Ramsey Avery, the Production Designer for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, revealed the show cut approximately four hours of footage in the editing room and that the production was “concept-driven.”
Speaking with Collider, Avery was asked, “One of the things about Rings of Power is that it’s essentially an eight-hour movie, and I’m just curious, what was it like for you trying to work on a series that massive? Because it may be the biggest thing you’ve worked on in terms of how much you need to do.”
He answered, “Yeah, it’s definitely the biggest thing I’ve worked on, and I mean, bigger than I think anybody had done singularly, even in New Zealand. I mean, it was a really big project.”
Avery then detailed they cut around four hours of footage that they filmed, “Like you said, it’s an eight-hour movie, and there are edits for each of those episodes that was another half hour. So we really produced a 12-hour movie that got edited down into an eight-hour movie.”
He continued, “There are whole sequences and whole scenes and things that I’ve cared passionately about that didn’t make it into the final edit. It’s just the nature of the beast, you know, you got to fit in the time and tell the story you gotta tell.”
Interestingly, Avery explained that the production was concept driven despite what showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay promised viewers in the lead up to the series premiere.
At San Diego Comic-Con during the show’s Hall H presentation, Payne was asked by host Stephen Colbert, “There are characters played by actors who will be out here in just a moment who are not canonical to Tolkien, that must be one of the greatest challenges, how do you fill out that world with characters that are implied — they are implied cultures that you are drawing from, but they are not necessarily described to the depth that you are going to represent them. What guidance did you take for those characters’ creations?”
Payne answered in part, “So, one, always back to Tolkien. And two, when Tolkien was silent, we tried to invent as Tolkienian a way as possible.”
McKay would add, “Go back to the book. Go back to the book. Go back to the book.”
During an appearance at the Television Critic Association’s press tour panel The Hollywood Reporter noted that McKay addressed concerns that show would be only vaguely connected to Tolkien’s books.
He said, “I just want to sort of quibble with the ‘vaguely connected.’ We don’t feel that way. We feel like deep roots of this show are in the books and in Tolkien. And if we didn’t feel that way, we’d all be terrified to sit up here.”
“We feel that this story isn’t ours. It’s a story we’re stewarding that was here before us and was waiting in those books to be on Earth,” he elaborated.
“We don’t feel ‘vaguely connected.’ We feel deeply, deeply connected to those folks and work every day to even be closer connected,” McKay concluded. “That’s really how we think about it.”
In an interview with Total Film, McKay said, “Every single choice we’ve made at every turn of making this show has been to be faithful to that aspiration, because that’s what we want as viewers. We don’t want to adapt the material in a way that might feel dated. We aspire to being timeless.
“That’s why these books still speak to people so much, because so much of what’s in them has not aged a day. And we aspire to do the same thing,” he claimed. “And I think we feel that once people see the show, and see what the stories and characters and worlds are in context, they’ll feel the same way.”
While the showrunners noted they were going back to the book and back to Tolkien, Avery revealed, “It basically was a process, which it mostly is on bigger films that are concept-driven, a process of art, where you sit and you work through a lot of concept art, and you iterate and you iterate, and you figure out what you can and you can’t do.”
He added, “And we ended up with 17,000, more or less, pieces of approved art – that’s not even talking about the iteration of it, and that’s just in the art department, that’s not including props or set deck. If you think about that, even if you average that over two years, we were generating 30 pieces of finished art every day. It was an insane amount of work, but that’s how we got it done was just by literally drawing, thinking, talking, drawing, thinking, talking, drawing, thinking, talking, and doing it step by step of whatever had to be in front of the camera next; work on that.”
If as Avery notes the production was concept driven, it’s hard to imagine how they were going back to the books and Tolkien. The production would not need to create the concepts given Tolkien already did that work in his books and letters. The concepts were already there.
What do you make of Avery’s comments?