WELLINGTON - Movie director Peter Jackson could not escape questions about progress on The Lord of the Rings when he made a rare public appearance to promote new high-tech facilities at a film studio in Lower Hutt.
Jackson held the launch at The Film Studio, formerly the National Film Unit, which his firm WingNut Films has bought from Television New Zealand.
Guests included Prime Minister Helen Clark, Parliament`s Speaker, Jonathan Hunt, Hutt City Mayor John Terris and film industry representatives, including director Vincent Ward.
None of the film`s stars, who include Sir Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood and Christopher Lee, attended the launch.
Jackson offered guests a good reason he had not prepared a speech for the occasion.
"Spending all day with Gandalf telling Sauron the ring must be destroyed ... over and over again, my head`s in a different space at the moment.
"It`s always very exciting, it`s a very famous book. It`s a privilege to be involved in The Lord of the Rings. You wake up every morning and plan to do that [film the book]. It`s like a large military operation."
Jackson said he had been checking areas around Mt Ruapehu and confirmed it might be used as the location for Mordor - a place in the novel that includes the volcano Mt Doom.
"It`s a strong possibility."
At the heart of the high-tech facility at The Film Studio is a machine called a Yfront telecine. The machine copies film on to a digital format for editing and special effects.
It is the only one in Wellington and the latest of its kind in New Zealand.
The machine has been used for commercials and New Zealand films, along with overseas movies including The Castaway, starring Tom Hanks, and The Vertical Limit, being filmed in Queenstown.
Jackson said he watched each day`s shooting of The Lord of the Rings on film, but he also used the machine to copy the film so he could check it again at weekends.
Helen Clark praised Jackson for investing in the former National Film Unit.
She said the Government and the Film Commission were considering a film development fund to help new film-makers.
The Government could put in $10 million over the first three years to help film-makers with their second film.
A further pool of about $50 million could also be available, of which most would come from film industry investors.
A final decision on the fund would be made closer to the Budget.