Is Cameron Moving AVATAR Sequels Production To New Zealand?

Posted on 02 February 2012 by Rich Drees

This story seems a little out of left field, but Deadline is reporting that director James Cameron’s recent purchase of some farmland outside Wellington, New Zealand may be an indicator that he is planning on moving the back-to-back production of his two Avatar sequels to that country.

The property is about 2,500 acres located 50 miles northeast of Wellington and about 12 miles from the estate of Lord Of The Rings maestro Peter Jackson. Local records alleging that Cameron and his family are planning to “reside indefinitely” in New Zealand is what is fueling the speculation that he may be looking at shooting the pair of sequels in that country.

Normally, I would dismiss this story as a combination of rumor and wishful thinking. But there are a few things going in its favor.

First off, the original Avatar had its principal photography shot in Wellington, although the motion capture work that was done for the film was shot in Los Angeles. It is safe to assume that the Avatar sequels will utilize the same, if not an increased, level of performance capture. But that will be expensive and right now with the US dollar equaling about $1.20 New Zealand, the director can get about 20% more bang for his buck.

Secondly, thanks to Peter Jackson’s own productions all shot in the Wellington area, there are some highly trained crews and technicians that are available to work on the films. In fact, Jackosn’s WETA Digital was the lead visual effects house on Avatar. There could be cost savings to be found by moving the entirety of the physical production there as well.

Thirdly, Cameron has stated that part of the sequels will explore the oceans of the alien world of Pandora and that he would like to film footage for the movies in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of any ocean here on Earth. Located south east of Japan, the Trench is so deep that if you placed Mount Everest inside it, the world’s tallest mountain would still be covered by some 6,760 feet of water. It’s comparative proximity to a New Zealand-based production would help in the logistics of getting that footage.

But all of this his highly speculative at this juncture. Cameron is still working on the screenplays for the two films and I suspect that we won’t hear any concrete news about actual production until at least the latter half of the year. But I’m sure that we will be  evaluating numerous reports and rumors about the films between now and then.

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