Film studios may be built

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A film studio complex would be a ‘‘game­changer’’ for the region, departing Film Otago Southland executive manager Kevin Jennings says.

Queenstown Lakes District Council confirmed a private party was investigating developing a film studio.

Film Otago Southland departing executive manager Kevin Jennings. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Mr Jennings is resigning from the role after 13 years at the regional film office.
One of the challenges was ‘‘seizing the opportunity’’ that streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video could provide, he said.

Most productions in the region 30 years ago were television commercials but streaming services typically did not show commercials, which had a ‘‘huge effect’’ on the advertising industry, he said.

Instead there were ‘‘incredible opportunities’’ as demand for streaming content grew.
Securing a long series that ran ‘‘year in and year out’’ would be ‘‘far easier’’ if there was a studio in the region of the size and scale filmmakers needed.
Economies of scale would enable productions to ‘‘set up a base camp’’ instead of having their base in Auckland, Wellington or Australia.

QLDC Mayor Jim Boult said the council supported efforts to establish a film studio which could help diversify the economy.
There had been various film studio proposals over the years, he said.
‘‘There is one current investigation under way, which I understand is at a reasonably advanced stage,’’ Mr Boult said.

The parties behind it wished to maintain confidentiality, for competitive reasons, so Mr Boult was not able to provide more details.
While the council was not putting money into it, it would do what it reasonably could to support the proposal.
‘‘We think it would be an excellent initiative which would drive the availability of well-paid professional jobs in the district.’’

Central Otago District Council Mayor Tim Cadogan said the region was benefiting from its ‘‘film friendly’’ policy adopted in 2011.
The recent major Chinese production based in Clyde and a Netflix film being made in Maniototo over summer, as well as other productions, were evidence of this success, he said.
‘‘Given the natural advantages we possess, a film studio of some sort in inland Otago would be a major addition to the area’s economy.’’
The council would be open to discussions with the private sector at any stage, Mr Cadogan said.

Mr Jennings said a ‘‘key opportunity’’ was to have more training in the region for the next generation of filmmakers.

Otago Polytechnic Central Campus manager Kelly Gay said a film course was not part of the mix at the campus at present, ‘‘but that’s not to say we wouldn’t be interested’’.

Mr Gay was happy to meet people from the film industry to talk about what type of training might be needed and how it could be implemented. One possibility was work-based ‘‘learn as you go’’ programmes.

‘‘I think if we got under way by putting a programme for film into our Trades Academy, for example, with local school kids, you would have a superb response.
‘‘It’s just one of those exciting things that kids would love to be involved in but don’t believe they can do locally,’’ Mr Gay said.