Christina Milian, Adam Demos star in first Netflix feature film shot in NZ - Falling Inn Love
Smoke billows from the top storey of a two-storey mansion-turned-Inn sitting in the small-town Thames.
Guests of the bed and breakfast stream outside in a panic as firefighters rush to assist.
The owner of the Inn, Charlotte, breaks free from the firefighters and runs into the smoky building calling out she needs to save her babies which, as it transpires, are a collection of creepy baby dolls.
As she runs into the building and out of sight the firefighters chase just long enough to leave the shot and the director calls cut.
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On the set of the first feature-length Netflix Original film shot in New Zealand, there is an electric atmosphere as cast and crew realise the significance of what the film could mean to the local industry if all goes well.
Thames saw first-hand the impact of having a major movie-producer set up shop in town. Nearly every accommodation provider was booked out for the week of shooting.
For the actors, production assistants and stunt doubles the film means exposure on a much larger world stage.
"It [work] generally goes from feast to famine," production assistant Julie-Ann Mueller says. "There is a wealth of amazing talent in New Zealand and having smaller productions like this come to town will keep a lot of that talent here in New Zealand."
Directed by Roger Kumble, of Cruel Intentions and The Sweetest Thing fame, the film focuses on city-girl Gabriela Diaz (Christina Milian), who loses her job at a San Francisco design firm while being simultaneously dumped by her boyfriend.
But just when things are looking glum, she takes out the top prize in a "Win an Inn" competition, which sends her on a one-way trip to New Zealand.
However, she soon discovers Bellbird Valley Farm is a crumbling wreck occupied by a goat and coveted by a meddling neighbour (Anna Jullienne), who wants it to be part of her own "Inn-pire".
Eager to flip the property, Gabriela partners with local contractor Jake Taylor (Australian actor Adam Demos) but, as the renovations near completion, she starts to have second thoughts of leaving the small New Zealand town that has nurtured her.
Milian described herself as feeling completely at home while here in New Zealand and relished the opportunity to explore the country during filming. She was particularly fond of Bethells Beach where a romantic sunset shot took place.
"It's a dream job," she says. "In this location, you never know what to expect. You see the mountains, then cross a lake and, over the road, there are black dunes."
Milian says New Zealand made a perfect backdrop for a romantic-comedy, a genre which is making a resurgence. She also believes that her character's love interest Demos will be a hit.
"The ladies are going to love him," she says.
"It's kind of cool that he used to be a tradie before he became an actor. They [the characters] have a pretty bumpy start. If you don't realise you're attracted to something, your instant reaction is to go against it and she just keeps getting more and more embarrassed."
While Milian and Demos were imported to New Zealand, Netflix stayed true to their intention to hire as much of the cast and crew as they could locally.
"It's quite cool that this is for Netflix," 800 Words and Shortland St actor Jullienne says. "It's amazing to think about how many people will see the film and how many countries it will be released in."
Fellow actor Claire Chitham (Fresh Eggs, Shortland Street) believes that Netflix's presence here can only strengthen the local industry.
"As an actor it's exciting, but as a person in the film industry we're also competing for international companies taking our staff," she says.
"We make a lot of international content that we never get to see, but we will using Netflix."
Nineteen-year-old stuntwoman Isis de Souza was thrilled when she was called in as Milian's stunt double for the film. She had partnered with Netflix before to assist with last year's The New Legends of Monkey series, which Netflix co-produced with TVNZ and Australia's ABC.
"I was told there was an actor the same height, same skin tone and same weight as you and there could be some double work," de Souza says.
"It is awesome to have more opportunities like this occurring in New Zealand."
For his part, director Kumble said filming in New Zealand added a lot to the film and he admitted he was a big fan of New Zealand comedy.
"Some of my favourite films are What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople," he says.
"There is a lot of great comedy coming out of New Zealand."
Producer Robyn Snyder says Falling Inn Love was rewritten to work in a New Zealand context and filming had gone well.
"New Zealand made the most sense," she says.
"It has the available crew base and talent base and matched the time of year we were shooting."
Kiwis (and the rest of the world) will be able to see the end result when Falling Inn Love premieres on Netflix on August 29.