A dream is about to become reality for all involved in the production of the $5.6 million action-thriller Vegas.
Filming of the show begins on Sunday and today the crew were welcomed to Rotorua with a pōhiri at Te Pākira Marae. Resounding kōrero and waiata gave the visitors a taste of the wairua and whakawhanaungatanga they could expect during their stay.
The show is produced by Auckland-based Greenstone TV, in collaboration with the Rotorua-based Steambox Film Collective and award-winning writer Michael Te Arawa Bennett and his 10,000 Company.
It was a particularly special day for Vegas associate producer Lara Northcroft, a Rotorua local passionate about providing development opportunities in her hometown.
"It's always been a big motivation for film-makers and for our Steambox Collective down here to bring work and bring employment and opportunity," she said.
"This was an awesome way to start the morning, in my village of Whakarewarewa."
Northcroft said that with the whole crew now together in one place, everything was becoming "very real".
"We're kind of running on adrenaline at the moment, it's our last day of pre-production today and we start filming on Sunday. We really appreciate everyone's time and commitment to acknowledge and start the kaupapa off in the right way by coming to this marae and going through the pōhiri," she said.
Greenstone TV chief executive Rachel Antony said the welcome was "an incredibly special start to this production".
"We've been in development for this project for two years so to be welcomed to the rohe in that way was special and a huge honour. It was a wonderful way to bring us all together before it kicks off on Sunday."
She said the welcome cemented the fact that Rotorua was the perfect home for this production.
"We've been pretty about that for a while but it really is a really wonderful way to bring tangata whenua and manuhiri together.
"It's real now and for some of us this is the first time members of the cast and crew have all been together, so for some, it will be the first time they've met. The wairua is amazing, it's an exciting project, there's a lot of energy but it's a marathon, not a sprint."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick was also in attendance and was thrilled to see the project getting under way.
"It was so appropriate, before filming begins, to have this at Te Pākira," she said.
"It's great to be with all the creatives in this incredible production that we've secured for Rotorua. They very appropriately acknowledged those of the past in the industry and we're excited about what this can bring to Rotorua and the wider Bay of Plenty."
Chadwick said the production would bring "huge benefits" to the Rotorua community.
The six-part drama series, which plans to hire about 40 local crew and up to 100 extras, will inject several million dollars into the local economy.
"There were nine apprentices involved and they are learning the art and the craft of the industry. There are also benefits for the accommodation, the hospitality and the retail sectors. All of that is huge.
"Even having this as the beginning of more film - we know from small investment, greater things will come. It's a big collaboration and it's just the start," Chadwick said.