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Ringers: Lord of the Fans is a documentary feature film currently in production.


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Ringers Lord of the Fans

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Jan 27, 2004
Misty Mountain Hop

Misty Mountain Hop

Jan. 19, 2004 - Carlene Cordova

(For more photos click here!)

I realize that most of you are probably expecting the kind of travelogue of our New Zealand shoot that we did for England. But it seems that it just isn’t possible to write for any of the collaborators on “Ringers.” Why? Well because the experience was so intense, so moving, so once-in-a-lifetime that it’s impossible to relay on such an intricate scale.

I’m just now able to process it. It’s like when I first saw The Return of the King (and I had the same reaction to The Fellowship of the Ring), I was simply STUNNED. I was thinking afterward, “I just may have seen the greatest and most moving cinematic experience of my life.” But I knew that I had to see it again to be sure. Because the experience was so raw and so intense and so close to my heart and soul that I simply could not possess the words nor thoughts to analyze it. I just didn’t know how to feel. Such was the ENTIRE New Zealand trip for me.

I went to Middle-earth. Now you must understand, I’ve been dreaming about Middle-earth and thinking about it and picturing it in my mind’s eye for MOST OF MY LIFE. Truly. So to actually visit it was staggering. And New Zealand IS Middle-earth. (Well, Middle-earth if it had 4,000,000 people living there and 48,000,000 sheep.)

I’m a nature girl. Tree-hugger (Ent-hugger now). I feel more alive in the wilderness. I’ve climbed mountains, crawled through caves on my belly, forded streams, ridden horses for years through the woods. I’ve traveled through most of the National Parks in the USA – been to almost every state in the lower 48, through Hawaii and the Caribbean. It’s pretty amazing scenery. But New Zealand – well, it’s simply the most gorgeous place on Earth that I’ve yet to see. And so to marry this amazing scenery with my favorite story of all – time was a win-win. I fell in love with Peter Jackson’s films, for the great storytelling and for the grandeur of Andrew Lesnie’s cinematography of the lush landscapes. (Of course for more than that….but that means a lot to me.) And then to see it in person….it takes your breath away.

Cliff and Josh on the road to Milford Sound.

The premiere in Wellington was surreal. And for many reasons that I simply can’t go into here. (Perhaps because the first day of our trip we were invited to a party at the Prime Minister’s house!) And it was a moving experience to realize how much the actors and filmmakers of “The Lord of the Rings” respect the fans and are thankful of their involvement. I’ll just say that and nothing more. The inherent kindness and love of the story of these actors and filmmakers is a rare and wonderful thing in this wacky Hollywood driven Entertainment industry.

Wellington reminded me of the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area. A lovely windswept, cosmopolitan city perched on the edge of a bay. The people couldn’t be nicer. And let me just state for a minute how well we were treated by EVERYONE. I mean “Ringers” is a very small film. On a very small budget. We were staying in youth hostels and dining on the cheap with picnic lunches and so forth, yet we were treated like ROCK STARS by Village Roadshow – New Line’s Australasia Distributor. Many more people involved in the films went out of their way to be so nice to us. We were not even asking and things were being offered. It was very special. I’d like to think that everyone just got into the “spirit” of Tolkien and realized that what we’re all doing is for the love of this story.

(continued at right)

For some more great photos of New Zealand click here! Or visit the Media section and click on the Wellington photos and the New Zealand photos. (Make sure that you scroll down to the bottom and click on each page.)

Some other fans on our tour sent us these fabulous pictures.

To comment on Carlene's article, click here!

To email Carlene click here.

england blog | hobbiton, usa | terry pratchett | ring con | wellington premiere | la premiere | rotk review | return of the dogsbody | new zealand | the gathering of the fellowship| misty mountain hop|

(Continued from column at left.)

With a bit of sadness, we left Wellington and went to Christchurch on the South Island. But we were happy to begin the next stage of our journey where Vic James and The Red Carpet Gondor One tour bus would be picking us up. There we’d join the fans on their journey through the South Island filming locations.

We needed some supplies and had vague directions to a shopping mall a few miles away. So we hopped a bus towards what we’d hoped was the right direction. I couldn’t help but think how fun it was to walk towards destinations unknown, hop a bus in a strange city in a foreign land half a world away from home. I LOVED it, and felt strangely at peace. Adventure!

The Red Carpet Tour was an amazing and fun experience. Our tour guide Anwen, would read selections from the book as we were driving into filming locations. It gave us goose bumps. Our fantastic driver Colin would tell us about the landscape and history of the places we passed on the road. The first day was the Edoras location – Mt. Sunday. We forded streams and climbed up this small mountain. That valley holds more beauty than film can reproduce. What a first day!

We traveled throughout most of the South Island, stopping at locations for Rohan, the Pelennor fields, Amon Hen, the Fords of Bruinen and Ithilien.. And while I really enjoyed seeing these filming locations and watching the fans recreate scenes from the film. I almost enjoyed some of the non-filming locations more. Lake Tekepo is the most gorgeous lake I’ve ever seen. Te Anau is a wonderful town. We all fell madly in love with tiny Twizel where we had our own chalet for a night.

