Lord of the Rings and Avatar 2 Able to Begin Filming Again as New Zealand Returns to Production

Though feature film and television productions around the world have been put on hold for the past six weeks, those filming in New Zealand may be able to resume filming very soon including productions like Lord of the Rings and Avatar 2. According to Deadline, the New Zealand Film Commission has confirmed that some shoots “are already safely underway" and that new health and safety protocols have been put in place with the approval of the federal government. New Zealand Film Commission CEO Annabelle Sheehan told the outlet, “The NZFC’s focus and commitment since the industry hiatus, has been the health and safety of all those who work in the New Zealand film industry and the ongoing sustainability of the wider screen sector. We are heartened and grateful for the hard work and partnership of the guilds who have worked to get this document completed so quickly.”

According to the trade, all productions in New Zealand will need to register with ScreenSafe "in order to help the Ministry of Health with contact tracing and WorkSafe with monitoring." Currently the entire country remains on what they call "Alert Level 3" and are set to consider lowering that to Level 2 on Monday, May 11. By maintaining their current Alert Level, film and television sets may not be able to take part in the "full range of screen production...due to limitations (e.g. preventing close personal contact between actors and hair and makeup artists)."

Small productions that are able to maintain social distancing between persons of at least one meter in the workplace are allowed to work but closed or controlled workplaces where there is no contact with the public are a must. Pre-production "where crew have the ability to work in small workgroups and able to maintain the required physical distancing" is allowed as well. It's unclear at what point larger productions like Lord of the Rings and Avatar 2 will be able to resume production but a change in the Alert Level will make it more likely.

Specific requirements for the safety protocols on film and television sets are up to the productions themselves, who must use the documents provided to create "their own individualised Health and Safety Plan and Site plans that are particular and unique to their requirements and to each site on which they intend to shoot."

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Production on the Avatar sequels has been on hold since mid-March, though filming was officially on pause for the James Cameron directed films VFX studio Weta continued to work on the digital side of the films, further developing what will no doubt be impressive CGI in the final product. Cameron, Landau, and their team have been working on Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 simultaneously, with both films previously expected to wrap filming in the spring, a late summer conclusion now seems more likely.

Amazon's The Lord of the Rings TV series had only been filming for a few weeks and was already set to take a break after filming its first two episodes before the pandemic shut down the series. The show has already been renewed for a second season on Amazon Prime before production had even begun, and was previously expected to debut its first season in 2021.