New Zealand hasn’t played around with the ongoing pandemic, instituting some of the world’s strictest lockdown measures in March – measures which paid off, as the country has recorded a total of less than two thousand total cases of the Coronavirus. Now, with the country’s borders still almost completely closed, the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) has granted permission for seven overseas productions to resume work.
First and foremost of these is Amazon Prime’s Lord Of The Rings series, a franchise which already has an intimate relationship with New Zealand. Also set to resume filming are Netflix’s live-action adaptation of the classic anime Cowboy Bebop, James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel to his 2009 film Avatar, Jane Campion‘s The Power Of The Dog, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst, The Greatest Beer Run Ever, a true story of an American man who travelled to Vietnam during the war to meet up with friends, Sweet Tooth, a TV movie about a half-human half-deer boy, and Power Rangers Beast Morphers, the latest installment of the big-robots-centric children’s show.
Of these projects, Lord Of The Rings is by far the biggest, bringing in fully 93 crew members in addition to 20 of their family members, with the next biggest being the Avatar sequel at 41 crew members, one of these being Cameron himself. Between all seven projects, 206 crew members and 35 family members will be allowed into the country – and it is estimated that this will created 3,000 jobs and bring $400 million to New Zealand’s economy.
New Zealand’s Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford announced “Our success at managing Covid-19 gives our country an opportunity to become one of the few countries still able to safely produce screen content, and the inquiries and interest we are getting from international production houses tells me that the international film community sees New Zealand as something of a global safe haven…despite the turmoil that the world is facing, this is an exciting time for New Zealand’s screen sector.”
MBIE immigration policy manager Sian Roguski added “On average the workforce on each production will be made up of 90 per cent local talent. This leads to experience, upskilling, and mentorships for crews. It also highlights that New Zealand is leading the world in leveraging opportunities for screen and creative industries as we recover from the impact of Covid-19.”
Amazon’s adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings was already shooting at studios in Auckland and various other locations across New Zealand when lockdown was instituted. The New Zealand Film Commission said that while shooting of The Lord of the Rings had not yet resumed, pre-production had already begun.
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