Milford Sound on the Western edge of the South Island was a special treat. We took a bus ride through the loveliest landscape we’d seen yet. It was “The Misty Mountains!” (See my pictures for proof!) We then arrived in a national park full of fjords. We took a lovely boat ride and couldn’t help thinking of the fact that we were at the Western most part of New Zealand’s “Middle-earth” and how it reminded us of the bay where the ships left for the Grey Havens.

A glacial creek on the road to Milford Sound.

I’d have to say that my favorite town was Queenstown. The surrounding area was once part of New Zealand’s gold rush. And the surviving gold towns were strangely familiar and looked exactly like California’s Sierra Nevada gold rush towns. There were scores of quaint little wineries (which we sadly could not visit.) And of course the unreal blue color of the New Zealand sky contrasted by the never ending supply of majestic snow capped mountain peaks added with the lush green sheep pastures, cerulean blue lakes and rivers and the quaint small towns - presented a visual bonanza. I was in heaven. I wanted to spend a week at every location, but a day was usually all we had. (The souvenir shopping was terrific in Queenstown!)

We said goodbye to our fantastic new friends on The Red Carpet tour buses in Queenstown, and hopped a bus the next day for Christchurch, then on a plane that barely made it back to Wellington. (These were prop planes and one of the propellers on our plane wasn’t working and we had to wait till they fixed it.) Luckily we had a full day off to spend in Wellington where we saw a bit of the Te Papa museum (and the model of Barad-dur.) We met up with one of Cliff’s friends that evening and had a great time. New Zealanders are truly the warmest people on the planet. And they also know how to party! (Somehow Catherine and I managed to get Josh and some complete stranger to take off their shirts in a bar! Don’t ask me how ladies, but we do have pictures…. ; )

Was it worth it? Well, the proof is in the footage. It’s brilliant! Perhaps because the ozone layer is practically all burnt away that far south, but the hues seem richer. That translates beautifully on film. The company was marvelous, the scenery superb, and well, we did shoot the 125,000 screaming fans at the world premiere of “The Return of the King.” Once in a lifetime footage! And the foundation of our film. And entire capital city turning out for the premiere of a film. Unheard of anywhere else. If that doesn’t illustrate the vast influence “The Lord of the Rings” has had on New Zealand then nothing will.

And throughout the entire trip Cliff and I kept saying “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.” Because it was simply the truth. I saw the Southern Cross for the first time the night of “The Return of the Ringers” party. The constellations were all upside down, and yet true to Tolkien form, being in New Zealand was indeed like “being at home and on holiday at the same time.”

The glorious Misty Mountains of the Milford Sound area.

New! Milford Sound photos are online! Go here!

Posted at 06:47 am by Ringers
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Jan 5, 2004
THERE AND BACK AGAIN, a trip to Middle-earth


Catherine gets a hug from that "hasty" Ent in New Zealand.


a trip to Middle-earth

Jan. 5, 2004 - Catherine Frizat

(For photos click here!)

If someone had told me three years ago that in December 2003 I would be in New Zealand for the world premiere of Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King, my reply would probably have been: “Yeah, right!”. And yet, here I was on Friday November 28, in Wellington, home of the two wizards: Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor. Going into every single detail of this once-in-a-lifetime trip would take hours and pages and pages of writing… So, I’ll just give a summary of my own personal highlights (which are many and hard to choose from). But here we go.

Our first night in Wellington. Going to Viggo Mortensen’s Benefit Opening at Massey University. Hooking up with our good friend Ian Smith, who writes for the Fan Club Magazine. Being introduced by Ian to Brian Sibley and Jude Fisher (something that had a totally unexpected result as will be shown later on :). Realizing very quickly that everyone from the movie was there: from Barrie Osborne to Peter Jackson, Liv Tyler, Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd, Richard Taylor, Dan and Chris Hennah, Grant Taylor, Howard Shore, Alan Lee, Bernard Hill, Bruce Hopkins, to name a few. Sean Astin chatting with ecstatic fans right next to me (the Benefit Event was open to the general public, as long as you were willing to pay NZ$100 per person).

The haunting beauty of the Maori songs performed throughout Viggo’s introduction of the exhibition. How vast the selection of Viggo’s photos was (over a 100 pieces), the largest I’ve ever seen. Meeting Kayne Horsham, Art Director for Weta, and his lovely wife. And then, after having walked through the exhibition for over an hour, being thrown into a cab with Brian Sibley and Ian, and ending up at the Green Parrot Restaurant, Viggo’s favorite hangout in Wellington. And discovering that us, Ian and I, who are nothing more after all than anonymous little fans, were to have dinner with the entire cast and crew! The whole evening was surreal for me, and I kept saying so to Ian who felt the same disbelief. Be sure to check Ian’s wonderful weblog of his New Zealand experience, he does give a very good account of our dinner among the stars here!

Seeing Return Of The King on our second day in Wellington, at the first press screening at the beautiful Embassy Theater on Courtenay Place. One of the most beautiful theaters I’ve ever been to, so recently renovated that the smell of fresh paint and wood polish was still lingering. I’ll probably write a more detailed review of the film later on, but for now all I can say is that I left the theater in tears.

