Film studio a winner for region - producer

01:34, Jul 29 2014

Southland needs a film studio to capitalise on industry interest in New Zealand, a producer says.

Producer Murray Francis, who will work on the upcoming Goodbye Pork Pie remake, said international film-makers were attracted to Southland for its landscapes, but lacked large studio space to film interior scenes in the region. Without anywhere to shoot interiors in the south, film-makers, and their money, left the area sooner.

In 2009, Francis suggested converting the former Ocean Beach meat works, at Bluff, into a film studio, an idea which gained support from southern businesses and community groups.

Five years on, little progress has been made, but Francis still believes the project could be a positive for Southland.

Although the space was not in the ideal location, which was Queenstown, it was the only place big enough in the region to easily transform into a studio, he said.

If it was converted, it could encourage big companies to stay in the south longer. "You could shoot your mountains, lakes and rivers in Queenstown and you could go shoot interior scenes in Invercargill."

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He would try to take another look at the site during his work on Goodbye Pork Pie, part of which would be filmed in Southland.

Venture Southland enterprise and strategic projects group manager Steve Canny said while the studio project had been investigated at the time, there had been no follow-through from the industry.

Southland's biggest drawcard was its natural environment, and unless a steady stream of work was lined up for an expensive space, any southern studio would quickly become a white elephant, he said.

He believed the film industry's real economic value to Southland, outside of the direct services and personnel used during shoots, was exposure.

Artists like Stan Walker and Grinspoon, and companies like Vodafone and Sangyong, had filmed music videos and advertisements in the area which were being viewed by thousands of people, he said.

It also provided opportunities for SIT students and other Southlanders, he said.

Film Otago Southland executive manager Kevin Jennings said the organisation was positive about the state of film in Southland.

Recent projects showed the region was capable of "delivering the goods", he said. lauren.hayes@stl.co.nz

The Southland Times