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New Zealand

New Zealand Film & Photography Production Services

Are you a media company, brand, ad agency or production company looking for film / photography production support or shooting crew in New Zealand? We have fully vetted, locally based fixers, service producers, directors, DP’s, videographers, cameramen, photographers, sound operators, production drivers, and a range of other film crew. Contact us for referrals, questions, cost estimates and references.

Want to know more about shooting in New Zealand? See below for an introduction to New Zealand locations, permits, when to shoot, costs, talent, crews, fringes and premiums, equipment, art department, studios, post facilities, visas and work permits, film friendly hotels, transport, communications and safety advice.

New Zealand Film Locations

New Zealand offers a world of location looks within close proximity to each other.

The country is best known for its otherworldly looks of deep forests, glacial lakes, peaceful streams, white-water rapids, snow-covered mountains, magnificent fjords, and volcanos, as seen in films such as the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia. 

New Zealand has a wide selection of surf and calm water beaches with black, brown or white sand options. Visiting film productions can find small intimate beaches or beaches that stretch for miles such as the rugged west coast beach of Karekare where The Piano was filmed.

New Zealand is a popular choice for dairy commercials looking for black and white Jersey cows wandering around luscious green meadows. Other agricultural looks of interest include bucolic pastures with grazing sheep, apple and kiwifruit orchards, and picturesque vineyards. Wheat and barley fields are harvested between December and March.

Offering a vast variety of stunning roads, New Zealand is also a car commercial paradise. Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds is a winter car-testing track located on top of a mountain. It is one of few places in the world where cars can be tested on snow during the months of June to August. Boomrock is another racing and training course. Motorplex in Masterton is a dragstrip available for filming. Skippers Canyon Road is a narrow, cliffside gravel road with spectacular views.

New Zealand has a big sailing culture so there are plenty of boats available for filming on the open ocean. There are many sport venues available for filming from world-class golf courses to rugby stadiums.

Desert is the only location New Zealand does not have. That said, some coastal sand dunes and large inland areas of sparsely vegetated plains have been used to double for these looks.

Auckland is the main city for filming infrastructure, followed closely by Wellington, Queenstown and Christchurch. New Zealand’s cities offer modern buildings, contemporary homes, and some old European looks.

Specific locations of interest to filmmakers and photographers can be divided by the following regions:

North Island

Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city. Known as “The City of Sails”, Auckland’s two large harbours are full of yachts. The city boasts more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world. Viaduct Harbour is a great place to film waterfront bars and cafes. Auckland’s iconic Sky Tower punctuates the modern city skyline. Auckland Domain is the city’s oldest park.

A drive from Auckland offers a variety of interesting film locations. Hobbiton is the film set for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve is where you can find Cathedral Cove where the Chronicles of Narnia were filmed. Tongariro National Park is where you can find Mt Ruapehu and Crater Lake. Other locations of note include the Bay of Islands, White Island, Tiritiri Matangi Island, Rotorua, Frying Pan Lake, Lake Taupo and Huka Falls.

Wellington. At the southern end of the North Island, you can find New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. Locations of note include the Beehive parliament building, Botanical Gardens, Wellington Railway Station, Mount Victoria, Mount Victoria Tunnel, Moa Point tunnel, Wellington International Airport, Shelly Bay, Scorching Bay, and Lyall Bay where King Kong was filmed. Busy downtown locations of note include Jervois Quay, Featherston Street, Maginnity Street, and Hunter Street.

Outside of Wellington you can find many more film locations. Wainuiomata beach is a long, unspoiled, rocky stretch of coastline. Battle Hill has a farm, plantation and forest (Pete’s Dragon). Otherworldly locations of interest include the Putangirua Pinnacles, Kaitoke Regional Park (The Lord of The Rings), and Mount Taranaki (The Last Samurai).

South Island

New Zealand’s South Island has many beautiful national parks including Abel Tasman National Park, Kahurangi National Park, Nelson Lakes National Park, Paparoa National Park, Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park (hosted the film Vertical Limit), Westland Tai Poutini National Park (home to Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier), Mount Aspiring National Park, and Fiordland National Park (home to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound).

