Hard News by Russell Brown

Read Post

Hard News: Anatomy of a Shambles

1695 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 4 5 6 7 8 68 Newer→ Last

  • SteveH,

    How many acting parts are in the hobbit? There's Bilbo, Gandalf,Gollum, a dragon and some dwarves, and 3 trolls and a spider, and that's it I think.

    Beorn, the Elves of Mirkwood, and the Men of the Long Lake also feature. And then there's an event called "The Battle of Five Armies". Not sure that'll require much acting but it'll definitely need a lot of extras.

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    Any claims that Wingnut have overblown the actors actions to leverage govt policy are insane as the need to do so did not exist until the boycott. They were building sets already, I think we can assume Warners weren't considering Ireland, Czechoslovakia or Tasmania until the governments of those countries got a sniff of trouble.

    That might be a slightly optimistic reading of events. The drawn out kabuki dance of when the film would get the green light certainly wasn't resolved until very late in the game indeed. Guillermo del Toro's entire abortive tenure as director occurred without Warner once giving the production the official go-ahead.

    I certainly agree that Warner pounced on the perception that AE was going to make life difficult for the production and used it as fuel for their own decisions, but I don't know that it was just that one issue that pushed them away.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • stever@cs.waikato.ac.nz,

    Standfirst on Stuff:

    Prime Minister John Key wades into Hobbit debate, promising a meeting with film studio. Film fans outraged.

    :-)

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2006 • 73 posts Report Reply

  • Helen Kelly,

    Where to start Russel?? Equity dont need to change the law here. They are seeking standard commercial agreements to be offered to performers. Apart from the view that this is lawful under the Commerce Act, the Trade Union Act 1908 certainly allows it. The Pink Book is legal but production company agreements arent??

    On the boycott/bombshell. Equity has tried with a number of production companies to negotiate the terms and conditions for performers. They have all resisted with extrememly agressive responses. Tried to talk to the Hobbit as well. Turns out the Hobbit was no different except we had an amazing display of international solidarity - performers around the world that enjoy union representation and negotiations (Warners are in a 6 week negotiation with SAG as we speak), extended their solidarity to NZ performers to enjoy the same. Those foreign actors contracted to the Hobbit will be on union negotiated contracts and will be union members - luxury!

    MEAA are a Trans Tasman union - it is ok for companies to be Trans Tasman but not unions? Many performers work on both sides of the Tasman. Instead of joining two unions (like many actors have to do in the USA - 3,4,5 unions) our actors can join one - brilliant.

    The Pink Book has been mainly honoured in the breach. We have numerous examples, some not too far from this movie, that do not comply - the discussions with SPADA will be on content and form - not only what, but how! To be enduring - it will need to have the how.

    Why is it risky for Warners to be in a country that values worker rights? They operate in US, Canada, Oz, UK - they are all unionised and have vibrant film industries. What is your alternative for NZ performers (or workers generally for that matter).

    We were hassled last night. I tried to talk to the crowd - some people were great and some have contacted me today to apologise for those that were abusive. Read the facebook suggestions that people go and do harm to Robyn and Simon and even to go down to Matterhorn last night where they were jostled and shoved. I have had to google some of the names I have been called today - one theme - all sexist and many sexually violent. Lynch mob?

    Apparently the banners "lift the boycott" were ready and printed for the impromptu protest last night. Some addressing the meeting new the boycott had been lifted. I have emails from Warners dated Monday I can show you if you would like to come and see them (they are confidential - but I can show you in person).

    Damaged the union movement - only if people like you dont check your facts.

    Helen

    Wellington NZ • Since Jan 2010 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX,

    Face it most people could have done a better job of this than the NZAE & The CTU.

    The problem with Industrial Law in NZ, and in particular the Employment Relations Act, is that a Unions does not have to consult with the membership prior to or during any bargaining or in doing anything else the executive wants to do – such as blacklisting.

    When you join a union you effectively cede your right to “negotiate” and to be “consulted” to the union executive. All you are entitled to vote on at law is the ratification of an agreement.

    What this means is that the union executives often use the environment of negotiation to advance their own interests/agenda and this is sometimes quite opposite to the interests of the members.

    There is at times a plus to all of this from the Employers point of view in that they don’t have to deal directly with the employees, they merely have to stitch together a deal with the union executive and then that gets put to ratification.

    What is interesting is that even in collective bargaining the provision of a Bargaining Process Agreement that provided for consultation with union members during the bargaining process, or ratification in an all up meeting do not have to be adhered to. The Employment Court has supported this position.

    Often the work force is prevented from getting together and expressing a view. An example opf this being that ratification is often achieved by a series of small meetings part of the aim is to stop the membership getting together.

    The reason for calling off the Wellington meeting is that the union executive didn’t want to deal with the wishes or resolution of the union members and likely then have to back down and lose face.

    The dynamic should be that the union members are the superior body of the union and that the executive are subject to the membership, however, this is not the reality.

