Films a showcase for Central Otago

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The alpine beauty of Central Otago continues to attract film crews from across the globe, Film Otago Southland executive manager KJ Jennings says.

In the 2017 financial year, there were 193 productions in the region, up from 188 productions in 2016 and 185 in 2015.

Major motion pictures such as Mission Impossible 6, which was filmed in Central Otago last year, brought “large injections of revenue”, Mr Jennings said.

He said it was hard to calculate the exact contribution the film industry made to the Otago-Southland district, but estimated it would be “well above” $30 million a year.

Mr Jennings said commercials were equally important, especially as the were filmed both in summer and winter.

South Korea and China were growth markets, along with productions from the United States and Europe.

“We have quite a bit of work from the Korean television market. They have an active outdoor sporting industry, so they love coming here.”

More projects were coming from China, as well, he said.

“Not just commercials; we’ve had a television series and a feature film of reasonable scale.”

New Zealand film-makers were also finding Central Otago a film-friendly place, Mr Jennings said.

Writer and director Dustin Feneley, of Auckland, said Central Otago was the perfect environment to set his film Stray.

“Oh man, it’s just stunningly beautiful, but there’s also a haunting element, particularly in winter.”

Mr Feneley said the film was not a horror, “but it’s about these two lonely, alienated, damaged people who find each other in winter in this alpine landscape.”

Mr Feneley said he spent several weeks a year for three years in Central Otago over winter before starting the film, finding inspiration for his script.

“I’d get a hire car and drive around with my camera, and just took thousands of photos of all sorts of potential locations.”

Some of these locations included the Central Motor Speedway in Cromwell, the Molyneux Aquatic Centre in Alexandra and the timber yard in Luggate.

“I wanted the atmosphere of the landscape to echo the internal journey or feelings of the film.”

Mr Feneley was keen to point out how helpful people in Central Otago were, in particular when giving permission to film, both on private property and public locations.

“I literally don’t think there was a single location that I was interested in filming in that someone said no,” he said.

The premiere of the film will be at the Moscow International Film Festival during April 19-26, and a cinema release in New Zealand is planned for the second half of the year.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said the film industry brought rewards at several levels when people chose to film on location in Central Otago.

“Firstly, plainly there is the income that the venture brings, with crew and cast needing food, lodgings and more while in the area.

“Secondly, is the absolute golden opportunity to show the beauty of our World of Difference on the big screen,” Mr Cadogan said.

“A less tangible but important benefit is that, when the experience is a positive one for the producers such as this film has been, it encourages others in the industry to see Central Otago for what it is: a fabulous film-friendly location.”