The Real Story Behind TheOneRing.Net
Regular subscribers to Scoop may have noticed an article by Kevin Loughlin about the founders of Tolkien website TheOneRing.net - that is, about myself and Mike Regina.
I found it an interesting read in that it was basically a pack of lies as far as it concerned us, and when we confronted Kevin with this fact, he said in an email to Mike that he was just exercising "journalistic license."
In that case I'll exercise my own journalistic license and state the following factoids without bothering to verify any of them:
Kevin is a New Zealand PR person who arrived in Montreal a few days back, heard an interview with Mike about TheOneRing.net, and wrote the article which he sent to Scoop. I'm looking at the transcript of the TV interview right now and it bears only a passing resemblance to Kevin's article.
Odd that a Kiwi wouldn't think of calling home to check out who I was.
"Two years ago he [Mike] created the official web site for Lord of the Rings fans, during an on line liaison with a young New Zealand woman in Wellington."
Kevin assumes that I'm a young woman from Wellington. While I can probably beat most of my colleagues over a flat mile, this is not the same as being young.
Nor am I very frequently around Wellington, being a member of the Auckland Philharmonia. Most confusing is the statement that Mike and I met while conducting an online liaison. What exactly is that supposed to mean?
That Mike is interested in older women? That I hang around in sleazy chatrooms looking for young film students? The real story is far more interesting than that - not that Kevin found out, as he next asserted that Mike "has no idea who I am."
After more than two years of writing, chatting, arguing, planning and plotting together every day, that's hardly the case.
Here is the real story of TORN, as I see it.
Firstly, Mike has always had a deep love and knowledge of film, and I came across a posting of his on a forum on AICN (aint-it-cool-news.com) which interested me, as it concerned a James Cameron project based on books we both like. Now, at that time I was a technophobe (not much has changed since then) and only I bought a computer in order to write faster. I almost never surfed the Net, and coming across 'Xoanon' (Mike) was the result of a rare flutter-board excursion onto the Net to read an interview with Peter Jackson about the LOTR film project. The chances against me encountering Mike were astronomical.
Mike's net-savvy and has a flair for PR, so the idea of starting a LOTR website came naturally to him; meanwhile I love hiking, so I did as much legwork as possible here in NZ to get information and photos for the website. Not much at first - just general images on NZ to give the world an idea, but they were surprisingly well-received. Also in the first few months when there were more rumours than facts, it was helpful having a Kiwi acting as a bullshit-detector. For instance, it wasn't immediately obvious to people in the States that the 'Kylie Minogue will play Galadriel' rumour was a wind-up. The website exploded in popularity, especially after Calisuri and Corvar approached us and persuaded us to dream on a much larger scale.
TheOneRing as it now exists came about when the four of us joined forces. Cali told us frankly that our webpage design sucked, and he was a webpage designer - a very good one, it turned out. He's also got an entrepreneurial streak a mile wide.
Meanwhile Corvar could help us get a domain name and look after running the servers and the invisible stuff that maintains the website.
Of all of us, Corvar's never mentioned or interviewed or anything, and yet he's the anchor. He's the guy who throws a bucket of water over us when we get 'too hasty', the guy who knows how business and money works, and the one person who never seems to lose his head or have trouble telling between right and wrong.
The thing about running the website is that we're immensely competitive, in exactly the way that sports are competitive - or music, for that matter.
We want to be first and best with the news, for no other reason than the sheer challenge of doing it and doing it as well as we can. And there are enough other LOTR websites out there with the same attitude that we're forced to compete. It makes no difference to the human condition who is best at anything, or who wins a competition. There is no earthly reason to care, either in sport or the Net. However the fact remains: We're a team, we want to be the best, and Corvar stops us from biting other Tolkien website's ears off or headstomping them too often.
I don't know whether we run a Tolkien website only because we're Tolkien fans or because it also provides the best possible sandpit to play in.
Curiously we play a game with rules that we pretty much have to make up.
What is fair? What is ethical journalism? People are always pushing the boundaries of copyright, truthfulness, fair play....snatching content and images off other websites, mounting campaigns against websites who do it to them... it's immensely entertaining. At the end of the day, everyone wants to end up still with a website and still playing, so there's a general tendency towards fair play, though it's arrived at with a deal of conflict.
I find that interesting, because by its nature you would expect the Net to be completely anarchic.
Among the many things that rile me are the fact (and yes, this is a fact, not something I'm making up because it happens to be Thursday) that we've developed TheOneRing.net in the spirit of a game, and that to play the game we had to find rules, and because we didn't know what the rules for ethical journalism are, we asked journalists.
That is the beginning and end of my training in journalism, and I can't tell you how many juicy stories we've sat on because it seemed to us that we simply didn't have both sides of the story, or one side was clearly lying. In other cases where we simply didn't know, we said we could only guess the truth.
Kevin's article reiterated the TV interview's assertion that we'd 'joined forces with New Line' without questioning it. That factoid was out of Mike's control - the TV interviewer put the words in his mouth, and I can hardly blame Kevin for believing them.
