Hawke's Bay wants a slice of New Zealand's lucrative film industry

Sean Hogan
Source: 1News

It's dubbed the fruit bowl of New Zealand, and now Hawke's Bay wants to be the peach of the country's lucrative film industry.

Work is underway to establish a regional film office to capitalise on growing demand for film production in New Zealand in a Covid-19-hit world.

But, an industry legend warns a lot more work is required to make the dream a reality.

Patrick Sherratt from the Eastern Screen Alliance wants to entice big budget productions to picture-perfect Hawke’s Bay.

“We have from our coasts to our mountains we have within a few hours easy access to a huge variety of different types of locations.”

As worldwide filming halts due to Covid-19, some producers are looking to New Zealand to get back in action, but studio space is scarce.

Mr Sherratt thinks Hawke’s Bay can fill that gap.

“What it does is provides opportunities for smaller regions to create industries in there ... so we are looking at creating an infrastructure.”

There's demand. We've seen Avatar and Lord of the Rings crew come flying in, exempt to complete productions.

Since June 18, Immigration New Zealand received applications for exemptions for 95 film workers from 13 different production companies.

Of those, 42 have been approved, 10 have been declined and the rest are still under consideration.

Kiwi director David White shot his film This Town in Central Hawke’s Bay.

He said there were advantages to filming outside of the main centres.

“It was very easy to close down the main street for example."

But majority of his crew had to be flown in.

“The main problem with all location shooting is how do you get your people in and how do you get your people out in a cost-effective way?”

John Barnett produced worldwide sensation Whale Rider.

Despite economic benefit for the regions, he said filming outside of established areas can cost projects 25 per cent more.

“It's pretty hard to set up a film business in a place where there are no facilities and no depth of crew and no depth of cars," he said.

"I think those are the hurdles.”

Mr Sherratt said that could be solved very soon.

“There is a company that is currently exploring the opportunity of building production studios in Hawke’s Bay.”

A business case will be presented to local councils to fund the alliance in the next two weeks.

Film buffs hope it could mean more of the Bay’s backdrops coming to a screen near you.