Founded by Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, and Jamie Selkirk in 1993 to create the digital effects for Heavenly Creatures, Weta Digital is perhaps best known for its work on Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Now, the New Zealand studio is coming under fire for an allegedly toxic and sexist workplace culture, triggering the launch of an independent investigation.
Allegations about Weta Digital’s workplace culture have emerged due to a months-long investigation by local news team TVNZ. New Zealand’s workplace relations minister Andrew Little has spoken up on the allegations, urging the company to carry out an independent review of the claims.
The stories from current and former staff include a culture of sharing pornographic imagery among the workplace, with staffers describing explicit mailing lists hosted on Weta Digital’s own intranet. “There was a tradition at the time called Porn Friday,” one employee told TVNZ anonymously. “Every Friday staff members would email round porn images to the whole team.”
Though the pornographic mailing lists were eventually shut down by the company, workers say the move resulted in backlash from those who benefited from that culture.
There are also allegations of sexual harassment and bullying, which wasn’t taken seriously by management–or in some cases were perpetuated by members of management.
“It’s a known fact that the film industry treats its workers like s***,” one former employee said. “Weta Digital is no exception. They work people until they burn out or quit. The culture is a mixture of boys club mentality, bullying gone wild, and casual sexism … I wouldn’t recommend anyone work there.”
In an official statement, Weta Digital has said that the allegations “do not reflect the Weta Digital of today.” A statement sent to The Guardian added that “the owners have commissioned a QC (Queen’s Counsel) to carry out an independent review.”
A separate investigation is already underway at Weta Workshop, the branch of the Weta Group responsible for physical props, costumes, and practical effects. The investigation at Weta Workshop is being carried out by Hive Consulting.