the problem with wearing several academic hats.

Tol Eressea

Jul 29 2012, 3:50pm

Post #14 of 33 (2153 views)
I think the Tolkien Estate [In reply to] Can't Post

often gets a bad press. It's unfortunate, and (I think) based on a misunderstanding of what an Estate is, why estates are set up, and what their duties and responsiblities are.

For example; many criticise the Tolkien Estate for not selling the film rights to Tolkien's works. Selling rights is not what the estate is for (AFAIK). There's also what seems to be an assumption that the Tolkien Estate exists in order to give permissions for material to be included in books. That's not so, either. If I were to write a book about JRR, and apply to the Estate for permissions, I would not do so assuming that they _have_ to grant them. Nor would I get upset if the answer is no.

Something that many commentators don't seem to grasp is that the Tolkien Estate was set up by JRR himself - it's his Estate - and the executors of his estate are carrying out his wishes as seems best to them. My wife and I have had the pleasure of meeting several members of Tolkien's family and other members of the Tolkien estate, and they are thoughtful, generous people - not at all like what some on the interweb seem to think. The legal arm of the Estate - Cathleen Blackburn - comes across as thoughtful and generous-minded too, and thoroughly professional.

The Estate has various duties, and can only deal with the requests they receive in one of two ways - yes, or no. Sometimes people try and circumvent the proper channels - I recall one time at the Tolkien Society's Oxonmoot weekend, when the Professor's daughter Priscilla used to meet 'first-timers' at lunch on the Saturday. Priscilla is a lovely person, always happy to talk about her father and his works; but sometimes people try and take advantage. The format of the 'meet and greet' session used to be that first-timers would form an orderly queue to say hello to Priscillla personally, and to share a few words with her. On this occassion, an American chappie walked over with his hand outstretched in greeting, and declared loudly 'Miss Tolkien, I've travelled four and a half thousand miles to interest you in...' - I don't recall exactly what it was he'd travelled four and a half thousand miles for, but I'd have thought that anyone with a head for business would know that this is not the way to approach the estate.

The proper way is that used by Kristin Thompson, and also by Michael Drout - Drout asked for permission to use some of Tolkien's unpublished material in his doctoral dissertation (of which I have a copy). Drout's dissertation includes an appendix with copies of the correspondence between himself and Cathleen Blackburn, acting on behalf of the Tolkien estate. The exchange is courteous and professional, and Ms Blackburn passes on her clients' best wishes for Drout's studies. So you see, sometimes the answer is yes...


Tol Eressea

Jul 29 2012, 4:20pm

Post #15 of 33 (2113 views)
Hmm.. [In reply to] Can't Post

academic work on Tolkien - giving talks at Loughborough... Egyptology! I'm a plain sort of bloke, and normally I don't go in for the little green-eyed god of envy; but honestly - I'm only flesh and blood, after all..

But seriously - (more or less) - do have a wonderful time at Loughborough. I wish me and mrs g. could be there.


(and, I Will get a copy of your book!)

Kristin Thompson

Jul 29 2012, 4:52pm

Post #16 of 33 (2147 views)
I completely agree with you, geordie [In reply to] Can't Post

I dealt with Cathleen Blackburn during the time when I was trying to get the clearance letters from the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins, and she was quite friendly and helpful. I also met Christopher in 1987 when he came to the Marquette University conference to celebrate the 50th anniversary of THE HOBBIT's publication. He, too, was friendly and asked for a copy of the paper I presented. That slight acquaintance, I infer, may have helped me in my request for the letters I needed.

But quite apart from the Tolkien Estate's willingness or lack thereof to sell the film rights for THE SILMARILLION and other posthumous Tolkien books, we should remember that it's not as if they've turned down any such requests. No such requests, to the best of everyone's knowledge, have been made. I doubt they ever will be. I think THE SIMARILLION, taken as a whole, is unfilmable--far more so than Christopher assumed LOTR to be. Individual episodes could be filmed, and of course one such episode exists now as a self-contained novel, THE CHILDREN OF HURIN. That's more filmable, in terms of its narrative structure and content, but it is as unremittingly grim a fictional book as I have ever read. (I admire it a great deal, but still.) I believe that no film production company that could afford to make such a film would even consider such a thing.

