I was delighted to hear the confirmed announcement last week by Amazon Studios that their new mini-series set in Middle-earth will commence filming in New Zealand next year. Since I first read The Lord of the Rings almost fifty years ago, there was never any doubt that the world meticulously created by JRR Tolkien was my own home – New Zealand. With the release of the Peter Jackson directed The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies, New Zealand was indelibly stamped as Middle-earth and the many thousands of film and book pilgrims that visit the country as a result of the films continues unabated. The promotion of the country alongside the films is an abject lesson in film tourism and has been cited in many scholarly publications to showcase how “set jetting” became mainstream.
One could argue that despite winning 17 Academy Awards the most important omission was an award for the country itself.
Another important facet of the series success has been the development of film production in New Zealand. Despite its relative isolation, the country has seen the growth of Weta Workshop from the small Wellington bedroom of Richard and Tania Taylor to one of the major production players in both the physical and digital medium alongside the development of world-class studios both in Wellywood and Auckland.
There are now many hundreds of film professionals spread across the country as well as artisans and, most importantly, there is the film friendly nature of the whole country.
Now these Antipodean islands will travel many thousands of years back through the annals of history of Middle-earth to portray (if one is to take hints from the brief teasers released by Amazon Studios) Númenor – an island and a series of epic tales that its author so beautifully shared with us in the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings and the Akallabêth.
Welcome, Amazon Studios – to Middle-earth Aotearoa.
Elen síla lúmen omentielo endoré Aotearoa
(May a star shine upon our meeting here in Middle-earth Aotearoa).