Herald on Sunday on The Hobbit

October 3rd, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The HoS editorial:

But plainly the actors want to discuss a collective agreement – essentially unionising the workplace – in order to ensure that wages and conditions are protected. On the face of it, that sounds unexceptionable, but the prime mover in the matter is an Australian-based union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (), which is not registered in this country and which, therefore, cannot legally negotiate an agreement.

And it is hard to read what is going on as anything other than a grab for membership by that group.

And if MEAA got re-registered a a union in NZ, there is no reason it can’t represent that tiny (10%) minority of actors who choose to be members in their negotiations.

But what is unacceptable is their attempt to force every actor to be covered by the MEAA through a collective contract.

Support for the MEAA from the guilds representing the behind-the-camera talent – such as camera operators, designers and lighting teams – has been conspicuous by its absence.

As they are the ones who will be screwed over by the consequences.

Film-making, even on a small scale, is capital-intensive and high risk. Hollywood productions have a long history of being held to ransom by unions. One of the reasons so called “runaway” productions choose to film here is that they relish the versatility and can-do mentality of local actors and technicians.

Many media have missed the point about why the movie may move. It isn’t about whether NZ actors get paid less than other actors (and I am not sure they are), it is about union ransom demands. What really cripples a film is when you are halfway through shooting it and the union calls a strike – holding the production to ransom.

Any move away from New Zealand will not be because of pay rates. It will be because of union tactics.

There is no reason that actors here should be exploited; but there is no evidence that is happening. We are already facing competition from countries offering bigger tax incentives than we do to lure runaway productions. Our actors may rue their disproportionate militancy sooner than they think.

Well remember it is not all actors. MEAA represents only 10% of actors. But yes, the MEAA may end up screwing all actors in NZ if the NZ movie industry gets wiped out.

But it will go even further than that, in terms of bad consequences for actors. Much of the local industry relies on government subsidies through NZ on Air, Film Commission etc etc. And can you imagine there being any political willpower to increase funding to the arts, after a group of actors succeed in destroying the film industry? God no. So there will also be fewer plays, TV shows and local movies for all actors.

If you want to avoid this outcome, consider signing the petition started by Wellington film-maker Chaz Harris, and Richard Whiteside, a Wellington actor. It calls for an end to the boycott. If you sign it, and are involved in the arts, state your involvement.

There are 1,365 signatures to date. That is seven times as many people as are members of the MEAA in New Zealand.

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15 Responses to “Herald on Sunday on The Hobbit”

  1. dime (9,607 comments) says:

    i hope they destroy the industry. the majority of kiwi over actors are just terrible.

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  2. John Gibson (295 comments) says:

    “Australian-based union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), which is not registered in this country and which, therefore, cannot legally negotiate an agreement.

    Time to tell the Australian unions to go away ?

    dime – you seem to forget the benefits to New Zealand’s international profile & exports that accrues from being featured in large international film productions. Small minded anti-arts thinking ignores that.

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  3. dime (9,607 comments) says:

    im not anti-arts at all. i just think kiwi actors are complete shit.

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  4. pq (728 comments) says:

    listen dudes my name is peter jackson , get your red carpet put for me to float on, send me money, you know I am wonderful

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  5. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    DPF – What really cripples a film is when you are halfway through shooting it and the union calls a strike – holding the production to ransom.

    And this has happened, or is it your fevered imagination? There is, as yet, no shooting schedule.

    And how is holding the production to ransom any different if it is the workers via their union or if it is the studios demanding bigger subsidies and tax breaks?

    John Gibson – you seem to forget the benefits to New Zealand’s international profile & exports that accrues from being featured in large international film productions.

    And the verifiable value of this is $?

    WE may know that LOTR was shot in NZ, but does the rest of the world, and do they then buy more milk powder because of it?

    [DPF: Go look up some history books. It has happened to many many films in the past, which is why the film studios now avoid locations where they can be held hostage]

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  6. jaba (2,092 comments) says:

    I have always had doubts about the quality of our actors until I started going to live shows. They are fantastic and can’t wait for the next one.
    Helen Kelly on Q&A this morning .. why have her on for goodness sake, she is getting as bad as Bradford

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  7. wreck1080 (3,787 comments) says:

    I’d beg to differ.

