Oren Peli became a global phenomenon after releasing his first film. Photo: Erin Bradnock.

Hollywood filmmaker closes Nelson film festival


Oren Peli made his name by creating one of the most successful horror films of all time – but now he is calling Nelson home.

Oren propelled to global fame 11 years ago following the release of his first film ‘Paranormal Activity,’ but for two years he has been laying low in Nelson.

A screening of the film and a Q&A with Oren closed Nelson’s Top of the South Film Festival at the Suter Cinema on Sunday.

For Oren, it was the first time seeing his hit film on the big screen in over a decade.

With a budget of US$15,000, the horror film grossed over US$200 million at the box office, making it one of the most profitable films of all time.

But, despite the Hollywood successes, Oren says he’s grateful to have come to New Zealand when he did.

“When we were looking to move, we Googled ‘sunniest city in New Zealand’ and Nelson came up,” he says.

While Oren says he made some valuable friendships in Hollywood he admits he met far too many “slimy” people in his time there.

He left filmmaking behind in 2015 once he started a family, and he and his partner agreed New Zealand was the place to relocate.

Oren says it was the weather, size and safety that attracted him to Nelson.

“When we first got here, we immediately fell in love. We thought ‘wow this is where we belong’.”

For any budding filmmaker or film enthusiast, Oren’s story is nothing short of inspiring – making him the perfect person to close the Top of the South Film Festival.

Before Hollywood, Oren was a film enthusiast and computer programmer who was growing sick of his job when he came up with an idea for a film.

Despite having no filmmaking experience, Oren dove into the deep end as a director, producer, writer and editor of Paranormal Activity, which he shot in his own home.

His advice for anyone wanting to make a film is to “go for it” and says he’s seen a lot of filmmaking potential come out of the Nelson region already.

“I’ve seen people here do a lot of cool work with very little resources and it’s very inspiring.”