I was going to Viggo’s Poetry Reading right afterwards, and as much as I enjoyed it I could never completely concentrate on the readings, as my mind and heart were still with the movie. It was one of the most intense emotional experiences I’ve ever had. The fact of being overwhelmed by the idea of being in New Zealand, the fatigue and exhilaration from the trip (and the memories of the previous night!), the sadness of having to face the fact that we had reached the end of the journey, something I know we’ve all been dreading, the magnificence of the film, the intensity of its emotions, the beauty of the performances, and last but not least, the opportunity to experience this in the company of three of my best friends, all these factors combined to make a total emotional mess of me by the time the credits started to roll. No matter how many times I see the movie from now on, nothing will ever replace the intensity of this first screening.

Sean Astin as Sam, Sean Astin as Sam, Sean Astin as Sam!!!

The day of the premiere. The joy and excitement of the parade. The craziness of the Red Carpet (although half of the event was a bit ruined for me due to my failed attempts at making our damn webcam work!). Everything seemed to go so fast, like in a dream. The after-premiere party. Now, I have been told that this wasn’t the best industry party, but for me it was worth the wait with Josh in the chilling wind before Carlene finally sneaked us in. Yes, it was probably too big and a bit too formal. But I will always remember the magnificent setting. Seeing the While Tree Of Gondor, and the Gates of Minas Tirith (yes, the real ones from the film!)… How many times will I ever have this chance again?

(continued at right)

england blog | hobbiton, usa | terry pratchett | ring con | wellington premiere | la premiere | rotk review | return of the dogsbody | new zealand report |

(Continued from column at left.)

Mount Sunday aka Edoras. The first film location we visited. Blessed with the most gorgeous (and warm) weather, and no wind! Crossing the streams was quite an experience, the chill of the clear glacier waters burning your skin to the bone, and soon making your legs numb. An appropriate rite of passage, I guess. One of the cast members, I think it’s Bernard Hill, said that no matter how many pictures you can take of the place, they could never do it justice. And it’s true. It’s an incredible place, quite impossible to describe. Majestic, eerie, mystical, out of myth and legend, something you don’t expect to find on earth… well, here it is, in Middle-earth! I could have stayed there all day and never get tired of it.

Sheep, sheep, herds of deer, sheep, sheep, herds of deer….

A New Zealand "traffic jam."

Poolburn aka the Rohan plains. This was a thrill for me because I didn’t think we were going to this location, and it’s always one of my favorite scenes in The Two Towers, when Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli discover this magnificent landscape of golden tussocks and rock outcroppings. Many scenes were shot there, so it was one discovery after another, the first one always topping the next. Aragorn’s rock (where he lies down and listens to the faraway steps of the Uruks); the canyon where the Uruks lead Pippin and Merry and where Pippin drops his Elven brooch (to be found later by the Three Hunters); the plains where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli find themselves surrounded by Eomer and the Rohirrim; and finally the blue waters of Poolburn Lake, the location of the Rohan village that Saruman’s Wild Men burn down. The landscape in Poolburn is strikingly different from the surrounding area, it’s like nowhere else on earth.

Sheep, sheep, herds of deer, sheep, sheep, herds of deer…

A herd of red deer.

Lake Tekapo and its amazing clear turquoise waters, and its banks covered by a rolling sea of mountain lupins in an impressionist palette of blues, purples, pinks and lavenders. A little further down the road, Lake Pukaki, the azur of its waters rivaling with Lake Tekapo’s (something one would think impossible!) with in the distance the snow-covered peaks of Mount Cook. These were not film locations per se, but they are totally Middle-earth landmarks and among the most magnificent sights we saw on the trip – if there’s a word to describe your feelings when you stand facing these gorgeous views, it would be: bliss. That’s the closest to heaven one can possibly be.

Sheep, sheep, herds of deer, sheep, sheep, herds of deer….

Queenstown and Deer Park Heights. Queenstown is a lovely little town, nestled in an alpine valley at the edge of superb Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by the majestic snow-capped Remarkables. Yet another side of heaven! Drive ten minutes out of town, and you find Deer Park Heights, an 800-m conical hill where many scenes for The Two Towers were shot. The panoramic views from the top are incredible: blue ribbons of rivers, turquoise waters of the lake, green pastures, and mountains as far as the eye can see. The locations were easily recognizable: Aragorn’s cliff (where he falls off during the warg attack); the mound upon which Legolas fires his arrows at the approaching wargs; the rolling hills where the wargs appear and charge; the lake where the Rohan refugees were led on their way to Helm’s Deep… and many more. It is a beautiful, secluded place, yet close enough to town that it made possible for the LOTR cast and crew to film during the day and retreat to the nice shops, hotels and restaurants of Queenstown at night. After dinner that day, Josh and I took a stroll by the edge of the lake, its waters were literally glowing in the moonlight. Quite magical.

The River Anduin (Near Queenstown)

I could go on and on and on… but I’m sure my fellow Ringers will give their own highlights of all the wonderful places we were lucky enough to visit on this unforgettable trip to Middle-earth. Now, if I was to pick my number one highlight… Despite what some may think, that would not be Tan Pants taking off his shirt in a Wellington bar on our last night – even if that was quite enjoyable too! No, the true number one highlight is to have shared this experience with Carlene, Cliff and Josh. The journey would not have been half as memorable without the company of such excellent and admirable Ringers. For two weeks, we were a true fellowship and forged the same bonds and lifetime friendships than Frodo and his companions, and than the films’ cast itself. In the words of Boromir, truly “this is a gift”.

