Who the hell are you and what do you do?

 Film Otago Southland is a regional film office/commission that covers the southern half of the South Island – our six regions are Waitaki, Queenstown-Lakes, Central Otago, Southland, Dunedin and Clutha. We currently have a team of two – KJ Jennings, Executive Manager, and Kahli Scott, Coordinator.

In a nutshell, our job is to help attract screen productions to the region, to help productions run smoothly while they’re here, and to make sure the community’s happy once the production leaves.

Queenstown and the surrounding regions attract a wide range of screen productions, from high-end blockbusters like Mission Impossible to TV commercials for Korean clothing brands to adventure documentaries.

A typical day in the office could involve: responding to enquiries from productions who are looking to film here, promoting the region as a filming destination through our comms channels and ongoing relationships, collaborating with the New Zealand Film Commission and other regional film offices on our national offering, working with councils and other agencies on location access, helping to facilitate permits and consents, arranging recces and attending events as an ambassador for the region…and that’s just a small snapshot.

In our region, a huge amount of resource goes into access to locations. We have truly world-class locations here, but they’re of no use if we can’t access them in a timely manner. In our industry, a timely manner may be as short as a matter of days. To that end, we work with local councils, DOC, LINZ, Environment Southland, and a wide variety of landowners and guardians.

We also have initiatives like our Writers in Residence programme, which supports screenwriters who are developing a project with a connection to the region. The programme provides writers with accommodation, writing space, local knowledge and introductions to key community members. One of our first Writers in Residence was Jackie Van Beek (of THE BREAKER-UPPERERS fame) for her project THE INLAND ROAD.

We’re putting a big focus this year on further developing our office’s marketing assets – building our social media following, developing a showreel, and growing our online Locations Directory and Industry Directory to show to the world all the amazing assets we have to offer as a filming destination. If anyone has materials they’d like to add to the mix, please get in touch!

Locals - Film Otago Southland

When did this industry really blow up here and what was it that caused this?

From a feature film perspective, it was LORD OF THE RINGS that was the game changer. It put NZ on the map as a filming destination and gave the studios confidence in doing business here. But our core ongoing industry down here was really built on high-end international television commercials (TVCs). As more and more TVCs started coming here to film, our local crew base developed world-class experience working on these productions, and they’re now one of the key ingredients to the local industry’s success. Our crews are battle hardened and excel when working in our harsh environments, and they have built a reputation for delivering the goods.

This is of course complemented by our wide variety of incredible locations within a couple hours’ drive of the crew hub in Queenstown. Our customers want a wide variety of looks to tell their story, but want to get back to a great restaurant and pinot noir at the end of the day.

Another key factor is that we have opposite seasons to our main markets in the Northern Hemisphere. This gives us a unique competitive advantage. For example, productions can shoot snowy/winter scenes here in July, in time for a winter release in the Northern Hemisphere at Christmas.

Where are the best places for shooting?

What story do you want to tell? Our strength is our variety of landscapes – mountains, valleys, beaches, fiords, forests, farmland, otherworldly rock formations, Gold Rush towns, Victorian streetscapes…We can’t pick just one, but we do have extremely experienced and knowledgeable locally-based locations scouts in our database that know the region inside and out and can help any story get told.

Locals - Film Otago Southland
Jacqueline Joe in the Sundance Channel original miniseries ‘Top of the Lake’ – Photo Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh

How are our young people getting involved? And how do you push diversity?

We’ve recently started a new initiative around the rapidly changing world of content creation, which has seen us engage with a younger demographic who might not have previously been involved with our office. Kahli joined the FOS team in June, and with her experience at Cannes Lion and IBC (the International Broadcasting Convention) she has brought a fresh perspective as to what’s happening in the advertising and entertainment industries and what the next ten years might look like. We’re reaching out to content creators – of all ages –  to find out who is out there, what they are doing, but most importantly, what sort of help do they need to help get to the next level. Let us know if you want to know more about these opportunities.

One of our partners is the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) in Invercargill, which has great Animation, Film and Game Design courses that are churning out talented graduates, with an extremely high job placement rate post-graduation. We’ve helped to facilitate work experience and internships for SIT students.

We’re proud to say we’ve got a 50/50 gender balance in our office…Okay, even though there are only two of us. Kahli is also a member of WIFT (Women in Film and TV), which is a great community supporting and championing female filmmakers in New Zealand.

Locals - Film Otago Southland
Legend of Zu BTS

How can we find you and how can we get involved?

Drop us an email at [email protected] if you want to learn more about us, have any questions, or want to meet in person for a cuppa and chat. We’re based in Queenstown.

You can also stay up to date by visiting our website (www.filmotagosouthland.com), following our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, ) and signing up to our newsletter list.

More specifically, you might be interested in: 

  • Attending one of our Round Tables – we run these throughout the year, with one focused on Location Access, and another focused around the new world of Content Creation

Just drop us an email to find out about any of the above!

Thank you Film Otago Southland for sharing who you are and how you work. If you’d like to be part of ‘locals’ section get in touch!