Auckland’s screen sector has received a huge boost with an announcement of a landmark agreement between the Government, two major international studios and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) which has secured a 27ha studio site in Kumeu with world-class assets in place.
On behalf of Auckland Council, ATEED partnered with the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC), Warner Bros. Pictures and Gravity Pictures to form Kumeu Film Studios – a new film studio in West Auckland – as a result of a New Zealand Screen Production Grants 5% uplift.
The studio facility in Kumeu was developed in existing industrial buildings for the filming of MEG, anupcoming science fiction action thriller slated for worldwide release in March next year, from Warner Bros. Pictures and Gravity Pictures.
The uplift agreement’s legacy infrastructure component and the owner’s willingness to invest in future infrastructure gave ATEED confidence to seize an unprecedented opportunity to boost its screen production studio capability. ATEED has signed a long-term lease on the site, and will initially operate the studio complex.
ATEED Chief Executive Brett O ‘Riley says: “While Auckland currently attracts large-scale production through its world-class crew, production talent and locations, our full potential has been hampered by a lack of studio space until now. This landmark partnership, which has secured Kumeu Film Studios, signals an exciting new era for screen production in Auckland and strengthens New Zealand’s screen production offering in the global marketplace.”
The lease includes a clause for the construction of a purpose-built soundstage, planned to be up and running by early next year. Upon completion of the new sound stage, KFS will double Auckland’s screen studio infrastructure. It will also provide a major transformational shift for the industry in Auckland, increasing the region’s capacity for large-scale screen productions.
The agreement between the partners supports the provisional approval of the New Zealand Screen Production Grants 5% Uplift. “This private and public sector partnership recognises the significant economic, cultural and industry development benefits that MEG will bring to New Zealand,” says NZFC Chief Executive Dave Gibson.
International productions are eligible for a grant rebate of 20 per cent of qualifying New Zealand production expenditure. An additional 5 per cent grant is available to applicants which demonstrate significant economic benefits to New Zealand, recognising that screen productions can raise New Zealand’s profile internationally, attract high value tourists, and profile innovative and creative people and technologies.
Photo: Kim Sinclair
The key factor in MEG gaining the additional uplift was the legacy of multi-million dollar facilities built for MEG, including the first two film studio water tanks ever built in New Zealand: an indoor 5m deep, 1.3 million litre dive tank with pure heated water; and an outdoor 3m deep, 2.5 million litre ocean horizon tank backed by an 864 sq m green screen wall (the largest in the Asia-Pacific).
The studio also has a 4,036m2 sq m soundstage, production offices, a sought-after forested back lot, and a workshop and manufacturing space.
ATEED’s screen attraction team is already fielding strong interest for future film, TV, and TV commercial productions, including international projects from the US, China, and also domestic productions.
The studios are a significant asset for marketing Auckland and New Zealand internationally as a screen production destination, and will ultimately create more jobs and investment opportunities for the region.
KFS provided the ideal environment for the large-scale production of MEG, which was filmed in Auckland last year at Kumeu, Auckland Film Studios, and at on-water locations out from Gulf Harbour and Auckland’s south-east coast. The film stars English actor Jason Statham and Chinese actor Li Bingbing and is a true Hollywood/China co-production.
Barrie Osborne, executive producer of MEG, said: “It is great to have an additional facility in New Zealand, a place I know well. I love to produce films there. The crews are innovative, enthusiastic, a collaborative group of technicians. On each film I’ve produced with them, I have found they all share a common interest and that’s to make the best film possible.”
Auckland’s screen sector is booming, with the past financial year again setting a record in terms of our Screen Auckland team fielding applications for Auckland Council public place film permits.
A New Zealand family feature film Kiwi Christmas started filming in Auckland mid-February, and the US TV series Power Rangers has begun filming until the end of March. Award-winning Australian TV series 800 Words has started filming its third series, and MTV's The Shannara Chronicles returned to film a second season in early February.US TV Series Ash Versus Evil Dead returns for a third season, pre-production started in January and filming begins in March.
Following MEG wrapping up, KFS has already been used by a number of productions, including television commercials. A major crew has now moved in to begin a production for a high-profile global company which has not yet announced the project.
The existing sub-licencing bookings already cover ATEED’s annual lease obligation for 2017, with a growing pipeline of inquiries in place for future productions.