Not hasty at all,


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Ringers Associate Producer Catherine Frizat , Cliff Broadway and Josh Mandel celebrate in New Zealand.

Click here for the New Zealand photo gallery.

Posted at 06:35 pm by Ringers
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Dec 22, 2003
New Zealand Blog Info

Hi there! Since we're now back and able to update the site you can find our New Zealand stories here! http://www.theonering.net/ringers/wellington.html

And the pictures here! http://www.theonering.net/ringers/media_wellington1.html

And a ROTK Review Here!http://www.theonering.net/ringers/rotk_review.html

And a new story from Mikey here! http://www.theonering.net/ringers/dogsbody.html

Noro Lim!


Posted at 11:20 pm by Ringers
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Dec 4, 2003
Finally.... an Internet Cafe!

Hello guys! (Carlene here) More news from the road somewhere in New Zealand! First I have to apologize for the webcam not working. Naturally, the computer CRASHED on the red carpet right before the stars arrived. We were too busy trying to conduct the interviews and shoot that we couldn't get it back up despite some pretty valiant efforts. So sorry about that. But we do have some AMAZING interviews with everyone for you guys that we'll post on TORn as soon as we return to the states or find a place where we can connect our computer to the internet. (This is from a rare internet cafe...)

In order for us to get something in from everyone we'll all write a little message from us to you. I'll start.

Today we went to Rohan. ROHAN! It was so cool! New Zealand is the most beautiful country. You all must go. I insist. The people couldn't be nicer. There's so much to tell and we've been going a mile a minute with no sleep and barely time for bathroom breaks!

JOSH: New Zealand is great! I have already fallen in love twice . . . and that's just with the women. Honestly, this country is amazing in so many ways. I wish you could all see what we have been seeing the last few days.

We have 7 minutes left on this terminal at this internet cafe - but Quickbeam says he's sunburnt but in a complete state of bliss....Oh - I wish that I could upload the pictures. Josh was mistaken for Elijah Wood ...again by screaming fans. This was when we were going into the premiere after-party. (which underwhelmed me...TORn's Oscar parties are better.) But alas... We'll try to find a way - but may not until after December 10th. We did pretty much interview every LOTR actor though!!!!

Good on ya, mates!


Posted at 12:05 am by Ringers
Comments (4)

Nov 29, 2003
We made it!!

Hello fellow Ringers!
We made it to New Zealand. This is the first time that I've gotten online since our arrival. I may have to be quick because as I'm writing this we're in a hotel lobby as we're attending the television press junket for "The Return of the King." (In case you don't know what a press junket is, it's where the stars & Writers & Director & Producers of a film are trapped in a room in a hotel all day long, and journalists come in and sit down with them for six minutes of quality time and ask questions.)

This trip has been charmed! Our flight over was magical! NO ONE was on our Qantas flight so they treated us like Kings and Queens and we all got plenty of sleep because we could stretch out on the seats! We then ran into Bruce Hopkins (Gamling) in the Aukland airport and he traveled with us to Wellington.

Then after our arrival in the country we showered and cleaned ourselves up because we were invited to attend a benefit for the New Zealand GLBT community where Sir Ian McKellen was expected to attend and speak. As we were traveling there we gave the cab driver the address, and we're near to the place and he says "The Prime Minister lives up here." We're like, "Oh, that's interesting." Then we see the address. And yes - it actually was the Prime Minister's house!! So a half hour later we are in Prime Minister Helen Clark's home speaking to Sir Ian. Kind of a nice arrival! I can barely believe it myself!

Yesterday we saw the press screening of "The Return of the King" at the Embassy Theatre! We're on an embargo against publishing reviews of the film until Dec. 8th. All I can say is !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tonight we'll be filming at "The Return of the Ringers" party here in Wellington. Cliff is going to be the Master of Ceremonies. I think that there might be a live webcam from the party and I think that you'll be able to see this from TORn. But I don't know. There may be some "special" guests. ; )

Cliff or Josh or someone else might write another BLOG later. But we have to run right now and speak to Sir Ian McKellen. (Whom I adore!)

Cheers on ya mates!

- Carlene

Posted at 02:33 pm by Ringers
Comments (2)

Nov 17, 2003
Ringers: New Zealand Blog!

Hi there! Our next trip will be in New Zealand for the World Premiere of "The Return of the King." We'll be leaving Los Angeles on November 26th and won't be arriving in Wellington until November 28th. Which is November 27th for people in North America. (I think....) Um, this whole "International Date Line" thing is really confusing - but it is basically one day and three hours less in Wellington than in Los Angeles. So for people on the East Coast of North America, that's plus one day and minus 6 hours. For example if it's noon on Monday in Los Angeles, then it's 9:00am on Tuesday in Wellington.

Why is that important? Because we will hopefully be able to webcast LIVE from the Red Carpet of the ROTK premiere on Dec. 1st. (In Wellington Dec. 1st.) It will most likely start at around 5:30pm Wellington time. (We're not sure though - and can't promise anything...but we will be there!) We'll also be traveling around to lots of LOTR related events and hopefully posting lots of pictures on our site or on TORn's Scrapbook. So watch this spot for updates soon!

