Earthquake Rocks New Zealand, Forces Film Commission Staff to Work Remotely

Wellington, New Zealand earthquake damage - Getty H 2016
Courtesy of Getty Images

Capital Wellington, home of Stone Street Studios and Peter Jackson's Weta Digital, was deemed too unsafe for workers as Weta closed one of its tours for the morning.

Film businesses in the New Zealand capital of Wellington were brought to a standstill on Monday after a major earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale hit the South Island of the country in the early hours of the morning.

The massive quake killed two people in a coastal town, set off a tsunami and generated widespread damage across the country as its impact was felt in the main population centers of Christchurch and Wellington. The epicenter of the earthquake was near the coastal town of Kaikoura on the South Island, where road access was completely cut off by landslides.

The country’s parliament and the central business district of Wellington were closed all day after the region's Emergency Management Office recommended that people not come into the CBD for work.

The New Zealand Film Commission posted on its website that its Wellington office would be closed, but emphasized: "All our systems and IT are unaffected, and therefore business will continue as usual with all staff working remotely. We hope you are all safe and well."

The damage in the city was said to be superficial but extensive, including the collapsing of a ferry loading ramp, broken windows and items that fell from shelves.

Weta Workshop, the Peter Jackson-owned special-effects business that operates various film-themed tours at its Wellington headquarters, tweeted: "Hope you are all safe. Weta Cave and Workshop Tour: business as usual. Thunderbirds Are Go Tour: Closed for the morning."

It wasn't immediately clear if there was any damage to film businesses based in Wellington suburbs, such as Miramar, which includes Jackson’s Stone Street Studio complex and Park Road Post.

Also unclear at the stage is if the earthquake has caused any production delays. The film commission lists such 2016 films as Pete's Dragon, The Light Between Oceans and Power Rangers Dino Super Charge as having shot in the country. And James Cameron is set to shoot the first of his four new Avatar films in New Zealand in 2017.

Also sending a message of support to fellow New Zealanders was actor Sam Neill, currently in Australia. Neill tweeted that the earthquake “was very, very serious,” adding, ”For clarity: this is all a long way from where I live. It's the rest of the country I worry for. Another massive blow for NZ. #nzearthquake"

This is the second large-scale earthquake felt in recent years in the country, and particularly the city of Christchurch, which is just recovering from widespread damage and 185 lives lost caused by a magnitude 6.8 earthquake in 2011.