Deep South Series: Wanaka – Lights, Camera… Studio? Does Central Otago need a giant movie batch

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The government is fast-tracking resource consent for a $280 million film studio near Wānaka, but key figures in the production industry say that is the opposite of what is needed. Video / Provided

The Herald is proud to present the fourth episode of a major new investigative documentary series, Deep South, produced and presented by Crux Productions.

After 20 years, Queenstown Lakes could finally have its studio. Key figures in the production industry say this is the opposite of what is needed.

In December 2021, accelerated consent was granted as part of the Covid-19 recovery response for the construction of a film studio near Wanaka.

The $280 million Silverlight Studio would cover 332 hectares.

It would include reconstructions of Paris, Venice and New York, 10 sound stages and an 11-hectare artificial lake.

Most film studios come to New Zealand to film the special scenery and locations.  Photo / Provided
Most film studios come to New Zealand to film the special scenery and locations. Photo / Provided

The directors of Silverlake suggest that the first sound stages will be completed by 2025, but work has yet to begin.

Phillip Smith, CEO of Great Southern Film and Television, said the studios are the “field of dreams, which never came true”.

He thinks TV and filmmakers come to Central Otago to shoot outdoors and include amazing scenery, not in a studio.

“Queenstown needs weather cover, a sound studio where we can go when it rains,” Smith said.

“Yes, a studio of some scale is needed here, not a dream of something huge that could happen here in the future,” he said.

Virtual production is a virtual filmmaking technique that uses camera tracking technology.  Photo / Provided
Virtual production is a virtual filmmaking technique that uses camera tracking technology. Photo / Provided

Today, a new technology has emerged that could change the way screens are produced and make large studios redundant.

Virtual Production is a virtual filmmaking technique that uses camera tracking technology, LED screen technology, and a real-time 3D engine to essentially replace what would have been a traditional green screen studio workflow. .

Simon Waterhouse, managing director of Resonate, a small film production company in Christchurch, has developed a virtual production prototype.

Waterhouse says there are things you would never dream of doing on location that you can do in virtual production.

“In one of our films, we shot a sunset over two days. It would have been five minutes of light on a real location, we managed to stretch it over two days,” Waterhouse said.

“You have the ability to move trees and move buildings,” he said.

Virtual production is going to disrupt the way we make films in New Zealand in the future.  Photo / Provided
Virtual production is going to disrupt the way we make films in New Zealand in the future. Photo / Provided

Virtual production will disrupt the way films are made in New Zealand in the future.

The Silverlight Studio project team has kept a low profile amid concerns that their projects may in fact be focused on real estate or tourism.

The New Zealand display industry is worth over $3.5 billion and employs over 21,000 people. Taking the wrong strategic direction could therefore have serious economic and social consequences.


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