Herald on Sunday on The Hobbit

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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