Making of Lord of the Rings

I have noted quite a bit of recent traffic to this site is coming from folks looking for information about the making of the Rings trilogy. No doubt this is motivated by the Hobbit films.

It’s been approximately a decade since I ended my work on documenting the making of Lord of the Rings. It was the longest and most complicated production I have ever undertaken, and it completely changed my professional focus since. So, no small thing for me!

I have briefly summarized my experience about this below. Hopefully this provides useful information for the curious.

This is a topic that is largely in the past for me. I’m obviously more interested in engaging with people who are interested in my current work, but I understand the continuing fascination anyone might have with the creation of what we all knew at the time was a unique and special production.
(I mean the Rings Trilogy, not my documentaries).

Therefore, I’m happy to address any questions readers might have. After all this time I think the statute of limitations has by now well and truly run out on the confidentiality agreement we all signed on commencing work with LOTR.

From 1999 to 2004 I was engaged to document the production of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth trilogy . It was the best of times, and the worst of times – for them, and for me. Initially I was tied up with another production commitment. Stephen Whelan-Turnbull and Jo Luping spent close to three months capturing footage during pre-production. Hayley French and I then took over and shared most of the on-set shooting. The production was initially planned to last two years. It went on much longer. During that time, the studio’s plans kept changing. An initial scheme to create one feature length documentary quickly morphed into something much more ambitious. Not only a feature length documentary was envisaged, but up to six hours of additional ‘behind the scenes’ content, for each film. I stuck to this plan, but long before the movies were finished New Line Cinema changed their minds again, and my unit was sidelined. All our footage was appropriated by the incoming team – very much larger. They ended up producing the excellent Extended Edition DVDs. I observed the direction they were headed in, which was heavy on oral history, and decided to push our point of difference – which was that our material was strongly visual and ‘present tense’. It also emphasised the point of view of the troops, rather than the generals. So with the creative and practical help of our indefatigable editor Jason Stutter, we ended up taking 1000 + hours of footage and turned it into not one, but three feature length verite style docos. Note – this was in addition to the 18+ hours of content originally asked for. The final delivery was closer to 20 hours – comprising some 200 self contained stories and vignettes on every aspect of the trilogy’s gestation, from Hobbiton to Mordor and back again. This material resides on a dusty shelf somewhere in the New Line archives, but the studio did eventually bring out my three feature length documentaries in what they called a “Limited Edition”. The manner of the release was rather tactless. Generally, fans responded with disgust at what they took to be a cynical exploitation of the market. The ‘Limited Edition’ was particularly criticized for its apparent paucity of bonus features in comparison to the preceding Extended Edition.

Peter Jackson directs a pair of wizards

But moans of “only one” documentary per film rankled then, and now. I invite any objective viewer to add up the minutes of onset footage seen in the Extended Editions and then compare the breadth of actuality coverage seen in my films. Nearly all their footage was taken from my stuff in the first place.

If you want superb long form interviews, commentaries, and other informational content, the Extended Edition boxes are great. No question. But if you prefer more of a nitty gritty immersive experience, then come over to this side. In fact, the two approaches are perfectly complimentary.

I remain unimpressed by the criticisms of some fans who find my films supposedly ‘unstructured’. I guess this is the inevitable result of conservative, spoon fed models of programming that don’t encourage cognitive thinking. Perhaps this is an interesting question about documentary in general – is it better to make work that is sensory and visual, which I favour, as opposed to more didactic and exposition driven models of documentary?

Actually, I don’t think one is inherently better than the other. It purely depends on taste, who the audience is, and what one is trying to achieve. As explained above, I knew that the more historical, information intensive aspects of the Trilogy’s production were going to be well documented in the Extended Edition, therefore that encouraged me to follow my own taste for more ‘experiential’ documentary.

The three films are not, however, ‘unstructured’ or ‘stream of consciousness’. The principles by why they are organised are very simple and logical. Each documentary serves as a self contained companion to its parent film. The material is arranged in story order.

So the first documentary begins with the prologue and Hobbiton, and moves through sequence after sequence with immersive behind the scenes glimpses, until it ends at Amon Hen, with the breakup of the Fellowship. And so on … And that’s it really. The sheer variety of tasks, processes, conflicts, challenges … you name it … occurring through almost 3 years of production guaranteed that we could assemble three full length documentary features without any repetition. Each of the three pieces is self contained, and has a unique flavour.

It might have helped viewers who prefer a bit more spoon feeding if I’d been given the opportunity to add music, subtitles, and commentaries, as I’d originally planned. Unfortunately, the first I knew of the release, it was already happening.

Even though I wasn’t given the chance to finish things exactly as I wanted, I stand by the work. I believe these docs give the most accurate available insight into what it was actually like to make the Rings trilogy. Now ironically, via the Blu Ray Extended Edition, the two sets of behind the scenes work have been bundled together. This might help underline finally the dovetailed, or complementary nature of our approaches. And certainly adds up to a substantial library of material for die hard LOTR fans.

Filming at Edoras

View Excerpts Here: This is an unauthorised rip, but it’s nicely put together, and the chap concerned had the decency not to steal the whole thing. An attribution would have been nice! BTW, for the record, I do not own these documentaries, and get no royalties from sales. Some people have asked why that is. The answer is simple. No studio in its right mind would trade away such a potentially valuable ancillary property. I was well paid upfront to do the work, and have no complaints on that score.

Video Interview: The Noldor Blog: Why Costa Botes won’t do “Making Of The Hobbit” documentaries (even if he was asked). I understand that my documentaries are included on the new Blue ray Extended Edition DVD box set of Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (Extended Edition + Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Peter Jackson: Movies & TV.

It appears that despite the golden packaging, none of the supplementary material is presented in Blu-Ray format. No point really, as it was all shot Standard Definition. It was also partly shot in the silly ‘fool frame’ 4×3 format at the studio’s request. I can admit now that I got to a point where I could not stand it any longer, and began shooting 16×9. Just as well, because (a) it looks a lot better, and (b) eventually New Line changed their minds and asked for 16×9 anyway.

I have not been extended the courtesy of being given a copy of this edition to see for myself, but my understanding is that my work has been presented in a more flattering way this time, compared to the allegedly fierce compression encountered on the Limited Edition box sets. I don’t know for sure because to this day I have not had the stomach to watch the Limited Editions, being too annoyed over a bunch of petty trims that were made without my knowledge or consent.

I am now, as they say, ‘over it’ (almost!), but prefer to think of these pieces in the entirety I intended.

As far as The Hobbit is concerned, I have nothing to add to the comments made in the blog link above. I believe the ‘Behind the Scenes’ effort is in very good hands, and anyone interested in the making of Peter’s new Tolkein films will be given a full serve.

Update June 28 2011 I note a little upsurge in traffic to this page. Probably as a result of curiosity arising from the Blu Ray Extended Edition release. Anyone with remaining questions about my ‘behind the scenes’ docs is welcome to post them in the comments section below. I’ll endeavour to reply in a timely fashion. Thanks to everyone for their interest.

92 Responses to Making of Lord of the Rings

  1. Daniel Gauthier says:

    I very much enjoyed your approach to documenting the making of LOTR and for my part bought the DVDs again only for your documentaries, and I gained an extra copy of the films as a slight bonus. I have shown them to several people and everyone has liked what you have achieved. I wish you the very best in your career although I am a little disappointed you are not doing the same for the Hobbit.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thank you Daniel, I appreciate the feedback. Please check out some of the other pages on this site, and you’ll see why I’m not too broken hearted about missing The Hobbit. It’s interesting that our local media are accentuating negatives and problems with this production – rather the opposite to coverage given the production of LOTR; even though, of course, those films were plagued with problems large and small too. I’m sure that whatever travails the Hobbit goes through, the end result will stand confidently alongside the Rings Trilogy. And lets not forget that setbacks and obstacles make for more interesting behind the scenes documentaries!

