By PHILIP CHANDLER
Plans for a $12 million Queenstown film studio have been brought forward to address the Covid-19-induced collapse of the local tourism industry.
The proposal, for a large Gibbston Valley site opposite the Victoria Flats landfill, has been sent to the government for its ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure programme to seek its support – however, no funding’s been requested.
Ryan Leggatt, who’s managing the Paradise Studios project for the landowner, says 100-plus workers would be employed to build the “international-class” studio for film, TV and advertising shoots.
It would also turbo-charge the local film industry, as it would offer sorely-needed facilities for wet-weather shooting and post-production.
Talking to location managers, Leggatt says “wet-weather cover is Queenstown’s number one concern that comes up time and time again”.
It costs time and money to stand down a massive crew till the sun comes out, he points out.
Currently, there are four film studios in Auckland and two in Wellington, but none in the South Island.
Local film industry veteran Brett Mills says everyone he’s spoken to about the proposal is
‘‘highly excited about it’’.
‘‘The main reason is because it’s always the American or the overseas people saying ‘do you have a studio?’, and when we say ‘no’, it’s a deal-breaker.
‘‘For them, this will be a deal-maker.’’
Mills says the timing couldn’t be better.
In addition to the resort’s sophisticated film community and scenic and other attractions, ‘‘with tourism being what it is, there’s now going to be heaps of available accommodation’’.
Leggatt believes the studio’s location is a winner because ‘‘it’s in the middle of nowhere’’.
However, it’s also under 35 kilometres from both Queenstown and Cromwell, so it’s an industry-acceptable travel time from both.
It would be set back up to 200 metres, or more, from the highway, he says, to reduce
both noise and visibility, while overlooking the Kawarau River.
Leggatt, who’s had 16 years’ film experience, including work on local productions The
Chronicles of Narnia and 10,000 BC, says the first stage would be a 2000 square metre sound stage, at least 10m high.
There’d be scope for a full-scale film industry hub of about 8000sqm, housing any number
of associated facilities, plus space to park up film trucks.
Leggatt says when it’s not employed for film work, the studio could be available for
indoor concerts and other events.
A key ingredient, however, would be a resource consent — the application will mirror one
granted for a whisky distillery, which didn’t proceed, on the same site.
Once granted, Leggatt’s confident the studio could be built in six months.