215 New Zealand crew.
9 New Zealand cast.
124 New Zealand extras.
X, Pearl and Mr. Corman bundled under the NZSPG – International criteria.
Written and directed by Ti West, Pearl is the prequel to horror film X. The films were shot back to back in Wellington and Whanganui, New Zealand. Produced by A24 (Get Out, Moonlight) the film stars Mia Goth and New Zealanders Tandi Wright and Matthew Sunderland.
Producer Jacob Jaffke said “Pearl is an incredible story in itself. Ti West wrote half of Pearl on arrival in New Zealand when we were in quarantine. New Zealand gave us a unique opportunity where we really found a way to make it all work. We had opportunity to make a movie for less money than the first movie and we could do it five weeks after we wrapped ‘X’, so that’s what we did, and we carried the crew through.”
Goth was excited by the idea of shooting two movies back-to-back with the same character set in different eras, and after experiencing the amiable, close-knit vibe among the New Zealand cast and crew on X, she was ready for more.
To get ready for the role, Goth watched musicals old and new. She also worked with New Zealand choreographer Leigh Evans to hone Pearl’s limited yet go-for-broke dancing skills, which come to life in the film’s explosive audition scene.
The role of Pearl's mother Ruth was played by New Zealand actor Tandi Wright, who was also the intimacy coordinator on X. “We figured we would bring in a whole new supporting cast for Pearl, but I had spent so much time with Tandi making X because she was there every day working with the actors,” says West. “When I started thinking about Pearl, I couldn’t help but envision Tandi as Ruth.” Wright, whose work includes roles as the Queen in 2013’s Jack the Giant Slayer and as a mother grappling with the living dead in the 2015 limited series The Returned.
Pearl shot in New Zealand a month after X wrapped in March 2021, reusing the farmhouse and its environs from the first film. “A big part of the reason Pearl was achievable was that we had built the barn and the bunkhouse, and we had secured the location of the house,” says West. “Instead of tearing the sets down after we wrapped, we got out paint and wallpaper and made another movie out of it. There’s often a lot of waste on movie sets, and it was a great feeling to be able to reuse everything we built. Everything old was made new again, including a more pristine swamp that looked this time around like a Hollywood backlot.”
Where the barn was falling down in X, they made it brand new for the prequel. Inside the farmhouse, which was dark, dreary, and decrepit in the first movie, they applied era-specific wallpaper, transforming the location into a German-American farmhouse circa 1918. “When the crew came back for the tech scout to the exact location they had spent a month shooting in, no one could believe what they were seeing,” says West. “They were in a totally different world—but it was the same house.”
Production designer Tom Hammock (Godzilla vs. Kong) had one major new location for Pearl—the movie theatre where Pearl meets The Projectionist and her dreams of stardom intensify. Stumbling into a New Zealand village that happened to be down the street from the hotel where X’s cast and crew lived during production, Hammock found a streetscape that could be made to resemble a small Southern town in the early 20th century. A movie theatre was already in place, albeit a modern-day multiplex, but the design team gave it a period makeover. “All the stuff we needed for the location miraculously happened to be there,” says West. “We put dirt in the street and changed some signs and decorated it with period effects.”
Wellington based OHUfx returned from X to do all the visual effects, and Weta Workshop did the prosthetics and makeup, providing pus, gore, and other bodily fluids. And Pearl’s beloved pet alligator Theda was already designed and built for the first film by another Wellington special effects company - Scale Studios. Operated by a winch with a combination of practical and special effects, she was ready to wag her tail at the scent of more fresh meat in the swamp.
“The whole thing felt blessed. All these factors lined up and created an easy road. I definitely want to make more movies in New Zealand, I have never had an experience like it which I attribute to the culture and the people.”
Filmmaker Ti West returns with another chapter from the twisted world of X, in this astonishing
follow-up to the year’s most acclaimed horror film. Trapped on her family’s isolated farm, Pearl
must tend to her ailing father under the bitter and overbearing watch of her devout mother. Lusting for a glamorous life like she’s seen in the movies, Pearl finds her ambitions, temptations, and repressions all colliding in this stunning, technicolor-inspired origin story of X’s iconic villain.
About the New Zealand Screen Production Grant
The New Zealand Screen Production Grant (NZSPG) for International Productions is part of the New Zealand Government’s screen incentives scheme, which includes the Post, Digital and Visual Effects (PDV) Grant. Eligible productions can access a cash rebate on Qualifying New Zealand Production Expenditure (QNZPE).
The baseline International grant is 20% of QNZPE. For PDV productions, the grant is 20% of QNZPE up to NZ$25million, thereafter 18% of QNZPE NZ$25million and above.
Two or more productions which complete principal photography, or PDV activity, within a 36-month window may be eligible to apply as a “bundle”:
- each production must have a minimum QNZPE of NZ$3million and the total bundle must have a minimum QNZPE of $30million;
- each production must either have an applicant that is the same entity or a related entity to the others, or have the same creative producer who is a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident;
- all productions must register separately and prepare separate final applications.
For more detail on bundling, see clause 11 of the criteria.
Pearl is in US cinemas September 16.