Major film-makers drawn to South

Actress Rachel Weisz, at Port Chalmers, filming The Light Between Oceans earlier this year. Photo...
Actress Rachel Weisz, at Port Chalmers, filming The Light Between Oceans earlier this year. Photo by David Milton Browne.
More than 400 films have been shot in New Zealand over the past 75 years - from Rewi's Last Stand (1939) to Z for Zachariah.

Reporter Hamish McNeilly grabs some popcorn and has a look at the industry.

Coming to a screen near you. Slow West, The Light Between Oceans, Z for Zachariah, and Pete's Dragon.

Filmed, or in the case of the last, about to be shot, in Twizel, Dunedin, Methven and Tapanui respectively.

International film productions are increasingly being lured to southern New Zealand by its scenery, equipment and crew, and not to mention incentives on offer.

This month the Otago Daily Times revealed veteran Hollywood actor Robert Redford will star in the Walt Disney live action film Pete's Dragon, to be shot in the West Otago township of Tapanui next year.

Producer Barrie Osborne noted New Zealand's screen incentives when announcing the movie would be shot around the country.

On April 1, 2014, the New Zealand Screen Production Grant (NZSPG) was introduced, which encouraged more international film productions in New Zealand to ''strengthen the local industry and provide wider economic benefits'', Jasmin McSweeney, the New Zealand Film Commission marketing manager, said.

Confirmation of that incentive came with the announcement that the three Avatar sequels would be made in New Zealand.

At that December 2013 announcement Prime Minister John Key said the three films would pump a minimum of $500 million into the economy.

Film director James Cameron said the offered rebates, coupled with the local workforce and skills was a major incentive for basing the films in New Zealand.

However he noted he would have liked to have seen even higher rebates than the 25% on offer.

The New Zealand Film Commission was unable to provide a figure to the Otago Daily Times on how much those incentives have cost the taxpayer, or any cost-benefit analysis.

''As the grants have been in place for less than a year, the economic impact has not yet been evaluated,'' Ms McSweeney said.

She noted feedback from production companies indicated the incentives and New Zealand as a destination ''has increased interest in filming here''.

''Additionally, New Zealand crews have an international reputation for being skilled, resourceful and passionate about their craft.''

This year, 22 films shot in New Zealand were released, and the NZSPG also encouraged larger-scale local productions featuring New Zealand content.

Local productions released this year include The Dark Horse, The Dead Lands, Housebound and What We Do In the Shadows.

Ms McSweeney said that had helped with the sustainability of the local industry and more co-productions were targeted.

Two of the films selected to screen at the Sundance Film Festival next year, were New Zealand co-productions, Turbo Kid (with Canada) and Slow West (with the United Kingdom). To date, 413 films have been shot in New Zealand.

The 100th film was Old Scores, released in 1991, the 200th was Mee-Shee The Water Giant (2005), the 300th Trinity Roots, Music is Choice (2010), and the 400th Sunday (2014).

Cinematic history

Year Number of films released Films include

2007 19 Eagle v Shark, The Ten Commandments
2008 18 10,000BC, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Dean Spanley
2009 22 X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Avatar, The Lovely Bones, District 9
2010 20 Boy, Matariki, Tracker.
2011 19 Billy T; Te Movie, The Orator, When a City Falls, The Adventures of Tintin, Operation 8.
2012 27 Brother Number One, Maori Boy Genius, Two Little Boys, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
2013 23 Mr Pip, The Weight of Elephants, Sheen of Gold, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, Walking with Dinosaurs
2014 22 What We Do In The Shadows, The Dark Horse, The Dead Lands.
2015 Expected release: The Light Between the Oceans, Z for Zachariah


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