The Whangaroa Harbour's spectacular scenery is one of the stars in an international mini-series due to hit TV screens in Canada today.
While locals will recognise their home patch in the eight-part psychological thriller 'The Sounds,' they shouldn't expect a massive influx of Canadian visitors any time soon, however, and not only because of Covid-19 border closures.
Whangaroa Harbour is a stand-in for the Marlborough Sounds, where the tale is set, and Whangaroa township is rebranded as the fictional fishing village of Pelorus.
Rick Waite, location manager for the Kiwi-Canadian co-production, said the producers' budget wouldn't stretch to sending an entire crew to the South Island, so he was tasked with finding an alternative closer to Auckland. He looked at various places, including the Coromandel and Tutukaka, before settling on Whangaroa.
''Trying to recreate the Marlborough Sounds within Auckland was a bit of a challenge. We were looking for high cliffs, deep water, that sort of look — and we found it in Whangaroa," he said.
The crew spent two weeks filming last summer, with five days on the water and five around the township.
The Marlin Hotel was closed at the time so they were able to use it for crew accommodation and catering. They also had help from the fishing club and marina, and turned the old hall into a police station.
''Everyone was very accommodating. I think we found the best place to shoot in the North Island," Waite said.
Another plus was that the series' line producer, Liz Adams, grew up in the area.
''So when we needed to speak to iwi she had all the introductions we needed. That got us on the right foot and helped a great deal," he added.
A scenic crew went to the real Marlborough Sounds for aerial shots, while other scenes were filmed at Huia and Mahurangi, in the Auckland area.
Waite said Canadian director Peter Stebbing found Whangaroa ''stunningly beautiful,'' and was keen to come back with his family.
''He really loved it up there," he said.
'The Sounds,' a co-production by Canadian film company Shaftesbury and New Zealand's South Pacific Pictures, was written by former journalist and 'New Zealand Women's Weekly' editor Sarah-Kate Lynch, now a successful novelist and screenwriter.
It stars Kiwi actor Matt Whelan, who has previously landed roles in 'The Luminaries,' the Netflix series 'Narcos,' and as Playboy founder Hugh Hefner in the Amazon series 'American Playboy', alongside Canada's Rachelle Lefevre.
While the producers aren't giving too much away about the storyline, Whelan and Lefevre play a couple who move to the Sounds to start a new life. When Whelan's character disappears, unsettling facts about his past come to light, and the search brings long-buried wounds to the surface.
'The Sounds' will be launched in Canada on streaming service Acorn TV today, and free-to-air broadcaster CBC tomorrow. It will also be released in New Zealand on Neon tomorrow.
Scenes for 'The Luminaries,' based on New Zealand author Eleanor Catton's 2013 Man Booker Prize-winning novel, were also filmed last summer in Whangaroa.