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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Middle-earth TV Series Discussion:
Tom Shippey is no longer on the project
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kzer_za
Lorien

Apr 19, 12:42pm

Post #1 of 35 (955 views)
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Tom Shippey is no longer on the project Can't Post

Corey Olsen talking here, starting at about 43 minutes:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpAlGUHFSC4
Someone asks him if Shippey has been fired. Olsen is very hesitant about what to say because he's doesn't want to break confidence, but eventually says "it's not that simple" but Shippey is not currently involved.

Some have regarded this as a major red flag. However, I always got the impression his involvement was going to be limited anyway. The one interview we have from last fall already made it pretty clear he doesn't know that much and his part in it was small. The scholars had a minor role in Jackson's movies too, plus he's 76 years old. I would think it more likely his consultation role has run its course than he's been fired. While greater involvement ideal would probably be ideal I don't see it as a major surprise.


(This post was edited by kzer_za on Apr 19, 12:46pm)


Solicitr
Gondor


Apr 19, 1:41pm

Post #2 of 35 (917 views)
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The cynic [In reply to] Can't Post

in me thinks it's far more likely that, as Shippey discovered his advice was being ignored and they only hired him to put his name in the credits, not actually because they ever gave a damn about fidelity to the source material, he quit.


squire
Half-elven


Apr 19, 1:48pm

Post #3 of 35 (914 views)
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I am inclined to agree... [In reply to] Can't Post

...and I immediately interpreted Olsen's hesitation to say Shippey was simply 'fired' as meaning the conversation ended with "You can't fire me, I quit!"

But I think my reaction was influenced by just having read, the day before, some recollections of a history professor who was hired to consult as the expert on a historical drama about the Confederacy. He says he quit when he realized they weren't actually listening to what he was telling them about the people and circumstances of that time, and just wanted him for some window-dressing of 'authenticity'.

So Shippey's departure may well be less contentious that we cynics suspect.



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Solicitr
Gondor


Apr 19, 2:11pm

Post #4 of 35 (910 views)
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That [In reply to] Can't Post

is pretty much Hollywood SOP. Historical consultants as window-dressing, whose opinions count for less than those of the director, the assistant director, the screenwriter, the fight choreographer, or the caterer.


Chen G.
Rohan

Apr 19, 2:29pm

Post #5 of 35 (906 views)
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As well they should [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Historical consultants as window-dressing, whose opinions count for less than those of the director, the assistant director, the screenwriter.


As well they should.

Movies are the product of their directors and screenwriters, not of some consultant.

But this isn't quite similar to a historical consultant on a historical film. They wouldn't need Shippey during production to ascertain the authenticity of costumes and sets, for instance. His involvement surely must be in the scripting stage, and it therefore might be that his involvement simply reached its conclusion.


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Apr 19, 2:31pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Apr 19, 2:33pm

Post #6 of 35 (900 views)
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On Hiatus? [In reply to] Can't Post

It might simply be that Shippey is not needed for a while while the writing team is on hiatus. He might return to the project at a later date when production resumes. We don't know enough to come to any definite conclusions at this time.

#FidelityToTolkien


Solicitr
Gondor


Apr 19, 2:57pm

Post #7 of 35 (894 views)
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Subject [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To
Historical consultants as window-dressing, whose opinions count for less than those of the director, the assistant director, the screenwriter.


As well they should.

Movies are the product of their directors and screenwriters, not of some consultant.


But what is the merit of a director or screenwriter who doesn't give a fig about accuracy? Unless the D or SW happen to be experts on the subject, they bloody well need to consult with someone who is.


Chen G.
Rohan

Apr 19, 3:14pm

Post #8 of 35 (897 views)
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Movies don't need to recreate reality [In reply to] Can't Post

They need to recreate something that could pass as a reality.

Historical accuracy, much like fidelty to a literary source material, is irrelevant.


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Apr 19, 3:15pm)


Solicitr
Gondor


Apr 19, 3:17pm

Post #9 of 35 (886 views)
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Yes [In reply to] Can't Post

That is certainly the Hollywood attitude. Which is why most Hollywood product is historical garbage.


squire
Half-elven


Apr 19, 3:34pm

Post #10 of 35 (890 views)
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That is generally true of film, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

As with adaptations of an author's work, films that trumpet their subject as being "the film of", say, the Battle of New Orleans should think through why and when they have made changes to the historical record or period in the screenplay or direction. Hiring a consultant in the first place is an indicator that the producers think the circle of entertainment can be squared by accuracy to the original events or story. Ignoring the consultant is the producers' prerogative, of course, but then why bother to use one in the first place?

