A Rotorua film company has been given an $800,000 funding boost to create a world-class film studio that aims to create jobs and bring big-budget film opportunities to the region.
The Provincial Growth Fund is investing the money with Waiariki Films to repurpose and lease a Rotorua warehouse on White St as a film studio facility and, in future, build an international-size film hub.
Already Waiariki Films, which is a partnership between Film Bay of Plenty and Steambox Films Rotorua, has created 40 local jobs for crew members and more than 100 roles for cast members and extras through production of the action-thriller TV series, Vegas.
At a later stage, the funding will enable the refurbishment or building of a second studio on Te Arawa land.
Lara Northcroft from Waiariki Films said this would support Waiariki Film Studio's larger vision of creating a world-renowned indigenous film hub.
When complete, the two studios will feature specialist facilities including sound stages, production offices and workshop space to create props and building sets.
She said they would attract both local and international filmmakers while maintaining a focus on Māori employment and economic development.
Related industries such as transport and logistics, technology, special effects, construction, catering and accommodation are expected to benefit from the project too.
In September, a $75,000 investment for Waiariki Film Studios was announced from the Provincial Growth Fund's Te Ara Mahi allocation in association with the Ministry of Social Development.
That allowed 20 previously unemployed people aged between 18 and 28 to complete an 18-week film and television training and employment programme called Tohea on the Vegas series.
Piripi Curtis from Waiariki Films said those students were now among the behind-the-scenes crew working on Vegas.
"All the kids have come on and they are doing really well," Curtis said.
"It's a real success story. By the time this is finished, they will be dab hands and will be employable for another production."
He said Greenstone TV, which was producing Vegas, had already contracted some of them for other work because they were so impressed with their skills.
"We told them that the way they can tell if they have been successful isn't through test results it's whether or not people have asked for their number to come and work for them."
The studio on White St was already being used as the Vegas studio, housing removable sets, costume suites, props and artwork areas.
Northcroft said there were a lot of eyes in the industry on the production of Vegas.
She said already there was incredible feedback around the employable workforce and the convenience of the location.
"The crews say the travel time is awesome because they can quickly get from one place to another which makes shooting time more productive."
They were now on the lookout for a much larger space that would provide the next step to building a film studio, Curtis said.
"That's where Disney and other big productions can see long-term projects being done here," he said.
"There is massive shortage of studio space in the country and in the world."
Vegas is an action thriller TV series about a young, untested leader who wants to free his people from the curse of methamphetamine. The story is based on the novel Inside the Black Horse.