A "huge" part of Amazon's Lord of the Rings series - set to be the most expensive TV show ever at $1.5 billion plus - will be produced in New Zealand, film industry insiders have confirmed to the Herald on Sunday.
A senior member of the Auckland film industry said Kumeu Film Studios (KFS) and Auckland Film Studios (AFS) have been working on pre-production on the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) for more than a year now, preparing and building studio locations. American crews were already in Auckland.
The industry insider, who spoke to the Herald on Sunday on condition of anonymity, said they had signed a confidentiality agreement with the New Zealand Government and Amazon - along with everyone else involved in the Auckland production.
"Yep, it's already happening. It's basically setting up now, settling into the places that they've leased out," the insider said.
"They're not setting up production, they're setting up the places that they've leased.
"I'm just not sure what the extent is to, whether they're doing all the filming. But I can assure you, it is happening in Auckland.
"And all I can tell you is that it's huge. You can more or less say they're here."
The insider said production staff for LOTR had "taken over" KFS and AFS, and an official announcement may occur next week, with leases on buildings set to take effect in July.
"Yes, there are some Americans here already, but as I say, everything starts next week. That's when they go into all the buildings."
The insider said they believe media reports in April that Edinburgh's new Leith Studio had secured the majority of the filming were false.
"I don't think Scotland's got it. I don't think it's going to Edinburgh, unless it's just a small part of it," the insider said.
Securing New Zealand's part of the production of the mammoth multi-season Amazon show has been orchestrated largely by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed), the NZ Film Commission and the Government.
Reports in the Hollywood Reporter in April last year that the Amazon LOTR production would cost NZ$1.5 billion were also modest, said the insider, who had heard a $3b price tag.
The insider said although production crews were about to move into KFS and AFS next week, actual filming for the TV show would not begin until 2020.
A separate major Auckland TV and film producer told the Herald on Sunday they had spoken to people in West Auckland, where KFS and AFS are based, who were being hired for the Amazon LOTR production.
The producer also believed Queenstown could be a LOTR filming location.
The nexus of the New Zealand film industry, Wellington, could not be considered for production of LOTR because it is consumed with James Cameron's Avatar sequels for most of 2019.
Earlier this month, Amazon Studios boss Jennifer Salke said in an interview with Deadline, "I think we might be in New Zealand" for the LOTR production.
"I don't know, but we're going to have to go somewhere interesting that could provide those locations in a really authentic way, because we want it to look incredible."
There have also been rumours that Sir Peter Jackson, the New Zealand director who adapted the J. R. R. Tolkien tales for the big screen, could be involved with the LOTR series.
"The Peter Jackson conversations, right now we're right in the middle of them," Salke told Deadline.
"It's like, 'How much do you want to be involved, how little?' I know there's been some discussion, and he's even said some things, but as far as I'm aware, the latest is that we're just in a conversation with him about how much or how little he would be involved."