As New Zealand’s screen sector roars back to business as usual, Auckland-based production facility Studio West is unveiling what will be the city’s largest purpose-built sound stage.
Studio West, a regular base for both local and international production over the past 25 years, began developing its expansion as far back as 2019, but construction was put on hold for a full year during the most difficult phases of the pandemic.
“Back in April 2021, I would say we were quite brave to begin construction again,” says Kay Howe, Studio West’s CEO. “But now everything is looking quite good. We’re ready to open our doors, and film and TV production in New Zealand has come surging back again. It’s been an exciting journey getting here.”
Situated in the Glen Eden area of Auckland, Studio West spans eight acres and has three pre-existing sound stages (3,315 square feet, 5,650 square feet and 7,530 square feet), production and location offices, manufacturing, wardrobe, laundry, green rooms, hair and make up spaces. The new stage — dubbed Studio 4 — will give the facility a significant boost, however. The building adds 16,236 square feet of open-plan production and post-production offices, and a state-of-the-art sound stage spanning 36,570 square feet.
“We’ve heard for a long time from the international industry that Auckland could do with more stage space,” says Jasmine Millet, manager of Screen Auckland, the regional government-supported film office that advocates for the industry. “So, it’s exciting to see Studio West grow from a studio that could support locations-based productions really well into one that can also be a home to projects of a larger size — ones that need to do a decent amount of building.”
“I certainly see it as meeting a need that we have felt in Auckland for a long time,” Millet adds.
Studio West already has booked its first project for Stage 4. Period action drama The Convert, starring Guy Pearce and directed by New Zealander Lee Tamahori, began working in the facility late last month.
Studio West’s Stage 4 joins Auckland’s growing outlay of production facilities, which in recent years have attracted projects including Disney’s Mulan and Warner Bros The Meg, along with a slew of series production for streamers. New Zealand’s generous production incentives and diverse natural beauty have always been key draws for international shoots, but Auckland’s reputation for strong crew and rapidly improving technical capacities have continued to remake the region as a competitive, world-class production hub. The city’s Kumeu Film Studios expanded its offering in 2017 and now boasts the largest indoor dive tank in the Southern Hemisphere, a 43,055-square-foot warehouse stage space and two purpose-built stages of 24,650 square feet. Nearby X3 Studios also offers numerous and flexible purpose-built stages.
Howe says the demand Studio West has seen for its new stage has encouraged the company to forge ahead with further expansion. In the first half of 2023, Studio West will begin construction on a fifth stage of over 26,000 square feet.
“The film industry in Auckland is only as big as the number of studios, facilities and crew that we have to service projects,” Howe says. “So, while there are other studios here in Auckland — and some of them are also expanding — we really feel that we’re all growing together hand-in-hand to make New Zealand a bigger and better hub.”