6 Oct 2020

'Huge opportunity': NZ-based movie productions ramping up

7:32 am on 6 October 2020

The Film Commission says border exemptions for Hollywood actors and crew have kickstarted what could be a record year for the New Zealand screen industry.

Real  James Cameron.
COLLECTION CHRISTOPHEL © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Lightstorm entertainment

Producer Jon Landau was one of 30 Avatar crew who arrived in New Zealand in May after gaining border exemptions for foreigners deemed essential to a project of significant economic value. (file pic) Photo: © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Lightstorm entertainment

More than 200 overseas cast and film workers were allowed into New Zealand in the three months to July.

Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Cowboy Bebop and Sweet Tooth are in production, another two are in pre-production, with a total spend of $650 million and directly employing more than 3000 people.

The six international productions, as well as three New Zealand-made feature films, represented a high number being made all at once, said Film Commission chief executive Annabelle Sheehan.

No caption

Annabelle Sheehan. Photo: Provided

"It's a really high level of production at the moment, a great tribute to our crews and what we offer here in New Zealand," she said. "This would be regarded as a high number all at once in production. We had a surge of this nature around about late 2018. Sometimes it levels out a bit and you start to see potentially three or four productions at once, but this is definitely a time of high productions.

"We've seen new projects that mean we are potentially going to reach the heights of 2018/19 again and possibly exceed that. I think 2021/22 could be peak production. When production can really get under way again, it's really going to be a production deluge and that's a huge opportunity because film and television production injects huge amounts of capital very rapidly into countries."

Sixty percent of that money was spent on things other than the film production, such as hospitality, accommodation and transport, she said.

New Zealand's handling of the pandemic had created more interest in filming here and homegrown movies were benefiting from the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

"New Zealanders are rushing to New Zealand films. So we're loving the fact that with cinemas open again, we're seeing a film like Savage sitting in the top spot for two weeks in a row and cracking the one million dollar blockbuster mark. So that and This Town have also been incredibly heartening for New Zealand.

"At the moment we've got a mix of studios and streamers shooting here, whether it be Disney, Netflix, Warners, Amazon, Sony, we've got a whole range," she said. "All of those companies are pivoting to manage the changing circumstances so I think we'll see them all come to New Zealand over time."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs