In the News: The Press On-Line – Hollywood of the South?

by Nov 6, 1999Lord of the Rings (Movies)

The following article speaks of how Christchurch is becoming a popular spot to film movies; it mentions Lord of the Rings as an example.

Hollywood of the South

by Hans Petrovic

The Press On-Line – November 6, 1999

Christchurch as a southern hemisphere
film-making mecca? It sounds far fetched, but
HANS PETROVIC discovers it may be closer to
reality than you think.

Tinsel Town of the South. Potential base of a
multi-million-dollar film industry. Centre of cinema activity.

These are titles that have been vaguely bandied about for
Christchurch over the years but – except for a handful of
people who have taken the notion seriously – it has usually
been looked upon as a romantic pie in the sky.

The vast majority of film and television production takes place
in Auckland. Peter Jackson’s base for his epic Lord of the
Rings project is Wellington, and that is also where the Avalon
studios are. This year’s most successful New Zealand film,
Scarfies, was made in Dunedin on a $1.5 million budget.

If overseas film-makers come to the South Island, they are
perceived to be making a beeline for Queenstown.

This is not entirely true, of course, for Jackson made his last
two feature films, Heavenly Creatures and The Frighteners,
around Christchurch. You might also have noticed the
occasional Indian film crew in town.

But such sporadic activity does not seem to have brought any
permanent film-making activity to Christchurch, despite the
city’s unused facilities and talent, and despite vague rumblings,
a few years ago, about setting up a film studio in the Heathcote
Valley.

The possibility of making the city a base for a movie industry
was raised again seriously last month during the night-time
shooting of a $67,500 short film in the streets of Christchurch.

The occasion was the shooting of producer-director David
Reid’s 14-minute film, a black-comedy-thriller entitled A Quiet
Night, for which Worcester Street was blocked off between
Manchester Street and Cathedral Square for 12 hours. Filming
continued on later nights in Linwood, Waltham, Lyttelton, and
Woolston.

Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore says that attracting film
production to Christchurch has always been on the list of things
he would like to do as mayor.

“I hope that this film will pave the way to having locally
produced feature films and building a stronger film industry in
our city.

“One of the things we have got over Wellington is fantastic
scenery very close by. I am very keen to promote Christchurch
as a film-industry base. It just needs somebody to crystallise it.”

Of course, $67,500 for a short film is only peanuts compared
to the multi million-dollar budgets required for feature films.
Reid, however, hopes the successful completion of his short
film will lead to bigger things.

“I hope to be making a feature within 24 months, for which the
commission may grant between $500,000 to $1.5 million.”

Is this all wishful thinking or is there a real chance for a future
Christchurch film industry? Surprisingly, there is a lot of
behind-the-scenes activity going on right now with precisely
this goal in mind.

Danny Gresham, a project adviser with Community
Employment, a government agency for developing new
employment and enterprises, has been to Twizel assessing the
economic boost and amount of work that the multi
million-dollar American production, The Vertical Limit, starring
Chris O’Donnell, has brought to the region.

“We are not talking of pie in the sky but of something that is
happening right now,” Mr Gresham says.

“The United States, India, and other Asian countries are
looking for new picture locations and, of course, New Zealand
is on their shopping list.”

Their demands are simple: “They want pristine locations with
blue skies and clean air. They also need co-ordination of local
services, information, and servicing. If we provide this, I am
sure we can attract these people to the Canterbury area.”

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