The Lord of the Rings television series is an Amazon production that’s going to be filmed in New Zealand, and it’s predicted to be the most expensive TV series ever made.
The budget is around NZ$1.3 billion - I find it a bit hard to get my head around that number.
So we’re still benefiting from Sir Peter Jackson turning New Zealand into Middle Earth for the LOTR trilogy and The Hobbit. It would have been a shame if Scotland became known as the new Middle Earth - which apparently was a possibility before we secured the deal.
The main cast for the series was announced a few days ago.
Not a lot of the names were familiar, although after a quick google I did recognise a few faces - none of them New Zealander actors.
In response, some were of the view that as we’re being kind enough to offer a generous rebate - $300 million in this case - then maybe they could hire one or two of our fabulous actors in a main role?
And New Zealand actors have done well out of international TV productions filmed here; Michael Hurst, Kevin Smith, Lucy Lawless, Karl Urban, Danielle Cormack are a few who stared in Hercules and Xena, Dean O’Gorman in Young Hercules, Craig Parker in Legend of the Seeker, and seemingly everything else filmed here.
And let’s not forget the familiar faces in the cinematic versions of LOTR and The Hobbit; people like Ian Mune, Mark Ferguson, Mark Hadlow, Manu Bennett.
But a quota for actors doesn’t seem to me to be the answer; I’ve not even sure there’s a question. A quota would put producers off looking at NZ as an option. In my view, you can put a quota on crew, but not on main characters, and especially when you’re the only country doing it. They’ll likely just go somewhere else.
And remember, there’s other good stuff that happens when a billion bucks comes to town. That’s a lot of money into our screen industry, which has become an important source of employment and overseas revenue - at the end of 2018 it was worth around $3.3 billion a year.
International productions hire our crews, there’s production and post production costs and visual and special effects houses New Zealand - why wouldn’t you take advantage of the world class skills.
Businesses which support the film industry benefit as well – like caterers and vehicle hire companies.
Then there’s our Instagram worthy scenery on display - again.
And who knows, maybe some of our actors did get the chance to audition for lead roles, but weren’t quite right for the part.
Sir Peter Jackson auditioned a fair proportion of New Zealand for Lord of the Rings. I know because I auditioned for Galadriel - which was, and still is, utterly embarrassing because acting does not come naturally.
It was an experience, but I wasn’t shocked to be passed over for 2 times Oscar winner Cate Blanchett. Of course she got the role!
While New Zealand actors might have missed out on the main characters announced for the first few episodes, let’s not be parochial and go any further with the idea of a quota.
I’m confident that by the time LOTR hits Amazon in 2021, there will be many familiar faces on screen, including up and coming actors getting their chance to experience life on set of the most expensive TV show ever made.