- Carlene

Posted at 03:39 pm by Ringers
Comments (3)

Nov 10, 2003
England Day 6

The Royal Jewels

(For more pictures click here.)

Alas, all good things have to end. And so it went with our wonderful shoot in England. We spent our last day sightseeing in London. The plan was to hop on the Tube, see a tourist attraction, go to a pub, hop on the Tube, go to another tourist attraction, go to a pub…and so on. I was HOPING that we’d have a little time for shopping for souvenirs. But NO! I was with three guys after all.

The plan started out well. We ate a traditional English breakfast of fried meat and eggs…again. (Too bad the omelet never caught on in that country! C’mon Brits – French food ain’t so bad…) the day was sunny and actually warm. We all left wearing very light jackets and t-shirts. We went to an ATM – Cliff withdrew some money. And in a classic American moment he stood there studying his two ten pound notes. “Hey Mikey,” he asks “why is the design on this bill different from this other bill when they’re both ten pound notes?” Mikey walks over, looks at the bills, grabs one and simply flips it over. And voila! They were identical!

After nearly wetting ourselves with laughter at Cliff, we hopped on the tube at Paddington Station. I was thrilled because I just loved reading about Paddington Bear when I was little. (The guys made fun of me for a minute, until Mikey admitted to loving Paddington Bear too.) We then traveled to Buckingham Palace. Which was big. We didn’t go in, and to our disappointment the guards weren’t outside for us to harass. We did have a nice debate over whether or not the British Monarchy was an obsolete institution and they should move to a straight Democracy. (I won’t say which one of us was on which side, but let’s just say some of us are very ANTI-monarchy. And pro-American Democracy.) Yes – we almost re-fought the American Revolution by the gates of Buckingham palace. "GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH!" I shouted.

OK – scary looking men in suits were now eyeing us - so we found the nearest pub. I wish I remembered the name of the pub, but on the sign was a bloody head and an axe or something. Quaint. After a pint of Guinness we moved on. (Will Cliff and I EVER tire of saying “It comes in pints?? I’m getting one!” Doubtful.) Off we headed to Victoria Station to catch the tube to see the Royal Jewels.

After a rousing refrain of ABC’s “Tower of London” we arrived in the vicinity of the actual Tower of London. We clowned around near the remains of a Roman wall and a statue of some Roman guy. Maybe Caesar or something…oh, by this time the guidebook was a forgone conclusion.

And as we’re entering the Tower grounds proper, it starts to rain. Cliff and I rented the audio guide thingy. (Useless if you get off of the assigned path, we discovered. But we learned that they tortured and killed a lot of people in the Tower of London.) The rain was a light drizzle. We looked around a little. The rain became a downpour. “Maybe it’ll lighten up.” We thought hopefully as we huddled with the other sopping American tourists under an ominous looking gate. No - deal. I thought longingly of my warm rain jacket and umbrella back in the hotel room. We decided to make a dash for the gift shop! (JOY!)

I took a really great picture of the guys in the gift shop. Then the boys played with the toy swords while I did some speed souvenir shopping. Once again the guys DRAGGED me bodily from the store. : ( We decided to go and see the Royal Jewels because they were located indoors. I purchased an overpriced souvenir Tower of London umbrella; the guys bought little plastic rain slickers. They looked hilarious! Made it worthwhile. I rather like the umbrella now; it has a Beefeater on it with the words “Tower of London” and a picture of the actual Tower. The odd souvenirs one picks up from necessity.

We looked at the armor and jewels and everything that there was to look at indoors. (Don’t even ask about Henry the VIII’s codpiece! OMG!) It was still “pissing down rain” as Mikey put it. We were hungry. It had been hours since we’d been in a pub. So, we left to find another pub.

Cliff, Josh and Mikey in front of Buckingham Palace.

The one difference that England has from the States is that restaurants serve food on a very strict schedule. Here you can eat anytime anywhere if you’re in a big city. There, you are SOL if you’re hungry between the lunch hour and the dinner hour. We roamed the streets of London’s financial district forlorn, wet, and hungry in search of a nice warm pub that served food. No such luck. We finally just dashed into the nearest pub and decided that a Guinness would at least fill us up. Which luckily, it did.

Then in the back of the pub we made a momentous discovery. Apparently gambling isn’t as regulated in the UK as it is in the USA. There are these slot machines everywhere. They’re different from the American variety because there is no lever to pull down. But, I digress… there it was bright and shiny. A “Lord of the Rings” slot machine! I can say with all sincerity that I vote this as the tackiest and most obnoxious bit of LOTR licensing New Line has done so far. (What’s next? LOTR tampon dispensers?) Yes, the machine was emblazoned with that ever-ubiquitous picture of Elijah Wood as Frodo. (Bet poor Elijah never counted on having his face plastered on EVERYTHING when he signed on to do this film.) Orlando Bloom’s Legolas stood ready with arrow notched, Christopher Lee’s Saruman grimacing at the bottom. The Professor is probably rolling in his grave over this thing.