In the north part of South Island, you can find the famous Marlborough wine region.

Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island. It is known for its English heritage and Botanic Gardens. Outside of Christchurch you can find Flock Hill where Chronicles of Narnia was filmed. West of Christchurch you can find the Castle Hill limestone boulders. Heading north you can find the coastal town of Kaikoura known for its sperm whale population.

Queenstown is New Zealand’s outdoor and adventure capital sitting on Lake Wakatipu and set against the dramatic Southern Alps. It is the gateway to spectacular locations such as Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring, Fiordland, Lake Wanaka, and Paradise where Wolverine & The Hobbit was filmed. Nearby ski resorts of note include Treble Cone, The Remarkables, and Coronet Peak. Lake Tekapo’s flowering Lupins are best in November.

Heading farther south, Invercargill is the southern gateway to the unspoilt Southern Coast. Dunedin offers some interesting film locations. Between the two you can find the remote Nugget Point Lighthouse.

Oamaru, north of Dunedin, has a precinct of Victorian buildings that can easily double for Britain.

The Realm of New Zealand also includes Tokelau (a dependent territory); the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing states in free association with New Zealand); and the Ross Dependency, which is New Zealand’s territorial claim in Antarctica.

New Zealand Film Location Permits

The permitting process is generally quick, easy and streamlined. It is possible to close city streets for filming, as well as rural highways and country roads but not motorways. Aerial filming is permitted over most locations, including cities. A 500 ft minimum height limit applies to cities but there is usually no minimum height restriction otherwise. Please contact us for more location specific information.

When To Shoot?

New Zealand is popular with visiting production looking for opposite season looks. Summer runs from December to February. This is the busiest time for production with long, sunny shoot days and impressive light. Fall is from March to May. Winter runs from June to August with snow on the mountains. The rest of the country rarely sees snow, so locations at lower elevations are open to filming all year round. Spring is from September to November. The Aurora Australis is best photographed from March to September. For monthly weather statistics please see here.

Indigenous cultural events of interest to filmmakers and photographers include Matariki Festival Maori celebrations which take place in June / July.

Public holidays may affect timing, availability and costs. See here for public holiday dates in New Zealand.

Costs & Tax Incentives

Costs. For a high quality production service centre, New Zealand is one of the most cost competitive filming centres in the Western world. New Zealand is generally less expensive than Australia due to the difference in exchange rate, less distance to locations, and more flexible crew and talent rules. Our locally based fixers and service producers will negotiate deals and provide the appropriate level of production support to match every budget.

Tax Incentives. The NZSPG offers a baseline cash grant equivalent to 20% of Qualifying New Zealand Production Expenditure (QNZPE). In addition to the baseline grant, some projects may also be eligible for an additional 5% uplift if they can demonstrate significant economic benefits to New Zealand. See Film New Zealand for more information.

GST is not charged on foreign TV commercials and other short format work as the files / negative are considered an export.

Local film offices exist is in each film centre, focusing primarily on their region and its specific filming opportunities: AucklandQueenstownWellington.

Film Crew & Talent

Crews. New Zealand has a good pool of local directors, directors of photography, production designers and stills photographers with extensive international experience. Auckland is the main filming city, followed closely by Wellington, Queenstown and Christchurch. Crews are non-union. New Zealand has a great depth of professional, technical crews. They are quick, hard working and have a great deal of experience servicing international productions.

Contact us if you are looking for a Auckland, Queenstown or Christchurch based director, DP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, or any other film crew in New Zealand.

Talent. New Zealand is a multicultural country offering international talent looks, with the majority of looks being Caucasian, Maori / Polynesian and Asian.

New Zealand has a great depth of actors and models. There’s even an agency specialising in ethnic looks. Featured talent and extras of any look are easy to cast. However, if you need principal dialogue actors with a particular accent / language, we recommend that you cast in your own country, as well as in New Zealand. It is sometimes required to do a casting session in New Zealand in order to obtain work visas for visiting talent, unless the talent is key to the campaign and not generally available locally (Eg: Foreign language speaking), in which case no New Zealand casting is required.