  2. Luke says:

    I really love your documentary and i wanted to ask if the Extended Version on bluray will be the same as on DVD or better…
    I’am so sad that you won’t film a documentary for THE HOBBIT, but i can understand your point of view and i agree with you that obstacles and setbacks would make a “behind the scenes” more interesting !
    What is the difference between the Specials Extended Edition and the Limited Edition above your side?

    • Costa Botes says:

      I’m afraid the studio has never done me the courtesy of including me in discussions about how my work is used, so I honestly have no idea what their plans are for future Blu-ray content. I know there are many hours of edited behind the scenes content that remain unseen, because my team created it. There’s also a lot of great stuff put together by the movie editorial teams – bloopers, out-takes, fun practical jokes, and special announcements. There is plenty of LOTR gold in the hills yet. I have not looked at the Special Extended Edition – is that the Blu Ray Extended Edition? Gosh, there’s certainly no shortage of editions. My advice is, look carefully before buying anything!

  3. Debbie says:

    Hi Costa, I bought all the Limited Editions and was under the impression that SURELY you would be getting royalties form the sales. Unbelievable!!
    I well remember you introduction to the Fellowship documentary in Wellington that I went to. Supping with the devil indeed!!!
    I love your docos the best because it is raw and real- thanks:)

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hey Debbie,
      Hollywood studios do not profit-share with the likes of me. Ha ha. I’m not too worried as I was paid well to do the job, so can’t complain. I do wish that they had let me in at the end as I did not intend the docs to be quite as raw as they finished up, but certainly would not have compromised anything ‘real’. Authenticity matters .

  4. Austin Nooe says:

    A couple years ago I purchased the three movies just to watch the behind-the-scenes videos and such. I got all three of the at Walmart for only $20 (think it was a misprint haha). I loved how they were made and that they included bloopers all through them haha. Wondering though, why did you not receive any royalties for the sales?

    • Austin Nooe says:

      (nvm about the last question haha…. didn’t read the comment before mine)

      Excellent documentaries though. 🙂

    • Costa Botes says:

      For those curious about such things, the simple answer is that a Hollywood studio will normally hire a production company to make any material it requires, and pay the producer or company an agreed fee. The studio then owns all the subsequent assets. It’s possible to negotiate a share of royalties from sales, but this would be a privilege given to only the most powerful producers, directors, or actors. I would not call the humorous incidents portrayed in my docs ‘bloopers’ as such. More the bloopers of real life, maybe? The fact was, despite hardships, making the movies was a lot of fun. There was a sense of cameraderie, and much of the company had a sense of humour, so there was a lot of laughter. I naturally picked up on that and tried to include it as much as possible.

      • Austin Nooe says:

        I just now saw your response. Never noticed an email about it haha. Thank you for it and hope all is going well for you. My dream is still to one day visit New Zealand and to create film documentaries and behind-the-scenes features.

      • Costa Botes says:

        Austin, you can do that wherever you are. There’s nothing special about NZ. We are all struggling here as much as anywhere, maybe more. It’s a tiny country with a tiny home market. Some big films have been made here, but these sorts of films are untypical, and have more to do with Hollywood values than ours. Best you concentrate on finding and developing your own voice and passion if you want to make films. Good luck!

  5. daniel clements says:


    Im wading my way through all the various box sets etc…having not watched them in a while. The one thing i wanted to say actually was thank you. You have documented my favourite book being made into my favourite film…and it really feels like being there. Compare that to some very bland dvd extras you get with some films…Thanks again

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks for that Daniel. I tried to make it as honest as possible. I was never captured by the hype swirling around, and neither – I hope it is obvious in my docs – were the vast majority of people who worked to make the trilogy, from Peter on down. I find most DVD extras unwatchable.

  6. Sorry for perhaps a silly question, but I cannot find anything on the web that describes how long these documentaries are for each film. I obviously have not yet seen your documentaries, as I am an owner of the original extended edition dvd set. The inclusion of your docs in this new blu ray extended edition set is a key motivator for me in purchasing the new set.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Thaddeus,

      an important bit of information. All the docs are feature length. Can’t recall off the top of my head exactly how long, but approx 90-100 minutes each. In remember they get longer as they go along – like their parents films!

      • That’s fantastic! I can’t wait to see them. Thanks so much for your quick reply.

      • Costa Botes says:

        No problem. Maybe take note of my comments on the LOTR page and don’t judge me too harshly if you see some odd little cuts go through. I have absolutely no idea either what they’ve done with the aspect ratio. Should be 16×9 widescreen.

        And even off SD DvCam originals, the pic quality ought to be OK. Again, I have been allowed no involvement or say over final quality control. Fingers crossed.



  7. We just purchased the new blu-ray extended editions, and are watching through them in increments. My wife and I are thrilled that we will finally have the opportunity to watch your documentaries, as we’ve heard great things about them. I’m glad that they are finally getting the attention that they deserve, now that they feature prominently in this incredible box set.

  8. Alex says:

    Hi Costa,
    just like you i love to shoot films (and photos) and let the action speak for itself (of course in a not nearly as professional manner than you do) simply because everytime someone changes or cuts scenes right out of scenarios in a way HE likes it, it more becomes HIS view on things because he will only show us things he likes about the scenario. So do you think there is any chance of acquiring the whole uncut material of yours off of New Line? So perhaps you can distribute it yourself as the only “Live documentary that shows real people creating something together as a group that most people can only dream about”? Would that interest you at all or do you think NL are planning to do a similar thing on their own for a another edition in the future?

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Alexander,
      A couple of points I’d like to answer here. Firstly, my work is not at all passive. It is highly edited – you don’t have to look hard to see there are multiple camera positions used. I never just sit in a corner and shoot. And my work is always MY point of view. But, I try to stay true to what I observe – so I am not imposing some cliche or stereotypical view on it; and I try to shoot with an open mind – so that in observing some activity I can try to understand it from the inside out, then pass that understanding back to an audience. The effect might be that I’m letting action and characters speak for themselves, and that’s exactly what i want you to think; but this does not mean there hasn’t been a lot of tricky film-making going on. I try to capture interesting sequences with a full range of shots – near, far, high, low. The dominant aim was to capture the feeling of what it was like to be there.

      As to your second question about the mountain of footage, and all the yet unseen hours of edited footage; This will remain forever moot as there is zero chance of New Line giving up control of this material. As i’ve said before, I accept this. They hired me to shoot behind the scenes material. And I was well paid to do it. think I’ve already delivered some films that show, “real people creating something together as a group” . So I don;t know what else I could do with LOTR footage I haven’t already done. I would not be interested in revisiting this material again anyway unless there were some considerable change in the terms of engagement. I honestly cannot see that happening!

  9. Alex says:

    Thank you Costa for your fast and yet extensive reply!
    Of course you are right, I assume that any film anybody shoots is one’s point of view. And obviousely you do have the “magic” to at some point make people really get sucked into the action as if they were part of it to some extent (in a passive way). And to have the feeling to actually be there is always exciting. That was more what I meant, the feeling the audience gets by watching it, more than the actual technique behind it although as you stated that’s the basis for the result.

