Since Sir Peter Jackson’s recent return to Middle-earth with The Hobbit Trilogy, New Zealand’s capacity to make major movies with creative flair and ground-breaking technology is back in the spotlight.
It's largely due to Sir Peter Jackson and the clever creative teams of ‘Wellywood’ that New Zealand is recognised as a centre of excellence for the art of film-making.
Jackson’s film empire of multi-million dollar studios, sound stages, and pre- and post-production houses that sit tucked away in the unassuming Wellington suburb of Miramar, are responsible for the city’s claim to be the world’s ‘coolest little film capital’, but it goes much further than that.
New Zealand’s rapidly growing screen industry is supported by more than 2800 screen businesses and production is spread throughout the country with important hubs in Auckland and the Queenstown / Otago region, as well as Wellington.
The success of the film industry has also attracted talented individuals in all aspects of film-making from all around the world.
Creativity, versatility and innovation are credited with giving New Zealand film-making the leading edge and, in the words of the American Film Institute, the New Zealand film industry is "one of the wonders of the world - an unparalleled success story."
New Zealand crews are world-renowned for their professionalism and inventiveness and the companies are known for their cutting edge post-production and visual effects.
Coupled with that is the fact New Zealand is seen as a desirable place to live and work - and it appears there’s little problem attracting the world’s movie talent here on both a temporary and more permanent basis.
Amongst international filmmakers who have carried out projects in New Zealand are Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Webber, Rob Tapert and Barrie Osborne.
Some, like James Cameron, have chosen to put down more permanent roots. Cameron’s latest land acquisition has given him a substantial holding of working farmlands in the Wairarapa region, north of Wellington - not too far away from Peter Jackson’s own country hideaway.
Passion for film
New Zealand film-makers have won more than 20 Academy Awards in the last decade and two of the highest grossing box office films of all time - Avatar and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King - were made in New Zealand.
Gisella Carr, chief executive of Film New Zealand, says there is a real passion for film-making in New Zealand, as well as the fact that the country has the ability to deliver production on a grand scale.
"Mounting something like The Hobbit Trilogy is not like a country wakes up and says, ‘oh we will have The Hobbit films here next month' - you have to grow the ability to work on, and deliver a production of that scale, and that’s what New Zealand has done very well. We are a safe pair of hands for blockbusters."
Carr says the fact that New Zealand is "gob-smackingly beautiful" also means that no matter how many images are taken out of New Zealand and into the world, it is always a comment.
"But most importantly in film-making terms, New Zealand is also compact and accessible. We are about the size of California and it means that our beaches, our mountains, our warm north, our colder south, our hills, our flat lands - are all easily reached by production companies. And of course that’s economically important," says Carr.
In addition to The Hobbit Trilogy, a number of international film and television productions have been made in New Zealand in the last few year, including the films Emperor, Evil Dead and Mr Pip - as well as the television series Top of the Lake and Spartacus, numerous international television commercials and a wide range of domestic film and television productions.
More on the New Zealand screen industry:
Fact File: New Zealand screen industry
History of the New Zealand screen industry