Weta Digital has announced that it is opening offices in L.A. and San Francisco and welcoming three additions to its board of directors, as the New Zealand-based vfx giant embarks on a “hypergrowth stage.”
In a statement, CEO Prem Akkaraju said: “Opening offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco enables storytellers to tap Weta’s production pipeline and work with concept designers, animation supervisors, and other key creatives, in both the U.S. and New Zealand.” While the company will now have creative talent in California, it doesn’t appear to be opening fully-fledged studios there.
Weta, whose vfx credits include the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Game of Thrones, and Avengers: Engame, has also named three new board members:
Tom Staggs is a 26-year veteran of The Walt Disney Company, where he had served as chief operating officer, chief financial officer, and chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide before stepping down in 2016. He worked closely with Weta to develop Disney World’s Avatar attraction.
Jeff Huber is a former Google executive with 13 years’ experience at the tech titan. He co-founded the company’s life sciences efforts in Google X, and led development and scaling for Google Maps, Google Apps, and Google Ads. He has also held executive roles at Ebay, health tech company Grail, and internet provider Excite@Home.
Ken Kamins is founder and CEO of management-production company Key Creatives. He has represented Weta co-founder Peter Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh since 1992, before the company existed; his executive producer credits include the Hobbit trilogy, District 9, and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. Previously, he was executive vp at International Creative Management and RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Entertainment.
Akkaraju was hired by Weta in June, around the same time Napster co-founder Sean Parker joined the vfx company’s board as vice chairman. At the time, the company also unveiled a new Weta Animated banner, under which it will produce original animation. Jackson and Walsh will write, produce, and direct several projects for it.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Jackson said Weta is looking to push into original content to satisfy demand from streamers. He stressed that the company’s independence is an advantage in a space dominated by conglomerates: it can supply programming “without having to be part of an in-house club.” Meanwhile, Akkaraju told the paper the company “will be doubling or tripling [in size] through acquisition and organic growth.”
But Weta’s remarkable growth has been marred by a protracted scandal around its corporate culture, sparked by widespread allegations of bullying, sexism, harassment, and a generally “toxic” workplace. An independent review is underway; the company’s head of human resources, Brendan Keys, stepped down last month.