Dom Post on The Hobbit

The Dom Post editorial:

Along the way J Tolkien’s creation had to contend with trolls, goblins, giant spiders and Smaug, the dragon. Jackson has had to deal with accountants, jittery film bosses, Actors’ Equity and the Council of Trade Unions.

Bilbo returned to his hobbit hole rich and possessed of a magic ring, but his neighbours never looked at him the same way again. About him hung the unsettling aroma of adventure.

Jackson returned from his first foray to Hollywood with a clutch of Oscars for his work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but he too found perceptions had changed. About him hung the aroma of success. He was no longer a hometown boy made good, but a movie mogul. Hence Actors’ Equity’s attempt to use as a vehicle for settling long-running industry grievances.

A dumber strategy is difficult to imagine. The Lord of the Rings gave thousands of Kiwis a start in the film industry and became the greatest marketing tool New Zealand has possessed. Tolkien fans flocked to see the places where the story they loved was brought to life.

The Hobbit is doing the same. Over the past year, 2000 people have been employed on the three films Jackson is making from the book and work will continue for another two years.

To organise an international blacklist of the project was close to being an act of sabotage.

And it was done by an Australian union that had probably just a few dozen members in New Zealand, almost none of whom were even involved in The Hobbit. People forget that in fact the terms and conditions for The Hobbit were better than arguably any other production in NZ.

Yes, The Lord of the Rings was shot in New Zealand, yes, Jackson wanted to make the films here, yes, other potential English-speaking locations were already unionised. However, for every argument to suggest Warner Bros would have no choice but to bow to union demands, there was another to suggest it would pack up and go elsewhere.

In the end I believe Peter Jackson when he says the films were at serious risk. I do not think he is a liar. Those who argue otherwise base their arguments on speculation.

If Jackson felt Actors’ Equity was jeopardising the project, he needed to be listened to. Fortunately he was by the Government, which changed the law to ease Warner’s concerns and pumped even more public money into the project.

Some things are too important to gamble on a coin toss. New Zealand is a minor player in an industry in which tax breaks and publicly funded incentives are part of the furniture.

The choice before John Key’s Government was simple – stand on its dignity or sweeten the pot. Today’s red carpet premiere of the most eagerly anticipated movie of 2012 confirms it made the right choice. Other potential locations will be looking on in envy.

Yey the hypocrites who spent two years attacking the deal constantly, and vowing to repeal it, are now out there at the premiere. They had a choice of supporting jobs for New Zealanders or supporting a malignant Australian union, and they chose union solidarity over the best interests of New Zealand.

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