Category Archives: 3. Features

[Set visit] Once Upon a Time at Steveston, BC

In May, my boyfriend and I visited wonderful Canada. It had been a long time coming; we booked the flights back in July 2015.

We had planned the itinerary so that we would visit Vancouver and then catch a ferry across to Vancouver Island. Once back in Vancouver we would hire a car and travel to Jasper and Banff in the Canadian Rockies.

Aside from the usual sightseeing activities in Vancouver like Stanley Park and Granville Island, there was one place in particular that I had on my agenda: a trip to Steveston, filming location for ABC’s Once Upon a Time.

We visited during one of the best days of weather that we had during the trip, which added to the already lovely atmosphere that the historic salmon canning town has.

Some filming was taking place, which I will explain in a later post, and it became apparent that Steveston is frequented by the film industry due to its location, accessibility and accommodating residents.

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Recognising OUAT’s iconic clock tower – previously one of Steveston’s prominent fishing supplies store – I knew immediately that I was on the right road.

A large amount of OUAT filming takes place on Moncton Street. You recognise the gas station, the cannery a little further up and, of course, the real life café that is used as Granny’s Diner.

Several signs are still up, including Mr Gold – Pawnbroker and Antiquities Dealer and Dr Archibald Hopper, MD – Pyschiatrist, and the ice-cream shop featured heavily in season four, Any Given Sundae, is still dressed ready for filming. Apart from that, though, there is little else. The only overtly sign that the town is recognising the association is a merchandise display in the post office.

Steveston is a lovely town to spend a few hours walking around, and I was relieved to see that it hasn’t attempted to heavily ‘cash in’. It certainly has a rich heritage of its own.

Extended edition TH – AUJ: 5 things I’ve learnt

Like any other devoted Ringer, when the extended editions of Fellowship, The Two Towers and The Return of the King were released I immediately watched them and then spent hours going through the bonus content.

Director and producer Peter Jackson named this bonus content the ‘appendices’. He was following in JRR Tolkien’s footsteps; Tolkien placed a huge amount of background material at the back of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ that he called the appendices.

Now that I’ve finally got my hands on copies of the extended editions of the three The Hobbit films courtesy of my friend Ben, I’m attempting this feat again. It really is a feat, as all together there is around 27 hours of bonus material.

Here are five of the things that I have learnt from watching the appendices in An Unexpected Journey.

Sir Ian McKellen contemplated quitting acting due to the difficulties of green screen filming

As Gandalf (McKellen) is 25% larger than the dwarves and Bilbo, a lot of McKellen’s scenes were shot on green screen while the dwarves and Bilbo were shot simultaneously on the main set.

Hidden earpieces and faces on illuminating tennis balls meant that McKellen knew when to say his lines and who to speak to. It sounds easy enough but, as McKellen points out, part of being a successful actor is reacting to those around you. Very hard to do when your counterpart is an inanimate object.

The podium that Bofur dances upon in Rivendell is the same podium that the One Ring is placed onto during the Council of Elrond

I am, quite frankly, ashamed that I missed this.

When Bofur (James Nesbitt) seeks to liven up the atmosphere during the company’s dinner with the elves he jumps onto the same podium that would later hold the One Ring.

For me, this is a defining moment.

During the events of An Unexpected Journey, 60 years before the events of Fellowship, the majority of Middle-earth was in full bloom. While darkness was slowly creeping back into the world, it most certainly hadn’t reached Rivendell.

Elrond and the elves of Rivendell were thriving. They opened their doors to the company and we saw a Rivendell that was full of life. At that point, that podium was merely a podium, with nothing special about it.

Fast forward 60 years and that podium became something quite different. It held the most dangerous artefact within Middle-earth, and the reason that Sauron was able to return.

I doubt Elrond was ever able to look at that podium in the same way, the memory of dancing dwarves long forgotten.

Radagast has worn a hat-shaped hole into one of the branches in his house

One day, hundreds of years ago, an acorn fell out of Radagast’s pocket and began to grow. Radagast, the sensitive, nature-loving wizard that he is, didn’t have the heart to remove the seedling so it continued to grow until it came up through the house.

Over the hundreds of years since, Radagast has worn a hat-shaped hole in one of the lower branches from walking back and forth.

It is these kind of subtle, delightful touches that make the Rings and The Hobbit films so captivating.

Set decorator Ra Vincent commented during the appendices that 90% of the work his team does within the films isn’t noticed. The 10% that is, is what makes it worthwhile.

Sadly, the hat-shaped hole is one of those things that I missed. The Academy didn’t, though, as Vincent and colleagues Dan Hennah and Simon Bright were nominated for Best Achievement in Production Design for An Unexpected Journey.

The One Ring was previously missing from the Isildur mural in Rivendell

Perhaps it can be explained that the passing of time has worn it off, but in The Fellowship of the Ring, the mural that depicts the moments before Isildur cut the One Ring off Sauron’s hand is actually missing the One Ring.

When we see the mural again in An Unexpected Journey, as Bilbo is taking a look around Rivendell after the company has arrived, you see that the One Ring is there, in all its bright golden glory contrasted again Sauron’s black metal gauntlet.

This correction is courtesy of Tolkien artist and conceptual designer Alan Lee. Howe actually painted the mural for Fellowship of the Ring, and, as such, simply painted the One Ring on when An Unexpected Journey began filming.

Ori was potentially the dwarf that fell down the well in Moria in FOTR

While you are able to physically distinguish between the 13 dwarves, there is not time in the three films to get to know them all individually.

With some of the dwarves, notably Thorin, Kili and Balin, you do get a strong flavour for their personalities, but with the rest there are only a few glimpses.

The appendices are able to fill in the gaps and provide this background information.

