'Incredibly valuable' - City, surrounds lure film-makers

Kevin Jennings.
Kevin Jennings.
Dunedin is punching above its weight in attracting film-makers, and more movies may be on the way.

Film Otago Southland executive manager Kevin Jennings said Dunedin - and the wider southern region - had plenty to offer film-makers, despite being ''at the bottom of the planet''.

The Light Between Oceans, which stars Rachel Weisz and Michael Fassbender, began shooting in Dunedin this month, and is using locations including Port Chalmers, Otago Peninsula and the former Dunedin prison.

Mr Jennings said the overall look of some of Dunedin's downtown streets meant the city could ''knock off other city's looks in other periods''.

Dunedin's period architecture was one of its strengths, but not the only ammunition in its movie arsenal.

''If you look at what's shot in Dunedin, there's been everything from a disused cement works [Wolverine], to a forestry block, to site-specific locations such as Aramoana, which played itself in Out of the Blue.

The region's film, video and television sector's GDP in 2012 was estimated at $15.4 million.

Mr Jennings said The Light Between Oceans' film-makers ''liked the look'' they were finding on the peninsula, as well as other locations.

Attracting film-makers was often a matter of personal relationships, or of hearing about projects in the works that might fit with the region, he said.

''It all depends on the project.''

Beyond Dunedin, wider Otago and Southland had ''all the looks'' - rolling hills in Otago and Eastern Southland; the Southern Lakes region with its snow-capped peaks and glaciers; and the dry, arid areas of Central Otago, which had hosted a western recently.

''In a small area, that has industry based here, we have an incredible amount of looks, and a short travel time between them.

''That is incredibly valuable.

''I think if you look at our geographic location - we're at the bottom of the planet, a long way from everywhere - I think we punch above our weight for the volume of things which come here.''

Mr Jennings said other movie makers were ''seriously looking here'', although he declined to reveal details at this stage.

The industry had seen a definite increase in interest since the Government announced last year a consolidated fund to provide an incentive for international productions made locally, ''There's been a clear difference in activity in serious inquiries.''

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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