    Pay rates could drive away a movie.

    The only reason they come to NZ is because it is cheap.

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  8. reid (16,066 comments) says:

    “Helen Kelly on Q&A this morning .. why have her on for goodness sake, she is getting as bad as Bradford”

    She is or she always was?

    Unfortunately unionists have a vested interest in talking up problems. It’s the nature of their business. Of course they can’t admit that publicly but the issues arise when sometimes they don’t even admit it to themselves.

    But it’s a fact, isn’t it, that when this dynamic arises, unnecessary shit like this, happens.

    It’s unnecessary, because the actors get well-paid, in the first place. On Friday, they announced there would also be profit-sharing. What more do they want, if the objective was to get more cash?

    It’s playing out exactly as per Jackson’s warning last week said it would. FFS, don’t their brother unions want to do something about this, for those organisations are the only ones who can, for the greater good? Or are those brother unions just fucking happy to stand aside, do nothing, and watch the whole fucking industry (i.e. not just the actors) go straight down the gurgler, forever?

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  9. labrator (1,820 comments) says:

    WE may know that LOTR was shot in NZ, but does the rest of the world… …?

    Have you ever left NZ? Have you ever talked to tourists?

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  10. LaoHu (8 comments) says:

    My daughter’s in-laws are involved in the Wellington movie business – but not as actors. They are in things like costume and post production. They are here because this is where the business is, but if the likes of the The Hobbit does not go ahead they are already talking of moving overseas to where the business will be.
    As others have noted its the intellectual capital in the skills of all these types of people that will go and which will be very hard to attract back.
    It takes a long time to build up all the skill sets to keep those actors in front of the cameras and to make the end result look good.
    It would be like trying to restart the NZ Air Force with no ground crew.

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  11. thedavincimode (6,582 comments) says:

    labrator

    MNIJerk actually fled TO NZ to escape the Aussie draft, so its not as if he hasn’t been outside the country (although he has been too scared to leave since he arrived regrettably). As for speaking to tourists, well, he doesn’t actually speak to anyone, and hasn’t heard of the impact that the albeit shit LOTR trilogy has had on tourism or the flow on benefits from the gazillion of non-film tradespeople and service providers being employed in those productions.

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  12. Mark (1,406 comments) says:

    Now isn’t this surprising. Jackson is talking to the CTU head and all of a sudden there is talk of possible agreement. How strange, both sides stop mouthin off in the media and start talking to each other rather than at each other and all of a sudden a resolution is possible.

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  13. Kimble (4,396 comments) says:

    In a lot of ways the real damage has already been done, and cannot be undone.

    It isnt a single strike that cripples an industry that lives or dies by investor confidence, it is an increased risk of future strikes.

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  14. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    Why is Jackson talking to the headof the CTU when the dispute is with an Australian interloping union?

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  15. Wah (1 comment) says:

    NZ is full of great actors, script writers and directors and unfortunately we live in a country where many are neither patriotic or supportive of these talented people. Every country wants to make films like Lord of the Rings and now the Hobbit. Fortunate for us, we still make these films even though there many who think we shouldn’t. Peter knows this and continues to see his patriotism in NZ so he makes films here – he loves NZ. We are so easy to point the blame and curse those who have vision past simply ‘today’ and instead for the ‘future’ where many, including many that are blogging here, will never see or understand.

    People rant on here like they have an in depth knowledge of the industry or creativity – when it is obvious they have neither talent or the scope of the dynamics of the Hobbit. The Hobbit isn’t just about making a film, it’s a country’s pride to showcase talented people.

    Get over it and get behind Peter, not because he is a great man trying to make another great film in NZ but because he is a New Zealander and we should be proud of New Zealanders who achieve on the world stage.

    So, think about this when you watch the Commonwealth Games today, there are New Zealanders there achieving on the world stage again – we’re proud of them too aren’t we?

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