Oin, for example, is the alchemist and healer of the company; producer Fran Walsh joked that with all his lotions and points Oin coined the term ‘ointment’.

The appendices also reveal that because Ori keeps a journal, he may well have been the dwarf in Moria whose diary Gandalf reads from and who Pippin accidentally causes to fall down the well.

This is a sad thought but it encourages you to think about what happened to Thorin’s company following the events of the three films and imagine what their lives were like.

[TV Focus] Reign and OUAT

Every now and again, I stumble across a TV series that has me well and truly hooked. As I rarely watch TV and don’t have a Sky subscription I’m usually two or more series behind, meaning that I’m able to binge-watch the new found favourite.

While I may have seen the odd episode, I’ve never followed the likes of ‘Lost’, ‘Mad Men’ or ‘Heroes’. I’m yet to see ‘Breaking Bad’ and though I’ve read every book, I gave up on ‘Games of Thrones’. My brother bought me the boxset but as it has taken permanent residence at his house, I don’t think I’ll start watching it again any time soon.

My TV choices echo my go-to film genres: fantasy and sci-fi. My favourite series continues to be ‘True Blood’. From pretty much the first 10 minutes of s1 ep1 I became totally immersed, finding this drama-fantasy series where vampires have ‘come out the coffin’ to be unmissable.

I’ve also read many of the books on which the series is loosely based, ‘The Southern Vampire Mysteries’ by Charlaine Harris. Harris created a vivid world that HBO brought to the screen magnificently, embellishing it and creating new storylines that held your attention.

Courtesy of Netflix UK, I’ve recently been watching ‘Reign’ and ‘Once Upon a Time’. The latter I’ve been watching for some time while the former I’ve managed to devour all of its 51 episodes in a matter of weeks.

Both series appeal to my passion for fantasy. ‘OUAT’ brings your childhood fairy tale characters to life, pitting them against each other in fairly genteel storylines that usually last for half a series. Snow White and Prince Charming go up against the Evil Queen while Peter Pan, Robin Hood and Enchanted’s Elsa and Anna have also made an appearance.

‘Reign’, on the other hand, takes inspiration from history books, loosely following the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. Epitomising the term ‘historical fantasy’, it takes artistic licence, creating love triangles against a backdrop of modern day music and haute couture costumes.

Netflix UK will hopefully continue airing the two series after they have aired in the States. It’ll be interesting to see how successful the ‘Reign’ in particular continues to be, as one of the main characters met a very sad end at the end of season 2.

[Part 3] Introducing Generation Dystopic

DivergentThe third foray into the dystopic is courtesy of Tris Prior and her contemporaries in the Divergent series. Based on Veronica Roth’s trilogy, Divergent was released in March 2014, with the second film in the series, Insurgent, hitting screens in March 2014. In true Hollywood style, the third book is being split into two parts, with Allegiant scheduled for release this March and Ascendant in June 2017.

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Before the release of the first film, I knew absolutely nothing about Roth’s characters and story. Fearing that it would be a second-rate version of The Hunger Games with extra teenage angst, I dismissed the film.

Happily, I was proved wrong.

While The Hunger Games series have a raw quality, Divergent and its sequel, Insurgent, are structured.

The bright, bold colours and theatrics of the Capitol are replaced with colour-coordinated factions and stylish, next generation technology.

Donald Sutherland’s President Snow meets his match in Kate Winslet’s Jeanine Matthews; while President Snow is charming yet sinister, Jeanine is polished and ruthless. You wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of either of them.

The raw versus structured contrast continues with the films’ leading ladies, creating two different but equally impressive heroes in Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss and Shailene Woodley’s Tris.

Though state-of-the-art, Katniss’s bow feels almost primal with her while Tris uses calculated, rehearsed martial arts moves. My comment about President Snow and Jeanine is true here too: you wouldn’t want to get onto the wrong side of Katniss or Trice.

But, enough with the contrasts.

Divergent is a smart, stylised version of the future that seems highly plausible. Rising stars are pitted against established Hollywood veterans, and Woodley does a fine job. Tris isn’t someone that you immediately warm too, though; she’s in a complicated position, coming to terms very quickly with a world that was previously closed off.

Read Part 1 here

Read Part 2 here

[Part 2] Introducing Generation Dystopic

Maze RunnerHot on the heels of The Hunger Games and its sequel, Catching Fire, was The Maze Runner, released in 2014. The second film in the trilogy, The Scorch Trials, was released in 2015, with the final film, The Death Cure, slated for December 2017.

While I can’t yet comment on the final film, The Maze Runner series has proved very interesting so far in that the setting changes entirely between the first and second film.

While in The Hunger Games series Catching Fire keeps its focus firmly on the events of the Hunger Games, the action shifts from the relatively tranquil The Glade in The Maze Runner to the world beyond its surrounding maze: the scarred remains of a city.

It’s a dramatic shift and one that doesn’t entirely pay off.

As a viewer you also leave The Glade, its handful of inhabitants and any theories you had about its existence. Like the Gladers you are suddenly confronted with the scientists allegedly behind the maze experiment, zombie-like people that have been infected with a virus and the remaining healthy people who are trying to keep safe and protect themselves.

While I enjoyed both The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials, giving each a four-star rating, I think the series has lost part of its USP by introducing these other elements. To me, it felt as if The Scorch Trials combined elements of such films as 28 Days Later and Mad Max: Fury Road. The world has grown bigger but my understanding of what is happening and has happened has grown smaller.

Perhaps the scene will shift again with The Death Cure, as it undoubtedly focusses on what this Flare virus is that has caused a large proportion of the population to take this gruesome state.

Perhaps when that final act has been played I’ll get more enjoyment out of the series as a whole piece; a greater understanding of the flow of the films as it travels from location to location.

Read Part 1 here

Read Part 3 here