19 May 2017

Call for more Auckland film studios to meet demand

8:13 am on 19 May 2017

Auckland needs more film studios if it's to meet the huge demand from overseas productions that want to shoot in New Zealand, industry leaders say.

The film studio tanks where Meg was filmed in Kumeu, Auckland.

The film studio tanks where Meg was filmed in Kumeu, Auckland. Photo: Supplied/ATEED

The screen industry is in rude health following a renaissance triggered in 2014 by an increase to an incentive scheme for big productions.

Television producer, Rob Tapert, whose credits include Xena, Hercules, Sparactus and Ash Vs Evil Dead said he knew of productions that had not been able to film in Auckland or had been delayed because there was no free studio space.

He said the government's financial commitment should be encouraging investment in the sector.

"It gives people who invest in infrastructure a certain surety to continue to invest in the infrastructure which is probably the most important thing in growing the business.

"There's a greater demand to come and shoot in New Zealand than there actually is crew and places to shoot."

It was not just studios that were needed but also more technical equipment and even backlots used for shooting exterior scenes, he said.

Some of the backlots used for Xena and Hercules had since been sold for housing.

Production accountant David Rowell agreed that more studios needed to be built in Auckland, and said that was the only way the sector could expand.

"We've turned away many productions in the past and it's been really limiting because there hasn't been enough studio infrastructure."

Mr Rowell said a deal struck in March between the Council, Film Commission, Warner Brothers and Gravity Pictures to build a permanent film studio was one way to meet the demand for more studios.

The facility at Kumeu was expanded for the upcoming shark film, Meg, and much of what was created at the site, including large water tanks, was to remain there for future productions to use.

Film Auckland chair Alex Lee said the studio complex was a welcome addition for Auckland, but it would not be enough.

"We need to look at how we can encourage overseas productions that are coming to this country [and] how they can leave legacy assets back for New Zealand so we can continue to use them for the future," he said.

Auckland Council economic development agency chief executive Brett O'Riley said there were more planned private developments set to boost the sector's infrastructure.

"As we start to see what the demand looks like, it'll shape what the supply of infrastructure looks like and we know that it doesn't have to be brand new infrastructure."

"In many cases it can be repurposing existing warehouses or facilities," he said.

Mr O'Riley would not be drawn on what those projects were, but was confident that more studios would be built if films kept coming to Auckland.