Hillary project group shocked but home safely.

A 15-person Kiwi film crew shooting TVNZ's upcoming Sir Edmund Hillary biopic fear for the safety of friends they met in earthquake-ravaged Nepal.

The crew were in north India when the 7.8 quake hit. They feel "grateful and thankful" they are now home safely, but fear for the safety of the friends they made in the region of Phaplu.

Executive producer Carmen Leonard told The Diary yesterday the crew were still in shock. They had been filming in Nepal since April 10, and were 350km from Kathmandu when the quake hit.

"We had flown out of Kathmandu on Thursday afternoon to shoot in Varanasi [in north India]. It is a 30-minute plane ride from Kathmandu. Suddenly our hotel started rocking from side to side. We ran out, we were terrified. The locals were saying it's an earthquake. It was absolutely terrifying," Leonard said.


She says the reality of the devastation is still sinking in.

"It was so freaky, we had just been in Kathmandu 48 hours earlier. We had been to the sites that are now a pile of rubble. We had been to Dharahara Tower, we'd been to Durbar Square.

"We felt shocked and gutted," Leonard said. "We were just thinking about our new friends in Nepal and we were worried about their safety.

"We got in touch with our fixer, who was our local contact on the ground in Kathmandu, and we were relieved to hear they were all safe and sound.

"But we have yet to hear about our friends in the mountains. We filmed for a week in the mountain region of Phaplu, and we have no idea how those people are, or whether they have survived."

Andrew Munro, who plays Sir Ed in the six-hour TV drama series alongside Hobbit star Dean O'Gorman, took to Twitter to tell friends and family he was safe.

"Thanks for all the thoughts. Everybody is okay. We're in Varanasi making our way home but we felt the quake. Quite scary at the time," he tweeted.

Leonard, who is now home with her colleagues in New Zealand, said the shoot will be forever affected by what the 13 crew members and two actors had experienced in Nepal and India.

"It was stunning; a beautiful 13-week shoot in stunning scenery that is marred now by the devastation that hit Nepal, a third-world country that had nothing. Now it has less than nothing."

She says the fact they were filming Hillary's life story has made it particularly poignant.

"Sir Ed was such a huge part of that country, and contributed so much to the people of Nepal, it has made us feel closer. Every frame we captured will have that much more meaning now."

Leonard says the Nepalese people, who were so kind to the Kiwi film crew, now need help, and she urges Kiwis to make a donation though Unicef towards earthquake relief.

Hillary is a six-hour TV drama series for TV One about the life of Sir Ed made by Great Southern Film and Television. The TV series, which was written by Sir Ed's friend Tom Scott, will screen next year.

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Dear diary ... read more from Rachel Glucina at tinyurl.com/rglucina