They’ve been a bit under the cover, but an Under the Vines head honcho talks to PHILIP CHANDLER about the TV drama’s latest shoot, and the benefits it’s bringing the region. Best of all, he’s confirming there are ‘grape expectations’ for still more series after the third shoot finishes shortly

For the past two months, they’ve been some of the most appreciative but hardest-working visitors Queenstown/Arrowtown and Central Otago have had.

They’re the cast and crew shooting the third series of lighthearted TV comedy, Under the Vines.

The co-production between international streaming platform Acorn TV and TVNZ has involved 82 crew and 12 core cast, plus guest actors and about 150 local extras.

The cast include principal stars, Kiwi-born, formerly Australia-based actress Rebecca Gibney (Halifax, Packed to the Rafters, Wanted), who’s also executive producer, and British actor Charles Edwards (The Crown, Downton Abbey, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power).

They play a socialite (Daisy Monroe) and lawyer (Louis Oakley) who’ve inherited a run-down winery, Oakley Wines.

In real (or reel) life, the winery’s Alexandra’s Black Ridge and Central Otago’s the fictional town of Peak View.

In the second-series shoot, early last year, about six weeks were spent at the ‘hero’ vineyard, but this shoot’s been spread more widely, series producer Paul Yates says.

‘‘We’ve been everywhere, mate, honestly, it’s been a travelling band of merry filmmakers making a cool TV show.’’

On the road again: Under the Vines producer Paul Yates

The shoot, wrapping up in a few days’ time, has included ‘‘a little bit’’ on the Queenstown waterfront, ‘‘a new development at Frankton’’, and a ‘‘particular’’ Queenstown location — ‘‘I can say, a court’’.

They’ve latterly spent a few days in Arrowtown, shooting mostly interiors, and parking their trucks out of harm’s way near the Lake Hayes Pavilion, while their production office has been at Frankton’s Remarkables Park.

‘‘We bring millions of dollars into this region, spending on accommodation, extras, rental cars, camera equipment,’’ Yates says.

‘‘We try and hire as much locally as we can.

‘‘We love being here, we certainly get out and about in the restaurants and the cafes.’’

They’re an active bunch, he adds, but also go wine tasting — ‘‘obviously’’.

‘‘Most of the crew from last season have come back, so they know the region, they know what to do.’’

But they also work 55- to 60-hour weeks.

‘‘I can honestly say this one of the best crews I’ve ever worked for, just for how hard they work and what good people they are.’’

On this shoot, though, just 20 crew are locals, with Yates saying he’s noticed some have moved elsewhere for work since the last shoot.

Behind the scenes: Shooting on location in Central Otago

With the resort’s escalating residential rentals, he suggests ‘‘it’s hard to stay in a region when you’re waiting for the next job, and sometimes it can be a month or two’’.

Without complaining, he’s also noticed the cost of accommodating cast and crew’s risen.

‘‘Last season it was Covid and shutdowns and we had our pick of hotel and accommodation.’’

Yates still calls Queenstown ‘film-friendly’, if not to the extent of ‘‘absolutely film-town’’ Wellington, where he’s from — and again without complaining, he notes it’s been ‘‘a little tricky’’ getting around due to roadworks.

But the great news is the show probably won’t wither on the vine — ‘‘our benefactors at Acorn and TVNZ love the show, and I think they would keep it going for a while’’.

‘‘It’s certainly the top streamed, scripted, hour-long show on New Zealand television last year — we had huge numbers on TVNZ+, so it’s a very popular drama’’, Yates says.

He thinks it’s popular because ‘‘this is just a lovely show’’ with ‘‘lovely characters that are identifiable’’.

‘‘It’s very rare you see a romance between two characters over 50, let alone over 40.’’

And beyond just the direct spending each shoot brings, ‘‘I don’t think the benefits of advertising this region to the world can be under-estimated’’.

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