And by this time we’d decided on a real dinner, so we headed back to the hotel, got all dressed up and headed to Soho! Um, we’ll just leave it there. Great Indian food, good wine, lots of bars, lots of fun. It was a late night.

The next morning Cliff and I were due to catch a plane back to the states, while Josh and Mikey would be driving up to Scotland. We checked out of our hotel. Almost all fell down the six flights of stairs with all of our luggage on top of each other. (When we arrived, we were greeted with, “No lift, no porter – Solly!”) We regretted that we didn’t have time to stop at the Abbey Road crossing and take a picture. That’ll have to be on our NEXT trip to London.

I’ll have to wrap this up with this one tidbit. Cliff must really look like a terrorist. And his Decipher trading cards must resemble a bomb in the little X-ray machines. Heathrow airport has very tight security. And at each security checkpoint we were stopped and Cliff had to be searched because of his darn suspicious trading card game. We literally had to RUN to the gate because these searches took so long. But thankfully we made the flight. Sadly, I had to run through the nice little shopping mall in the middle of Heathrow. (Upon returning to California, my brother was pretty under whelmed with the Stonehenge pencil case that I gave him.) We may make it back to the UK for some more interviews, as we took off and I watched London disappear I hoped that we would, because we had such a great time! Cheerio!

-Carlene Cordova

(Check back from November 28th through December 9th when the “Ringers” crew will be documenting our travels through New Zealand and the worldwide premiere of the “The Return of the King.”)

Posted at 09:08 pm by Ringers
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Oct 20, 2003
England - Day 5

Continuing on with our BLOG of our trip to England, guest columnist Quickbeam describes Tolkien's Oxford. And to sign up for our mailing list contest to win free tickets to TheOneRing.net's Oscar Party, click here!

Greetings, Quickbeam here. The funniest thing about being in a foreign country for the first time is the ongoing, strange little feeling in the back of your mind. It is such a quiet little voice, but you cannot ignore it. It feels like a small, pricking reminder that everything you are looking at – even the air you happen to be breathing - all around you the things you are experiencing are NEW. You sense a brightness in things. You folks out there who have traveled a bit will understand what I’m driving at. Hard to explain it.

Oxford was certainly working this strange type of magic on me at this point in our trip. I felt that warm newness in everything I saw that day. The gorgeous cathedrals and colleges, the arches, the stone walls and gargoyles. We walked every place that day, walking contentedly down the ancient cobble-stones. Stones laid in place 700 years before my footfall. All brand new to ME, even though it was far older than the Dwarven Halls of Durin. I felt a majesty in this place. Forgive me, there’s just no other way to describe it.
Quickbeam at the Eagle and ChildQuickbeam stands under the sign of the Eagle and Child Pub where the Inklings met in Oxford.

For more photos of Day 5 click here!

Josh adjusts the camera, getting ready for the next shot.
I cannot tell any of you Tolkien fans out there strongly enough to just go! Get on a plane now and visit this wonderful town… You will feel yourselves in a remarkable world of history and architecture; with the grace of ancient knowledge all around you. I loved it so much I didn’t want to leave. But working on this remarkable project has put us all in some remarkable places. We’ve been able to come here, film with our cameras, and to re-live moments in another man’s history. Another book’s history. The foundations of Middle-earth all created here under the graceful spires of Oxford. A living history lesson, if you will. Being here meant a lot to us. I think you’ll see that quality in our final film.

Morning held another of many “traditional English breakfasts,” which I quickly tired of, and then working straightaway on we shot interviews back at St. Hughes. The morning was perfectly bright and the sunshine splendid for outdoor photography. We chatted at length with the acting Chairman of the Tolkien Society, Christine Crawshaw, who was very kind indeed! Then off to shoot footage around the other side of town with a trip to Merton College.

And how lovely it was! I mean that word ‘lovely’ with as much sincerity as I can muster. I can now understand how Tolkien would want to live and teach here at this magnificent old place. Stepping back in time with every step we took, soon we found ourselves descending a beautiful cobbled lane from centuries past (and of course the dappling shadows of the gorgeous old trees all above us – sleeping Ents they are, and no mistake!). The footage we enjoyed most were the outer walls of the Merton College buildings, and the mightily twisted gargoyles. I looked inside several narrow windows, as ancient as Hogwarts and stonework just as decorated, and realized the room I looked in could have been his. Yes, it could have been Tolkien’s very same room where he once bellowed the opening salvo of Beowulf, startling his students! This was his life. Tolkien’s brightest years were all here. And we’re filming it to show everyone the magic of Oxford.

