Starring role for Queenstown

Jim Boult.
Mayor Jim Boult

Queenstown will once again stand in for Middle-earth, in what its mayor says could be the biggest film production in the area.

Amazon Studios yesterday confirmed the Lord of the Rings series - set to be the most expensive TV show ever - will be produced in New Zealand.

West Auckland will be the production base for the project, but Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult said he understood ''much of the filming'' would take place in the district.

That understanding came from members of the local film industry, he said.

It was enormously exciting, he said, and hopefully would lead to ''some high-paying jobs across the local industry''.

While many in the Queenstown film industry remained tight-lipped about the project yesterday, the Otago Daily Times understands some preliminary footage has already been shot in the resort.

Mr Boult said the series had been described as similar to Game of Thrones and could end up being the ''biggest ever'' production in the district.

He described the series as a ''long-term exercise'' that could bring a significant financial benefit, unlike movie shoots that came and went.

While he and the council had not been approached directly by Amazon, there had been discussions through Film Otago Southland executive manager Kevin Jennings, Mr Boult said.

The series will provide new opportunities for locally-based crew and businesses.

''We are absolutely stoked with the announcement,'' Mr Jennings said yesterday.

''We've been working behind the scenes with the team from Amazon for quite a while and it's great to get a positive result.

''The scale of the project is unprecedented and I expect our locations will feature heavily throughout the lifetime of the series,'' said.

The Wakatipu Basin and Glenorchy were featured prominently in the Peter Jackson-directed film trilogy, used as locations for the Misty Mountains, Isengard, Lothlorien, and Fanghorn Forest, among others.

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford welcomed the news.

New Zealand's selection as the production base ahead of other countries demonstrated how far it had come as a player in the highly competitive global screen industry, he said in a statement.

''This will be an ambitious production and having it based here will create a range of benefits, including jobs and significant overseas investment, which will unlock more opportunities to grow our creative and technology sectors.''

Pre-production is under way, and the majority of filming is expected to begin in 2020.

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