PETER JACKSON’S HOMETOWN

In 2014, consultancy company Mercer, voted Wellington the 12th best city in the world for quality of living and Lonely Planet’s 201l travel guide declared it ‘the coolest little capital in the world’.

wellington3Wellington Waterfront

The world’s most southerly capital city, Wellington lies in the path of the Roaring Forties so is often referred to as ‘The Windy City’.  However, the boisterous climate hasn’t stopped Wellington in its efforts to become a major Australasian centre of the arts. It hosts the world renowned Wearable Arts Festival and is home to the NZ Ballet, the National Art Gallery and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. It also has our national museum, ‘Te Papa’ (‘our place ‘ in Maori). On a fine day, in my opinion, and having lived in the city for 5 years as well as having travelled extensively, I consider the views across Wellington from various vantage points, some of the finest urban scenery in the world.

ACCOLADES

Wellington, with a population of 394.000, is the second largest city in New Zealand. Although it is only a quarter the size of Auckland, it does have the look and feeling of a much bigger city. This is due to the concentration of multi storied office towers in the CBD’s confined space. It is a pedestrian friendly place with most parts of the central city easily reached on foot. If only spread out Auckland could offer the same thing!  The trolley buses that glide around the central city, add a European feel to this colonial city and give it a certain sophistication not found elsewhere in New Zealand.

Wellington45Wellington CBD

wellington12Wellington’s Iconic Trolley Buses

The city’s promotional people claim Wellington has more bars and restaurants than New York. Maybe. Maybe not, but from personal experience,  I can confirm it is a city with a huge choice of interesting eating establishments.

MOVIE PRODUCTION

Film Director, Peter Jackson was born and raised in Wellington. His production company Wingnut Films with its games development division, Wingnut Interactive, is based in the city. Being an aviation enthusiast with his own private jet he uses to attend meetings across the Pacific in the USA, Peter felt compelled to carry the aeronautical theme into his film making empire, hence the name “wingnut” referring to a bolt on a plane’s wing! He actually owns a plane manufacturing company that builds and restores aircraft from the 1920s and 30s.

New Zealand director Peter Jackson arrives for the European premiere of the adventure film 'The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug' in Berlin, Germany, 09 December 2013. The film will start screening in cinemas across Germany on 12 December 2013. Photo: HANNIBAL/dpaSir Peter Jackson (www.goopen.no)

Peter’s six epic Tolkien films have created international interest in Wellington. His state-of-the-art production studio, Park Road Post is based in the seaside suburb of Miramar and is used for the post production of both local and international movies.

wellington75Interior Park Road Post Production  ( powpost.co.nz)

The first scene for “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings” featuring Frodo with the Hobbits evading the Black Rider, was shot in a bushy area on Mt. Victoria near the centre of the city. In fact, at one stage, I lived a short distance from this now famous inner city location and on a few occasions I strolled along the same path used in the film. I’ve been told it’s still a magnet for Hobbit fans from around the world who want to step along the actual path seen in the movie.

wellington 63Mt. Victoria Hobbit Location

Peter’s films have earned over six billion dollars at the international box office with five of them among the fifty highest grossing films in history. This impressive achievement has made Peter the third most successful director of all time behind James Cameron and Steven Spielberg. The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is the highest grossing film trilogy to date with “Return of the King” earning over 1 billion dollars at the box office. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” also topped 1 billion dollars at the box office.

