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Southern Solitude

Mysterious, mystical and very beautiful, the New Zealand territory of Chatham Islands speaks to filmmakers of romantic productions and thrillers

Far away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities, the archipelago of the Chatham Islands in the Pacific Ocean, a New Zealand territory, is a picturesque location to film. Minus the contemporary lifestyle, noise and pollution and gigantic facades, this destination allows filmmakers to re-engage with the natural world. With no more than 650 inhabitants, the largest islands in the archipelago are Chatham Island and Pitt Island.

Filmmaking in the Chatham Islands is a journey of discovery. You will take a step back in time, to how life used to be. Prepare to be surprised as these mysterious islands yield their secrets – landscapes with volcanic peaks thrust up out of rolling lands, forest-topped towering sea cliffs, the vast expanse of endless sandy beaches and the ever-present scenic ocean.

These secluded islands, a total of ten, offer an unforgettable experience. It is beautiful, tranquil and ideal for romantic getaways, eco tours and capturing nature at its best on camera. The place is definitely one of its kind.

Isolated for millions of years, rare varieties of plants and animal species can be found here. The economic mix of fishing and crabbing and a tad of adventure tourism have been stable for the last 50 years. Wooden houses surrounded by acres of land used for farming instantly take you back in time.

Waitangi is the ‘largest’ city. There are other villages such as Te One and Kaingaroa apart from fishing villages, Owenga and Port Hutt. An agricultural scene on the island or walking barefoot on the beach, cinematographically place is ideal for romance, epics and thrillers. The changeable, moody and stunning landscape is a photographer’s delight.

With nothing but ocean at every end, the locales are well-stocked with marine life and jagged mountains. Open spaces all around allow production houses to build large-scale movie sets or simply shoot the setting as it is. Being administered by New Zealand, facilities and equipment can be made available without any impediment. The indigenous population of these islands, Moriori and Maori, are the largest minority, but very friendly.

To enhance tourism and filming, the value of the grant offered by New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) has been increased from 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent.


The value of the grant is 15 per cent of qualifying expenditure

Eligible Productions

The grant continues to apply to screen productions in the following formats: feature film, television movie (drama) and television drama series or mini-series.

Large Budget Screen Production (LBSP) Grant

Eligible productions may access the grant where the Qualifying New Zealand Production Expenditure (QNZPE) reaches the following thresholds:

•  QNZPE must be at least NZ$15 million. QNZPE is generally defined as the production expenditure incurred for, or attributable to: goods and services provided in New Zealand; the use of land located in New Zealand; and the use of a good that is located in New Zealand at the time that good is used in the making of the screen production. QNZPE does include costs of all cast and crew while in New Zealand.

•  QNZPE is at least NZ$30 million or QNZPE on individual productions is at least NZ$3 million; Productions included in the bundle have completed principal photography within a 24-month period; The applicant for each production included within the bundle is related to each other applicant by having 50 per cent or more shareholding in common.

Post, Digital and Visual Effects (PDV) Grant

Eligible productions undertaking post, digital and visual effects (PDV) work may access the grant where:

•  QNZPE for a single production is between NZ$3 million and NZ$15 million

•  The QNZPE is spent or is necessarily related to the PDV activities listed in the criteria

•  PDV productions may be included in a bundle where the applicants meet the requirement related to shareholding in common

Grant Administrative Provisions

Where a production’s ability to reach the QNZPE NZ$15 million threshold or the NZ$30 million bundle threshold may be at risk from future exchange rate fluctuations, an application for the sole purpose of determining QNZPE eligibility may be submitted to the NZFC as administrator of the grant. Such applications must be submitted no earlier than 90 days prior to the start of principal photography and will enable the production to use the exchange rate relevant on the date such application is received for the purpose of determining grant eligibility. However, in such cases, the value of the grant will still be calculated on the actual QNZPE incurred. 

Grant applications may be submitted before completion of the production under the following circumstances:

•  Each time a production reaches QNZPE of NZ$50 million

•  Within the NZ$30 million bundle threshold, on completion on the first individual production that meets the QNZPE of NZ$15 million

•  On completion of the QNZPE applicable to the eligible production (both LBSP and PDV)

Applicants must be either:

•  A New Zealand resident company

•  A foreign corporation operating with a fixed establishment in New Zealand for the purposes of lodging an income tax return (both when it lodges the grant application and when the grant is paid)

Payment of the grant will be dependent on the Inland Revenue Department verification of the audited information provided to the NZFC. Provided that the application for expenditure is complete and verified, the NZFC will endeavour to approve payment within three months
of application.

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