Hard News by Russell Brown

Unhappy Endings

The stories of his surpassing patience and dedication are legion. He shepherded home one of the great movie projects with barely a cross word. So I suppose it's logical that there should be one issue on which Peter Jackson well and truly vents: and that is the Film Commission.

Film Commission chair Barrie Everard and chief executive Ruth Harley have been un-invited from the New Zealand preview of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers at Jackson's demand. Ostensibly, the reason is the Commission's handling of the Kahukura debacle, wherein Larry Parr's production company ran out of money and collapsed, leaving a host of creditors (including Jackson's The Film Unit, which began the winding-up process by seeking to recover its $180,000) and four films in various stages of completion.

I don't know what the hell happened with Kahukura, not why it was given money in the way it was. But I can't help but feel Jackson's bitter feelings about the Commission go back a lot further than that. And they are shared by his partner, Fran Walsh, who brought a ludicrous lawsuit against The Listener for running a story about the local film industry by the fairly well-known freelancer Frances Walsh. Fran felt that people would mistake Frances Walsh for herself. The simple expedient of writing a letter to clear up any confusion apparently didn't occur to her. This gross legal folly, by the way, appears to have been abandoned.

The Commission, meanwhile, appears to have been sucked into a vortex, and the industry has been suffering for it. One senior producer I spoke to last week bemoaned Harley's "siege mentality" and her reluctance put the Commission's point of view on, well, anything. Is it a Wellington thing? Even Everard, whose appointment was broadly welcomed this year, appears to be sustaining some damage. (Although Jackson's beef against him - that he claimed more credit than he was due for hauling Grant Lahood's Kombi Nation out of the mess - seems silly and petty.)

Jackson's actions this week, sadly, won't do anything to remedy the situation. And the Commission seems ever more distant from the industry it is meant to foster. It's just as well those foreign-funded "service" productions keep rolling in. But would it be too much to ask for Harley to start talking to the industry and for people in the industry to take a more constructive tack if and when she does? The option of a competing film-funder, based in Auckland, to test the Commission's model (and its competence), is nice - but don't hold your breath for it.

Meanwhile, the government has moved against the P epidemic in the only way governments know how - by ratcheting up the law. Methamphetamine is to be upgraded from a Class B to a Class A drug. This recognises the social damage currently going on, but it probably won't work. Just as bumping up Ecstasy a couple of years back, in something of a panic reaction, didn't have any impact on its use. It's worth remembering that LSD has been a Class A drug in New Zealand since the 1960s - and for much of that time New Zealanders were the highest (so to speak) per capita users of that drug in the world. What will push P back to the margins - it won't go away - is the social sanction, and well-resourced treatment for dependence. It will become unacceptable and, one hopes, uncool.

This story is pretty interesting. Brazilian researchers say they have confirmed that the idea of race is not reflected in a person's genes. Race has no meaning genetically.

By the way, those luminaries who have not been un-invited to the Wellington Two Towers premiere tonight will be entertained afterwards by the inimitable Nice 'n' Urlich. They'll be using the same hired decks we had on Saturday at the Dubwise party. My God, what a small purchase on fame that is …