How do you keep in touch when you are stuck in Middle Earth for 18 months without your family?
That’s how long Hobbit star Andy Serkis, who plays Gollum, spent in New Zealand filming the three-movie epic.
Between long haul family visits, he kept in constant touch via Skype.
He said: “It was a hell of a long time to be away from my family, and all I can say is thank God for Skype.
“While I was having my breakfast, I’d leave it on and watch Lorraine and the kids having dinner. Seeing them potter around was tremendously comforting.”
But aside from personal communication, Skype is playing an increasingly important supporting role on and off screen in the movie industry.
By coincidence another film featuring Hobbit star Martin Freeman, who plays central character Bilbo Baggins, surfaced this week as millions make their way to see the film on opening weekend.
The Girl is Mime is a fascinating short movie in which he mimes his way through a murder mystery.
Director Tim Bunn says: “Skype is a really useful tool for the film industry. It can be extremely helpful in all aspects of production.
“I’ve personally used Skype as part of the writing process. Sometimes you and your team can’t all be in the same place at once; so it’s a great and not-to-mention cost effective way to have those long brainstorming sessions… and also to send funny emoticons to each other.
“On larger productions, when it comes to shooting, you may have different crews and different teams in more than one place at a time – and if you’re budget is particularly large, you may find that some units aren’t even on the same continent as one another.”
That’s why Skype was central to production of the hit animated movie Despicable Me, about megalomaniac Gru and his bid to take over the world.
The movie’s voice actors were in L.A. and the director was almost 6,000 miles away in Paris.
The film took 100 million cross-Atlantic file transfers and 24 months to make. And directors instructed the actors during studio sessions via Skype.
Tim Bunn added: “Sometimes a phone call won’t do it because you might need to share your computer’s screen with someone back in the edit suite, so you can talk through a days rushes.
“Finally, in post production, you’ve got the edit being done in LA, the music is being scored in London and the VFX are all being compiled in New York.
“It’s vital for each of these teams to be in contact, so everything can come together smoothly.”