Written by on May 16, 2013. Posted in Interviews

Film NZ chief Gisella Carr on New Zealand’s location filming future

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy put New Zealand’s filming locations firmly in the spotlight and a decade later he’s repeating the trick with The Hobbit. Film NZ Chief Executive Gisella Carr talks to The Location Guide about the way ahead.

Carr views Peter Jackson’s films as “New Zealand’s screen franchise”, and it’s easy to see why. The Hobbit story has been expanded to a three-film behemoth that’s already a global box-office phenomenon with two films still to be released. As expected, it’s a magnificent showcase of New Zealand’s filming locations that adds to the international exposure the country already gets through a thriving commercials industry.

“It is exciting to see New Zealand through the eyes of a great New Zealand filmmaker,” Carr enthuses, “and it showcases not only our landscape and spectacular filming locations. What Peter Jackson and his team have done is to once again showcase the skill of New Zealand’s screen industry to the rest of the world and reinforce New Zealand’s capability and technical expertise.”

While helping cement New Zealand’s reputation as an international production hub, The Hobbit has also had a noticeable impact on film tourism. As Carr notes, the country “has become known as the home of Middle-earth”.

What Peter Jackson and his team have done is to once again showcase the skill of New Zealand’s screen industry to the rest of the world and reinforce New Zealand’s capability and technical expertise.

Gisella Carr, Film NZ

Film tourism can be tricky to quantify but a straightforward increase in visitor numbers, combined with the response to specific Hobbit-related travel promotions and direct questionnaires suggest that, in Carr’s words “film, tourism, reality and fantasy are now wonderfully intertwined”. Film tourism was even a central component of the film’s production design, with Hobbiton designed this time as a permanent feature in the landscape.

The Hobbit films received considerable incentive support from the New Zealand government, but the country remains under persistent pressure – from filmmakers including Jackson himself – to remain flexible in the coming years. Carr acknowledges the importance of filming incentives but considers it just one facet of New Zealand’s international appeal.

“The ongoing success of New Zealand’s screen business is anchored in a number of factors, of which incentives are only one,” Carr explains: “There are creative, as well as other financial and technological factors which are key strengths of our offering, along with technical expertise, accessibility to diverse filming locations, a strong crew base, reverse seasonality, infrastructure, language, film business friendliness, a favourable exchange rate and a safe working environment.”

Film New Zealand communicates closely with the government on the status of filming incentives and took Prime Minister John Key to Los Angeles last year to meet with studio production executives. New Zealand’s international appeal to high-end television production is clearly a top priority, which should be no surprise given the local economic benefits that Northern Ireland has felt as long-term host of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

“Looking to the future,” Carr concludes, “we will continue to work to see large-budget features made here, something New Zealand has been very successful with to date. At the same time we’re looking to attract more international production across the board, including television.

“There are excellent facilities in New Zealand and we hope to see this infrastructure extended and developed in line with the growing industry.”

To find out more about the filming on The Hobbit, click here.

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