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PROVO -- Three BYU students are using a personal journey to help bring "The Lord of the Rings" fans together.
The students created a grassroots campaign to persuade Peter Jackson, producer of "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy, to invite them to be extras on the set of the forthcoming film adaptation of "The Hobbit." Jonathan Wright, Mitch Stevens and John Storey believe if they get enough fans together in support of their cause, they can persuade Jackson to extend an invitation to the trio.
Extras in the films typically hail from New Zealand.
"We get thousands of applications from people wanting to be extras on our films and the simple truth is extras are people that we don't recruit from outside New Zealand," said Jackson's spokesman Matt Dravitski to Stuff, a New Zealand news website.
The statement did not worry the trio, who are preparing to make the trip to New Zealand this winter regardless of Jackson's decision. They see their goal more as a way to bring a community together than as a quest for fame.
You're helping people live a dream.
"This is a great way to get people involved and to be a part of this epic franchise," said Wright. "It's the ultimate fan fantasy. What if they could be involved in a story they have loved so much?"
Fans of the franchise have already been given the opportunity to be involved in the students' quest. Their website, roadtotheshire.com, details their journey so far and asks fans to donate to the cause. As of Tuesday, plane tickets, lodging and more than $1,300 had been donated from fans around the world.
Media outlets including the Deseret News have contributed to coverage of the students, who hope that more will follow as they continue on their journey.
Storey thinks the reason people are reaching out is because they can relate to the cause on a basic level.
"Everything has a human factor in it," he said. "You're helping people live a dream. When someone is on a quest to go do something, something inside of you says, 'I need to help this person achieve this goal.' "
"It's a fun experience and brings everyone together," he continued. "What I love the most about anything is passion. This invokes passion in other people."
"Fans love to be fans, but sometimes they don't have the time, resources or energy," added Stevens. "They are living out their fandom through us."
Stevens believes that along with relating to the cause on a basic, psychological level, people relate because of "The Lord of the Rings" specifically.
"It's an interesting story," he said. "Tolkein created an entirely new world. You can escape, to some extent -- you can fall into a different world for a little bit."
Wright thinks the books and their film adaptations are so popular because the journey the Hobbits take is not unlike the journey each of us take, at least metaphorically. People can connect on many different levels, including loyalty, brotherhood and overcoming obstacles.
"The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy follow Hobbits and other mythical creatures of Tolkien's Middle-earth world as they attempt to save Middle-earth from the grasps of the Dark Lord Sauron.
The creatures embark on a journey of peril, heroism and personal growth and soon find they are stronger than they thought they were.
The founders of Road to the Shire have quite the journey ahead of them. They plan to travel to New York in early October to try to get publicity from "The Colbert Report" host Stephen Colbert, who is a known "Lord of the Rings" fan. Storey said the group is trying to get "enough publicity to make a difference."
Everyone should have an ultimate fan experience.
In January, the group will travel to New Zealand, where supporters have already made arrangements for their lodging.
Despite the remarks of Jackson's publicist and the doubts of naysayers, Storey remains optimistic.
"There is always an exception to the rule," he said. "And regardless, it will all be worth it in the end."
It's not the end result but the journey itself that makes the difference, as Tolkien's hobbits eventually discover and as the BYU students have come to know.
"We had our sights set high when we set out," said Stevens. "We've realized that success is fluid. We're enjoying the journey."
He hopes fans will enjoy the journey, as well.
"This is our ultimate fan experience, and hopefully people can take something from it," he said. "If you have a dream, there should be no reason you can't live out that dream.
"Everyone should have an ultimate fan experience."