Amazon was working with the Government on a marketing strategy for the Lord of the Rings TV series until days before Amazon abruptly pulled the plug on filming season 2 in New Zealand.
Tourism New Zealand and the New Zealand Film Commission were working with Amazon on everything from dampening unfavourable media coverage to preparing a tourism strategy for the series until just days before August 13, when Amazon broke the news that it was pulling production of Lord of the Rings from New Zealand for good.
Communications and documents released under the Official Information Act show Amazon meeting virtually with the Film Commission, MBIE and Tourism New Zealand in early June on a way to promote the series for New Zealand tourism.
Another meeting was held in mid-June where it was decided that Amazon would shortly share a "strategic marketing plan" for the New Zealand side to review for opportunities for Tourism NZ to co-operate with the film-makers.
Amazon was tentatively scheduled to share this strategy with the New Zealand team on August 10 - the documents suggest that no such plan was ever shared. In fact, just two days later, Amazon notified the Government that it was pulling the pin on filming season 2 of the show in New Zealand.
Communications between the film's producers and the film commission reveal that Amazon had called the film commission to raise its "concerns" with two "deliverables" in its agreement with the Government. The first was a "cultural immersion session" for significant cast and crew on the project, and the second was a "Media famil experience" - it is not clear what this pertains to, or if either of these events took place.
At the end of June, Government representatives met with Amazon a third time, again agreeing to swap notes on August 10.
On July 29, a fortnight before Amazon walked away, emails show Amazon staff and the Film Commission looking to co-ordinate an announcement that filming had wrapped.
The Film Commission wanted to know the name of local New Zealand businesses that had benefited from filming.
The Commission hoped to pitch a story to "News Hub" [sic] which could highlight "the end of PP [principal photography and the importance of the partnership and highlight a few economic benefits".
A Newshub story, featuring the Film Commission's chief executive David Strong was broadcast on August 3.
"The Amazon show has created directly or indirectly around 2000 jobs for New Zealanders
"They've invested around $650 million in New Zealand - that is a significant investment that would have gone to another country if it didn't come here," Strong said.
Ten days later, Amazon announced it would shift production to the UK, taking further investment and jobs with it.
The Film Commission did not just collaborate on positive news coverage. It kept Amazon abreast of negative news coverage too.
On July 2, a copy of ShowNews, an industry newsletter, was forwarded from the Commission's head of incentives Catherine Bates to Amazon as an "FYI".
The newsletter told the story of stunt woman Daya Grant who suffered a head injury on The Lord of the Rings set at West Auckland's Kumeu Studios.
The incident led to negative coverage of the series in New Zealand.
An Amazon producer, Lindsey Weber, wrote back to Bates saying that Amazon had been contacted by the Herald over a similar story. The email alleged the Herald was "looking for a salacious - and very erroneous - headline".
The said Amazon was "currently educating that reporter on how misinformed he's been".
The story in question was eventually published.
On July 27, both sides agreed to meet on August 17 to plan their global marketing campaign. It was an opportunity for the New Zealand side to use Lord of the Rings for tourism opportunities.
On August 14, the day after Amazon announced it was walking away, an executive emailed the Commission "respectfully" cancelling the meeting.
The executive said Amazon would be declining all meeting invitations and said the "NZ partners are free to cancel these meetings," seemingly unaware it would have been highly unusual for the New Zealand side of the team to show up to a meeting Amazon said it would not attend.
The production walked away with $132 million in Government subsidies. Film Commission and Tourism executives were not the only ones shocked to see Amazon walk away, Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash only found out the production was leaving shortly before it was announced.
Amazon declined to comment. The Film Commission was approached for comment.