NewsWire: Magic in the making - The Press


Edoras arises on Mount Sunday...
Magic in the making
The Press - May 21, 2001

Landscaper Andrew Kolff has fallen under a spell after working on Lord of the Rings. His job of creating a 600-year-old landscape has left him enchanted, finds Mary Lovell-Smith.

7.30am: Mid-winter. It's dark. The sun won't rise over the mountains for another hour and a half. The temperature is minus 14deg. The workers of Rohan pull their jackets more tightly around them, a futile gesture in face of the gale swirling up from the deep south. Wind-chill factor? No-one bothers even estimating it. What's the point? There is a job to be done, and who knows the consequences should they fail.

His fingers, numb with cold, fumble around the hefty stone he is placing in the rock wall. Andrew Kolff has left his wife and young son asleep in their snug Methven cottage, to drive for nearly two hours through some of the most rugged terrain he has encountered in his 32 years. It will be another 12 hours till he will see them again.

The snow on the tops of the craggy mountains surrounding him are washed in pink. The sun is coming. He sniffs the air deeply and detects a whiff of the hearty breakfast – bacon and eggs? sausages and beans? – the chef is preparing in the prefabricated canteen.

Around him the town of Edoras is rising slowly but surely through the rocky plateau of Mount Sunday at the head of the Rangitata River in Mid Canterbury. Above the scrape of his shovel on the frozen ground he can hear muffled hammers, shouts, and footfalls as the small army of construction workers go about their business.

It's a far cry from the gentle suburbs of Christchurch where Andrew's landscaping and construction business is based. Eight months as caretaker and greensman on the Lord of the Rings set at Mount Potts station is turning upside down all he has learnt in training at Lincoln University and 10 years in practice.

"Landscaping in town you are making someone's garden look very tidy, neat, ornamental, usually with a lot of straight lines," he explains.

"But with this we were trying to make everything look as if it was 600 years old. You didn't want any straight lines. You wanted things falling down. Like the rock walls had rocks missing. We'd be putting soil in between the walls' rocks so grass could grow out cracks and hang over the edges.

"It was not that difficult to achieve," he says. He was also taught how to make the wooden and stone buildings, houses, and paths look ancient. Unfortunately, the stringent secrecy agreement he had with the filmmakers will not let him divulge any tips to the media.

Suffice it to say, "It was fascinating".


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