Production on Amazon’s $1 billion Lord of the Rings series in New Zealand has been suspended for two weeks as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, with staff told “there are no clear answers to when we will resume.”
The New Zealand Herald published a notice from producers GSR Productions sent to all cast and crew Sunday, which said:
“In an abundance of caution, UAP [Untitled Amazon Project] has suspended production for the next two (2) weeks commencing Monday, March 16.
“This is done in an environment where travel restrictions directed at the control of Covid-19 are issued daily by New Zealand and most other countries.”
It adds that details of compensation and other procedures will be issued on Monday.
In the meantime, cast and crew are directed to “not report to the set or to the studio without the express permission of your supervisor.”
Beyond travel disruption, the memo cites health and safety concerns for the cast and crew.
we are doing this to minimise stress on the resources and infrastructures around us by doing our part to reduce population density in our communities and daily activities, in efforts to help reduce the spread of the virus.”
This is a fast-moving situation, but what makes this even stranger is that as of Monday afternoon, with a population of nearly five million people, there had been no new cases of coronavirus in New Zealand, and a total of only seven cases so far in the country.Does the risk justify responseofthismagnitude?
“HODs [Heads of production] will be contacted tonight by the production office with further details,” the memorandum further states. A crew member who contacted the Herald was surprised that the coronavirus travel disruption issue had been cited. “We were well into shooting. Everybody was in place so there weren’t many people coming from overseas recently,” he said. It did not say when production was expected to resume. The shutdown is part of a global trend. Overnight, one of the largest traditional Hollywood Studios, Universal, said it was halting all live-action film development on coronavirus fears.
No one involved in the production is believed to have tested positive for the coronavirus but cast and crew were directed to “not report to the set or to the studio without the express permission of your supervisor.”
Amazon paid a reported US$250 million ($412.2m) for the right to make a Lord of the Rings series, and the production is said to have a total budget of US$1billion – making it the most expensive TV series or streaming series ever made.