    My girlfriend and I like to watch a lot of documentaries (including yours) and I would very much apprechiate your personal oppinion on what, in your mind, comes more into play when shooting (documentaries/behind the scenes): the used technology (and the knowledge of using it) or the visual eye of the filmmaker? Naturally, both is important, but does the artistic talent (still) sticks out (or did it ever?) or is technique replacing it (nowadays) to some extent?

    Thank you so much for your work and dedication and the possibility to write to / read from you on his website!

    • Costa Botes says:

      Any film is going to be a product of a number of factors.

      The least important elements are equipment and technique.

      The most important are storytelling talent – by which I mean the ability of the film maker to convey meaning (especially via metaphor); and the visual eye of the film maker – I think maybe that’s the same as talent too. Good film makers are like visual poets. BUt film is about more than what things look like. Sound plays a great part. Music. To capture these things and synthesise them into a coherent work of film – this is an art that does take a lot of experience for most people.

      Of course craft and technique can affect the outcome. An experienced professional will know how to get a result more immediately than a beginner. But as we know there is an awful lot of work out there that show little more than technique.

      I don’t think about technique consciously too much. What I always look for is DRAMA. In small things and large. But I try to start with a character – a protagonist, somebody that the film will be about. I am really interested in dramatic characters – that is somebody who wants something badly, and is having a hard time getting it. This is a textbook definition of drama. If you have such a character at the heart of a work, then it will always be interesting and have a sense of purpose.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Any film is going to be a product of a number of factors.

      The least important elements are equipment and technique.

      The most important are storytelling talent – by which I mean the ability of the film maker to convey meaning (especially via metaphor); and the visual eye of the film maker – I think maybe that’s the same as talent too. Good film makers are like visual poets. BUt film is about more than what things look like. Sound plays a great part. Music. To capture these things and synthesise them into a coherent work of film – this is an art that does take a lot of experience for most people.

      Of course craft and technique can affect the outcome. An experienced professional will know how to get a result more immediately than a beginner. But as we know there is an awful lot of work out there that show little more than technique.

      I don;t think about technique consciously too much. What I always look for is DRAMA. In small things and large. But I try to start with a character – a protagonist, somebody that the film will be about. I am really interested in dramatic characters – that is somebody who wants something badly, and is having a hard time getting it. This is a textbook definition of drama. If you have such a character at the heart of a work, then it will always be interesting and have a sense of purpose.


  10. Alex says:

    Thanks again for your detailed elucidations!

    Would you be interested in a film let’s say about the female soccer/football national team of new zealand for example? usually i strongly dislike sports documentaries but in your case i think especially your work could show a whole new side of the matter as this team is also the underdog in the current worldcup and i am sure was scratching their way for years to get there just to probably go home dissapointed .. or will they? maybe there is a bigger goal than just winning? (of course there is but all the hard traing at the beginning would let you think otherwise)

    A very interesting topic on it’s own is religion. In at least one of your movies you took up the subject. As an artist I can imagine you see or feel something and over the eyes and ears as you mentioned (sounds and music) you transport that feeling or idea or view into the audiences eyes. Isn’t there alway some sort of fear that people could misinterpret what they experience through the film and therefore misvalue the creation/film? I am sorry that I ask so many questions but i am very interested in the topic and especially in your oppionion since I find your films very inspiring. No more questions on my part, thanks again and a good day 🙂


  11. Pete says:

    Do you hold PJ accountable for any of the negativity you’ve experienced? Or is the blame solely on New Line?

    • Costa Botes says:

      No Peter was only supportive. And I don;t really blame New Line either. It was a bit of an understandable culture clash. It’s like that story of the scorpion who begs a frog to carry him across a swollen river. The frog demurs, fearing the scorpion’s sting, but allows himself to be persuaded. The scorpion argues it would be suicide for him to sting his saviour. Halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog. As he’s dying, the frog asks, “why?”. The scorpion replies, “it’s my nature”; and then they’re both swept away by the flood. Big Hollywood studios are not in the business of gratifying the artistic egos of minor contractors. It’s not in their nature, or in their general business interest to do so. As I’ve said before, let’s all be happy now that the definitive blu-ray box set has come out, and people can choose between a variety of ‘behind the scenes’ content.

  12. Gimli says:

    It really pisses me off that those studio heads aren’t giving you much credit but i guess thats the way it goes.. Still i want to thank you for making these documentaries!

    • Costa Botes says:

      I’m not worried about credit. I’m clearly acknowledged as the director of the three behind the scenes feature docs. I just wish there had been some communication and consultation from the studio on the final leg. They might not have made some of the silly little trims that they made, and I could have laid some music and commentary, and made the whole thing a bit more nuanced. But whatever, it is what is. A fly on the wall, cinema-verite impression of LOTR’s creation behind the scenes. I’m happy it’s out there and people are watching.

  13. How come you dont have your site viewable in wap format? Can not view anything in my netbook.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Please address this query to WordPress. I am just a poor, struggling film maker of limited means, and even more limited technical capability. Nobody else has reported problems viewing the content on my site. Try an iPad maybe?

  14. Ryan Gilbert says:

    Hey Costa, just a quick question: Is there any way of me watching your documentaries without buying the Blu-Ray box set or the limited edition box set? I already own the DVD extended Lord of the Rings box set which unfortunately does not include your documentaries and I’ve been searching for several months for any alternative to watching them without buying the Blu-Ray box set as I do not have a Blu-Ray player and the limited edition box set is very expensive now and mainly in america and I live in England so the postage would make the price go up even more.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hello Ryan, I sympathise and totally understand the problem. It goes back to the stupidly short sighted deal that the studio, New Line originally made with all the actors – which was that all behind the scenes material would only be exploited in association with the movies. That neatly prevented New Line from ever issuing my docs as a stand alone product. At least, without prior agreement and presumably some form of substantial renumeration, which the studio was unwilling to do. For me this is a running sore which I just have to put to one side, otherwise I get mad and unhappy about it all over again. The lesson for me was to never again get involved in any production where I did not retain creative control and ownership. So, I’m afraid your options are not extensive … you have to either find a cheap copy of the limited edition set, or upscale your player and hire or borrow a blue ray set from somewhere. Good luck!

  15. Pingback: In Defense of Peter Jackson

    • Costa Botes says:

      There are so many considerations required of a film maker working at this level. Of course Peter has integrity. But what he really has going for him is vision, and a childlike desire to escape into convincing fantastic realms, to use everything at his disposal in order to convince us – and himself – that his vision is true.

      But please, all that documentary material also has another message. The LOTR trilogy on film was the result of many, many talents. It’s not the journey of only one artist, though for sure, it’s Peter’s vision that held the whole thing together. I wonder sometimes if many people truly understand how remarkable an achievement that was. Check out The Golden Compass sometime. Or The Last Mimzy. That might create an inkling.

      • Thank you Costa for responding to my article.

        You’re right about how incredible of an achievement this was. As your examples illustrate, very few fantasy films turn out to be good. Many, unfortunately, are unwatchable.

        Your documentaries do an amazing job of showing the team effort behind Lord of the Rings, and how Peter’s vision held it together. Although you were never given the opportunity to add music and narration, the absence of these features actually heighten the sense of being a fly on the wall. Your documentaries are wonderful achievements in and of themselves, and I hope that many people take the opportunity to watch them.

