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A Short Cut to Favourites


A series of irreverent tales from my experience as a Tolkien-nerd working as an extra on the first series of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power television show.

The City Guards are sitting around a couple of large plastic tables in their designated corner of the extras holding tent. We’re getting to know each other, and I will at some point introduce you to them all here, but I’ve made vague promises to you, dear reader, of finally getting on to the actual set in this installment. And I absolutely always sometimes keep my vague promises.

That said, some digressions are unavoidable along the way. Which brings me to the chairs. I have come to realise now that there is one chair manufacturer making their fortune on millions of cheap black plastic fold-up chairs which are ubiquitous in any tv & film related business in Auckland. Every set, canteen, office, caravan I’ve ever been on has them. They’re perfectly cromulent seating devices for most short-term scenarios, but it has to be said that yer average fully costumed City Guard – who was already weighing in around the 90-100kg mark (do the maths yerself America) before adding the bulky armour and costume – is not what these seats were made for, and as you try and get comfortable its difficult to shake the feeling that the whole arrangement could collapse at any time as easily as a dwarf/elf alliance. Luckily getting comfortable while seated is not actually possible while wearing armour and a cape, so the comfort values of the chair are perhaps redundant.

City Guard on chair
Artist’s impression of City Guard relaxing on a chair.

Anyway where was I? The guards, yes. A few of them have already been in for a couple of days, but most of us are starting today. I try and find out if anyone knows anything about our in-story location (or, indeed, our story) but nobody does and I’m mildly surprised to find out that nobody seems remotely interested either. But they seem like a nice bunch of guys, and everyone is in agreement that a) we look pretty cool in these costumes and b) toilet visits will be tricky.

It’s fully light outside now and it’s a lovely early autumn morning. The coffee cart is now open outside of the holding tent, along with a large table of assorted snacks which will be replenished throughout the day and which is currently drawing admiring glances from a number of first-day extras who are unsure as to whether they really can just help themselves to this snacktastic bounty. No small part of the rumoured $250 million budget went on Cadbury’s Favourites for extras and crew. Coincidentally, conversations with other City Guards suggested that household budgets for their kids’ school lunches reduced by no small part during filming. The universe is always in balance.

City Guard 3rd breakfast
A City Guard prepares for second – no, third – breakfast.

There are a few more tents dotted around – first aid, make-up, various technical bases and most interestingly the armoury, where a couple of guys are beginning to unpack boxes of weaponry. I don’t feel sufficiently confident or competent to go and have a closer nose at these – this is after all my first day – but in time I realise everyone (mostly everyone) is happy to chat with everyone else about what they do if they have the time and you’re not a dick.

Ah, there are the toilets. Portacabins, at least, rather than music festival-style portaloos. The thought of using a portaloo in this costume sends a shiver down my spine. Oh well, let’s see how this goes. I’ll just… um… hmmm… ok what if I try – no… aha! Oh… argh. I’ll spare you the whole routine, but it soon becomes clear that the main issue is not access but damage control. It’s hard enough to keep both sets of heavy skirts held up and away from the, er, splash zone, but the even heavier cape is determined to get in on the act too and the whole exercise becomes a precarious balancing act which due to many hours of sitting around drinking tea has to be repeated on a regular basis without ever seeming to get any easier. At least the cape is dark blue, small mercies an’ all that.

These guys on the left don’t seem to be having any problems although I fear the worst is still to come for the dude on the right.

And then it happened, quite out of nowhere. I’m on set! Sort of. There’s an odd piece of scenery sitting rather incongruously just behind the toilets. It’s a rock face, sitting on a rocky floor. Maybe twenty foot high and twice as wide. I realise excitedly that this is the first I’ve seen of the set. The excitement dissipates immediately. It’s very, well… underwhelming. I mean there’s nothing wrong with it. It looks like what it is. But what it looks like is a big rock.

I wander back to tent, via the snack table.

I know, I know. I promised to get to the set, and this is what I give you. Sorry. Underwhelming I know, but authentically underwhelming.

Seriously though, next time for real. That’s a promise.

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