Camperdown’s Newest Sound Stage
THE SOUND STAGE STORY
Camperdown’s Newest Sound Stage
Camperdown Studios Ltd’s newest and largest sound stage at its Stone Street studios, already in use for the production of “King Kong”, is now complete. Camperdown built the new, $10 million dollar facility as part of its long-standing efforts to build and expand the Wellington region’s film production capacity.
In recognition of the importance of the film industry to the Wellington region, Positively Wellington Business, the region’s economic development agency, has received $2 million under New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s Regional Partnership Programme to go towards development of the facility. This amount will comprise approximately 20% of the overall cost of the expansion.
The sound stage is a fully soundproofed 24,500 sq. ft. concrete structure, standing 40 ft high, including sophisticated heating and ventilation equipment, full lighting grid and gantry. Although only partly completed in September 2004, the sound stage was immediately pressed into service for the filming of “King Kong”.
The new sound stage expands the extensive film production facilities created by Camperdown over the past ten years, including:
- Multiple sound stages at the Stone Street complex
- Full production offices, set, prop, costume, and related support facilities at Stone Street
- Weta Workshop facilities that supply services in film design, special makeup, armour, weapons, creatures and miniatures
- Specialty facilities for miniatures film production
- Two of the largest motion capture stages in the world
- One of the largest super-computer facilities in the world, including the complete IT and physical infrastructure required for the enormous computing power used by Weta Digital
- Numerous other production assets spread throughout the Miramar area
Camperdown’s facilities have been used for a number of films in the past. All of the production interiors, backlot sets, miniatures, and special effects shots for the “Lord Of The Rings” film trilogy occurred at Stone Street.
Wellington as a Film-Friendly Region
The Wellington City Council was the first council in the country to implement a film-friendly policy, designed to speed up the approval processes for film related activities, and cut through bureaucratic red tape.
In 1996 Film Wellington - then part of Wellington City Council, now part of Positively Wellington Business (PWB) - was created to assist production filming in the city, and promote the region’s film production capability.
In 1998 screen production in the region received a major boost with the decision to produce the “Lord Of The Rings” film trilogy in Wellington. The success of the film trilogy spurred interest in bringing other international projects to the region. There was already talk that Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films and Universal Pictures would produce “King Kong” at Camperdown Studios, although a production of that scope would strain even the large capacity of the then-existing Camperdown sound stages in Miramar.
In 2003, PWB recognised that Camperdown had the existing studio capacity, management expertise, the vast majority of the required capital, and the global visibility to form the base for such a project. PWB and Camperdown agreed to work together on the expansion of Stone Street Studios to include a new sound stage.
Positively Wellington Business’ Economic Analysis
The economic importance of filmmaking and television production to the regional economy was first recognised over a decade ago. Since the premiere of “The Fellowship of the Ring” in 2001, PWB has been conducting an investigation into how it might leverage this explosion in capability and creativity, to create opportunities for growth in the regional economy.
In April 2002, PWB’s strategic plan for the Wellington Region identified the creative sector, in particular film and television production, as a key driver in the regional economy.
In August of that year, PWB commissioned an independent report by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu on opportunities for the Wellington regional economy, which identified screen production as a specific opportunity for growth. The industry was identified as “achieving the necessary critical mass to provide attractive, skilled jobs for a range of New Zealanders, generate considerable export earnings, and contract an enormous range of support services” (Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, 2002: p58).
The same report went on to say that “One important piece of film production infrastructure that the Wellington region lacks is a large film studio (with sound) - a facility that the film sector is lacking nationally (and which is in short supply internationally). The availability of such a studio is likely to have a material effect on the ability of the region to attract ongoing movie production” (Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, 2002: p67).
Need to Build Local Capability
Early in 2003, PWB commissioned PriceWaterhouse Coopers to explore the feasibility of investing in a world-class screen production facility. The preliminary study found that New Zealand and the Wellington region was likely to benefit from the establishment of an international studio space. PriceWaterhouse Coopers recommended a full feasibility study be undertaken to identify likely costs, partners, possible locations, and the economic benefit to be derived through government investment in such a facility over time.
Soon after the findings of the preliminary feasibility study were delivered, two further reports emphasised the need to build local capability in order to realise local industry potential.
The Report of the Screen Production Industry Task Force released in March 2003 stated that the industry’s goal would be “to attract foreign productions which will utilise and develop New Zealand’s capability and infrastructure” (SPI Task Force Report, 2003: p39).
The sector capability study released by Pinflicks Communications and the New Zealand Institute for Economic Research (NZIER) further emphasised that the growth of the sector is influenced by both human capital and infrastructure.
The objective for any Wellington-based infrastructure development would therefore be to increase economic growth by creating greater capability, and stimulating increased activity within the screen production industry.
Understanding the Economic Impact
In April 2003, an economic impact assessment study conducted by NZIER and PriceWaterhouse Coopers on behalf of PWB looked at the likely impact based on either an additional mid-range production every 24 months, or an additional high-end production every 24 months. The projected economic impact of these productions over a 10-year period was between NZ$250 million and NZ$650 million, with projected impact of between NZ$450 million and NZ$1.2 billion for the rest of New Zealand over the same period.
Amongst other findings, the study concluded that a number of studios must be available on one site in order for the facility to be attractive to world markets and for the facility to be financially viable, and that Camperdown’s existing management skill and high visibility offered the greatest chance for the project to succeed.
Financial Support for the Sound Stage
In June 2003 New Zealand Trade and Enterprise agreed to make $2 million including GST available to PWB under the Regional Partnerships Programme, to support the development of the expanded screen production facility.
PWB agreed that it would make the entire $2 million available to Camperdown to support the construction of the new sound stage. PWB will hold a security over the expanded Stone Street site until the economic goals are achieved, which is expected to be over several years.
Camperdown purchased suitable land in the Miramar area and announced the development of the sound stage in December 2003.
The Future of Film in Wellington
The Wellington region remains firmly committed to supporting film and television production as a dynamic part of our economy. In June 2006 Film Wellington - now part of Positively Wellington Business - will celebrate its tenth anniversary.
Film Wellington works across the region to support film-makers and film-making, and works with Film New Zealand and other film offices to promote regional and national capability. The Film Wellington website, as well as providing information on locations in the region, includes links to production and post-production facilities, computer animation, special effects, recording studios, equipment hire organisations, crews and talent.
Camperdown Studios, as well as at Weta Workshop, Weta Limited, and Park Road Post, are all actively committed to producing screen entertainment here, and continue to make very substantial investments in the facilities and capacity of the local industry.
The expanded Stone Street facility will be marketed as part of a range of state-of-the art production and post-production facilities in the Miramar area, including the newly completed Park Rd Post facility.
Positively Wellington Business is proud to be associated with Camperdown Studios in this endeavour, and wishes the partners every success in their marketing and production activities.
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