Film director James Cameron has revealed that the first of his New Zealand-made Avatar sequels is running a year behind schedule because of delays in completing the scripts.
But he also said that even if his huge project was running on time, New Zealand's film industry was currently so busy that he would struggle to find a place to film it.
Cameron was speaking to reporters after the first meeting of the Screen Advisory Board in Wellington yesterday. He recently became a New Zealand resident, and is writing the next three Avatar films at his Wairarapa home.
Cameron said all three were being written at the same time, and he hoped to complete them this month. "We're a bit behind time-wise what we had hoped," he said. The release date for the first sequel was now likely to shift from late 2016 to late 2017.
The director said there was an advantage to the delays in the project because New Zealand film-making facilities were flat out.
"Business is booming, stages are all booked and Avatar hasn't even hit yet. I think I'm going to be struggling to find the stage space, which is a good problem I think for New Zealand to have."
Sir Peter Jackson, who is also on the board, said that financial incentives offered when the Avatar deal was announced in late 2013 had been crucial to the New Zealand industry, which had been in danger of "closing down". Cameron has previously spoken of the importance of the 25 per cent rebate he received in the three-movie deal. But he said yesterday that New Zealand also offered much more.
"The intangibles here are so much better. There's a spirit here about film-making that's not jaded. People are still excited about film-making.
"The whole country seems to be at times still excited about film-making. It's fun, it's imaginative, it's innovative, and people here seem to really respond to it."
The board includes other industry heavyweights such as Titanic producer Jon Landau and New Zealand film-makers Jane Campion, Andrew Adamson and Fran Walsh.
The first meeting ended without firm decisions, but some plans to encourage New Zealand story-telling and elevate low-budget features on to the international stage.
Cameron and Landau said they were now getting big studios to create internships for aspiring Kiwis.