Monday, 30 January 2012

Hobbit Casting Call Chaos

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12:05pm - update - If you want to read how disappointed people were, read this report.
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11:53am - Update - an application form has now been posted on TradeMe. You still have to send it in by physical mail though.
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Complete chaos ensued after the studio totally underestimated how many Hobbit fans live in Wellington.

NZ Police closed the event, an hour and a half in.

What was advertised on TradeMe (NZ's auction and job seeker's site) as "The Hobbit Official Extras Casting Call 2012", ended up causing massive delays on Wellington's motorway, and according to NZ Police, at least two traffic accidents. The whole event, which was supposed to start at 1:00pm and finish at 4:00pm, was shut down by the NZ Police just after 2:30pm, when it became obvious that there was no crowd control or traffic control organised.

Hopefuls waiting in the park next to the hall


What happened? Originally, the advertisement was listed on January 19th (NB - this link may stop working, so I have saved the files, available for reference). By 7:00am, the next morning, close to 19,000 people had seen the advert. By the morning after the event, almost 150,000 people had seen it. Wellington only has a population of around 200,000 people, so the equivalent of 75% of the Wellington population saw the advertisement.


The casting call took place in the Belmont Hall, which is listed as a venue with a capacity of accommodating a mere 150 people, with carparks to match. The hall is located right next to NZ Highway 2, the second largest road out of Wellington.

Also using the Hutt Motorway on January 28th was large amounts of traffic for the annual Wellington Cup. This is one of New Zealand's most important horse races, and draws big crowds every year. This year was no exception. This event is well advertised, and has been going since 1874.


To make matters worse, Wellington was host to two large cruiseships (the Pacific Dawn and the Dawn Princess), with an estimated 4000-5000 tourists in the region as well. Although 74 cruiseships visits are expected this season, there are only seven days this season when two ships berth on the same day. Today was one of those days. This information is available online, and has been available since August 2011.

Production company Three Foot Seven told 3 News they had expected 1200 people to attend the casting call. TV 3 reported that "thousands more" showed up. NZ's news website stuff.co.nz estimated that at least 3000 people had turned up by 1:00pm (ie, before the traffic seriously began). One report I heard from an anonymous source at the studio was that at least 4500 people attended.

Early in the day, there were still orderly lines
Quit long lines, in fact
 
To cope with all these 1200 expected people, the production company 3foot7 had put a skeleton staff in charge. The hobbit hopefuls I spoke to all reported that only one or two studio people were desparately trying to manage the crowds outside. One report said this guy wasn't actually working for the studio but had taken it upon himself to sort things out. Well done, mate. Good on you for giving it a go.

This unsung hero WAS the crowd control

Some of the hopefuls had been free-camping in the park next to the hall overnight, although most showed up after 10:00am on the morning.

Most online reports agreed that roughly 800 people had made it through the doors before the Police turned up (www.stuff.co.nz incl video) (TV3 Video) (Hutt News). The most distant report I read came from Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, so this fiasco is being reported worldwide.

The lucky 800 fans that did get in had their photos taken, their measurements recorded, and contact details entered.

The lucky few, before the Police showed up

Application forms were handed out to many people in line, but not to all. When it became clear that the event was being stopped by the Police, an announcement was made that all attendees would also be able to send in their details online that evening, something which at this stage (a day later) has not eventuated.

Filling out application forms outside
The disappointed, heading home again

And how necessary was it all? The lucky few who got inside only had their details taken. All this could have been done online. In fact, it HAD been done online, and through this blog. Just check through my blog in the last three years. At this stage I'm unsure what happened to the details of all the people who previously applied online, or actually printed out their CV's and sent them via mail. If anyone from the studio is reading this, please drop me a line! I'm more than happy to keep people informed.



All in all, a day that the studio could learn two important lessons from.

(1) The studio does not exist in a vaccuum. Other events may clash and interfere with badly organised studio plans. These other events are not hard to discover.

(2) There are MANY thousands of people in Wellington who want to be involved in The Hobbit. An event such as this will always be attended by people who are not even hopeful - large numbers of people were obviously too tall, too short, the wrong build, or had had no working visa. They just wanted to BE there. For any event related to The Hobbit, there will be more people present than expected (even if you take this statement into account). How many people attended the "Pro-Hobbit Rally" last year? How many were present at the ROTK Premiere in 2003? Take a look at these two photos from those events.

The Pro-Hobbit Rally in October 2010. We showed our support


This 2003 crowd (which continued from one end of the city to the other) was estimated by ABC News at 400,000. Ridiculous of course - Wellington hasn't got that many people.

At the end of this year, Wellington will be hosting the Premiere of the first of the Hobbit movies. Let's hope that goes a bit smoother than this weekend's fiasco. To begin with, it would be nice to know a date for the Premiere, so that the city can begin to plan around it already. We already know that both TORn and Middle-earth Network are planning Hobbit tours for the fans around the time of the premiere but are unable to confirm nbumbers until we know when the actual event takes place.

My message to the studios - please get yourselves better organised. The fans deserve better than this.