      • Costa Botes says:

        I wasn’t seriously offended at all.

        Sorry if I sound like a curmudgeon. And thank you for your recommendation.

        It’s a little bit of a sore point, obviously. Firstly, because of the experience of being messed with by the studio – having my work forcibly appropriated, then liberally quoted by another production company without proper acknowledgment. I won’t ever forgive them for that.

        But secondly, because of comments by some LOTR fans – branding my docs unstructured, stream of consciousness, or freeform, or whatever – as if they somehow magically came into being by themselves, with me just waving a camera around from the corner of the set. Purest bull dust.

        I like ‘observational’ shooting, and I have tried to develop an editing style that feels unforced or natural. But the truth of it is my films are not at all what I would call ‘cinema verite’. I may do a lot of ‘fly on the wall’ shooting, but I direct myself actively around scenes, and I will often direct my subjects too. My movies aren’t passive records. They are highly shaped, or structured, even if they don’t feel like it. That’s where the art is. To put an audience into the moment, as if they were there.

        Isn’t that what every LOTR fan in the world wanted? I certainly got enough email from them, begging for an opportunity to come and experience the majesty and wonder of filming Tolkein.

        Well, the experience was … er … not quite like that. Ha ha. It was frequently very, very tedious. Or cold, windy, and wet. Or just plain confusing.

        Film makers invented editing so we can put real life into movies with all the boring bits cut out. And that’s what I try and do.

        Perhaps my LOTR docs lean far into minimally structured territory. But they are structured, and the logic behind the form is very simple. Each doc follows the narrative arc of its parent film. That’s it, more or less. Though there is another criteria for the content too … which is that there be no repetition. So if a topic is dealt with in one movie, it can’t be raised again in the others. Mostly. If anyone wants to argue about that, don’t call me. Find a willing buddy and have at it.

        I hate narration. Hate it. Narration is great for radio. Or for lazy people. That’s it. The only time I have used it (Forgotten Silver) is to make fun of it.

        I have no doubt that I could have retained the natural feel of my LOTR docs and integrated that with subtle emotional enhancement through use of music. The fact that this opportunity was denied to me was not a tragic loss, but it was a stupid and unnecessary one. A lost opportunity.

        If you ever get the chance to view any of my other work, you’d see stories that are much more obviously constructed, though I do always strive to create narratives that are less than obvious.

  16. Pingback: There and Back Again… | …'Bout Sound and Vision

    • Costa Botes says:

      Cheers. Thanks for the note, but if you want to make me grumpy, call my stuff “unedited” again. Maybe we made it look too easy? My editor and I spent months and years collating literally thousands of hours of footage, and then weaving it into the long form montages you have seen. They may seem free flowing, but there is a shape and a purpose to every cut.

  17. Di says:

    Seeing that these docs were the only change/gain if I chose to purchase the BluRay set, I came to see if I could gain an understanding of what was in them, and whether it was worth a re-purchase. I didn’t expect to find a bitter man constantly complaining about credit and the fact that the people paying for the film got to make decisions about it. Perhaps I am incapable of understanding the nuance of the post above, as I am just a “stupid U. S. fan.”

    I’ll look elsewhere for a proper assessment of my original question – but hope that somewhere along the line your soul is able to find a better place, as the post above gives the impression that it’s not in a very good one at the moment. Best of luck….

    • Costa Botes says:

      I don’t think that’s a very fair assessment. A cursory look around my site might suggest that I have long since moved on and been doing a great deal more than constantly complaining. My soul is fine, thank you.

      My site is a forum for my own views, not an advertising space. I’m not sure what you expected to see here, but the combo of personal background, links, and comments should have been more than enough to clue you in to the content you would find in my LOTR docs.

      The main purpose of this blog is historical. I’m trying to offer an honest perspective on an experience that had some serious ups and downs. If you had shared that experience, I doubt you would be so glib in mocking my concerns about creative control and credit. These things mean everything to any serious film maker. Which does not mean I ever shirked responsibility to my backers. “the people paying for it” got everything they paid for, and more. I was not used well in return, but that’s not something I dwell on now, except when I have to.

    • Costa Botes says:

      I’ve already responded to this note. But on reflection, perhaps the original text of my post was giving the impression of gratuitous insult to US fans as a whole. That was not intended (the wording was “…some US fans”, not “all”. My insult was aimed at the kind of individuals who know how to do everything better than anyone else, even though they have never troubled themselves to actually do anything beyond surf the net and feel aggrieved at any deviation they find from their powerfully formed expectations. I have rewritten the blog to more precisely express what I want to say, and added a little more detail about the basic creative thinking underlying my LOTR documentaries.

  18. Matt Kambic says:

    Costa, My New Zealand wife Alison and I just watched the first doc on the making of the Fellowship. Alison is not a great fan of movies or Tolkien – but your work is passing muster with her. As for me, I’m grinning and blinking like a spy on the set. We are both enjoying the humanity on display, the attention to the moments where gestures and body language speak so much, and the breadth of vignettes that cover the ups and downs, small stuff and big stuff. It’s a feast I don’t want to finish. Your experience up so close to the entire production is worth a book, if you ever care to write it. Alison might even read it. Best from Pittsburgh, PA Matt Kambic

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks for the note Matt. I appreciate the feedback. I can understand why a homesick Kiwi might like my docs, so Im glad youre enjoying them too. As for a book, I thought so once, but memory fades, and I’m more inclined to look forward rather than back. Check out some of the other work on my site to see what I’ve been up to since Rings.

  19. Robert Catto says:

    Hey Costa – enjoyed this essay as much as I enjoyed the docos, and I’m looking forward to watching them again soon on Blu-Ray. I haven’t watched them since I first got them on the DVD set a few years back, but I remember thinking they really captured the feeling of being in the middle of these films, the esprit de corps amongst the troops on the ground, the lovely folks in the throes of making something – probably, quite literally – bigger than Ben Hur. The docos felt real to me, they felt like I did as an extra for about six months in principal photography – amazed by what was happening, and optimistic it would all, somehow, turn out okay.

    The other behind-the-scenes features were also fascinating in their own way, but felt more like they’d been made for Oscar lobbying, to some extent – there was a gloss to them, that was far removed from cold nights at Helm’s Deep, being daubed with mud and having our eyes blacked out under Orc masks, and standing by to…stand by. It’s great to be able to go back and feel what PRODUCTION was like, before any of us had a real inkling of what the trilogy would become to the world – that’s what your docos bring. Good on you, and thanks.

    • Costa Botes says:

      It was a confusing, chaotic endeavor, with my biggest problem being the insistent, highly cliched and utterly pre-formed expectations of the studio publicity dept funding my work. It’s impolite to bite the hand that feeds I suppose, but too bad … if I hadn’t fought them, our record of this production would today be completely shrouded in mythic bull. Peter asked me to tell the truth, “warts and all”, and I’m proud to say I always tried my best. Testimonials like this are very much appreciated, thanks Robert.

  20. Else says:

    Back in 2004, I was invited to attend a documentary about the production of Lord of the Rings at the Paramount by a school friend of mine. I’d already seen some behind the scenes footage at that point, and being 13 and a massive fan I liked it, but rewatching the extended editions recently made me very much aware of how, I don’t know, sterile? they often seem. The documentary I saw in 2004 was just the opposite. I remember seeing conversations between actors and commentary from crew on set, where everything felt passionate and real, like you were honestly viewing the process in motion, rather than a tidy little retrospective. I don’t know if that film is now sitting happily on the Blu ray,or when I’ll even get a chance to view the blu rays at all, but it’s a happy notion that others not in that tightly packed little cinema can now appreciate something like I did then.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks for that. Yes, all three of the feature length behind the scenes docs I made are now included in the extended blu ray collection (you saw the first one at the NZ film festival – it was the only time I was allowed to show it in a theatre).

