Taranaki man a Hobbit believer

JARED SMITH
Last updated 05:00 06/09/2012
Jay Rei
JARED SMITH/Fairfax NZ
TREASURE FROM MIDDLE EARTH: Patea’s Jay Rei with souvenirs from his time working on The Hobbit. Mr Rei’s job was to rig the lights and green screens so everything was in-sync.

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Jay Rei loves to catch out unsuspecting guests with a little movie magic.

"How old do you think that rock is? I got it from the pit," the 43-year-old said, pointing to a heavy, rugby-ball sized sharp stone on his kitchen table.

Seconds later he has thrown it, only for the horrified catcher to discover it is just a synthetic set-prop - as light as a sponge.

"I love getting people like that," he laughed.

Formerly of New Plymouth and now back in home town Patea, Mr Rei has just returned after wrapping up his two years of work on the The Hobbit films.

Now a 10-year film industry veteran, he has worked in the rigging department of the Lord of Rings trilogy, Last Samurai, King Kong and Avatar.

Mr Rei said The Hobbit films are shaping up as the best yet.

"It will be good, bro, I promise you."

He has been everywhere with director Peter Jackson at over 12 shooting locations around New Zealand, from the Matamata countryside to "under the mountain" in Ohakune and the lakes of Te Anau and Tekapo.

"I might try and push him next time [on filming here], give Taranaki a boost."

Mr Rei's work on sets is to rig the lights and green screens so everything is in-sync.

It is a crucial component because while post-production can darken scenes if desired, they cannot lighten the footage - imperfections mean costly re-shoots.

While not having actually read the famous J.R.R. Tolkien novel, Mr Rei dismisses the critics who say the recent announcement of three Hobbit films is stretching the source material too thin.

"That would depend on their comprehension.

"Making a book into a movie is a big deal.

"Pete's got an amazing brain, brilliant. He tries every variation there is. We got quite enough footage to do the two movies we were away for, and now the third."

He also praised British actor Martin Freeman, aka Bilbo, as being the best he has ever seen.

Among his souvenirs are gold coins from Smaug the Dragon's lair, a 13-year-old bottle of wine from Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf), an aged-carved picture frame which he gave to his mother and a hand-made elvish wine bottle which will stay a family heirloom.

There is also the card from "Pete" and producing partner Fran Walsh to all the crew.

"We finally got there . . . and back again," it reads.

"We could not have done it without you - a huge and heartfelt thank you."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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