    What many people do not realise is that the CTU is essentially the funding arm of the Labour Party and if you belong to a CTU affiliated union you are making donations to the Labour Party via CTU capitation.

    When you have a National Govt there is a climate of industrial unrest, yet when you have a Labour Govt, particularly in an election year, the emphasis is on settling without unrest.

    It is all just a complicated game (refer XTC) and it doesn’t really matter to the union executives what your view is or what happens they keep getting paid regardless. Where members are unhappy with the union executive the executive organise the AGM on a day when only pro executive members can turn up and the voting is stacked.

    In the Union rules (that get passed at stacked meetings) the threshold of membership participation in any petition to achieve a special all up meeting to discuss and vote out the executive is essentially impossible to achieve.

    In essence in NZ a union executive can embank on any policy direction if they (the executive, the CTU, or the Labour Party) wish to without having to consult with the union membership.

    In the Hobbit situation everyone would have been better off without New Zealand Actors' Equity taking the course they wanted to take for whatever reason.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1224 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    Do we know how much the demands were going to cost the movie? How does it stack up against the probable profit?

    Initially the demands were for a collective agreement, which the producers believe is illegal, and/or and industry wide standard contract, which the producers believe they don't have the right to negotiate. The cost of the demands was not an issue.

    Do we know what the average conditions are for an actor on such a movie?

    The producers claim the contracts for The Hobbit exceed SAG minimum rates and include residuals for the first time in an NZ production.

    It seems to me that NZ is going to get punished because one tiny sector of the workforce is not prepared to lie down for a big foreign company

    Doesn't seem that way to me. To me it seems like the MEAA made a play for more control in the NZ film industry and bungled it (though from their point of view the outcome is not bad). I don't believe the actors here were consulted before the MEAA launched a boycott in their name.

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • Graham Dunster,

    This is what is posted on the NZ Actors Equity website. (Apologies if the links don't work, I'm not so technical...)

    UPDATE ON “THE HOBBIT” SITUATION AND CANCELLATION OF MEMBERS MEETING TONIGHT IN AUCKLAND
    Thursday, 21 October 2010

    This newsletter to members of NZ Actors' Equity provides a summary of our ongoing campaign to improve terms and conditions of performers in the industry.

    Background

    Equity has been working to improve performers’ terms and conditions in the screen industry for some time now. We have tried a number of avenues, including: approaches to SPADA (Screen Producers' and Development Association) to negotiate a standard industry agreement; seeking to negotiate directly on individual projects with production companies (e.g. Outrageous Fortune); and harnessing our relationships with international fellow unions to elevate conditions for all New Zealand performers (e.g. The Hobbit).

    For a number of reasons some of these approaches have not delivered our goals. Our experience shows that the existing guidelines for the engagement of performers in the screen industry (“The Pink Book”) are rarely complied with in their entirety, and performers have been unable to insist on such compliance. Individual approaches to productions have also been problematic, and can only work when performers on the production have sufficient leverage. Our attempts to date have met with fierce resistance from production companies and made the legitimate desire of performers to negotiate together a high-risk strategy.

    As you know, recently we embarked on a campaign alongside our fellow performers' unions throughout the world to improve the terms and conditions on The Hobbit. This campaign has been public, and at times heated. The production company has responded by challenging the mandate of Equity, threatening the security of jobs in NZ, suggesting our union was acting unlawfully, and all along refusing to meet.

    Regardless of this, Equity members have remained committed to their union and other performers have backed their stance (membership has significantly increased in the last three weeks). As you know, with the help of the teachers’ union (NZEI) many of you were phoned over the course of the campaign and we were gratified that you conveyed your continuing support. We have also been heartened by messages of encouragement we have received from around the world.

    This campaign has galvinised performers. It has created a momentum to recognize the legitimate concerns of performers in New Zealand. Some of the options discussed recently with SPADA for a new approach that will deliver on our goals include:

    · Standard industry terms and conditions agreed with SPADA, recognising the various types of productions (scale, budget etc) in our screen production industry, and honoured by all producers.

    · A process for regular review, including the consideration of any developing issues, and a process to cement the commitment of the industry to ensure the agreed outcomes are honoured.

    Discussions on the possible content and form of the standard agreement will begin soon and finish by the end of March 2011. As a sign of good faith, in the interim, productions that comply with the current Pink Book, , will not be the subject of individual requests or legal or industrial action from Equity.

    There will be challenges in reaching agreement on both content and form for the new standards. We want assurances that regardless of the finally agreed form of the agreement, it is complied with and that this compliance is promoted by producers. Producers will want to ensure that the standards, including the form of the agreement, allow them to make the productions they want. We are committed to working in good faith to develop a document that works for everyone, is fair, is durable and meets our goal of improving terms and conditions.

    And what about The Hobbit?

    For a variety of reasons the board of NZ Equity decided in a telephone conference over the weekend to recommend that overseas performer unions remove any form of advice to their members not to work on The Hobbit.