So those who complain that the Estate is somehow blocking the production of more Tolkien-derived films are really doing so for no reason. It's all speculation about something that most probably will not happen.

Tol Eressea

Jul 31 2012, 6:16am

Post #17 of 33 (2109 views)
yes - [In reply to] Can't Post

mind you, the notion that the Estate will eventually sell the film rights is one that won't go away - just the other day, one of our fellow TorNsibs ventured the opinion that 'cash still counts' and that the Estate might change its mind when they see how well the Hobbit movies do. (this is a paraphrase; sorry if I'm remembering incorrectly).

I'd like to talk about the phrase 'cash still counts' - I think that's to misunderstand the people who make up the Tolkien estate, and what the functions of that estate are. (see my post above). I don't think cash is the big deciding factor for them. Odd though it may sound. Smile

There's a Chair at Oxford called the 'J.R.R. Tolkien Professorship of English Literature and Language' , which was established years before the movies were thought of. I think the Tolkien estate has somethingto do with that. Anyway; to my mind, Tolkien's intellectual legacy seems to me to be uppermost in the minds of his Estate. not mere money.

(This post was edited by geordie on Jul 31 2012, 6:20am)


Jul 31 2012, 7:06am

Post #18 of 33 (2077 views)
IMO [In reply to] Can't Post

The story of Beren and Luthien, the Children of Hurin, Tuor, Feanor, the narrative of the Faithful of Numenor, including Sauron's arrival and deceit, the demise of Gondolin, etc, could all make excellent films if done properly. There's love, tragedy, epic grandeur, monsters, and good and evil in all of it, and that's just what general audiences like.

I think eventually, a studio (likely Warner Bros.) will seek out the rights for the Silmarillion, the Unfinished Tales, and the Children of Hurin,

Kristin Thompson

Jul 31 2012, 2:05pm

Post #19 of 33 (2101 views)
When we speak of money [In reply to] Can't Post

We should recall that the money wouldn't just be going into the pockets of Tolkien's descendents. There is the Tolkien Trust, the charitable wing of his legacy, which is involved in supporting various causes. I'm sure that, given the amount of money that continues to come in from the books, members of the family would not be put into a position of needing for personal reasons to sell off film rights, willingly or not. But it's possible that in order to keep the charitable side of the brand (which may involve that professorship) thriving, at some point the idea of selling film rights might be attractive. Not that I think it likely that the film rights would be sold, but if they were, we can't assume that the move would be mercenary on the part of some family member or other.

Lurker in the Dark
The Shire

Aug 5 2012, 4:34am

Post #20 of 33 (2057 views)
More please [In reply to] Can't Post

Much looking forward to this series. I hope they will not be long in coming.

Kristin, in choosing to film 'The Hobbit' in 3D (let alone 48fps) PJ is again making history/breaking new ground/taking the film industry by the neck and giving it a good shake, and I suggest this, too, deserves the real-time attention of an academic to record the process. Any chance it could be you?

Lurker in the Dark
The Shire

Aug 5 2012, 4:43am

Post #21 of 33 (2073 views)
Born of Hope [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
So those who complain that the Estate is somehow blocking the production of more Tolkien-derived films are really doing so for no reason. It's all speculation about something that most probably will not happen.

Yet I've just come across reference to a film "Born of Hope" of which I know next to nothing, but believe it deals with the story of Aragorn's parents, Arathorn and Gilraeth. Was this approved by the Estate?

I believe Tolkien himself wanted his writings to become an inspiration for a whole mythos, and am sure he would not have wanted to stop anyone using his ideas in any creative form. Yes, he himself must always be acknowledged as the ultimate source, and where done commercially the estate is entitled to some reward but I would be saddened to learn they were being obstructive.

Lurker in the Dark
The Shire

Aug 5 2012, 4:54am

Post #22 of 33 (2077 views)
Born of Hope [In reply to] Can't Post

Sorry, that's "Born of Hope" and is available here:


Unfortunately my New Zealand internet connection isn't up to watching or downloading it - Kristin I can sympathise with your having to use an Internet Cafe in Wellington for your emails as late as 2004. Stephen Fry wasn't talking out of the back of his neck when he had his rant at the state of New Zealand's internet.

