Die Reiter von Gondor tragen in der Drehpause Wolldecken gegen die Kälte.
600 Statisten warten auf ihren Einsatz als Krieger von Gondor. Ihre Zelte werden durch große Heizkörper gewärmt, aus der Jukebox dudelt Musik und abends haben sie die Möglichkeit, sich gemeinsam Filme anzusehen.
In der letzten Zeit gab es einige Vorwürfe, dass die Statisten unter unwürdigen Bedingungen arbeiten müssten.
Es gebe sogar heiße Duschen, erzählt Pferde-Koordinator Steve Old.
Einige der Reiter-Statisten schlafen absichtlich in den Zelten, um nah bei ihren Pferden zu sein. Das sei Erholung und Komfort zugleich.
Ein Statist erzählt: "Ich würde lieber im Zelt übernachten, in der Nähe meines Pferdes, als in einem Motel."
Für alle gebe es erstklassige Mahlzeiten und Getränke und allen gehe es ziemlich gut. Auch die Bezahlung sei erstklassig.
Zwei Tierärzte würden jederzeit für die Pferde bereit stehen und ein Tiertrainer kümmere sich ebenfalls um die Pferde.
Während der Drehpausen würden den Reitern warme Decken zur Verfügung gestellt und sie würden mit Kaffee und Kakao versorgt.
Rings riders deny ill-treatment
By JOHN KEAST
A steel mist scuds in over the hills, and then parts to reveal dozens of riders and a standard-bearer.
They are Gondorians. Wearing armour and helmets, they await the call to ride through the snow tussock and back into the mist.
The Lord of the Rings has come to Twizel, with up to 600 people on this back-country set.
This is a film city: caravans, make-up buses, cameras, a fleet of four-wheel-drive vehicles and, below, a horse camp.
There, the horses to be used in filming the third movie in the Tolkien trilogy, The Return of the King, are tethered in squares, and within a great tent riders and extras wait for their time in front of the cameras. While they wait – the cool air warmed by two great burners – they listen to music on a jukebox, and can sit down to watch a movie at night.
Enter horse co-ordinator Steve Old, riled by suggestions that riders on the film were working in sub-standard conditions.
Look at that, he said, turning on a hot shower in a mobile shower block.
Some were sleeping in tents in the camp, but those people wanted to be near their horses. The riders concurred, saying it was a matter of welfare and convenience.
One said: "I'd sooner be in a tent near my horse than in a motel." All had access to top-class meals, could keep warm in the marquee, or enjoy a drink after work.
The riders, too, spoke of top-class treatment, and said they were well paid. Another said: "We are being looked after. There is great food, and this is a good company. We get good pay. It might be less than what we would get in the United States, but this film is being made here because it is cost-effective to do so."
Others agreed. On Saturday up to 250 riders were to be used in big scenes on the Ben Ohau Station site.
Mr Old said the welfare of horses and riders was paramount, and if any rider felt uncomfortable, or was worried about a horse, they could pull out of a shot.
If a horse was in trouble, its owner could be contacted immediately. There were two vets on site, and an animal welfare officer.
As the cold drove in off the hills, riders – the Gondorians – were issued with blankets while they waited, and kept warm with coffee and chocolate. One complained of the cold.
Some were up early for make-up, and some might still be filming until the day's light was lost. It is all in the nature of film-making: working in good and bad weather, and making the most of conditions.
Poor pay? Sub-standard conditions? Some extras get $200 a day. Some less. All get travel allowances, and first-class food.
A Gondorian, rugged up in plastic armour, with a great cape riding the wind, said: "I wouldn't miss this for anything. I'm putting on weight, and so is my horse."