Wellington named official UNESCO City of Film

The Wellywood sign in Wellington.
The Wellywood sign in Wellington. Photo credit: File.

Wellington has been named a City of Film by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to recognise the city's work in developing infrastructure related to the film industry. 

It was granted as part of UNESCO's Creative Cities Network which "unifies cities that base their development on creativity". Sixty-six new urban settlements were added to the network on Thursday, bringing the total to 246.

Eighteen are deemed cities of film, while cities can also be recognised for music, literature and other creative endeavours. For example, Auckland is a City of Music while Dunedin is a City of Literature.

Robyn Baker, the chair of the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, said an advantage of being part of the network was the opportunities for collaboration.

"Because these are all cities with drive and energy for culture, a collaboration between them can spark exciting new projects," Baker said.

"We've seen film festivals established across countries, knowledge and technologies swapped between cities and ventures between private and public partners engaging new audiences."

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was one of the cinematic ventures that led to Wellington becoming world-renowned as a location of innovative film-making. Actor Bruce Hopkins told Newshub the likes of director Peter Jackson were smart enough to set up a sustainable industry.

"It would have been very easy for Lord of the Rings to be a one-hit-wonder, but they set about creating the infrastructure that allowed them to create the empires," Hopkins said.

"The city adapted, the city embraced, the movie just became part of the fabric of that city, the making of those movies."

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster - whose mayoral campaign was backed by Jackson - told RNZ it was an important honour.

"I think that's a reflection of not only the big-budget movies that we've had made in Wellington, and continue to have made in Wellington, but also the community-level of participation in films."

But WellingtonNZ's head of screen, Nicci Boucher, said there was still work to be done to foster local productions. 

"Wellington has an incredible film heritage, but we want to ensure it has a bright future. Much of the industry's work has centred 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."