Tolkien website rings with fans

21:46, Nov 11 2012
OPEN SOURCE: 'Sometimes Weta people would say to us they read it on our website first,"'says Onering co-founder Erica Challis, pictured with The Shire Waytes.

A Tolkien fansite has proven to be the one website to rule them all.

Wellingtonian Erica Challis, along with two Americans and a Canadian, began as a way to report on the filming of The Lord of the Rings in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Since then it has taken on a life of its own, as fans of the films meet, share snippets of information about the films, plan travel to New Zealand and discuss the books.

The classically-trained French horn player was working with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra when she decided to retrain as a journalist and report on the filming of the epic trilogy.

"Sometimes Weta people would say to us they read it on our website first," she says.

Other Tolkien fansites popped up about the same time and Ms Challis says she never expected how popular would become. "It was like going body surfing and realising you've caught something closer to a tsunami than the little wave you were going to paddle around in."


The site started receiving scoops, including a copy of New Line Cinema's website while it was still in development, exposing the designs for costumes and objects being created for the movie, Ms Challis says.

"Somebody was developing photos at a booth which were stills from the movie and they sent us copies."

She was invited on set, where she met Sir Peter Jackson and some of the cast and crew, and began to work more closely with the film-makers.

She believes the website's success was because of its ability to bring fans together, creating a community of inclusion and creativity.

"Some of the best emails I ever got were people in remote rural mid-western [American] towns who said nobody in their town was creative or imaginative, or gets the kind of things I'm into.

"[These were] people who grew up believing there was nobody out there who thinks the way they do [until they found the website]."

In 2003, Ms Challis held a party for the premiere for Return of the King at the Skyline Restaurant. It was attended by Sir Ian McKellen and many interested in the trilogy.

To celebrate the premiere of The Hobbit, and Red Carpet Tours are holding a premiere party, where fans can mix with cast and crew in a relaxed environment, while dressed in costumes and listening to medieval music.

- The Premiere Tour Costume Party, Amora Hotel Ballroom, Wakefield St, Monday, November 26. About 700 people are expected to attend from 7.30pm till midnight. Tickets are $125 and available from

The Dominion Post