Friday, 26 November 2021

Amazon's LORD OF THE RINGS TV series chooses Bray Studios as its base of operations

Amazon's Lord of the Rings prequel television series has found its new home. After shooting the first season in Auckland in New Zealand, the second season sees the show basing itself at Bray Studios, Berkshire, just west of London.

The studio was built in 1951 by Hammer Film Productions, who were developing an old country manor estate overlooking the River Thames. The studio expanded rapidly, with Columbia coming on board in 1959 to co-develop the property. The studio was divided into different areas, with the BBC doing vfx work for Doctor Who in one area. In 2014 it was announced that the studio would close and be demolished, to be replaced by flats, in the face of fierce competition from Pinewood and Shepperton. However, although some redevelopment took place, the soundstages were saved and shooting resumed there in 2019, as other UK studio facilities had been maxed out and Bray was suddenly in demand once more.

Projects shot at Bray include the Quatermass movies, Space: 1999, a huge number of Hammer Horror movies, Poirot, Dracula, Ali G Indahouse and Terrahawks.

The UK and New Zealand were previously in fierce competition to host the Lord of the Rings project, with the UK presenting a convincing argument for basing shooting in Scotland. However, New Zealand won out due to better tax incentives and more impressive scenery. It was therefore a surprise when Amazon announced in August that the second season of the show would shoot in the UK instead. It was assumed that Scotland would again be the front-runner, although since the original presentation a whole host of projects have set up north of the border, including Amazon's own Good Omens (shooting at the moment) and Anansi Boys. Being based at Bray would still allow the production to shoot elsewhere in the UK, of course.

Additional shooting will also take place at Bovingdon Airfield. The former RAF base has frequently been used as a location for large-scale, outdoor shooting, appearing in projects such as The Prisoner and Bohemian Rhapsody.

Other fantasy shows are also eating up studio space in the UK: HBO's House of the Dragon has set up at the Warner Brothers Studios in Leavesden, whilst Netflix's The Witcher has taken over Arborfield Studios (not far from Bray).

Amazon's Lord of the Rings project is expected to debut on Amazon Prime Video on 2 September 2022. Production is about to begin on the second season.

1 comment:

  1. My overall impression is that this is so much better than I feared it would be. The representational casting is not a distraction. And given that they are moving at such a fast pace, of roughly 100 to 200 pages per episode, the choices that they've made to telescope the narrative all makes sense. I think Mat is exceptionally well cast. His humor is very easy to get wrong, and I think the show gets it mostly right. For me the jury is out on Perrin. It is considered a lazy choice to kill his wife, but Perrin is easily the most boring of the three male characters. His arc is really a three book narrative played out over 14. So I don't mind complicating him a little. And the choices made will make his relationship with Faile more interesting when she comes on scene. I also find the casting for Rand to be really good. The actor reminds me a little bit of Hayden Christensen as Anakin, with the same kind of anger and whininess with Egwene, and I think that's a useful parallel. My biggest disappointment so far after four episodes is no speaking role for any of the Forsaken. In the books the horror scene in the inn with the rats and the goblet of wine is one of the greatest in fantasy fiction, and the parallel scenes to that in the series don't measure up. I also fear that casual viewers will not appreciate the breaking of the fellowship into three parallel stories before they are more fully invested in the characters and the group as a whole. Having four characters as the potential Dragon Reborn is also a possible weakness if they choose not to narrow it down to one in the next four episodes. And if they are going to do the latter then they need to do more in setting up the destinies of the characters who will not be the dragon. But overall this is very very good for modern Hollywood, they're setups and payoffs and so far no big plot holes or egregious plot armor. Let's hope the series continues in this vein and becomes popular enough to be renewed for more than two seasons. But if the standard is that every series has to be a Game of Thrones to be good, as Jeff Bezos wanted, then this is going to fail and fall away.