Written by Murray Ashton on Nov 17, 2011. Posted in Interviews

Filming in New Zealand with Location Manager Dale Gardiner

Dale became involved in the film industry as a Location Scout and Manager in 1988. Before that he was an adventure tour operator for white-water rafting and four-wheel-drive trips, as well as being a stills photographer.

“As an adventure tour operator I (pictured left) came to know the back country, the wilderness areas and the people very well. I also learned how to look after groups of people in wilderness situations.

"In addition to these skills, as a photographer I understand locations, lighting, framing, timing and so on, and can combine my skills to get the Director the very best, most suitable locations.”

Dale has worked on hundreds of TVCs and three features over the last 23 years and has enjoyed every one of them.

“It’s a fantastic way to earn a living. I keep on wondering how long I can keep getting away with doing something that I love.”

Tell me about your region.

I am based in Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island. The region is split into several different areas. Crews generally have to travel about 90 minutes from their base towns (Queenstown being the number one choice) to their locations.

We have a very experienced cast and crew here. There are two talent agencies in Queenstown as well as many other talent agencies in every city, especially Auckland and Wellington.

We have the ability to utilise helicopters as a means of access to some incredible, rarely-seen locations if the budget allows for the helicopter hours; it's approximately NZD2,000 per hour for a six-seater Squirrel. Queenstown has a high number of helicopters available. Heliworks is one of the better companies.

I have not had any difficult location assignments to date. Some have been challenging and all have been enjoyable. Problems always have an answer so I just get on with it.

We have rainforests, glaciers, fast-flowing rivers, slow-moving rivers, beautiful valleys and mountains, lakes and amazing national parks. Every 50 km or so you will be in a completely different landscape. In some areas there is mountain scenery with permanent snow and glaciers visible 12 months of the year.

What locations are most commonly used by film and TV crews when they film here?

Most crews come here for our diverse and amazing landscapes, for forests, rivers, lakes, mountains, valleys and outdoors action.

Popular Locations like the Paradise, Dart and Rees Valleys were used for The Lord of the Rings trilogy and now The Hobbit, as well as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Lovely Bones and many TVCs.

Other locations that can be accessed via Queenstown include Milford Sound, Fiordland, West and East Coasts and Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain.

What has been your most difficult location assignment to date and why?

I have not had any difficult location assignments to date. Some have been challenging and all have been enjoyable. Problems always have an answer so I just get on with it.

What types of production do you work on most?

I work mainly on TVCs. Car companies are particularly keen on our locations and I have worked with BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Jeep and KIA.

A shoot for Mitsubishi Air for New Zealand-based production company Film Business (Producer Murray Francis and Director Eric Sarranen) was memorable as the talent was Paul Newman's son. We shot it at Milford Sound, a truly amazing area in Fiordland.

A Chev Tahoe shoot was my best ever TVC (pictured right). We used an active volcano on White Island and a private glacier at Earnslaw Burn. There were eighty hours of helicopter scouting for every Lord of the Rings location and many other places too!

A shoot for the American clothing company LL Bean (Production House Epoch Films and Executive Producer Charlie Cocuzza) was a big one with a 13-day shoot. We used locations here in Queenstown such as the old street of Arrowtown, as well as Dunedin.

I have also worked with Samsung, Fujifilm and Jetstar.

Are there anything else you would like to share about filming here?

We have four seasons here and they are the opposite to the northern hemisphere. January here is mid-summer and July is mid-winter. Bring different layers of clothing as early summer mornings can still be cold in the mountains. Summer temperatures vary from 10°C to 32°C and winter temperatures range from -5°C  to 12°C.

Crew numbers in Queenstown vary. From 12 to 75 for TVCs and up to 250 for feature films. Pre-production times vary as well, from two to 20 days, plus scouting.

Which are the best airports to use and who flies there?

Most Crews fly in via Auckland or Christchurch and then fly to Queenstown. Auckland to Queenstown is about 90 minutes and Christchurch to Queenstown is 45 minutes. The main carriers are Air New Zealand, Qantas and Jetstar.

There are also direct flights from Australia to Queenstown.

What are the most film-crew-friendly hotels in your region?

Most crews stay at the Heritage Hotel, Fern hill, Queenstown and hire villas as production offices. Other film-friendly hotels are the Millenium and St Moritz.

Thank you.

Click here to email Dale.

Related Posts


Not Logged in

You must be logged in to post a comment

    There are no comments