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The Day My Girlfriend Didn't Get To Be In The Hobbit
I'm from Finland. I spent the summer of 2011-2012 in New Zealand with my girlfriend, or I should say life partner, since we've lived together for years now. It was an indulgence, since I knew I was too old to get a working holiday visa while there and we'd be relying on whatever work my partner could find, but we had saved up enough money to give it a go.
We're both huge nerds and actually met on a forum focused on hobbits. So, when word got out that New Line Cinema was looking for extras, and had arranged a massive interview event, of course we had to go. I wasn't eligible to be an extra because I was only there on a holiday visa, but I came along to keep my girlfriend company and just to say I had.
This is what happened.
My girlfriend didn't want to go at first. It's a little hard to get going when it actually gets down to it, but I insisted. How often in life are you going to get this kind of a chance? Even if it doesn't work out, which we agreed was likely, you could say you were there.
We were living just outside Wellington, in one of the suburbs on the tall hills that surround the city centre. The extras tryouts were in Lower Hutt, one of the towns further inland. We took a bus and a train, with only a hazy memory of Google Maps to tell us which way to go once we'd reached the tiny station. Luckily we spotted a group of Elvish-looking men and women on the platform, and sure enough, they were going the way we sort of remembered we ought to be going.
The day was sunny and warm. We walked a good long way, trying to remember the relevant names of streets. Once we found the spot, there was no mistaking it.
So Many People!
I had expected there to be a lot of people, but this was a LOT of people!
We first saw just one end of the crowd. New Line's representatives were set up to meet the candidates at a small school. Outside the school, beyond the parking lot, was a park. It's this park that we found our way to, and the above picture gives you some idea of what we saw. It was like a music festival, except without the entertainment - or refreshments.
Finding Our Way To The End of the Line
This fellow was standing near the "entrance" to the park - really just the point towards the highway, next to an underpass, through which a lot of people were entering. He was handing the hopefuls papers to fill in. There were others around doing the same job. My girlfriend got a paper and we retreated into the crowd, looking for a quiet place to fill it in.
We sat down at one of the grassy hillsides surrounding the park to fill the paper in. The questions were much as you'd expect - height, visa, availability.
I was starting to feel the sun. We'd been walking for a while, and hadn't brought any water. I hadn't even considered taking a bottle of water along.
After a while we realized that despite appearances there actually was a line somewhere here in Hobbitstock, as we were now calling it, found a place in it, and proceeded to wait while the line very slowly meandered forwards.
Some people in the line had stuck their application forms between their backs and their shirts to protect their necks from the blazing sun.
My Favourite Part
This guy! I don't know who he is. At one point he ran up and down among the lines looking worried, practically tearing his hair out. Due to his manner and earplugs that looked like a hands-free set, I assumed at the time he was a New Line Cinema employee trying to cope with the disaster of having thousands of people show up instead of the few hundred they were expecting. It provided some entertainment in the line.
A fellow hopeful, Cam Bisley, also thought so and stopped the fellow. Stuff.co.nz has the video. Turns out he was just looking for his friend. Oh well!
Looking For the Other End of the Line
Since I wasn't really queueing, boredom eventually drove me to explore. I wanted to find the end of the seemingly endless line, and followed it out of the park and through the parking lot to the school. I was once again wowed by the line, which was much longer than I'd thought.
That's Not a Hobbit!
It looks like someone was a little confused about which movie they were trying out for!
The Promised Land
I finally caught glimpse of the school (and a fair elf maid who was clearly dying for a ciggie).
As Close As I Ever Got
This is as close as I dared to go. I would make a terrible photojournalist - I am much too shy about going right up to people, or this lens might have had a lot more portraits and close-ups of the people who showed up. Well, you'll have to do with this and my fascinating narrative!
Note the oompa-loompa who got all the way up to the building. There was more than one!
The Rest of It
Dehydration and boredom got the better of me, and I asked my girlfriend's permission to strand her in the line and go home. I went up the road and walked a long way back towards the station before I found a place that sold water. I bought several bottles, drank my fill, and immediately felt like a dirty rat. I turned around and started rushing back towards the park, hoping I'd still be able to find my girlfriend, who after all hadn't had any more to drink than I had. I met her walking back among crowds of people milling out of the park.
The remaining applicants had been told to go home for the day and to re-apply through TradeMe, an NZ classifieds website, with a photograph. In the end, my girlfriend didn't - but she can still say she gave it a shot.
I heard, also, that towards the end of the day some enterprising people had come over with crates full of water bottles and sold them to the crowd with a profit. I guess even when it's a surprise Hobbitstock, vendors will find a way in.
I'm not sorry we tried. It was a day out, and I got a story out of it, and if we hadn't tried, I would've had to give back my nerd badge.
Were you at Hobbitstock?
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