We’re losing the plot


 TV heavyweight says shows lured away from Queenstown.

Queenstown’s leading TV and film boss warns the resort is fast losing the plot as a premier film location.

Philip Smith – who brought ratings-busting television show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? to New Zealand – is concerned the Wakatipu is shedding megabuck media productions to other regions.

Not enough is being done to hustle for business at home or abroad, he claims.

“There’s a lot of complacency going on here and people need a bloody rocket,” Smith says.

“It’s simply not a given anymore the resort will always attract the film and television industries just because it looks nice.

“There are other people out there now pitching for their towns in very passionate and competitive ways – and succeeding.”

Media heavyweight Smith co-owns Great Southern Film and Television, responsible for hit TV shows includ­­­­­­­-
ing Eating Media Lunch, Lion Man and The Unauthorised History of New Zealand.

His local productions Remarkable Vets and The Pretender have also been small-screen successes, and new movie Show of Hands hit the cinemas this week.

But he reckons Queenstown Lakes District Council, its Film Queenstown quango and the promotion body Destination Queenstown need to act quickly to help keep filming alive in the area.

He’s calling for a creative summit in the resort for major players from business and tourism to address the issue.

But Smith is skeptical that building an already much-touted film and TV studio in Queenstown is the right way forward.

“For years I’ve been hearing the same tedious argument about a studio,” he says. “It’s like listening to a stuck record.

“Studio planning down the track is great – but we need to nurture and support the people who are here now, otherwise by the time the studio is built they’ll be long gone.”

Kevin Jennings, boss of Film Queenstown says he’s aware times are getting tougher.

“There are now about 350 regional film offices around the world actively looking for business and competition is certainly getting tighter.”

Tracey Neave, boss of Queenstown-based casting agency Ican Models and Talent, agrees.

“There haven’t been as many television commercials coming in recently,” she says.

“I’m glad I don’t rely solely on supplying actors and actresses and have a modelling side to my operation that always ticks over.”

Smith also claims there’s a worrying lack of communication between the town’s powers-that-be and major media production companies.

“We made Remarkable Vets here and sold it on to 20 countries and the National Geographic channel,” he says.

“But I’ve never even had as much as a glass of water at Joe’s Garage with either the mayor or anyone from the council.

“The series profiled Queenstown weekly to a global audience and could have had a huge life for the resort – but instead it was eventually cancelled.

“It was a classic example of an opportunity to sell the town on a world stage being lost.”

Smith also believes Queenstown is a “godsend” to makers of commercials, films and TV shows at present because of the “plummeting NZ dollar” – but that opportunity isn’t being exploited either.

“We have to find new ways of giving Queenstown the X Factor and whoever takes over Destination Queenstown is going to have to work on that area, too.”


Good show, Taranaki – take heed, Queenstown

Great Southern’s latest movie Show of Hands – starring acclaimed Kiwi actress Melanie Lynskey – has just been released to rave reviews.

The flick is based on a real story about a contest to win a Land Rover Discovery, with competitors required to keep one hand on the car for longer than anyone else.

More than 40 people line up to test their stamina and endurance, including parking warden Jess, played by Lynskey, who’s determined to win the vehicle to help transport her disabled daughter around.

It was shot in New Plymouth and was partly funded by local development agency Venture Taranaki.

The hit Tom Cruise flick The Last Samurai was also shot there in 2003.

Great Southern boss Philip Smith reckons Queenstown could “learn a few lessons”.

He says: “New Plymouth put itself forward and ended up getting a major feature film produced there.

“The region contributed a lot of resources and facilities and even rolled out the mayor to help.”

Show of Hands is screening at Dorothy Browns Cinema in Arrowtown.