Kristin Thompson

Aug 5 2012, 2:52pm

Post #23 of 33 (2050 views)
Tolkien fanfilms and rights [In reply to] Can't Post

Born of Hope is one of the two best-known fanfilms, the other being The Hunt for Gollum. I don't know whether the Born of Hope people contacted the Estate. The director of The Hunt for Gollum said this in an interview:

We got in touch with Tolkien Enterprises and reached an understanding with them that as long as we are completely non-profit then we're okay. We have to be careful not to disrespect their ownership of the intellectual property. They are supportive of the way fans wish to express their enthusiasm.

Tolkien Enterprises, owned by Hollywood independent producer Saul Zaentz, controls the underlying performance rights for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (though not the distribution rights for The Hobbit). He licenses them to organizations that want to make films (e.g., currently New Line) and stage plays (the producers of the play The Lord of the Rings). Thus the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins have no direct control over the film rights to these works, though of course they do retain film rights to all of Tolkien's other published and unpublished works.

I frankly was rather surprised that Tolkien Enterprises would explicitly sanction a fanfilm, even a non-profit one. But they presumably think that such films promote interest in Tolkien's work and thus are of some small benefit to the Estate, HarperCollins, and Tolkien Enterprises.

The family is certainly aware of them. For example, The Hunt for Gollum is being shown at next weeks "The Return of the Ring" event in England (put on by The Tolkien Society, the main British fan group), with the filmmakers present to answer questions. Simon Tolkien is also scheduled to appear. So obviously these and other fanfilms are not being forced to keep a very low profile. If the filmmakers attempted to charge admission, that would be another matter, but the films are free for viewing on the internet and in fan venues.

Technically they might be able to charge admission up to the point where the costs of making the film were paid off, but not beyond. That has often been the assumption with fanzines printed on paper, which have been sold at cost. My impression, though, is that so far the makers of the films and their friends and enthusiastic fans have put up the money to make the films without any expectation of getting the money back.

It's also notable that both these films are genuine attempts to create serious dramatic narratives with fairly good production values rather than cheap knock-offs. Like serious fanfiction, they attempt to fill out elements of the LOTR story that Tolkien mentions only briefly and to do so with respect for the original. I'm sure this has something to do with the tolerance shown by Tolkien Enterprises.

Kristin Thompson

Aug 5 2012, 3:35pm

Post #24 of 33 (2058 views)
Believe me, [In reply to] Can't Post

I have been trying for years to get permission to do a second book, concentrating on how digital technology has affected the way teams of filmmakers work together. I have hit a brick wall on both the parts of the filmmakers and of Warner Bros. It's a real pity and just underscores what I often say: that Barrie Osborne's interest in my book was the crucial factor in my getting access. At this point I have two major projects in progress, one my book for formal analysis of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and one a big book on Egyptian statuary of the Amarna period. I'm so involved with those that I doubt I would have time to do a book on the Hobbit film. That said, if somehow a miracle happened and I got permission, I suspect I'd make time. Wink

Tol Eressea

Aug 6 2012, 12:30pm

Post #25 of 33 (2098 views)
As Kristen says [In reply to] Can't Post

the Tolkien estate doesn't hold the movie rights to TH and LotR, and so doesn't have anything to do with fan films such as Born of Hope. (BTW; Tolkien Enterprises is now called Middle-earth Enterprises).

"I believe Tolkien himself wanted his writings to become an inspiration for a whole mythos, and am sure he would not have wanted to stop anyone using his ideas in any creative form. Yes, he himself must always be acknowledged as the ultimate source, and where done commercially the estate is entitled to some reward but I would be saddened to learn they were being obstructive. "

There's a couple of common misconceptions here - first, Tolkien was very aware of his rights as copyright holder to his works, and didn't take kindly to the idea of them being messed with. And the Tolkien estate was set up by JRR himself, to carry out his wishes after his death. Far from being obstructive, thanks to the Tolkien Estate more of Tolkien's works have been published since his death than during his lifetime.

(This post was edited by geordie on Aug 6 2012, 12:31pm)

First page Previous page 1 2 Next page Last page  View All

Search for (options) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.3

home | advertising | contact us | back to top | search news | join list | Content Rating

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law. Design and original photography however are copyright © 1999-2012 TheOneRing.net. Binary hosting provided by Nexcess.net

Do not follow this link, or your host will be blocked from this site. This is a spider trap.