      I appreciate your comments about my work feeling real. Most often now, Making of docs are used as an adjunct to publicity or marketing. Which makes little sense, if you think about it. The consumers most interested in seeing behind the scenes don’t need to be ‘sold’ – they want a deeper appreciation of a work, with hopefully a privileged glimpse behind the veil. The whole point should be to capture and convey an authentic sense of the experience.

  21. Andre says:

    Hello, I just got the whole blue ray extneded box (when did that thing release? tought it was brand new ) and was wondering what disc youre documetnary are on?
    – Andre –

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Andre,

      The blu ray extended edition has been out since June 2011? I’m not sure. I don’t have this set myself, but here is a content guide I found on another web site:

      • Andre says:

        I just found them as i went trough the extra material, thaks for making a great documentary, i read somwhere people complained of its style, but I felt more part of whats going on and the fun and challenges of making a movie of this size. the other behind the scenes stuff are of course great, but they yours feelt really refreshing ^^

      • Costa Botes says:

        Thanks for the feedback. It’s great for me now, after a long and frustrating wait, that my work is actually able to be seen. And good for fans that they can pick and choose from all the stuff available in the blu ray box set.

      • Andre says:

        Why was there so much forth and back on the release of this ?
        (of course i understand you might not be able to answer the question if legaly bound)
        Was it because you had parts that was to “real” for the movie studio? like the part with a co worker wanting to pull here own pay to support someone else that dident have a good day.

      • Costa Botes says:

        I have no doubt the studio were confused and unsettled by my approach. They were used to a more straightforward advertorial style – work to ‘sell’ rather than illuminate. But honestly, I don’t think that was the problem. They felt they needed a bigger and slicker style, with a much bgger DVD team that could deliver the depth of content that was then becoming normal; and let’s face it, they were proved right. The Extended Editions were very well received. My problem was I was not only sidelined, a lot of my work got cherry picked and folded into other peoples edits, thus rendering me invisible, after what had been several years of effort. All water under the bridge, and lots of good did come of it, so I’m basically reconciled now that people can freely access my docs. For me, the greatest vindication is that people who worked on LOTR through thick and thin have viewed my films and said, “yes, that’s what it was like”. I think, possibly, this was the last time a big studio picture was documented with any kind of editorial independence. I might be incorrect about that. Discussion welcome.

      • Andre says:

        There has been no docus like that for any movie last years that I have seen, and a as a way to big film making fan, i tend to watch to much extra materials. but the studio might not want to have any negative light at all. But still as you say , people enjoyed your work and felt that was more a connection, and that might been what you wanted to bring out to. Of course the other docus have a lot of content and , while its really informative to. Its dont bring a true spirit of how it is to make a film (specially one of that size) so your work probarly made the collection a really 10/10 value there ^^
        Did you get credit for the work they pulled into the other features?

        Also i could not stop wondering how the studio work on this, i guess in the start they never tought it would get that big. But as they talked to you about making a behind the scenes, you where contracted for years or just a day here and a day there? where you actually with youre crew (or i belive one person from credit i just saw) on set like 90% of the principal shooting ?

      • Costa Botes says:

        It is understandable that a studio would not want any negative comment on a project that they were 100% funding. I made my films from the heart, to try and convey the spirit of the many, many people who worked to their absolute limits. Very happy to hear your comments. Thats what I aimed for.

        You are so right … The studio did not know what they had, or at least not the middle management. I think the top guys had a pretty good sense of it, and they had a desperate hope, but it was very much tempered by fear in the beginning, and so there was a LOT of tension to start with. only a hint of at comes through in my first doc, but maybe just enough to give a sense of it.

        I never ever got a formal contract, Not until the very end, and by then I refused to sign anything. I worked to a short agreement which summarized our goals, methodology, and the budget. The studio always acted as if such agreements were not binding. I could have waked away with a lot of money if I behaved the same way, but I wanted to finish what I started.

        I mainly had one other person, Hayley French, working with me as a videographer. There were a few other people that worked with us for short periods. Hayley and I were present on set for 100% of principle photography, and we also worked through the many months of pickups as well. Ut add preproduction and post production. It was about. A 5 year commitment.

  22. Andre says:

    Seems so incredible long, but you did get paid throughout the productions i hope. and when you say 5 year i guess thats all movies, i was sure that was longer. cant remember right. I am looking trough some of you’re other work to. Any good recommendations ? and you ship internationally ?

    • Costa Botes says:

      Oh hell, yes I got paid. I took financial responsibilty for managing the project, and obviously I made sure I got a reasonable income for myself. No complaints there.

      My involvement creating behind the scenes for LOTR stretched from mid 1998 to 2004. About 5 years of continuous effort.

      Re other work, it’s a mixed ag. Best check trailers and clips on the website to get a flavour. I think you would like the film I did with Peter Jackson, Forgotten Silver, or the jelly belly doco, Candyman. I do ship internationally va airmail. These are region free discs, but NB they are PAL, so may not work with some USA payers, though they will work in any computers, so I guess you could format shift from there. I have no probs with that, as long as buyers respect my copyright and do not make files available free on FTP sites. This phenomenon has taken root now, and sadly it is killing the business I love. We are just trying to do good work and make a living folks. Please don’t steal. Cheers, Costa

      • Andre says:

        Some classics i have only been able to find trough pirate sites sadly, tough everything else i respectively buy. I live in Norway, so belive they run fine here. if not my pc is hooked to my tv ^^

        I read up on Forgotten silver now, seems as an interesting project. Sam Neil (that I really enjoy) had something called “deadpan commentaries” what does that mean ?
        Unkown word meaning for me .

        Oh and after LOTR has NZ gotten a higher production rate of movies ?, i understood the movie production in the country was low before LOTR ?

  23. Natasha says:

    Is it possible to find your documentary anywhere besides the golden box limited editions? Are there any other editions with it? I’m extremely interested as I did see part of it before and fell in love with the production even more than the film… I would really love to have it, however not only do I do not own blue ray but the golden box limited edition costs up to US$ 450 on ebay, which I’m not willing to bay. However I would pay for the documentary alone…

    • Thad says:

      Blu Ray player costs $50. LOTR blu rays $50. Save yourself $350. Solved.

    • Costa Botes says:

      I’d love to help Natasha, but I’m afraid I am not at liberty to sell copies direct. Copyright resides with the studio – which is fair, actually, as they paid for my work. This was not an independent production, like most of my work.

      My documentaries have officially appeared in only two editions – the Limited Editions which came out in 2006, and the 2011 Blu Ray Extended Edition box set. I have never been allowed to show them anywhere, except for special screenings of the first film in 2004 at the NZ Film Festival.

      However, a couple of points might be worth considering.

      Is it not time you made a modest investment in a blu-ray player? Prices have crashed, and high quality units are easily available now for very modest cost. For instance, Panasonic and Samsung both make excellent budget players, costing well south of US$80.

      The Ebay prices you quote are absurd. Someone is having a laugh, surely? I have seen the Special Edition Blue Ray box set (14 discs) on sale in stores here for NZ$130. That’s about US$110. Now that it has been out for a while, I’m sure you can find it for a heck of a lot less than 450.00.

