Case Study: A Wrinkle in Time filmed in New Zealand

A dry summer in New Zealand proved an aesthetic challenge when The Walt Disney Company’s A Wrinkle In Time came to shoot in 2017.

The $100m A Wrinkle In Time, directed by Ava DuVernay for The Walt Disney Company, filmed key scenes on location in New Zealand, using the country as a stand-in for a fantastical world. Based on a popular book first published in 1962, the story follows a young girl’s adventures as three strange beings send her on a mission to the far reaches of the universe to rescue her missing explorer father.

The New Zealand leg of the shoot spanned two weeks, complementing a production schedule that focused on California, thanks to a last-minute credit of an historic $18.1m from the state’s expanded Film & Television Tax Program. The California portion was mostly in Los Angeles and the Redwood forests of Humboldt County in northern California.

New Zealand is internationally renowned for its mountainous visuals and some of the Disney producers on A Wrinkle In Time had worked in the country on the studio’s remake of Pete’s Dragon in 2015.

“The overall brief was ‘grand and beautiful’ — looks that did not require any imagination, had the ‘wow’ factor and looked ‘otherworldly’,” explains Clayton Tikao, the supervising location manager for the New Zealand leg of the shoot.

Four locations on the South Island were used, including Lake Hawea in Otago. However spots that were vibrantly green during scouting in spring risked becoming slightly less lush when shooting in February, the height of the New Zealand summer.

“Weather conditions conspired against us and the rains stopped earlier than normal so the irrigation required was increased markedly to keep the ground from changing colour,” Tikao explains. “We ended up irrigating over 50 acres on a hilltop and this presented logistical issues and constant monitoring. The scout for this location was extensive. The brief was an island or small hill in the middle of a lake surrounded by 360 degrees of mountains.”

A sheep farm further north near the town of Twizel provided 30 acres of barley and rye grassfields for scenes that needed long dry grass to sway gently in the wind.

The final key location was beside Lake Pukaki near New Zealand’s largest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook in the middle of the Southern Alps. “The lake is famed for its bright aqua colour as a result of the glaciers feeding the rivers leading into the lake,” says Tikao. “Like the Lake Hawea location, extensive irrigation was required to maintain a green grass colour due to the dry summer.”

The production accessed the New Zealand production credit for the New Zealand portion of its shoot.

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