Just as there are better and worse adaptations of fictional books on film, there are better and worse history flicks. As a teacher who uses film in the classroom for both history and English literature, I choose very carefully which ones to use, because students, like adults, do actually think a film 'really' portrays the property or event in the title and the publicity. They don't assume it's just passing for reality.

Naturally this doesn't apply to films with original screenplays that portray explicitly fictional events, even ones set in a historical era.



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Solicitr
Gondor


Apr 19, 3:47pm

Post #11 of 35 (881 views)
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Well, [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Naturally this doesn't apply to films with original screenplays that portray explicitly fictional events, even ones set in a historical era.


Even there, the events may be fictional but the surrounding setting (sets, costumes, manners, speech habits, social relationships) should reflect the period depicted.

Excellent example of doing it right: Master and Commander.

Dreadful example (where everything was wrong, not just the "historical events"): Braveheart

Interesting example, where the setting was perfect to the smallest detail but the film did violence (literally) to the historical events: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Apr 19, 3:51pm)


Chen G.
Rohan

Apr 19, 3:53pm

Post #12 of 35 (884 views)
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A historical consultant is basically a glorified assistant [In reply to] Can't Post

To the writers and art director in that he brings forth concepts from actual history, which the writers and art director can choose to incorporate if they look right for the film.

There are numerous examples of historcially-accurate details that just don't play right on the screen. In Hacksaw Ridge, some of Desmond Doss' heroics while accurate, were deemed TOO UNBELIEVABLE for the script. In Excalibur, the besagew and shield-breaker pauldrons on the armour, while historically accurate, come across as ridiculous in how they look.


In Reply To
Dreadful example (where everything was wrong, not just the "historical events"): Braveheart.


And yet, by every cinematic metric - directing, cinematography, acting, action - it is a masterwork.

And, again in terms of creating a reality, never once in watching Braveheart does one feel one is watching a preetified, sanitized version of the Middle Ages. The dirt and the weather-worn sets and costumes and the grizzly nature of the violence really sell a reality, to the point that one can just about smell it off of the screen.

It is ten times the movie that Master and Commander is.


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Apr 19, 4:02pm)


Solicitr
Gondor


Apr 19, 4:04pm

Post #13 of 35 (866 views)
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Subject [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
To the writers and art director in that he brings forth concepts from actual history, which the writers and art director can choose to incorporate if they look right for the film.


Wow. Just wow.


In Reply To
In Excalibur, the besagew and shield-breaker pauldrons on the armour, while historically accurate, come across as ridiculous in how they look.


What???? Not even remotely historically accurate (Which was fine for Excalibur, which never pretended to be anything but fantasy). But the armor, historically accurate (even for the 16th century)????



No. Just.... no.

(also... no besagews in sight)



In Reply To
There are numerous examples of historcially-accurate details that just don't play right on the screen.


That's the director's fault, for not making them play right. His job is to find the framing, angles and cut rhythm that makes the real thing exciting. That argument is the excuse that's been made for 80 years for Bob Anderson crap swordfighting on screen

(Oversized image removed - Ataahua.)


(This post was edited by Ataahua on Apr 19, 7:39pm)


Chen G.
Rohan

Apr 19, 4:12pm

Post #14 of 35 (861 views)
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I have seen armour [In reply to] Can't Post

that had shield-breaking pauldrons not too unlike Excalibur's armour: perhaps not quite as pronounced, and placed somewhat differently relative to the neck, but still within that ballpark. But watching it, it comes across as immensly exaggerated, and that's where it counts.

Some of the earlier pieces of armour in the film (those who have seen it will know that there's a major change in the style of armour once Camelot is erected, which is nearly halfway through the film) have besagews on them, and even to my eyes it always look as though someone forgot to strap a piece of metal and its just dangling there.

Also, doing a mirror polish on armour was a thing, and yet it never looks convincing on-screen in Excalibur. Compare that we grungy look in a film like Braveheart which, accurate or not in other departments, really sells reality.


