EXCLUSIVE: New Zealand has long been known as a top destination for big budget films such as Avatar And The Lord of the Rings thanks to its enviable locations, qualified crew and generous 40% tax rebate. But earlier this year, when Avatar: The Way of the Water was set to break multiple box office records as it reached its total of $2.3 billion, there was another project shot in New Zealand that was making a dent in the global box office charts . Universal, Blumhouse and Atomic Monster’s killer doll hit M3GAN raised an impressive $176 million worldwide from a budget of just $12 million after its January release.
While the film was set in Seattle, it was actually shot in Auckland in 2021 after the pandemic forced the project to switch from filming in Montreal to the relatively Covid-free shores of New Zealand. (The sequel to the film, which Universal has slated for release in January 2025, has yet to confirm whether it will recur in New Zealand, but sources say it’s very likely.) The nation is home to director Gerard Johnstone and it would be where the project would eventually find its 12-year-old star, Friend Donaldwho plays M3gan.
“The fact that we were able to find her when we had to cast someone to play this role is, I mean, I don’t even know what the odds are, but they’re very long,” producer Judson said. Scott. “And being able to find someone who is as capable as her of doing what we need to do, but also being as good on screen as her, is something you can’t really teach. You know, you just point the camera at her and the physics and her presence are there. It’s an X factor – she’s got it. We’re just incredibly lucky and lucky enough to have found this person in the city where we were filming.
Donald, an Auckland native and national dance champion (whose skills came in handy for the viral doll dance), brought M3GAN to life using VFX, puppets and animatronics. “She reminds me of old movie stars,” Scott says. “She can dance, she can perform all these amazing stunts. Our stunt coordinator and movement coach was like, ‘This is amazing – we’re seeing something that a lot of these people haven’t seen before.'”
The low-budget production, Scott says, was able to benefit from a crew that had worked on some of the region’s biggest movies and TV shows.
“When we started this film, we were working with a lot of people who had done much larger productions than ours on a much larger scale in terms of budget and what they were asked to do,” he says. . “We were incredibly lucky to do what you would consider a small studio-level film with people who won Oscars for working on Avatarfunctioning The Lord of the Ringswork on cowboy bebopworking on the Rings TV show. So we were able to have access to these people to work on our little film. We were incredibly lucky that they brought all this knowledge.
Producer Adam Hendricks says Auckland reminded him “in many ways” of Los Angeles. “It’s sprawling which is nice and you also get a bunch of different looks.”
He adds: “One of the things I liked about the experience [in New Zealand] it’s a very holistic idea of working on a film set. In the US and other places, each of their various departments feels like part of their various little fiefdoms – they rarely interact, let alone scavenge each other’s gear. But here, when the carts are moved, everyone comes to help and when something needs to be done, everyone comes to the aid of the person in need and pushes it. It’s very collaborative. »
Reflecting on experience, Auckland Screen Director Matthew Horrocks said the band were “incredibly proud of the role played by Auckland’s screen industry” in the film.
“M3GAN was filmed in Auckland, making the most of our city’s forests, suburbs and inner cities, using Auckland studios and Auckland crews. There’s even a rising star in Amie Donald, who plays the M3GAN doll. The film is also a remarkable achievement for our own director Gerard Johnstone.
“To win the 48 Hour Filmmaking contest twice, writing credits on Confined at home And Jaquie Brown’s Diaries work as a director on The new legend of the monkeyGérard has long been recognized as one of our best talents. M3GAN is a new stage in what promises to be a brilliant international career.