The Post, Digital and Visual Effects grant aims to foster capacity and new business development for large budget PDV Production in New Zealand.
Eligible productions can access a cash grant equivalent to 20% of Qualifying New Zealand Production Expenditure (QNZPE) up to QNZPE of $25 million, and 18% of QNZPE for QNZPE above $25 million.
An example of a recent production who utilised the PDV grant is 20th Century Fox’s Murder on the Orient Express.
Murder on the Orient Express
Murder on the Orient Express utilised the PDV grant for an innovative plate shoot filmed in the South Island of New Zealand.
For cast to feel as though they really were passengers on the Orient Express rushing through snowy landscapes, a new technique was developed. A fully dressed and moving train was built inside a UK sound stage and over two thousand LED screens surrounding the carriage projected New Zealand mountain scenes.
I found myself going to the end of the train to watch the scenery go by as if I was on a real train, and I wasn’t the only one.
Reverse seasons to the Northern Hemisphere and dramatic mountain ranges within a small geographic area, alongside Kiwi’s reputation for delivering on some of the most complex shoots, confirmed New Zealand as the ideal location for this production.
New Zealand Film Commission contracted Location Scout Cameron Wood to travel the Tranz Alpine and record the grand locations doubling for the Swiss Alps. This passenger train is said to be one of the great train journeys of the world and runs from the east to the west coast of New Zealand's South Island.
To capture 360-degree views New Zealand crew and engineers built bespoke camera rigs for the exterior of train carriages.
Camera rigs mounted off each side of the train held six Arri Alexa 35mm XT cameras with 10mm lenses. An additional Arri Alexa 65 Camera with a 24mm lens was rigged to face directly rearward. The front view of the carriage was covered with a 65mm Panavision Film Camera mounted on a crane arm on the front of the Rail Inspection Vehicle.
By the end of the shoot more than 150TB of digital content was captured and over 100 rolls of 65mm film. The footage was then edited and played on the LED screens surrounding the carriage.
Cast said this was a unique and engrossing way to bring their characters to life.
You completely suspend belief! The train moved and everything (all the scenery) went past.
The empty train used for Murder on the Orient Express.
The train used for Murder on the Orient Express with the camera rig attached. © 2017 Mark Gillings
the train leaves the station for its Murder on the Orient Express shoot. © 2017 Mark Gillings
The camera used for shooting plate shots from the train for Murder on the Orient Express. © 2017 Mark Gillings
Multiple cameras were placed on the train to capture the view. © 2017 Mark Gillings
Checking the view from inside the train. © 2017 Mark Gillings
The crew work inside the train. © 2017 Mark Gillings
The crew check the 'view'. © 2017 Mark Gillings
A lot of equipment in a small space. © 2017 Mark Gillings
Cables. © 2017 Mark Gillings
Piles of equipment ready to go. © 2017 Mark Gillings
First AD Mark Gillings said New Zealand was chosen for the crew’s ingenuity, together with the right terrain and weather conditions.
New Zealand crew are problem solvers which bring a unique perspective to the table. The shooting schedule for the plates was also locked for September so there was nowhere else in the world with the right terrain and the potential for the perfect weather.
Snow on the TranzAlpine route
TranzAlpine tracks through the snow
Sunshine sparkling on the snow.
Snow and mountains on the TranzAlpine route
Mountains and valleys
KiwiRail was credited for their support and flexibility, working closely with the production to coordinate periods of total control of the railway track, ensuring the filmmakers captured spectacular images perfectly matching the script, from blue skies to a raging storm with significant snowfall to track level.
Together crew and Kiwi Rail created a comprehensive Health and Safety Plan for the shoot. This robust plan required all crew and train controllers to complete rigorous briefings at the Waltham train yards in Christchurch.
About the film
What starts out as a lavish train ride through Europe quickly unfolds into one of the most stylish, suspenseful and thrilling mysteries ever told. From the novel by best-selling author Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells the tale of thirteen strangers stranded on a train, where everyone’s a suspect.
World-renowned detective Hercule Poirot must race against time to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again. Kenneth Branagh directs and leads an all-star cast including Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley and Josh Gad.
The cast of Murder on the Orient Express
Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Brannagh) charms ladies in the snow
Miss Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley) in the dining car - note the snowy vista outside the window.
Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp) peers suspiciously through the glass
Judi Dench and Olivia Coleman as Princess Dragomiroff and Hildegard Schmidt in Murder on the Orient Express
Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer) sneaks through the train
Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp) offers a clue... or perhaps a red herring?
Princess Dragomiroff (Judi Dench) is not amused. Hildegard Schmidt (Olivia Coleman), on the other hand, is.
Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp) and McQueen (Josh Gad) plot and plan.