Lord of The Rings TV series set to be filmed in Auckland - insiders
Matthew Theunissen, Reporter
West Auckland is gearing up to host the most expensive television production of all time and the businesses around the studio are hoping to get a slice of Jeff Bezos' billions.
Illustration: Lyndon Hood / Scoop
Industry insiders say Mr Bezos' Amazon studios are set to produce the majority of the Lord of the Rings series in New Zealand, with west Auckland to become the main base for the epic five-year production.
It seems everyone in the area has signed a non-disclosure agreement so they weren't willing to go on record and risk being sued by the world's richest man.
But they all know what's going on - there's already said to be some pre-production work going on at the Auckland Film Studios in Henderson.
Some of the businesses RNZ spoke to have secured deals to provide services for the production.
Fortunately, Jo Pilkington from First Scene Costume and Party Hire in Avondale, wasn't obliged to abide by the worst-kept secret in the west.
"There'll be a huge number of crew, international and local who'll have celebrations here. There will be a lot of corporate set jump on board, for themed events. And also there will be some props and costumes that no doubt we will possibly be able to hire to the production itself.
Pilkington from First Scene Costume and Party Hire
in Avondale. Photo: Supplied
She said west Auckland was becoming well-established as a film location, and it was more than capable of dealing with large-scale productions.
"Just in the area of Avondale and Henderson you've got AV companies, film studios, prop hire companies, you got amazing set designers. It's all-go around here."
But it's not just businesses directly associated with film and tv that stand to benefit.
Many manufacturers in the area regularly get involved with production work, building weird and whacky props or elaborate sets.
Jon Leverne from the small fibre glass business NZ Comptec helped to create the underwater vessels for the monster shark movie The Meg.
He said he was hoping his business phone number finds its way into a top Amazon executive's mobile.
"There's so many parts of that that you probably wouldn't realise could be made out of fibreglass. From walls, all sorts of random structures and ... if there was one particular thing that needed to be replicated like helmets or anything like that for soldiers, we could build them by the hundreds," he said.
"All we'd need is one or two moulds and we could mass produce them as many times as you want."
Without wanting to get too ahead of himself, Mr Leverne said it was possible the business may have to take on more staff if the work comes in as he hopes.
"It could be a five, seven-year project. To be even part of that as a business [and] being able to forecast ... we all know it's guaranteed money because it is quite a good earner.
"It'd be lovely to get involved with it, for sure. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth but you can charge a reasonable rate ... and they wear it because it's something that they need."
Central Park and Henderson Business Association's Kalvin Armstrong said news of the production coming west was great for the area.
"I think it's fantastic because it just gives that little push, that little bit of encouragement for young up-and-coming people in the workforce and it might provide some great opportunities for them."
Outgoing Economic Development Minister David Parker confirmed today that Amazon had shown strong interest in producing the series in New Zealand and said an announcement about it was imminent.
He confirmed that the normal tax breaks would be offered and no cap would be applied for Amazon. It's been variously calculated that this could amount to some $375 million.
"All of us at some level begrudge the subsidies that the film industry has around the world. But it is a reality that they are subsidised. And if you want to have a big film industry in New Zealand you have to match the world market," Mr Parker said.
RNZ understands that the call went out in May for actors to audition for the productions.
Actors were told it was top secret and all that casting agents would say was that it was for a major project.