      Apologies again, if it were legal for me to do so I’d happily make you a set of 3 DVDs containing my documentaries alone. Unfortunately, fear of jail, and my respect for the principles of copyright preclude this.

  24. Trent says:


    My condolences that this work did not turn out as you originally intended, but I am happy that you seem to be making the best out of an undesirable situation. That being said, I personally really enjoy watching your LOTR documentaries. As an editor, I understand the massive amount of work that must have gone in to this, and I enjoy the style. As you say, this work really compliments the other existing documentaries. Yours was a fresh look at what is otherwise decade-old material.

    If I may make an observation, there is so much that people will never understand about art. The job of an editor is to be invisible. Consequently, when an editor does his job very well, no one will ever know. The seamless editing of these pieces is a testiment to the work of you and your editor. Shame on those who foolishly dismiss or discredit the quality of your work.

    All of the best; from one professional to another.

  25. T-itanium says:

    May I ask whether the documentaries are natively shot in NTSC or PAL? Thanks.

    • Costa Botes says:

      They were shot in PAL, at 50 frames (interlaced).

      Today’s HD cams boast switchable formats. In an ideal world, we would have shot everything natively at 23.98 Progressive. This would have made for an easier translation to NTSC.

      in hindsight, the gear we used was remarkably basic. Cameras were the Sony PD100 and PD150, shooting in DVCAM format. Small, lightweight cameras that gave the best bang for buck and picture quality available at the time.

      But SD or standard definition. So pictures look notably hairy compared to what we can do today.

      • T-itanium says:

        Thank you for reply!
        But considering Hollywood’s NTSC centrism, they might converted to only NTSC when cut this Making Of feature into extended DVD features as well as releasing this one, then re-convert to PAL when released to PAL region. It’s saddening that we can hardly see them in their original quality.
        Wish there can also be “Director’s Cut” for long Making Of feature.

      • Costa Botes says:

        They were given a set of PAL masters. These would have then been converted to NTSC. But I expect the original masters would have been used to create PAL editions. I’m not sure what the manufacturing route was. However, bear in mind that digital copying is lossless. The only quality variation would have occurred during the NTSC standards conversion, and even then, if it was done at the best technical quality available at the time the NTSC copies should not have looked too bad. To start with! The critical factor is how compressed the video is when put on a DVD. Overly compressed material can end up looking pretty nasty when the starting quality is not so great.

        As to director’s cut, well, I think that ship has sailed, and it is unlikely I’ll ever be given the chance to be on it. Ha ha. But the cuts that were made to my work were fairly trivial. More annoying than anything else. The films remained 99% intact. What I missed was the chance to add a small amount of music, and some commentaries. The first would have added mood or emotional texture, and the second would have supplied some surrounding context. But now of course, seen as part of the Bluray extended edition, they’re surrounded by all the context they need. I’m happy with where things ended up.

  26. Emanuele says:

    Hi Costa

    First of all, my congratulations for your blog and your willingness to answer all the fan’s questions.
    I hadn’t a chance to watch your documentaries about the LOTR trilogy yet, but i’m going to buy the blu-ray extended edition tomorrow and start to watch them calmly.

    I’m a huge italian fan of the trilogy, and i fell in love with the story, the setting, the production.
    As i’m just a medical student, i have no experience with cinema and i have never been on a set.
    If you wish, could you please write me a line describing how it did feel to be on the set of LOTR, together with actors, Peter Jackson, and all the troupe?
    I know it is just your point of view, but it would be wonderful for me to hear from you about the kind of atmosphere that was on the set. You know, being there with the true Aragon, Frodo, Sam, Gandalf…i think it is the dream of any real fan!

    When i will have ended to watch your documentaries, i will write here my personal thoughts, but i already know i will be amazed by your work.
    In spite of everything, i know it is always hard to show everything that happens on the set just through the use of a camera.

    Thanks very much for your patience. Greetings from Italy.


    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Emanuele, thanks for your note. I hope you enjoy my documentaries. They convey better than anything I can say what the experience of filming was like. It was profoundly interesting, but to be honest my perspective was less magical than pragmatic. It was tiring, confusing, long long days, always too hot or too cold, or wet; the food was great! Ha ha. I have never seen more utterly exhausted people. Or more proud and excited about what they were doing. The magic came later, as the films were woven together by peter and his editors, the sound and music and effects were all crafted with infinite care, and all that hard work, endurance and suffering over almost 2 years of filming came together into the final trilogy. This was a most remarkable act of vision … Not just from the director, but hundreds of people, who somehow all collaborated to the peak of their abilities to make something great.

  27. Emanuele says:

    Thanks for your reply!

    i can’t imagine the difficulties that all of you have encountered on the set. As filmgoers , we only see the finished product and it is very difficult to appreciate what kind of huge work was needed to create it. It is often hard to separate fiction from reality. To be honest, it is as if the Middle Earth really exists, but only the actors and the people who contributed to create the trilogy can be admitted to this fantastic land.

    This is why the trilogy is magical. This is why New Zealand is magical.
    Can’t wait to see the documentaries.

    Have a nice day Costa. Thank you again.

  28. Costa Botes says:

    Well, many people feel like this. As a film maker I tend to take a more dispassionate view. I do think of cinema as a magical process, but the worlds we see on the screen are worlds of imagination. The actors and the people who created LOTR don’t have exclusive access to that world. Nor would they wish it to be so. They suffered all the tribulations and joys of creating the movies so that everyone could share them. The Middle Earth we see on screen is literally fantastic. It does not exist anywhere but on screen. Not even in New Zealand, which is a flesh and blood place inhabited by flesh and blood people. Just like your home country. That makes it no less magical – but in a different way. Peter Jackson’s stated ambition for LOTR was to ground the fantasy of Tolkein in an illusion of realism. Which he did wonderfully well. But it is an illusion. The most striking exception might be the Rohan hilltop fortress which was a huge outdoor set built on a real hill surrounded by real mountains. But it was built of wood and polyurethane, and the day after filming was completed, dismantling began, and a month later, not a single trace was left. That is the kind of thing I personally think is remarkable and interesting. And 100% real. So I guess I tried to capture things like this in my docos. I didn’t think there was any point celebrating the fantasy. That can take care of itself. My interest was celebrating the unseen, the unexpected, and the unsung ‘behind the scenes’.

  29. Emanuele says:

    This is an astonishingly interesting discussion. I think your documentaries are exactly what I was looking for. Something that explains, or shows, the difference between cinematographic
    illusion and reality. Something that let you experience the excitement and the suffering of being on a real set, among actors and cameras. I think this kind of documentaries are very rare.

    From my point of view, the total comprehension of a movie, ( or should i call it a work of art?) like LOTR – even of its deepest meanings – can not prescind from the in-depth analysis of all its aspects, including the behind of scenes. I think they are a must-see for all the fans. After all, these movies have shaped the lives of an entire generation, like mine.

    One last reflection: I think that New Zealand is full with the magic of the trilogy. Probably i tend to put New Zealand up on a pedestal. Nevertheless, I’m sure there is still something magical about visiting Mount Sunday (Rohan fortress) or Mackenzie Country ( Pelennor fileds) or Waikato town of Matamata ( Shire and Hobbiton) and all the other locations.
    Maybe you can go there and still hear the clang of swords, the roars of Uruk-Hai, the moans of Fangorn, Howard Shore’s epic soundtrack and so on. All this is part of the illusion that PJ and his troupe created.
    What do you think about that?