Kevin takes it further and says that we're the OFFICIAL website for LOTR fans. Their words imply that somehow we and New Line are playing on the same field. How can we be? TORN is run by about 30 fans, for the benefit of millions more, and passes its profits on to charities since we realised there was no fair way to rule on how to divide up our earnings; New Line is a huge corporation so enormous that one section of it can be serving me with a trespass notice while another part of it is figuring out how we can help their publicity. Meanwhile other parts of it seems genuinely grateful for our reporting.
New Line's security people probably overestimated my effectiveness as a spy, and as a result I'll always be known as the chief spy in NZ. These days news pretty much just comes to us via fans- though keeping track of it all is a huge job.
Arguably our existence generates spying and therefore news but sure as tomorrow's sunrise, if we didn't exist some other website would have expanded to fill our niche in the nerdosphere.
If TORN seems to be nothing but news and images from Peter Jackson's films, it's because you don't see the fantastic grab-bag of email we get besides. One might be a frothing rant from somebody who wants to shout abuse at Peter Jackson, but I'll do as a substitute (and by the way, could I forward them JRRT's email?), the next email might talk about Victorian fairy-tales, and another one ask me to think about faceless evil and the centrality of moral choice in Tolkien's work, the next says 'Cool armour on those orcs!!! Do you think there'll be LOTs of BLOOD????'
After two years of it I still wouldn't like to define what is an 'average Tolkien fan.'
I am, as I've said, a technophobe. I would resent every minute I spend on the computer when I could be out doing something I can lay my hands on, except that these correspondents are so damned ingenious and varied, and so generous with their stories. It feels like Christmas every time I open the connection. Perhaps that is the true story of TORN: everything in your life can hinge on one stranger chance-met on the road. And the road goes ever onwards....
ATTACHED…. KEVIN LOUGHLIN’S ORIGINAL STORY….
(Scoop editor’s note, sorry Kevin, I asked Tehanu to go easy…)
Posting to Headlines Wire of Scoop Article: Kevin Loughlin Date: Tuesday, 5 June 2001 Time: 1:37 pm NZT
Montreal Canada. Monday 4 June 2001
INTERNET INTEREST IN HOBBITS IS COLOSSAL.
A 22 year old Canadian who acknowledges he's a Lord of the Rings nerd, says global on-line interest in the imaginary world of Hobbits, Orcs, Wizards and Elfs is colossal, with the New Zealand made movie production of J R R Tolkien's epic adventure trilogies, already destined to be bigger than the entire Star Wars series.
Michael Regina, a computer networking student of Pointe-Claire in Montreal Canada, read JRR Tolkiens trilogy in High School, and loved it. Two years ago he created the official web site for Lord of the Rings fans, during an on line liaison with a young New Zealand woman in Wellington.
"She casually mentioned about a huge movie project called Lord of the Rings, that was being filmed not far from where she lived. I asked her to send any available photos, and she did. As a result theonering.net was created. In two years we've had almost 235 million hits and everytime there's a new release such as the current movie trailer, or a giant poster, the numbers just skyrocket," Regina said.
Recently theonering.net which also lists itself as the Official Peter Jackson web-site, pre-empted cinemas throughout North America when it began screening the movie's trailer on line. The trailer is being shown in many cinemas at regular screenings of Pearl Harbor. Initial reaction by fans has been almost fanatical. The movie's profile is also increasing rapidly as a result of numerous feature articles appearing in many major US and Canadian metropolitan newspapers and specialist publications.
"Nobody makes any money because we give it all away to charity. The movie's producers, New Line Cinema, thought I did a good job, so they approached me to join forces with them. A fan section, discussion forms, and spy reports have also been created, to provide other options of interest," Regina said.
For his efforts Michael Regina has received various items of gear worn by crew members, copies of the scripts, and he's had a chance to chat with some of the stars including Liv Tyler. He has no idea who the young New Zealand woman is who gave him the inspiration and the photos to help create the web-site. He acknowledges he simply got lucky, through talking to her on the Net.
Meanwhile, six months out from its world premiere, the $US270 million New Line production of Lord of the Rings is looking safe to be an absolute goldmine for investors. Already more than 420million hits have been recorded on the official web-site, while a record 2.1 million downloads of the trailer were taken in the first weekend of its release.
Film crews in the United States and Canada agree that Lord of the Rings is the most colossal movie production ever embarked upon, that it will be a bigger hit than Star Wars, and they expêct it to be an even bigger cash cow, than both Star Wars and James Bond, combined. There's respectful comment, from those who are working on other block busters currently in production, that crews involved in our film industry, are highly professional. A fact evident in this latest Kiwi made production.
Lord of the Rings will be released in three sectors, one each December, over the next three years. "Fellowship of the Ring" will open on a record 10,000 screens globally on 19 December 2001. It's impact on New Zealand's future movie industry, and the Wellington region, is sure to be absolutely, positively, golden.
Pearl Harbor opens nationwide in New Zealand cinemas this week. Audiences can expect to see the trailer for Fellowship of the Ring, when they attend the sessions.