'Hobbit' already promoting Otago

The dramatic natural beauty of Otago is being displayed to the world by The Hobbit, even before a frame is presented in cinemas, and regional tourism chiefs could not be happier.

Film-maker Sir Peter Jackson presented online the sixth production video in total, and the first for the year, which charted the cast and crew's location shooting throughout New Zealand.

The 12-minute video was watched more than 330,000 times in just five days on YouTube.

There were more than 14,000 "likes" and 1374 enthusiastic comments on a social networking website.

Second unit director and Gollum actor Andy Serkis is seen walking from a helicopter with an alpine background behind him as he welcomes viewers to the first day on location for him and his crew.

Strath Taieri, Central Otago, is described by Jackson as a location "where you can literally shoot in 360 degrees every direction. We've had some incredible skies, what we call Close-Encounters-of-the-Third-Kind skies.

"Where our skies are a little boring, because we've shot over three days, we'll probably replace them with these cool skies." Jackson points to the Rock and Pillar Range where 10 helicopters ferried cast, crew and equipment for a day's shoot.

The production decamped to Queenstown and the segment begins with a pan across Lake Wakatipu from the Glenorchy-Queenstown Rd on a blue-sky day.

Second unit production manager Belindalee Hope said in the video the production arrived in "beautiful Queenstown" and was at the base of the Earnslaw Burn, "the most spectacular shooting location we've been to yet".

Footage shows a helicopter cruising over the snow-capped mountains and a high waterfall, then Serkis and crew filming dwarfs as they tramp up a hill covered in tussocks.

Crew members throwing snowballs at each other on Treble Cone is shown, then the video moves to shooting in Paradise, near Queenstown.

"We've been to Paradise before; that's where we shot a few scenes of Fellowship of the Ring mainly, back in 1999; Lothlórien Forest [and] Boromir's death," Jackson tells viewers, while clips from the first film illustrate this.

An actor in full dwarf regalia lies on a tree branch in sunshine with the paddocks and mountains of Paradise seen behind him.

"The great thing about this job [is] you get to see beautiful, beautiful places like this," he said.

The actor playing Gandalf, Sir Ian McKellen, says in the video The Hobbit was "New Zealand looking at its spectacular best and a lot of very happy actors cavorting around in front of it".

Asked to comment about Wakatipu exposure in the video, Destination Queenstown chief executive Tony Everitt said it was "excellent" and all part of the build-up towards the release of the first film at the end of 2012.

"DQ's been happy to further amplify that blog via our own social media channels and we are starting to see more and more interest in The Hobbit as part of our overall marketing activities in DQ.

"We host international media in the resort and The Hobbit is going to become a point of interest in those itineraries, which further amplifies that publicity."

Tourism Dunedin board chairman Barry Timmings said the organisation was "delighted" with the video. Global interest in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit was great for Otago, he said.

"Clearly, it's an excellent endorsement of what Otago, the South Island and New Zealand has to offer. I think the [viewing] numbers are going to climb significantly from there and there's no better endorsement than, essentially, an unpaid one."


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