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December 14, 2012

An Unexpected Prize

What a crazy dream: I shared space with Wizards, Hobbits, Dwarves, Olympians, artists, musicians, TV peoples, National Treasures, an Elf and Prince William. The next morning an Oscar-winning VFX supervisor gave us a tour of his workplace.

It wasn’t a dream. 12/12/12 was the start of something bright.

I was browsing one morning on my 3DS, when a promotional ad from Bluffers.com appeared on my feed. The prize was 2 tickets to the Royal Premiere [1] of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Submitted my name and email address, went on with my day, totally forgot about it. A week later I discovered who viewed my LinkedIn profile and why. I nearly fainted.

I needed a dress!

Initially my parents were reluctant to let me hop on the train to the Big Smoke alone. They gave in since I had less than 24 hours to find an accompanying guest and confirm our attendance. My classmate Kat leapt at the chance. Both of us were quite spent after completing our exhaustive MA programmes.

Before leaving Leicester I started the day with Creative Coffee, a monthly networking session at the local arts centre, where everybody in attendence joined a Skype chat with Dallas-based Robert McCollum [2], Creative Director at Twist and Shout Communications.

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London enchanted me with its iconic imagery, hospitality, and immediacy. There was always something happening at every corner. St Pancras was grander and more spacious than I imagined, while Euston Station’s concourse housed a performance by pupils of Alexdandra Junior School singing carols to huffy commuters waiting for the Northampton service to resume. I even recovered a discarded £5 note to a woman. Once Kat appeared we headed to Gresham Hotel in Bloomsbury, changed and caught a cab to Leicester Square.

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Emma and Rachel of Bluffers found us amongst passersbys being shoved in other directions, and handed us the tickets. The whole Square was blocked off, surrounded by pens and walls overlooking a bright green carpet.

We chatted with other guests, including a girl from New York who was thinking of applying to CalArts. The guards wouldn’t let us in until doors opened at 5:15, and we were the first on the carpet. The next 5 hours or so were quite possibly the most bizarre 5 hours or so ever. Prior showbiz events were distant memories.

Fiddles in the Dark

We were ushered into the cinema, they didn’t want us lingering; headed up to the upper circle; we had a good view, middle seats – though not so good when people next us had to get up OUCH MY TOES! – and freebies: Hobbit-themed snacks and a programme (later signed by illustrator Alan Lee). More people were filling up the room. The arrivals were streamed live on the screen – Alex Zane was interviewing the stars; to our right we could see Nick Cave and the looming figure of Stephen Fry chatting with other guests. As I approached him and waited my turn, one of Nick’s children kept grinning cheekily at me for some reason – he must have liked my dress.

The first thing I squeaked to Stephen Fry was “Can I picture have a quickly?”

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It was too dark without the flash function; he joked how even in lowlight he could almost be as radiant as Cate Blanchett. Imagine hearing that next to your temple. Thanked him and shook hands.

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Prince William [3] finally arrived around 7-ish; he met the cast, crew, producers and organisers, right below our circle, before they found their way to the rows nearest the stage. Really funny moment when some guy tried awkwardly to keep a straight face as he waited for Will to address him.

Soon we all stood for the National Anthem; Sir Ian McKellen introduced the film with a speech welcoming the Prince, announcing his wife was too ill to attend. [4]

Then he goes PUT ON YO’ GLASSES BITCHES IT’S COMING RIGHT AT YA! as the film was presented in RealD 3D HFR.

This adaptation was a little closer to Chronicles of Narnia, The Goonies and Adventure Time than Lord of the Rings: seeking treasure, stumbling upon kingdoms and deformed creatures. I had read an old copy from Carolyn’s shelf earlier in the year; it retained that light and whimsical tone of the book.

I learned the hard way working on this summer’s Masters project, which in the end never really took off. Decisions to make a photoreal stereo short were scrapped. Jackson on the other hand, his platform a return to Middle Earth, played to his strengths, regardless of any pacing and technical issues.

The result of HFR 3D was a canvas full of rich detail, almost to a fault. The action/motion felt fluid and brisk, pulling you through landscapes, caves and woodland. I sat forward trying to take it all in. Whether it takes off as a widely-used format remains to be seen. [5]

In a year that brought us Avengers and Batman, it was one of the most unique theatrical experiences I’ve had in a long while.

At the end of the evening my brain was a blob of impulsiveness. I was fast on my feet to catch up with Aidan Turner, Sir Ian and Andy Serkis, Martin, whoever was in front of us, but Serkis was tending to Nick Cave’s children before leaving.

Aidan and I chatted on the way to the ground floor.

“You were so bad-ass! How long did you train for that?”

“Aw thanks! […] Yeah that took in total about 2 years.”

I may have failed at making full eye contact with anyone I talked to, despite my improved social skills. Plus I felt bad for not holding Kat’s hand.

We rode through the sleepless Soho streets back to the hotel in a ricksaw.

The Last Stage

The following blue sky morning, we left Gresham; walked past RADA, UCL, the hospital, and eventually found Double Negative’s new home at Great Portland Street. Key shots from movies displayed in the reception lobby were a giveaway.

Paul Franklin took us on a tour of the atrium, the storage infrastructure, render farm and cooling generators in the basement. As I showed him my portfolio and ideas for a short film, he gave me advice on pitching and how to make an impression on producers; also talked alternative names to shows – The Dark Knight was labeled ‘Rory’s First Kiss’ during production – the pros and cons of HFR; Man of Steel, among other things. I congratulated Paul on The Dark Knight Rises and wished him success for 2013.

After Kat and I parted, I got lost in Carnaby St, browsed the Rolling Stones shop, found StudioCanal, and reached Covent Garden before racing back to St Pancras via the Piccadilly Line BY A WHISKER. Damn that long-ass staircase.

One does not simply win premiere tickets

BIG THANKS TO BLUFFERS FOR THE GREATEST ADVENTURE. And to Mum and Dad and Emily for the support and believing in me. Thanks Kat for booking the hotel and for your generosity. Thanks Paul for showing us around Double Negative. Thank you Londoners for your services.

Appendices

[1] I remember 9 years ago when Return of the King was about to be released, Newsround were offering tickets to that premiere. The winner’s question was “who would win in a fight: Aragorn or Legolas?”

[2] He looked like a sleepy Jeremy Renner.

[3] Either he’s really tall, or they’re quite short in stature.

[4] Would’ve been a bonus to have the Royal Foetus with us.

[5] It doesn’t.

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