11 January 2012

‘Hobbit’ Secrecy Increases Following Studio Mishap

Following a fire on the set of The Hobbit back in May, which left two crew members with minor burns, the studio has increased its veil of secrecy. 

The fire started when a sculptor with a battery screwdriver was working on a prop pillar coated with polyurethane foam; sparks ignited fumes from the foam, and the man, who had half of his body inside the prop, suffered superficial burns to his nose and face after his head was engulfed in flames. Another worker suffered burns on his hand while beating the flames out.

One investigator on the scene reported that he had been asked to fill out a confidentiality agreement, which a spokeswomen for the Labour Department said was not signed, noting that, “Department of Labour health and safety inspectors have a legal right to enter a workplace.”

Due to the lack of serious harm, the Labour Department did not launch a full investigation. They did, however, discuss ways to prevent a similar accident – among them, using tools less likely to cause sparks.

Firefighters who signed confidentiality agreements with the studio and Weta Workshop months before filming began – something Paul McGill, the Fire Service’s operations and training director, says the organization does not usually do – were unable to discuss the situation with the media.

 “However, personnel at the Kilbirnie fire station, like most Wellingtonians, are very conscious of the importance of the ground- breaking digital film industry to the city,” McGill added. “It does not set any precedent for our work with other companies or organisations.”

A spokeswoman for Three Foot Seven would not comment on the incident, stating that key staff members were currently away.

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