FILM STUDIOS

With more overseas directors wanting to film in New Zealand, Peter has also set up a film studio in Wellington. Stone Street Studios is a fully equipped complex with four stages for shooting movies. To date, scenes for the three Lord of the Rings and two of The Hobbit films were shot here. As well as these films, scenes for “Avatar“, “King Kong“, “The Lovely Bones”,Master and Commander:The far Side of the World” were shot at this Wellington studio complex.

wellington332Stone Street Studios

VISUAL EFFECTS

Visitors from all over the world trek to Wellington to visit the WETA Workshops where visual effects are created. Apart from the six Tolkien films, WETA Digital’s credits include “The Adventures of Tin Tin“, “Avatar“, “Rise of Planet of the Apes” and “King Kong“. There is a window where you can gaze into the actual workshop and view creatures being created for upcoming projects. It’s a uniquely magical place for fantasy film fans of all ages who marvel at the creatures created by the people at WETA.

wellington 37WETA Cave

Tourist officials in the city created the title “The Middle of Middle Earth” to maximize the promotion of the city and spent $1.1 million during the world premiere of the first Lord of the Rings film Peter Jackson requested be held in Wellington. Peter put his hand in his pocket and paid for the upgrading of the Embassy Theatre, one of the city’s best loved cinemas. The latest projection system was installed for the world premiere screening of his film. It is now regarded as the premier cinema in the city. The most important films are screened here and having a premiere at the Embassy is an occasion local film goers value.

wellington876Embassy Theatre

OTHER PROJECTS

Peter has designed a major exhibition to commemorate New Zealand’s involvement in the First World War. Called The Great War Exhibition, the impressive series of reconstructed war scenes will be on display for the next four years at the city’s historic Dominion Museum. Visitors have been amazed at the realism Peter and the guys at WETA Workshop have created.

wellington 443Peter Jackson’s Great War Exhibition

Peter said he wanted to show the realism of war and the horror young New Zealand soldiers experienced in the Great War.  He definitely didn’t want to glorify fighting. His exhibition has become a ‘must see’ attraction in the city.

Somes Island, in the middle of Wellington Harbour has now attracted Peter’s interest. He wants to use the latest in virtual and augmented reality technology to tell the story of the island from its quarantine days through to its military use and now its nature reserve status. Locals are excited at the prospect of another Peter Jackson project centred in their city.

Peter paid $10 million to purchase an old church in the city’s seaside suburb of Seatoun, to save it from demolition. In recognition of his phenomenal success as a New Zealander and his work in the entertainment industry, Peter was knighted in April 2010, becoming Sir Peter Jackson.

MOVIE MUSEUM

Work will start early in 2017 on a 150 million dollar Movie Museum to be built near the centre of the city.

movie museum1Movie Museum (Studio Pacific Architecture)

It is hoped the rather spectacular building will become as iconic for Wellington as the Sydney Opera House has been for that Australian city. The design has been inspired by the head of Maui’s fish from Maori mythology and is also a nod to Wellington’s close relationship to the sea and its nautical history. The museum will firmly establish Wellington in the collective mind as the film capital of New Zealand. A conference centre will be incorporated within the striking building so the dual purpose can be guaranteed to create a new buzz for the city centre.

The museum will house artifacts from Peter Jackson’s various epic movies as well as many exhibits from his personal collection of movie memorabilia. Along with unique props such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, visitors to the museum will also be able to marvel at an extensive display of the weird and wonderful creations Sir Richard Taylor has dreamt up for the numerous films he has been involved with.

movie museum3Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (contenttime.com)

WELLINGTON BLOWN AWAY

As a result of Peter’s efforts, ‘Wellywood’ was mentioned as an obvious nod to the traditional home of epic films. Despite widespread disapproval by most of the locals because of the unoriginal rip off of the name, the council took up the idea and even went so far as to erect an appropriate sign on a cliff beside the airport. However in 2011, after a public vote the sign was replaced with one more appropriate to the city’s reputation for wind. The new sign is known as “Wellington Blown Away” and has the approval of the locals.

301011. News. Photo. supplied to DominionPost. Airport sign design ideas. Wellywood or What competition. Wellington Blown Away.

Peter Jackson is not the only world famous film director living here. James Cameron fell in love with New Zealand and has purchased some land near Wellington and spends as much time as he can there with his family who enjoy the special atmosphere the area offers.

wellington 65James Cameron (thesundaytimes.co.uk)

James has even appeared in a series of short videos promoting New Zealand. Here is the one he fronted and wrote promoting the local arts scene.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TdKLyvesVE

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