    Thank you for yout replies Costa.

    I don’t want to bother you anymore, ha ha ( sorry for my bad school-learned english ) .
    Have a nice weekend!

  30. Costa Botes says:

    “I think this kind of documentaries are very rare.”

    Well, they’re not that rare; even student film makers now throw together ‘behind th scenes’ reels. And DVDs/BluRays are usually stuffed full of ‘bonus extras’. But it is rare nowadays to find anything frank or honestly revealing about the making of big popular Hollywood films. That is because the studios are very, very careful and controlling of their ‘brands’. Each movie is a hundred million dollar plus enterprise, and every aspect of its marketing and consumption is carefully considered. There is no room for art or subjective interpretation in the documentation of how such films are made. All efforts are made towards one end – to SELL the film, not to understand its genesis. I was very lucky I think. I had a chance with Lord of the Rings to try and tell the truth as a I saw it. As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, that placed me under considerable pressure from the studio who just didn’t know how to cope with a film maker who did not share their perspective. I wasn’t trying to SELL Lord of the Rings. I was trying to create an honest record of its production – which is all that Peter asked me to do. I knew after the first day experiencing the treasures that Peter and Weta were creating that LOTR would sell itself. There was simply nothing else like it in the world.

    As to your thoughts on New Zealand. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective and point of view. My daughter is currently in Florence, Italy. I think that is a magical place. She is experiencing it for the first time. To us, New Zealand is home, and we love it here, but when we dream of magical places … they are other places. Ha ha.

    It is very interesting considering the gap between cinematic illusion and reality. There is a space between – a cinematic nowhere land that lives in our imaginations. I feel like that when I’m visiting Los Angeles. It seems every street and building are haunted by a dozen cinematic memories.

    There is a very good film about this, if you’re interested. Thom Anderson’s “Los Angeles Plays Itself”

    Back on the topic of LOTR, I assume you are familiar with this book?

  31. Emanuele says:

    “But it is rare nowadays to find anything frank or honestly revealing about the making of big popular Hollywood films”

    “I was trying to create an honest record of its production”

    This is exactly what i mean. I hope you will have the chance to make more of the same in the future.
    Hollywood movies usually are willing to sell and STOP. A little more of humility wouldn’t be a bad idea. The will of selling should not overcome the will of making the audience feel excited, enthusiastic about the film. Unfortunately, the situation seems to go from bad to worse nowadays. It seems there is still too much detachment between the audience and the movie and its creators.

    As to New Zealand, I think you’re right. It is all a matter of perspective. As i live in Milan, Italy, i see my home country with different eyes. Maybe this is due to the big distance ( at the other end of the world!) between the two countries.
    Florence is beautiful. Venice is a must-see too. And Rome…well, there are a lot of wonderful places in Italy! ha ha.
    From a certain point of view – especially the landscape one- New Zealand and Italy are very similar.
    There are some places in Italy which could have been perfect as locations for LOTR. I can’t believe it. For example, Abruzzo and its sorroundings ( National Park of Gan Sasso and Monti della laga, Schiavi d’Abruzzo, Civitella Alfedena and so on).

    If you wish, you can google “National Park of Gran Sasso and Monti della laga” on Google Images, and you will see it is very similar to LOTR landscapes! Isn’t it? Or google Civitella Alfedena…. it reminds me of Minas Tirith.
    It is a pity that Peter Jackson didn’t choose these locations for the trilogy. It would have been amazing for italian fans!

    I didn’t know “Los Angeles plays itself”. It seems really interesting. Thank you! This is a topic that deserves an in-depth analysis i suppose.

    As to the book…i did hear about it. A friend of mine has it. I will buy it when i will travel to New Zealand…just to be sure i don’t miss anything!

  32. Joris says:

    Dear mr. Botes,

    In my opinion u underestimate ( or underestimated, since the original post is probably 4 years of age ) the cognitive thinking of some of the viewers.
    It seemed to me pretty evident that the “original” doc was some heavy altered stuff with just the fine lines of the real experience slipping trough the cracks.
    No doubt due to your directing and decisions of the material shot.
    To see this less altered version side by side with the early one makes the truth of the matter resonate much more, at least thats my experience.
    And I find that your independent attitude, even tough Jackson seemd to be one of your close colleagues, admirable and the factor which makes me think of your doc as; better than “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse”.

    I didn’t mind the silent exposition tough, although i understand it wasn’t your decision.
    It gave me the same feel as “I am trying to break your heart” (a film about wilco)
    and gave some room for independent thinking, again in contrast to the New Line early version.

    Apologies for any gramma mistakes, and I am certainly gonna enjoy some of your other work.


    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks for that Joris. I didn’t have any intention of providing a narration within the docs, I don’t like narration … but was hoping to furnish a directors commentary.

      The finished docs are very close to how I wanted them to be. I just would have added a little bit of music here and there.

      Peter was very supportive of me retaining an independent perspective. But the studio didn’t really like that or know quite how to handle it. It all worked out in the end.

  33. vali (Romania) says:


    I wanted to know how many hours of your work was included on the Blu-Ray extended edition? Is is only the three feature lenght documentary, or is it much more? And do you think in the future, the Company will release new bonus material?

    Thank you.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Three documentaries. Yes. My team shot most of the on-set material you might have seen. Not all. Other teams were drafted in by the studio during the final pickup shoot for ROTK. There’s a lot more edited footage on the shelf. I have no idea if that will ever be released.

  34. Mike Pc says:

    Ever since I first saw a reference to you having made these docos I lookd for them and eventually they appeared in the Blu Ray Extended versions. I watch The Appendices and your films a couple of times a year and if I’d had my way your brilliant films would have been much longer!! I was aware, from comments seen in some forums of the way New Line tried to control all the behind the scenes footage – so they could wring every last cent from them I assume and I’m sorry they were. in my opinion, very short sighted. I would happily have watched 2-3 hr versions of your documentaries as I know there must be an enormous amount f interesting footage that will probably never see the light of day – unless, of course, New Line cash in yet again with a 25th anniversary extended, extended edition with extra behind the scenes footage – probably at an exorbitant price!!
    So I just wanted to thank you so much for doing a brilliant job in making the behind the scenes stuff – I love it and it’s such a shame you weren’t allowed editorial control of the stuff you filmed.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks Mike, I really appreciate your feedback.

      To be fair, I don’t think anyone can blame New Line from trying to make the most of their investment – which was huge, let’s face it. They’re in business, but it took more than a business leap of faith for them to commit to such an enterprise.

      Also, while I certainly had my frustrations with them over my small corner of this vast project, I always tried to understand where the studio was coming from.

      There was no editorial interference in the content of my docos, except at the very end, dictated more by some petty music licensing considerations than any desire by the studio to dictate content.

      So, apart from some minor nicks and scratches, rest assured, they are pretty much as I intended them.

      Sometimes, less can be more.

      But yes, there is more. As mentioned in my blog, there are about 22 hours of edited footage, comprising approximately 200 behind the scenes stories culled from over 800 hours of footage. Maybe that stuff will see the light of day. I don’t know. Meantime, I’m happy at least the three features are available.

      My contribution to the ethnographic study of making three big ass Tolkein flicks. It was quite a trip.

