24 May 2020

Avatar producer Jon Landau on his return to New Zealand

2:51 pm on 24 May 2020

The producer of the Avatar sci-fi movie sequels says he has no qualms coming back to New Zealand during the Covid-19 recovery phase.

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File photo. Photo: SUPPLIED

Director James Cameron is currently working on a number of sequels to the original film, the first of which is currently expected to arrive in December 2021.

While VFX teams from Weta Digital and Lightstorm were able to work from home as much as possible, live-action filming came to a halt in March because of the pandemic.

But producer Jon Landau is due back in Wellington next week and has praised the way the New Zealand handled the crisis.

A small crew will return to the country with Landau and they will go into quarantine for two weeks.

Landau spoke to RNZ about his plans for filming:

On returning to New Zealand:

"We feel very comfortable because of the actions of your government and also the responsibility the people took to really curb the virus there. So we feel we're coming back to the safest place in the world possible thanks to a team of people that we've worked with. We believe we have a very thoughtful, detailed and diligent safety plan that will keep everybody as safe as possible in these unprecedented times."

On mandatory quarantine:

"If there's a silver lining to a very, very grey cloud, it's that we live in a day and age where technology allows us to be productive, it allows us to be entertained and it allows us to socialise."

Any Avatar secrets?

"The only secret is not so much of a secret, it's the calibre of talent that New Zealand has and the artisans who are bringing the world of Pandora to life at a higher level and higher quality than one could ever imagine. It's one of there reasons that we're so thankful that we started the production there and thankful that we're coming back. We don't need the locations of New Zealand to make our movie. We need the people, the talented crew, craftsmen and technicians who work on the film.

"We're bringing back far fewer people than we had last year when we were filming. We're bringing really those who are essential to our filming needs and we'll be working with the same crew that we had in New Zealand.

"This is the story of the Sully family and what one does to keep their family together. Jake and Neytiri have a family in this movie, they are forced to leave their home, they go out and explore the different regions of Pandora, including spending quite a bit of time on the water, around the water, in the water. I think, why do people turn to entertainment today, more so than ever? I think it's to escape, to escape the world we're in, to escape the other pressures they have in their lives.

"I think with Avatar, we have an opportunity to allow people to escape to an incredible world with incredible characters that they will follow, in much the same way as Peter Jackson was able to do with Lord of the Rings, so that's what we're looking forward to doing."

Avatar producer Jon Landau.

Avatar producer Jon Landau. Photo: AFP or licensors

On the benefits of filming in New Zealand:

"One of the great things about the film industry is that our spending is quite diversified. We don't just spend money in one area. We spend money when we cater for 400 people a day - we go to the local market. The stationery supplies that are required on a film had a big impact. So we're not just spending in one area, our sets require lumber, all of those things.

"So the economics of any film coming into a community are quite strong in that the dollar spent circulates in that community because of the diversity of spending for quite some time."

Will other producers want to come back?

"I think we're not the only ones and I don't necessarily think it will be limited to our business. I think your country has become a leader in how to deal with something like this and I think films will want to come, we feel a responsibility coming back in being one of the first movies - we're certainly not the only movie coming back - but we feel a responsibility to really illustrate how you can do it the right way and we're thankful to be given the opportunity."

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