"Everybody thinks we went to New Zealand for its exotic locales," says Jon Landau, producer of James Cameron's 3D sci-fi epic Avatar. "We never left the studio. We did rent a warehouse off-site because we needed more space, but all our filming was studio-based."
Landau wanted New Zealand's talent rather than its scenery. The country is a hot-bed of creativity and many artists have adapted their skills to film-making. They can be found, in particular, at Weta Workshop, which is headed by Richard Taylor and part of Peter Jackson's empire in Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island.
Since last year, film-makers can now claim back 15% of their New Zealand spend on post, providing expenditure hits $2.4m (nz$3m).
Also in Wellington is Stone Street Studios, one of the country's two main studios alongside Henderson Valley near Auckland. Stone Street housed Avatar and has two purpose-built stages and four adapted warehouses.
Nearby is effects house Weta Digital, as well as boutique post-production facility and laboratory Park Road Post. All are within walking distance of each other - helpful for the crew of Tintin once Steven Spielberg arrives to make this project alongside Jackson at Weta.
John Woo is now at Park Road doing post-production on Red Cliff, which shot in China, as is Australian director Alex Proyas with the thriller Knowing which shot in Australia.
"This facility was built by a film-maker (Jackson) with other film-makers in mind," Park Road general manager Aimee McCammon says. "Having your DI (digital intermediate), telecine, sound mixing and lab under one roof is unique and a different working experience. In post, you don't just have to have the best technical delivery, the best equipment and the best people, you also have to have a comfortable environment to work in."
New Zealand's appeal as a location is as strong as ever. This year has seen Lakeshore International and Screen Gems' Underworld 3: Rise Of The Lycans, which shot in Auckland, Twentieth Century Fox's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was based in Sydney but has done some location work to New Zealand, and the US-Korean film The Laundry Warrior, which shot at the recently expanded Henderson Valley Studios. The Fox fantasy They Came From Upstairs also shot in and around Auckland.
The New Zealand government offers a 15% rebate on all local expenditure when the local spend is $11.9m (nz$15m) or more. The government recently introduced a clause allowing producers to claim on multiple qualifying projects totalling $23.7m (nz$30m) over a two-year period.
"People are conscious of the need for sound stages but they don't spring up overnight," says Judith McCann, chief executive of marketing outfit Film New Zealand. "They are something we need as much for the domestic industry, and affordability has to be a consideration."
One of the biggest concerns for US producers on location in the territory is whether New Zealand has the capacity to do their film. As one says: "I wouldn't want to be the fourth film shooting in New Zealand."