  35. Pingback: Forgotten Silver, 20 futuri nella storia | Cineclandestino

  36. Sharon says:

    Hi there, I watched the first of your documentaries on Fellowship of the Ring this afternoon and greatly look forward to seeing the next two. I just wanted to say that I hugely enjoyed it, especially seeing some material which seems to have been deleted from the films such as Frodo and Gandalf discussing elven language. It was such a refreshingly different style to the behind the scenes on the films that I’ve seen before, I loved how in-the-moment it felt, it seemed more honest and made me realise how glazed-over the other stuff is. I wanted to know the story behind the differences and found your site – thanks so much for explaining the backstory. Great work, I look forward to seeing the rest 🙂

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks for the feedback Sharon. I hope you enjoy the other two films. They’re all in the same style, but we tried hard to not repeat anything. Main aim was to be entertaining while being honest. I can’t stand PR ‘behind the scenes’. Didn’t want to do anything like that. I wanted to catch a bit of history. It caused some grief at the time but I feel vindicated now.

  37. reidhb says:

    It would have seemed to me, to have been wiser for the Producers to have started with the Hobbit: There and back again than with the major opus of LotR. They might have saved on pre production and fx in general, and learned how to make the world of Middle Earth sooner and better. ?

    • Costa Botes says:

      It might have escaped your notice that The Hobbit contains as many, if not greater production challenges within its slim girth than all of Lord of the Rings combined. So, hardly an easy place to start.

      As it happened, the vexed ownership of the book’s film rights made starting with the Hobbit impossible anyway.

      Adapting the book into three large films incorporating Tolkein’s wider mythology spread the cost of creating all the necessary spectacle. It definitely paid off financially, but artistically one might argue the outcome was mixed.

  38. Zoe says:

    All I want to say is thank you. Your documentaries came to me recently, having only owned the DVDs before rather than the Blu-Rays. So, thank you.

  39. Heather Cudnik says:

    Wow, I never even heard of the Limited Edition Dvds. (And many consider me an ultra nerd for knowing some really ridiculous things about the filming this trilogy. At first I thought maybe it wasn’t released in the states because even 8 years at a mostly used book, movie, & music store. Not once did I stumble across one used copy of the Limited Editions, but many of the extended (which my mom was kind enough to get me one each year as they were released for either my bday, which is thanksgiving in U.S. or Xmas.) I can’t believe even when looking them up online in something like I never once even saw that cover before.
    I actually was in a stupid argument with my significant other about if P.J. walked into New Line with a first draft of a script that HE alone wrote. To which i said, no there are at least 3 i know for sure credited with writing the script, P.J., Fran Walsh (His partner/wife depending on where you got the info), & Philippa Boyens.
    Now I don’t always just read a Wikipedia and rely on that as any total solid fact, but that’s where I came across your name. There’s no linked Wikipedia page linked to your name. I thought I’d recall it from the 20 or more times I’ve had the extended dvds playing even just as background, because I just found the entire process of care, time, detail, hardships of those involved, and also universal pride in accomplishment.
    Which as an artist, painting or drawing, i found it always encouraging to me to hear & watch the bonus materials as I worked sometimes months on art pieces.
    I have a strange knack for recognition of voices, especially in animation which kinda freaks most people out. (But I was also a theater kid who once aspired to seriously act, so film trivia resonates with me.)
    Now that I watched that YouTube clip **side note – you look & sound super familiar to me- & i read all your notes about what happened with your experience filmimg the documentaries. I always wondered where that super early video pre-prod & other obviously on set vids came from! They’re clearly shot different than the ‘past tense’ monents. Now that I’ve heard your perspective, you really weren’t given much credit from New Line, if at all. Which now it makes more sense, why I heard of disagreements between New Line & others involved in making the Rings Trilogy, yet clearly saw Mark Ordesky & ‘Bob’ Robert Shaye the latter who I’ve associated with New Line since Nightmare on Elm Street (which Freddy was always my top favorite 80s slasher icon) His sister Lin Shaye is even in the original film! I really hope I can see your work more in the Limited edition, which I’m going to have to have again.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Well, it’s complicated … Like most things.

      For instance when you cite writers, you miss Stephen Sinclair. He was a named writer on all three of the LOTR trilogy films.

      Disagreements? Yes. Misunderstandings, crossed wires, conflicting agendas, fears, frustrations … Lots and lots of it.

      But all swept aside by Jackson’s clear and persistent vision. After all, nobody had a better idea of how to turn Tolkein’s books into something cinematically viable.

      I’ve tried to sum up my own journey through this exhilarating morass in a way that’s as positive as I can manage. The outcome was positive … finally. My work has seen the light of day, even if much of what I shot and edited was co-opted by others with little or no credit initially.

      I like the covers of the Limited Edition sets, but not much else. The release of these editions was thoroughly botched by New Line and I found myself in the firing line from furious fans. They were angry at what they saw as another cash in attempt by the studio, and didn’t see the provision of a mere single documentary per disc as worthwhile. Never mind that each of my companion docs actually contained more footage than all the multitudinous clips assembled in the Extended Editions. So I got it in the neck for a product I had no part in or control over.

      My work was better treated in the BluRay box set, which remains the gold standard for LOTR collections.

      Anyway, thanks for your interest. As I say in the blog, I’m well over the bad parts of this experience. Many good things came from it. Always happy to hear from folks interested in my work.

  40. Pingback: Interview: Costa Botes' Act of Kindness - CURNBLOG

  41. Marcus Hagwall says:

    Hi Costa!
    I might be a little late on this now but I just want to reach out and let you know how much your, and your team’s, work on LOTR has meant to me.

    To be honest, all the BTS docs releases on the Extended Editions, and the AMAZING feature length documentaries on the Limited Editons, has made more impact on me than the actuall films.
    It was a major inspiration for me to finally start working in the film industry for over 10 years ago.

    Reading that you received so much negative critisism for the feature lenght docs makes me quite concerned. In my opinion, they are the best BTS docs ever!

    Sorry for just throwing all this at you, but I just felt that I had to tell you how much this part of your work has ment to me and that it will allways be a very precious part of my film collection.

    Marcus Hagwall

    • Costa Botes says:

      Hi Marcus, thanks for reaching out. Much appreciated. Even after 15 years, there are a lot of mixed emotions recalling the course of this project, but I am fiercely proud of the end results. I think our little team caught the essence of the production, and told the truth as we saw it, fulfilling Peter’s single direction, to record the making of his films, “warts and all”. So, I’m very glad you found these docs inspirational. That was the idea. Same went for me way back in 1978, watching the making of Star Wars. To be honest, I was never crazy about Star Wars, though I liked the films, but that one hour TV doco blew my mind. That was the high bar I kept trying for.

      The negative criticisms that came with the Limited Editions were really mostly directed at the studio, New Line, which had already released two editions prior. Fans felt they were being gouged. My documentary features were single items, so were regarded as measly compensation for shelling out more bucks, even though the truth is each doco contained more video footage than all the multi-various clips bundled up in the Extended Editions. I hated being caught in that cross fire, and I certainly hated the fact that my footage had been ransacked by the Extended Edition team long prior to my work seeing the light of day. But that’s life. One has to move on. I’m happy the three documentaries are available now on the BluRay box set.

      One day, maybe, someday (hopefully in my lifetime)… Warners will release the 21 hours of edited stories my team shot and edited. They’re in the same style as the feature docs, but present a lot more detail.

      I hope you’re finding your career choice fulfilling. I have always found it so, mostly. The definition of happiness I think, is to go to work, but never feel like you’re working. The release of these LOTR docs was problematic, but I sure had fun doing them.

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