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Wellington named UNESCO City of Film

31 Oct 2019

Wellington’s film community has today been recognised by UNESCO, naming New Zealand’s capital as an international City of Film, alongside Mumbai (India), Potsdam (Germany), Valladolid (Spain) and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

Hobbit 1

Part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities network, Wellington was one of 66 new cities to join the 246 strong network which recognises cities who put emphasis on developing their creative sectors within music, arts and folk crafts, design, cinema, literature, digital arts or gastronomy.

The Mayor of Wellington, Andy Foster says film is a huge part of Wellington’s cultural identity.

“This accolade really recognizes Wellington’s talented film community – our screen sector employs more than 2,500 people and we’re lucky people like Gaylene Preston, Taika Waititi, Thomasin McKenzie, Julian Dennison, Sir Peter Jackson, Sir Richard Taylor, Libby Hakaraia, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement do – or have - call Wellington home.

“Being a film city isn’t just about the films that have been made here such as Avatar, Lord of the Rings and Hobbit Trilogies, Shopping, What We Do in the Shadows, Daffodils and Planet of the Apes.

“It recognizes the vibrancy of our entire film community. We’re a place that flocks to events like the New Zealand International Film Festival, the Māoriland Film festival, 48 Hour Film Festival and Roxy5, we have a strong screen education sector and a very talented creative community.”

WellingtonNZ’s head of screen, Nicci Boucher, says becoming a City of Film is a great recognition of Wellington’s film industry, but there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure the sector is sustainable in years to come.

“Wellington has an incredible film heritage, but we want to ensure it has a bright future. Much of the industry’s work has centered around large productions, which have put Wellington on an international stage as a film location. But we need better balance, with a more sustainable pipeline of locally made projects and businesses to ensure our whole industry continues to flourish.

“Entertainment is an incredibly dynamic, ever-changing industry and we need to adapt with it. Film is only one part of our screen sector and we need to ensure we have different types of projects, a strong pipeline of talent and better access to funding.

“We also want to ensure locally made content is more accessible to Wellingtonians right across the region and ensure we’re inspiring the next generation of filmmakers and storytellers.”

Catherine Fitzgerald of Blueskin Films and Chair of the New Zealand International Film Festival Board - one of the producers of Oscar-nominated Two Cars, One Night, Vincent Ward feature Rain of the Children and Venice-award winning The Orator - says being a City of Film is wonderful recognition for the industry and film-loving locals. 

“This recognizes how Wellington embraces film as audiences. The film festival in Wellington has perhaps the highest per capita attendance in the world. As filmmakers the symbiotic relationship between the local and international film industries in Wellington is so rewarding for both new and experienced talent.”

Ms Boucher says there will now be a programme of work developed with the industry to prepare for the future of the screen industry, develop young talent and leverage the sector for further economic and cultural gain.

New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO Chair, Robyn Baker, says one of the key advantages of being part of the Creative Cities network is the opportunities for collaboration with the other cities in the international network.

“Because these are all cities with drive and energy for culture, collaboration between them can spark exciting new projects. We’ve seen film festivals established across countries, knowledge and technologies swapped between cities and ventures between private and public partners engaging new audiences.

“It’s about bringing creativity to our cities in a sustainable way. Wellington has worked hard to become an iconic city of film, and we’re thrilled it’s been named a UNESCO Creative City, alongside Dunedin as a City of Literature and Auckland, a UNESCO City of Music. Between these centres I expect there will be synergies and opportunities to work together.”

The existing members of the City of Film designation include: Bitola (Macedonia), Bradford (United Kingdom), Bristol (United Kingdom), Busan (South Korea), Galway (Republic of Ireland), Lodz (Poland), Qingdao (China), Rome (Italy), Santos, Sofia (Bulgaria), Sydney (Australia), Terrassa (Spain), Yamagata (Japan).