No outsiders are generally allowed inside New Zealand these days as the nation continues its three-month-old travel ban to keep COVID-19 in check. If you're James Cameron, however, there's a little wiggle room. Bloomberg reports that the director and a 30-person crew have been bestowed with an exemption so they can film the four sequels to Avatar there—a move that will put hundreds of Kiwis back to work and pump millions of dollars into the local economy. Producer Jon Landau posted a pic on social media in mid-June showing Cameron behind a filming crane, noting, "Used my iPhone to snap a picture of our first shot back in production on the Avatar sequels." People notes that staff seen in that shot all appear to be "taking the virus seriously," sporting face masks and face shields.
Cameron's group self-isolated for two weeks upon arrival in New Zealand before starting production. New Zealand boasts one of the few global success stories in mostly eradicating the virus and is now trying to position itself as providing a "safe-haven strategic advantage" for business, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern puts it, per Bloomberg. Cameron's project will invest $45 million through the end of the year and "millions more a month after that for the next several years," Landau told Television New Zealand. Cameron's crew isn't the only one descending upon New Zealand: An exemption has also been granted to a second team of around the same number to film The Power of the Dog, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst. The first Avatar sequel is still set to arrive in theaters in December 2021. (Read more James Cameron stories.)