BEHIND THE SCENES with Camilla Maling

What inspired you to make A Long-Expected Party ? Are you a Tolkien fan or was the film production so hyped up in New Zealand that it seemed an obvious story to tell

It was early 2001 when I picked up The Hobbit . I'd heard for years about Bilbo, the orcs and ** The Lord of the Rings but had never visited Middle Earth. It took the first line and I was hooked -- "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." I will never forget it

Since I was a little girl, things fantastical were exciting to me, purely for the sheer possibilities they presented. I have a huge imagination and find fiction and the obscure a powerful way to explore ideas. For me, working in audio is very much about telling stories and playing with the imagination, so I could not only relate to those swept away by the Lord of the Rings books, but felt they translated well to radio

As a New Zealander it made perfect sense to make a program about us as much as it was about Tolkien, his story and the film. I'm based in Wellington so couldn't avoid the hype surrounding the film. I also work in the arts on a daily basis and was constantly coming across people who had been or were involved with The Lord of the Rings film production. In most cases they were doing the most unusual things. I got to thinking..

No one was talking to the little people (involved with The Lord of the Rings) -- there were so many interesting stories out there that revealed far more about the nature of the creative community, about our human nature and our imaginations than any the guff we were being fed. It was the group who spent months knotting hair in a tiny room, the couple who built the costume trucks or the helicopter pilot who offered the greatest insight, their stories exemplified the passion New Zealanders had for the movie project

I am fascinated by obsessive behavior, by people who do unusual things for the sheer love of it -– fanaticism fit in well here. I wanted to get to the heart of fanaticism, to understand why and how people can have so much love and passion for something that is purely fantastical, and for a film which is making the fantastical fantastical

So with all this in mind I put together a proposal and went about making a documentary series that completely took over my life for three months

What were some of the pitfalls you encountered while documenting The Lord of the Rings ** phenomenon as it happened? What advice do you have for others who are trying to document current events

Everyone who was even remotely involved in the film was required to sign a confidentiality agreement which restricted what they said about the film. There were various situations where I spent some time explaining that I would not put them in a situation that would compromise them but that at the end of the day it was up to them how much they told me

The biggest advice I could give anyone about covering current events is to listen. Try not to go into an interview or information gathering situation with a preconceived idea. This is a story about your "talent" (interviewee) not about you. Obviously objectivity is impossible but open mindedness is not and it is so often that one finds oneself in uncharted territory where the best thing to do is to relax, be inquisitive and let your material dictate what comes next.

How did you meet up with the mother-daughter pair you focused on in the documentary? **** Why did you decide to tell their story along with the story of the production of the films

The research process for this documentary was full on and a lot of fun. I came up against a lot of blanks and uncooperative people but there were even more who were desperate to tell of their experiences in Tolkien's world. I spent many weeks doing random searches on the Internet and cold calling (there was very little information around so investigation was the name of the game). I knew I wanted people who had been involved in the obscure tasks, who had read and loved or hated the books, and of course people who were obsessed. It was this obsessive story however that would form the backbone of the documentary and around which the rest of the information would sit. I sent e-mails all over the place for people who considered themselves Tolkien freaks and one reply stood out half a mile. It suggested a mother-daughter duo who had sold up everything and traveled around the country for months in search of the sets. I rang them, they were very forthcoming and their story quite frankly blew me away

The documentary is about much more than just the making of the film trilogy. It is about the human stories behind the scenes, about people's relationships with fiction, with fantasy, about human nature and our imagination, about the man behind the books, the messages in the books – the books as works of art, as social commentaries.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about ** The Lord of the Rings in your interviews

The extent to which the imagination of one man, of one mind, can affect and inspire thousands of people across cultures for decades after the imaginings were committed to paper. And, of course, the fact that this continues with from generations to generation. What was in Tolkien's head????

Did you take Tolkien's style into account while producing A Long-Expected Party ** and what effect did it have on your work

Absolutely! And this is why the program is structured as it is. The program jumps all over the place with various stories running at once and attention to detail at the oddest moments. It's hypnotic in parts -- just as fantasy takes you on a journey I hoped this would too. It is musical and rhythmical, with moments of tension and humor and at times it's very abrupt with unexpected interruptions. Each interviewee was treated as a character in their own sound world, they revealed more of their story as we moved through the program

This is how I saw the books.

Why do you think the story of The Lord of the Rings translates so well across media -- from books to film to radio

Because essentially it's a damn fine yarn. With beautiful magical settings and characters, with a history which extends beyond the pages and with messages that pertain to our everyday life even today -- it is a powerful work of art.