Background: New Zealand’s screen industry

New Zealand is a recognised leader in screen production and an international centre of excellence where some of the world’s most talented producers, directors and creators of special effects choose to work.

New Zealand is a recognised leader in screen production and an international centre of excellence where some of the world’s most talented producers, directors and creators of special effects choose to work. 

It also has a strong indigenous screen culture and identity with local filmmakers having remarkable success telling New Zealand stories to local and global audiences.

Among the international filmmakers who have carried out projects in New Zealand are Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Webber, Rob Tapert and Barrie Osborne. New Zealand’s own industry stars include directors Peter Jackson, Andrew Adamson and Taika Waititi, actors Anna Paquin, Sam Neill and Lucy Lawless, and the comedy duo Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords).

The American Film Institute has called the New Zealand film industry “one of the wonders of the world … an unparalleled success story.” 

That achievement is based on a long tradition of creativity, versatility and innovation. New Zealand crews are world-renowned for their professionalism and inventiveness and New Zealand companies are known for their cutting edge post-production and visual effects.

That capability is reflected in New Zealand having won more than 20 Academy Awards in the last decade.

The screen industry has grown rapidly in the last few decades and now boasts annual revenue of more than NZ$3 billion a year, and is supported by more than 3000 screen businesses. Production is spread throughout the country with hubs in Auckland, Wellington and Otago/Queenstown. 

International productions

Alongside The Hobbit Trilogy, many other international film and television productions are being made in New Zealand. 

This includes television series such as Spartacus, Power Rangers, Thunderbirds Are Go and Jane Campion’s multi-award-winning Top of the Lake, and films such as Evil Dead, Walking with Dinosaurs, Mr Pip (directed by Andrew Adamson and starring Hugh Laurie. Yet to be released are Slow West (starring Michael Fassbender), DreamWorks’ The Light Between Oceans, Z for Zachariah (starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie and Chris Pine) and three Avatar sequels. 

Add to this, numerous international television commercials and a wide range of domestic film and television productions.

Television is the lifeblood of much of the New Zealand screen industry, and 2012/13 figures show there were 1600 television programmes and series produced. 

Auckland’s South Pacific Pictures is New Zealand’s largest screen production company with an international reputation for producing world-class television and film. Emmy® award-winning NHNZ (based in Dunedin) continues to be one of the world’s leading producers of factual television – exporting to more than 180 countries. 

James Cameron said: “I’ve found a different attitude in other countries; here you have people that genuinely enjoy the job of working on a movie – they’re excited about it.” 

New Zealand advantages

People: New Zealand has a talent base of Oscar-winning directors, actors, scriptwriters, special effects artists, digital animators and costume designers who are in demand worldwide. New Zealand film crews are also sought after by some of the largest productions in the world for their skill and “can-do” attitude.

Landscape: New Zealand is renowned for having dramatic and breath-taking scenery in close proximity to urban centres and state-of-the-art resources. The backdrops for films range from majestic mountains, ancient glaciers and untouched forests, to picturesque beachside locations, lakes and desert-like sands. The same qualities that have appealed to filmmakers also attract makers of television commercials. 

Technology: New Zealand has developed cutting-edge post-production and visual effects technology which is used by filmmakers around the world. Weta Digital is known for its ground breaking work on productions including Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, King Kong, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies. 

Innovation:  Lateral-thinking New Zealand businesses have found new solutions for problems faced during filmmaking. The invention of a unique seamless polycarbonate mesh was developed as a modern version of chainmail. The Queenstown-based company, Shotover Camera Systems, designed and produced a state-of-the-art aerial next generation camera that will be operated on major movies in New Zealand, and also exported and used at different television and film locations around the world.

Quality: Recognised for providing all the ingredients to make high quality, prestige films New Zealand is known for its finesse in all aspects of production and craftsmanship with trained experienced people who have the respect of filmmakers and screen producers globally.

New Zealand welcomes filmmakers 

Film New Zealand is New Zealand’s national film office and promotes New Zealand’s screen production industry overseas. 

It is the principal gateway for international production and provides information and assistance for productions to work in New Zealand and for partnerships with New Zealand companies to bring screen investment to New Zealand. The agency manages relationships with major United States screen clients on behalf of the New Zealand Government and has an established track record and reputation in the US screen industry. 

The New Zealand Film Commission works to ensure New Zealand films are seen and valued, great stories are told through the medium of New Zealand film, and that New Zealand filmmaking talent is developed and nurtured. 

It supports script and career development, invests in short films and features and administers the Government’s Screen Production Incentive Fund and Large Budget Screen Production Grant (which was accessed by The Hobbit Trilogy) to ensure ambitious projects with international involvement are made in New Zealand. It also ensures New Zealand films are seen and celebrated overseas and helps negotiate co-production treaties as part of cultural bilateral agreements.

New Zealand On Air is an independent government funding agency which invests in a range of local content for New Zealand audiences. This includes television programmes, community and special interest radio, recorded New Zealand music and digital media. It also funds the national public service radio provider Radio New Zealand.

Key Organisations: