Why filmmakers can’t resist Rotorua’s scenic charm

A new international film project selected Rotorua as one of its locations and injected an estimated $4 million into the local economy.

Collaboration between RotoruaNZ, Film Bay of Plenty (FBOP), and co-producer/filmmaker Piripi Curtis with Indian actor/filmmaker Vishnu Manchu has shone a spotlight yet again on Rotorua’s talented people and breath-taking landscapes – and gave the economy a boost.

Rotorua and other Bay of Plenty locations have become the cinematic canvas for a film project by Tollywood* actor-filmmaker Manchu. Manchu chose New Zealand as the location for filming “Kannappa” after exploring options in Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Switzerland, US and Canada.
“New Zealand is home to what I believe is God’s last painting left unspoiled,” Manchu said.
RotoruaNZ supports film companies such as FBOP to facilitate production within the region as the screen industry plays a significant role in driving economic growth. Location-based films also foster sustained growth and recognition for Rotorua through ‘film tourism’, the result of audiences being inspired to visit the locations they’ve seen on screen.

Elysia Gibb and Jade Kent of FBOP said, “When productions opt for our region, it sets off a ripple effect that extends far beyond the filming process. The influx of cast, crew, and production teams not only opens doors for our local talent but also contributes significantly to our local economy. This financial impact resonates across various industries, including daily spend on hospitality, accommodation, transportation and local businesses.
“We know in New Zealand, approximately 60% of the total filming budget goes back into the community.”
“Kannappa” line producer Darshan Shetty of Canterbury-based Ki Studio estimated $4 million had gone into the Rotorua community, and at one point in the 90-day shoot, the film featured a diverse representation of up to 400 New Zealand extras, including locals.
This international project also presented a unique opportunity for local filmmakers to expand their production experience, contributing to the growth and vitality of the regional film community.
Movies previously filmed here include “Pete’s Dragon”, “Yogi Bear”, and “Without a Paddle”. The deeply moving “Cousins” (2021), a Māori drama based on Patricia Grace's novel and directed by Briar Grace-Smith and Ainsley Gardiner, showcased our indigenous culture on the global stage.
“Kannappa” has not only brought international talent to New Zealand, but also seamlessly integrated the local Māori community into the heart of the project.
Curtis, a Rotorua local, played a pivotal role integrating the region’s natural beauty through his knowledge of the region and iwi connections.
“The collaboration with the local Māori community has been an enriching experience, adding depth and authenticity to “Kannappa”,” he said.
Many Māori people played significant roles in the film, with the team at Te Pā Tū, led by Jamus Webster, contributing their talents to compose a song for the movie along with their team of Māori performers.
Rotorua is fast cementing itself as a welcome home for film projects in Aotearoa.
(Above: Jade Kent, Film Bay of Plenty; Ngawiki Ashby Te Nahu, RotoruaNZ; Alex Evans, RotoruaNZ; Elysia Gibb, Film Bay of Plenty; Vishnu Manchu, filmmaker/actor)
*Tollywood is the Telugu film industry based in southeast India, while Bollywood refers to the Hindi film industry that can come from anywhere in India.

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