Most actors are non-union, but our New Zealand production service producer / fixer works to industry guidelines (known as the Pink Book). There are no strict guidelines for rates here. Fees are determined based on country, media and duration of broadcast. Buy-outs are available.

For an example of locally available talent looks see Talento.

Premiums. Crew work a 10 hour day, then charge overtime in ¼ hourly increments thereafter. 10 hours is usual turnaround, breaking that incurs an hourly penalty. There are no penalties for working weekends, holiday or nights. Double-time is charged for the 7th consecutive day of filming or the 13th prep/filming day. Our producer usually works around this by giving crew a well-earned day off. However, we do work to Screen Industry guidelines to ensure high expectation levels are met on both sides. For more information on these guidelines please visit the NZ Film and Video Technicians Guild.

New Zealand Film Equipment

New Zealand has most of the equipment you would expect from an established production service centre: 35mm, HD and Red / Alexa cameras, Technocranes, Libra head, Scorpio, Steadicams, underwater camera equipment, motion control, various gyro stabilized heli-mounts, a flying camera rig, drones and operators, tracking vehicles, low loaders and vehicle camera arms for car shoots. There are several camera and equipment hire companies, keeping costs competitive, such as Rocket Rentals. For drone filming and rentals see Droneworks. For more recommendations, contact us. For productions looking to bring in film equipment New Zealand is an ATA carnet country.

Art Department, Studios, Backlots, & Post Production

Art department, set construction, costumes and SFX are world class. To give you an example of the standard, New Zealand has hosted productions such as the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit, Ghost in the Shell, King Kong, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Xena – Warrior Princess, and The Last Samurai.

Studios. Although most people come to New Zealand for the spectacular scenery, many projects are also shot in studio. New Zealand has everything from small photo studios to some of the largest purpose-built sound stages in the world. Over the years, New Zealand studios have been used for a wide range of feature films, TV series, TV commercial productions, and music videos.

Post Production. New Zealand offers world leading, sophisticated post-production, animation, VFX, 3D and sound facilities.

Visas & Work Permits

Work permits are required for cast and crew from all countries except Australia. These can generally be obtained quickly. Our local fixer / service producer can provide the required documents and advice to secure work permits prior to arrival, or in some circumstances after arriving in New Zealand.

Clients and agency do not require work permits while visiting to supervise shoots in New Zealand, but may require a visitors visa depending on nationality. Those travelling on Western passports can enter visa-free.

Importing Product. It is easy to bring product (including cars) into New Zealand for filming. As long as we have all the details in advance, these can be cleared of customs and be available within 24 hours. Goods can be brought in on a temporary import permit (and taken out of the country again), or on a carnet. Goods left in New Zealand may incur a Goods and Services Tax.

Transport & Accommodation

Transportation Infrastructure is all up to known and expected world standards. Many international airlines fly directly to Auckland and sometimes to Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

Accommodation. Contact us for recommended film friendly hotels in Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown and other parts of New Zealand. For longer stays we also organize serviced apartments. Hotels of note include:

Central Ridge Boutique Hotel, Queenstown
Heritage Hotel, Queenstown
The Rees, Queenstown

Final Notes

Safety. New Zealand is a very safe and reliable filming centre. See here for up to date travel advice.

Down Time. Explore New Zealand’s beautiful and diverse great outdoors. Vineyards count.

Projects. For an example of TV commercials, stills campaigns, online content, corporate videos, virtual reality 360 content, feature films, TV series and documentaries shot in New Zealand, please see below:

Hire New Zealand Production Support & Shooting Crew

If you are looking for a film or photographic production service company, line producer or fixer for your shoot in New Zealand, please contact us.

If you are looking for a shooting crew for your shoot in New Zealand, such as a director, DoP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, please contact us.

We are able to provide you with answers, references and bids quickly.