Queenstown Wrap, Winter 2022

Winter has come and Queenstown is ready for the influx. Well, apart from no staff, no parking, too many stalled roadworks, and the increasingly paralysing cost of living. But the film biz has been constant since January with several TV shows being shot simultaneously. I had the privilege to work on both ‘Under the Vines’ (S2) and ‘One Lane Bridge’ (S3). It’s been great to see the proof that we can pull off multiple shoots at the same time. Everybody does know how to pool resources and communicate to make it work together.

‘Under the Vines’ was a delight to work on, from the locals smiling away as we took over Clyde, to the cast and crew relaxing in the shade from the Central Otago sunshine. A lot of the team had worked together last season and us newcomers had a lot of support to slot in and help make this a productive shoot. We had a little preview party and it looks gorgeous. The Art and Lighting Depts have really hit the mark and this whole story has come to life again, even more beautifully. It’s a great little light entertainment show where the cast have immersed themselves so completely. There were a couple of snags to untangle along the way but producers, Michelle Turner and Paul Yates were very approachable and ready to roll with the punches. Toby Mills stepped in on Locations again from season one and did a great job with the new locations as well as the established ones. Henry Youngman was absolutely at home in his on-set Locations role, and as is often the case, the Costume Dept were perfect playmates for all of us, both on and off set. The production was ready for any Covid related contingency but we were lucky enough to have minimal impact from the disease. I think that was another benefit to being outside in the beautiful Central Otago air for six weeks. 

To Mt Soho now, and the team on ‘Masterchef ‘ have told me that the producers were hugely impressed with the final product and the flexibility and talent of the local expertise. Queenstown was a star both as a location and as the provider of an experienced and knowledgeable crew.

Tourism NZ shot another ad throughout the country, culminating in an exquisitely moody Milford Sound moment. Production manager, Jane McCurdy once again managed about 4 different roles along with co-ordinating private flights to swiftly move the creative team all over the countryside. This shoot is hopefully a pre-game that signals the return of commercials to the area. It will be interesting to see the commercial shoots coming back to Queenstown in what could be deemed a post TVC world. 

A big clap of “Well Done Team!” to the ‘One Lane Bridge’ production and crew. There were many huddles, emergency meetings, juggling/un-juggling and “ Right, we can make this work” affirmations as the shoot went by. Pip Hall had constant challenges from the beginning with story rewrites and cast changes, there was also Covid to test her ability to constantly re-create and in the end, a snowstorm to contend with. Producers, Lisa Chatfield and Luke Robinson were there to make it all happen and enabled a supportive culture from the top down. There were a lot of returning local crew that know well the ebb and flow of making this show in our challenging environment and they were constantly able to bring the story to the camera. The cast too always delivered- Dom and Phoebe, your constant humour and easy way of being was appreciated by everyone, every day on set. 

Lastly, Covid fatigue is real. I swung a truck to Auckland in May and noticed the lack of mask wearing in the supercity compared to the southern cities. Auckland bore the brunt of last year’s lockdown. Our Covid response, our economy and our geography attributed to the loss of the big shows in the city. The extended lockdown, and more people now recovered from the virus, has left a palpable Let’s-get-on-with-it vibe in the city. You did a good job though- it bought us time and allowed us a less volatile strain of Covid 19 to learn to live with. Auckland is a resilient town with a huge amount of talented crew and infrastructure to make the next opportunities work. 

Anyway, I will wrap up this wrap on the last day of my self isolation. Yep, I tested Covid positive last week. Good timing really though, I’m ready for action.