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Apr 19, 4:16pm)


squire
Half-elven


Apr 19, 4:38pm

Post #15 of 35 (854 views)
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Art direction is a separate thing here [In reply to] Can't Post

Films of the type we're discussing - adaptations from literature and historical films - invariably use art direction to convey a visual impression of accuracy to the original. Many terribly unfaithful or inaccurate adaptations or historical pictures are beautifully, beautifully designed, just as they're often wonderfully written and acted.

But consultants like Shippey (in the case of an adaptation from Tolkien's writings) or a historian (in the case of a historical film) are used by films to ensure accuracy of script and/or performance. Tom Shippey isn't with Amazon to tell them how to design Numenor; the professor I mentioned reading about wasn't on the film to check the accuracy of Confederate raiders' saddles and gear. Art departments do that research themselves, often using consultants of a different kind of competency - that's their job.

The historians and critics, the ones that the producers hire and often ignore, are there to say "he wouldn't do that, he would do this" or "that never happened - what happened was X and here's why" or "it's exciting, but it's not [Tolkien/historical]; would you consider doing X instead to get the same effect?".



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
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Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Solicitr
Gondor


Apr 19, 4:49pm

Post #16 of 35 (849 views)
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Subject [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Also, doing a mirror polish on armour was a thing, and yet it never looks convincing on-screen in Excalibur.


That's because chromed plastic doesn't look much at all like polished steel.


Solicitr
Gondor


Apr 19, 4:57pm

Post #17 of 35 (849 views)
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Quite so [In reply to] Can't Post

Props and costumes though form a convenient parallel.

There are of course many areas, however, where even in a fictional period piece, the responsibility lies with the SW (or consultant) to get things right. If a Jane Austen adaptation has casual acquaintances addressing one another by first name, or an unmarried woman taking a coach-ride with a bachelor alone and unchaperoned, he's doing it wrong. If they speak in modern American (or British) idiom, they're doing it wrong.


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Apr 19, 7:19pm

Post #18 of 35 (833 views)
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The cynic in me [In reply to] Can't Post

is doubtful that Corey Olsen is the best person to ask about Tom Shippey's involvement in the project.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


Solicitr
Gondor


Apr 19, 7:47pm

Post #19 of 35 (823 views)
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Well, [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
is doubtful that Corey Olsen is the best person to ask about Tom Shippey's involvement in the project.



Quote
Olsen is very hesitant about what to say because he's doesn't want to break confidence


On the one hand, there's no reason to think CO has anything at all to do with Amazon. OTOH, he talks about "breaking confidence>" How's that? An NDA? Something TS told him in private?


skyofcoffeebeans
Lorien

Apr 19, 7:51pm

Post #20 of 35 (819 views)
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My understanding, [In reply to] Can't Post

Which may be based on assumptions, is that he heard this from Shippey and is not involved with Amazon, hence breaking confidence with Shippey himself.


kzer_za
Lorien

Apr 19, 7:58pm

Post #21 of 35 (818 views)
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I've heard before Olsen is somewhat controversial [In reply to] Can't Post

Why is that? (I've never really listened to his work)


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Apr 19, 8:14pm

Post #22 of 35 (810 views)
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Well Tom has taught at the Mythgard Institute [In reply to] Can't Post

So maybe he did share something with Dr. Olson in confidence (though if so, one would think that Dr. Olson would not have said anything at all).

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Apr 19, 8:15pm

Post #23 of 35 (813 views)
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I'm sure that he is a very nice person [In reply to] Can't Post

Other than that, I probably have already said more than I am qualified to speak to.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


skyofcoffeebeans
Lorien

Apr 19, 8:50pm

Post #24 of 35 (801 views)
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Can anyone comment... [In reply to] Can't Post

... on the heart of Corey Olsen being a controversial figure? First I'm hearing of it, and I'd like to know more.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Apr 19, 11:07pm

Post #25 of 35 (787 views)
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Indeed he is. [In reply to] Can't Post

We were on a panel together some years ago, and have interacted a bit at a number of conferences, and he was always been very nice to talk with.

That said, his seeming omnipresence and influence in Tolkien scholarship for a while, relative to the work he was actually producing, appeared to rub a few people the wrong way. I don't make much of it. (And there are bigger conflicts among even bigger names.) In any case, I've seen him deliver some good papers, including one on Ents and Entwives that was later published in Tolkien Studies.


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


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