Afternoon brought us to the original pub where the Inklings once held court, the estimable Eagle and Child pub (or the Bird & the Baby by the local gentry). I sat down with the very sweet-hearted Katherine Irwin. We met and ate wonderful fish n’ chips sitting down in the Rabbit Room. Before its grey fireplace once sat the wonderfully talented fellows sharing a pint and creative barbs. And the stories! Yes, this was the perfect place to meet. I drank my first full pint of Guinness. Ah, my life is now complete. :)

We sat down with Katherine to discuss the wonderful wacky worlds of slash fiction. She shared with our cameras the fun details of how these fannish-type writers enjoy an online community, sharing stories and ideas. If you are not fully aware, the world of Slash is something quite unique, and involves the eroticizing of certain characters from great genre stories. That’s right. Erotic tales of our LOTR heroes going off into very sexy situations with other characters, with each other, or with some self-inserted character who represents the author herself (a fictional doppelganger who gets to eat forbidden fruit with a certain blond Elf chap, in most cases). Katherine was a very generous and mirthful young person… a GREAT interview. She told us about her site: [http://www.veryverygay.com], where they have a fun time with other people’s online fan fic. It’s all in fun, I assure you. As the daylight waned towards the West, we found out that Tolkien’s revered stories are sometimes recreated in a _very_ different way. She and her partner work together to relish the ‘gayness’ of all that bad (or sometimes good) Slash fiction. Check it out; you might blush and you might have a laugh too.

Our gallant guide to the Oxford buildings that day, Arathorn, brought us northward to the home where Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and most of LOTR: 20 Northmoor Road. It is a lovely and quite stately old house (and the one next door). More details are to be found in Humphrey Carpenter’s JRRT: a Biography, and you’ll be the richer for reading it. Tolkien was also buried not far from here; thus we headed to the final resting place of the Professor and his beloved wife, Wolvercote Cemetery.

It’s exactly as Carpenter describes in the final chapter. Very sad to be there with all the gorgeous roses and mournful ivy creeping across the Cornish granite. Covered with little bracelets, wreathes, notes, and flowers, the grave is a distinctly reflective place to be. We approached with caution and filmed with everyone suddenly becoming silent. We were aware of the blanket of silence, the respectful moment of wondering inwardly as people often do in cemeteries. I knelt before the Professor’s grave and tuned inward myself for awhile. Tearful, I left my own remembrance token and we turned, walking out.

As night fell swiftly, we drove back to London, leaving behind at last the most beautiful city in all Her Majesty’s realm: Oxford. Oh, how I wish I could return. The City of Dreaming Spires. And again tonight I will dream of it.

Next back in London we continued the final rush of our day. Meeting up with renowned Tolkien specialist and radio dramatist, Brian Sibley, we sat for an involving, rousing interview. You will also know Brian’s work writing for the delicious New Line tie-in books that have come out with the films, “The Lord of the Rings Official Movie Guide” and also “LOTR: The Making of the Movie Trilogy.” Of course you guys know his books! I’ve got them too, right here on my shelf. Mr. Sibley is remarkably well-spoken, erudite, afire with ideas! I liked him instantly. He also created the BBC radio adaptation of LOTR that was broadcast in the 1980s. Mighty damn fine adaptation, let me tell you (you can read this Amazon.com reviewer’s opinion of the work: “Brian Sibley's adaptation of Tolkien's masterpiece is as good as any we are ever likely to encounter”). So of course this interview with him was gold. It was solid gold, as we say in the business. Again we have to express our thanks to all those out there who pulled things together for us, it was a magic hour of discussion!

Every day we look forward more and more to bringing this film together. It’s really sparking our own excitement as we continue to work on it. This material is coming together so wonderfully, with the awesome contributions of so many spirited individuals, that we can’t help it! Enthusiasm like this is infectious.

Tell your friends about our Ringers site; and stay on board as we bring you more brilliant stories and experiences of Tolkien’s world!

Posted at 02:45 pm by Ringers
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Oct 10, 2003
Day 4 - Oxford

Day 4 was spent very pleasantly in the beautiful "City of Dreaming Spires" - Oxford. The Tolkien Society very graciously allowed us to attend their annual Oxonmoot and film some of the proceedings and interview some of their speakers. Oxonmoot is their annual gathering which includes speakers, slideshows, a Tolkien quiz, a masquarade and a special remberance of Professor Tolkien and a laying of a wreath at his grave.

Oxonmot was held at St. Hugh's college in Oxford. The campus was lovely with a classic English garden and park-like grounds. As usual more pictures can be found here.
One of Professor Tolkien's school books, inscribed while he was a student of Exeter College in Oxford.

Oxford University is divided into Colleges. These colleges aren't divided by subject of study as with US universities, but they are actual physical building complexes where students live, dine and study. I can't say enough about the beauty of Oxford. Venice without the canals. I wished that we could have spent a week there. This medieval city has buildings that have been in continuous use since the 13th century and is the oldest English-speaking university in the world. (This is mind-blowing to an American - BTW!) I noticed the resemblance of my alma mater Ohio University, (established in the very recent year of 1804) to Oxford's "recently" built brick campuses such as St. Hugh's. It's the University that every American University aspires to be. Go there if you're ever in England. (Just do it! Don't question. You won't regret it!)

Professor Tolkien went to College there and lived and studied in Exeter College. Exeter is a beautiful walled medieval complex. It reminded me of a fortress. One of our gracious guides the Lady T, helped me "sneak" into the Exeter complex after hours. The chapel was amazing and there is a little bust of Professor Tolkien within. The Professor then later taught at Pembroke College then went on to Merton College.

OK - enough history and on with the travelogue... We went to Oxonmoot in the morning and met up with our guide/nanny, Alex. (He sheparded us around and helped us greatly! Thanks again Alex!) We attended a bit of the Tolkien Quiz and arranged some interviews. One of our interviewees was Dr. Jane Chance who teaches Tolkien at Rice University in Texas. Dr. Chance was gracious and gave us such an insightful and deep interview. She was one of the first American college professors to push for Tolkien-based courses in the '70's. Now practically every college or university offers Tolkien courses.

