There’s been on official comment from Peter Jackson yet the film studios yet, but the New York Times is reporting that The Hobbit will be filming in New Zealand for certain this February. Here’s the important bits from this article:
After meeting in Wellington with visiting Hollywood studio executives, New Zealand officials, led by the prime minister, agreed to an extraordinary deal on Wednesday under which they will contribute special financing and introduce new labor legislation to keep the filming of Warner Brothers’ two movies based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” on their shores.
It may seem that New Zealand has grown sentimental over its Hobbits — or rather the filmmaker Peter Jackson’s Hobbits. It has built a tourism industry and no small amount of national pride around the creatures, dating to when Mr. Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” franchise established a growing movie industry sometimes called Wellywood there.
But behind the agreement is a hard economic reality. Hollywood has the upper hand in deciding where to film its big-budget extravaganzas, and there are many places willing to pay to attract filmmakers. And so the negotiations found executives of a giant American studio sitting across the table from the chief executive of a sovereign nation, population 4.4 million, wrangling over the fate of a pair of films and, with it, a not insignificant part of that nation’s economy and public image.
Prime Minister John Key announced the agreement at a news conference late Wednesday in Wellington, after a week in which thousands of film workers had taken to the streets in support of efforts to save the movies after a labor dispute had stalled production.
“This will guarantee the movies are made in New Zealand,” Mr. Key said.
The legislation is expected to require workers to designate their status as an employee or a freelance worker when beginning a project, then stick with it, according to one person who was briefed on the talks but spoke anonymously because the agreement was not complete. Thus, anyone who contracted individually with producers of “The Hobbit” as a freelance worker at the beginning of the film could not change status later and claim the rights of a permanent employee.
Perhaps just as important, Wednesday’s agreement also calls for New Zealand to increase its contribution to each film by $7.5 million, in addition to a standing government incentive that reimburses up to 15 percent of the spending in New Zealand by a high-budget production like “The Hobbit.” In a further twist, Mr. Key told reporters, in a commitment to Time Warner and its global media group, New Zealand would contribute $10 million to a marketing campaign that would tie the films to tourism in the country.
Ultimately, it seemed like the films just couldn’t be made anywhere else. There’s a certain Middle-earth-ness to New Zealand that any other location would probably have failed to match. It was quite unique to see a country’s Prime Minister get involved in brokering a deal that would keep a film’s production local–it shows how important the first Lord of the Rings films were in showcasing New Zealand to the rest of the world.
Also, jagola sent me a video link that looks like it was made before this deal was finalized–clearly something meant to showcase how important The Hobbit is to New Zealand, and vice-versa. Check it below…