Thu. Nov 17th, 2022

Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash has sought to distance himself from Amazons decision to move production of its Lord of the Rings series to the UK.
There was never a cast iron promise that season two would be filmed, let alone [be] filmed here, Nash said.
A studio would never commit to a second series without understanding how well the first series actually did.
However, Amazon had ordered a second season of the fantasy series before season one even went into production.
The Lord of the Rings TV show had been filming in NZ.
Nash said he was gutted, very disappointed to learn on Thursday that Amazon planned on leaving, but insisted it had nothing to do with the studios experience in New Zealand.
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This is basically a lot of very large multinational consolidating all their filming onto one on site in the UK. Nothing whatsoever to do with their experience here, or the skills or competency or capacity of the New Zealand film industry in any way, shape, or form. That’s what they told us.
However, a crew member, who asked to remain anonymous, told Stuff they understood New Zealands Covid-19 border restrictions and the requirement that international cast and crew spend 14 days in managed isolation upon arrival was part of the problem.
The news came as a big shock, the crew member said.
Security kept watch as crew arrived at, and left, the Auckland Film Studios site in Henderson, currently used for Amazons Lord of the Rings.
Lord of the Rings crew received an email informing them of the production shift at 9.13 on Friday morning, about 20 minutes before Amazon issued a press release.
We want to inform you directly that Amazon Studios have made the decision to move UAP (Untitled Amazon Project) to the UK for season two, it read.
Post production will continue here as planned through May 2022. All other departments should continue to fully wrap out of season one as scheduled and we will be in touch shortly to discuss next steps.
The crew member told Stuff that while there was a general feeling of surprise over the decision, some saw the Amazon project leaving New Zealand as an opportunity, because Amazon was holding up some of Aucklands prime studio space for a year before season two was even planned to go into production.
The Auckland Film Studios site on Hickory Avenue, Henderson, is being used for season one of Lord of the Rings.
But those opportunities would only eventuate if international productions decided to film here, and MIQ restrictions might turn them off, the crew member said.
Unless we change MIQ, theres no other productions, they said.
Other production staff told Stuff they were disappointed, but not surprised, to be among the last to hear that production was moving to the UK. They said they heard about the move from media, and received confirmation via an email on Friday morning.
They told Stuff Amazon bosses did not give them a clear reason why the production was moving offshore, and said it appeared to be some sudden corporate decision. Amazon said it wanted to build its presence in the UK.
Crew and staff were advised on Friday morning that filming for Lord of the Rings is moving to the UK.
In April, Nash announced a deal which appeared to confirm Amazons continued production of Lord of the Rings in New Zealand.
More than 1200 people were employed to make season one of Lord of the Rings, according to Nash. Amazon announced in April it intended to continue production in New Zealand.
The series, with a budget of $1.43 billion is understood to be the most expensive ever made.
Early on Friday afternoon, staff were seen leaving the main studio in Henderson and heading to the pub.
Some crew declined to appear on camera, explaining they had NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) up to our eyeballs.
Those who did speak were critical of Amazons handling of the situation, and said it was typical for the company to inform media before staff about changes to the production. When the production went on hiatus last year, they said they also initially heard that through the press and were left without payment through that period.
Nationals economic development spokesperson Todd McClay said the Government had significantly mishandled its dealings with Amazon Studios.
He said Kiwis needed to know what had gone wrong in between the Government and Amazon.
We know that they agreed to an extra 5 per cent [rebate] long after filming had started, suggesting that without it Amazon might leave New Zealand, he said.
And now we’re finding they are leaving New Zealand. It reads like a comedy.
The first series of the as-yet-untitled project shot in New Zealand over 18 months from February 2020, notwithstanding a Covid-19-enforced break in production, brought in around $650 million and created 2000 jobs, according to the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC).
But, while post-production on the first season will remain onshore until June 2022, production on the second season of the epic fantasy series will move to the UK.
The NZFC had funded the series through the New Zealand Screen Production Grant, which subsidises international productions by 20 per cent on every dollar spent in New Zealand. The Government had also offered to pay an additional five per cent rebate.
In a statement, Amazon co-head of TV Vernon Sanders said the company did not intend to pursue the extra five per cent rebate given the decision to move production to the UK.
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According to Amazon, the decision to shift production aligns with the studios strategy of expanding its production footprint and investing in studio space across the UK, with many of Amazon Studios tentpole series and films already calling the UK home.
In the statement, Sanders thanked the people and Government of New Zealand for their tremendous collaboration.
NZFC CEO David Strong called the decision a shame but sought to assure the public that New Zealands international reputation continues to attract global interest.
I feel for everyone who has put their hearts into this production, he said. Season two was expected to begin later in 2022, so our role now is to work hard to keep the Kiwi screen sector employed.
Nash issued a statement on Friday morning saying he had been informed the day prior of Amazons decision.
He said he was disappointed.
The Amazon Studios decision in no way reflects the capabilities of our local film industry or the talents of the people who work in it. This is a multi-national company that has made a commercial choice.
During the shows pre-production stages, Scotland was reportedly considered as a back up location when Amazon feared New Zealands production facilities would not be up to capacity.
It was not clear exactly where in the UK the second season will be shot.
The first, New Zealand-shot, season will premiere on Amazon Prime TV in September 2022.
Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash said, in April, a memorandum of understanding was in place with Amazon to ensure Lord of the Rings remained in New Zealand.
Amazons U-Turn
Just a few months ago, Nash and Amazon announced a landmark deal securing Amazons production in New Zealand.
New Zealands success in securing this large scale and multi-season production is a significant boost to the local screen industry, creating jobs at all levels, Nash said in April.
Amazon is committed to growing and nurturing the talent/skills base of the New Zealand screen sector.
To secure the deal, the New Zealand Government offered Amazon a further five per cent rebate on top of the 20 per cent offered through the New Zealand Screen Grant.
Earlier this month, the Government committed $35 million to create two new sound stages in Auckland.