Another one of our fantastic new friends we met and interviewed is Colin Duriez. Colin has written several books about Tolkien and the Inklings. His latest book is called Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: A Gift of Friendship. His other titles are: Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings: A Guide to Middle-earth, The J.R.R. Tolkien Handbook: A Concise Guide to His Writings, and World of Middle-earth and The Inklings Handbook plus The C.S. Lewis Encyclopedia and The C.S. Lewis Handbook. (Click on the titles to buy them on Amazon.com! TheOneRing.net gets $ credit for each purchase through these links.) We also interviewed Ian Collier from the Tolkien Society.

Cliff (Quickbeam) tried his first ever pint of Guiness at a quaint pub called The Rose and Crown. Mikey and Josh enjoyed their 597th and 256th pint of Guiness there respectively. (OK- those aren't the ACTUAL count of pints but they can't remember exactly.) Cliff and Mikey also joined in for the Hobbit Dancing seminar at Oxonmoot. Josh and I just filmed it and laughed at them. We went into the dealer room at Oxonmoot and discovered that Tolkien artist Ted Nasmith was signing. We also found a collection of rare books autographed by Professor Tolkien. (See the photo above.) They were also selling LOTR Bobbleheads and I had to get me one! (Frodo, my favorite character, of course!) And we all bought LOTR decks of Top Trumps. They don't have Top Trumps in the States for some mysterious reason. It's quite a fun game!

There's no parking in Oxford, so everyone walks everywhere. Which is nice. Oxford at night is something else! Very lively. Old buildings are lit beautifully, pubs are full. This day went on forever and after a great pub dinner we went BACK to Oxonmoot and filmed a bit of the masquerade. By this time we had been shooting for twelve hours and were pretty tired! While we were leaving Oxonmoot we ran into LOTR Screenwriter Phillipa Boyens in the stairwell. She was in from London and was just visiting Oxonmoot. We had a brief chat and exchanged hellos and so forth, but we were just so tired that we didn't hang around for the rest of the raging Oxonmoot party. We didn't get a lot of sleep on this trip when I think about it!

In our next installment of the England Ringers saga, we visit Tolkien's Oxford and pay our respects to The Professor. (A wrod about my poor spelling. - Get over it! I'm trying to get this up in a timely manner! Bad spellers of the world UNTIE!)

Posted at 04:10 pm by Ringers
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Oct 6, 2003
England Day 3!

On Day 2 we had planned to travel to the Sarehole area of Birmingham to retrace the steps and film some of the sights that inspired a young J.R.R. Tolkien.

OK - I'll be honest. I actually didn't include all about Day 2 in the previous entry. Day 2 actually ended at 4am after a wild and crazy night spent in Soho with TORn staffer Arathorn, Lady T and Arathorn's friends. Yes, one of them ACTUALLY said to me that I wasn't a "Brash American" and that I was rather quite pleasant company and not obnoxious at all. It's a "wonderful" thing when you're traveling to another land and people compliment you on not being an obnoxious American.

So after our "traditional" English breakfast of fried eggs, fried sausages, baked beans, I think more fried meatstuffs, toast, marmalade and actually a pretty good cuppa joe, we got on the road to Birmingham. Musical selections ranged from Radiohead (mine) to Duran Duran (Cliff's) and yes, more Beatles.

It truly was moving to stand in front of the home that was loved by Professor Tolkien in his boyhood. (For pictures, click here.) We visited the Sarehole Mill, built in the 1700's. Tolkien played there as a child and the environs in Sarehole held a great influence on The Professor.

No offense intended for actual Elderly People. It's just that they don't have signs like this in the States and we all found it highly amusing. I just had to encourage the guys to act out this sign. Mikey's expression is priceless!

Our next stop was the Mosely Bog where we hiked a little while and shot flora and fauna alike. We were greeted by many sloppy, wet, happy dogs who walked the Bog with their humans. Mosely Bog was a place where I could imagine a young Tolkien leading his younger brother through the thick forest, telling him stories of Ogres and faeries in the woods. While on our travels in England we were frequently asked what we were filming. As a rule we always tell everyone that we're filming birds and buildings. That we're great bird and building enthusiasts. As luck would have it, on this day, all of our filming was entirely of birds and buildings. Some trees too. There will be lots of trees in this documentary. They were so very important to Professor Tolkien, and they are to me. (Herr Director.)

One of the more interesting sites was Perrott's Folly. Which is a large Medieval-esque tower in the section of Birmingham where Tolkien moved after Sarehole. It is said to be the inspiration for Minas Morgul. There is another large tower in the area, the Edgbaston Waterworks. Is this Minas Tirith? (Although it's not white.) These are the "Two Towers."

In Birmingham we heard an ice cream truck (lorry?) rolling along and playing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" as it's tune. I kid you not. We then tore ourselves away and traveled to Oxford where we once again dined with our friends Arathorn and Lady T. (At an American-themed restaurant no less!)

Posted at 08:08 pm by Ringers
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