Let the finger-pointing begin! Earlier this week, Amazon announced that production on the second season of J.D. Payne, and Patrick McKay's The Lord of the Rings prequel series will be moving from New Zealand to the UK. Post-production on the first season will continue in New Zealand through June 2022, with pre-production on the second season kicking off in the UK after the start of the year (with the production hiring a new UK-based crew). Now, Variety has brought some new details to light as well as a look at how NZ government officials have been reacting. As for the timing of the decision, it's being reported that the NZ crew were informed only 20 minutes before the announcement was made on Thursday afternoon in the U.S. (Friday morning in NZ). As for how much Amazon was estimated to have spent on the first season of the series, NZ government documents set it at around NZ$650 million ($455 million).
And then there's the matter of who should take the blame, with many questioning why a production that already indicated will run for several seasons to a multi-season deal (especially for a country as synonymous with a film as NZ is with "The Lord of the Rings"). NZ's tourism industry has been built in large part around it being the location that was the home to Peter Jackson's films. As National party spokesman on economic development Todd McClay sees it, the fault lies at the feet of Stuart Nash, Economic and Regional Development Minister. "Stuart Nash has shown a lack of interest in negotiating with Amazon, despite the huge impact the production could have on our economy. Stuart Nash needs to be transparent with Kiwis about why he didn't even ask for future seasons of the show to be filmed in New Zealand," said McClay.
Confirming that he was only made aware of the decision a day earlier, Nash made it clear that the move by Amazon doesn't reflect negatively on the country as a prime location for productions to find a home in. "The Amazon Studios' decision in no way reflects the capabilities of our local film industry or the talents of the people who work in it. This is a multi-national company that has made a commercial choice. We're an easy country to do business in and New Zealanders have a reputation for being highly skilled, innovative, and creative. Our locations are legendary, and we have competitive incentives and infrastructure," said Nash. "This coupled with the government's management of the COVID-19 pandemic positions us as an attractive partner for international productions."
From Amazon's perspective, there are two advantages to the move. It keeps the British cast and crew closer to home, with distance from families during lockdown and production having an impact on the cast and crew. Moving to the UK also gives the series more opportunities to film in other locations around Europe (increasing opportunities for second and third production options should lockdown become a factor again). "We want to thank the people and the government of New Zealand for their hospitality and dedication and for providing 'The Lord of the Rings' series with an incredible place to begin this epic journey," said Vernon Sanders, VP & Co-Head of TV, Amazon Studios. "We are grateful to the New Zealand Film Commission, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Tourism New Zealand, Auckland Unlimited, and others for their tremendous collaboration that supported the New Zealand film sector and the local economy during the production of Season One."
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