    This resolution was conveyed to Warner Bros via the Screen Actors Guild. At the request of parties in the USA this decision was not made public. It had been hoped an agreed media strategy could occur.

    NZ Equity, at the time, provided a copy of the release it proposed to make to the media. This was provided via Warner Bros to the production and at the production’s request the union yesterday agreed to change the language the union had proposed to include in the release.

    NZ Equity had agreed not to release the information to the public until all parties were ready to do so.

    However, in light of last night’s developments in Wellington, we thought it prudent that this information be made known as a matter of urgency.

    In light of the information above known to the production we cannot understand the motives of those behind the rally which caused a peaceful meeting of performers to discuss their working conditions to be cancelled.

    The contract under which performers will be engaged on The Hobbit will include residuals for all performers. We have been unsuccessful in getting Three Foot Seven to meet and negotiate with us. However, we are heartened by the new sense of opportunity to rebuild our relationship with SPADA, and our joint commitment to agree on arrangements for the industry, including on international productions..

    Where to now?

    Over the next couple of weeks Equity will be consulting with members on what you want to see discussed in the negotiations for the new standards. You have also been sent a link to the current Pink Book. Send comments/submissions to frances.walsh@actorsequity.org.nz.

    In conclusion, thank you all for standing together, for standing tall, and for your ongoing efforts on behalf of all performers. I would particularly like to thank the Board and committee, which have provided the governance for this most recent campaign. We will continue to seek respect for all New Zealand performers.

    PLEASE NOTE: As a result of what occurred in Wellington last night, and what we have been advised will occur in Auckland tonight, in the interests of the safety of all performers, Equity has cancelled its Auckland meeting for members tonight. We will be in touch with details of rescheduled meetings.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2009 • 184 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    Why is it risky for Warners to be in a country that values worker rights? They operate in US, Canada, Oz, UK - they are all unionised and have vibrant film industries. What is your alternative for NZ performers (or workers generally for that matter).

    Why is it risky? You're asking that after the production was moved offshore?

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure the union did not manage to negotiate a "pay New Zealanders whether or not they get to work on the film" clause.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    In light of the information above known to the production we cannot understand the motives of those behind the rally which caused a peaceful meeting of performers to discuss their working conditions to be cancelled.

    I believe you are being disingenuous to say you "cannot understand the motives" behind the 1000+ people who gathered to express their concern about how they will feed their families and pay their mortgages in the coming few years.

    EDITED to remove OTT phrase. Apologies.

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    giovanni tiso does't like the way Sir Peter spells
    What does he make of the smi-literate self serving ramblings of Helen Kelly

    Apparently the banners "lift the boycott" were ready and printed for the impromptu protest last night. Some addressing the meeting new the boycott had been lifted. I have emails from Warners dated Monday I can show you if you would like to come and see them (they are confidential - but I can show you in person).

    Damaged the union movement - only if people like you dont check your facts

    .

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 578 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Be gentle with me, I'm still trying to get my head around the update that Graham linked to above. Employing somebody with basic communication skills would seem to me to be a matter of great urgency on the union's side.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    ...then you are [redacted].

    Dude WTF?

    ETA: yes, what he said ↓

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Uh, sorry to sound like a pompous back-seat moderator, but I'm very interested in this being debated a bit. Can we try and keep it civil so people don't just pack off and leave? It's not that kind of forum.

    (appreciate people are rightly very passionate about this though...)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Samuel Scott,

    Why is it risky for Warners to be in a country that values worker rights? They operate in US, Canada, Oz, UK - they are all unionised and have vibrant film industries. What is your alternative for NZ performers (or workers generally for that matter).

    Well it's not. The production may very well move to a country that has a much more unionised film industry. The problem has always been the initial approach of MEAA, the international boycott order, and the general mixed message from NZAE (if there is a clear message/goal it has not been made clear to the NZ public).

    If the MEAA had been negotiating conditions of the pink book and sensible dealing with SPADA and 3 Foot 6 over the, umm what is it? two or three years that these films have been in pre production then this would not have happened.

    Many people are probably about to lose their jobs. However I think it is terrible that some people have been calling you (ie Helen) names, or threatening union leaders... I guess people are just angry and frustrated and saying things in the heat of the moment.

    South Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 315 posts Report Reply

  • Samuel Scott,

    Can we try and keep it civil so people don't just pack off and leave? It's not that kind of forum.

    yes please lets...

    PS I wasn't being sarcastic before when I said its terrible people are calling Helen Kelly names. I genuinely think that sort of thing is entirely unhelpful.

    Perhaps she shouldn't have called Peter Jackson a "spoilt brat". Perhaps Wingnut should word there press releases a little more carefully. Perhaps everyone should calm down and wait to see what Warner Bros say. Its their 500 Million USD, they'll do with it as they wish.

    South Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 315 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    Apologies, have edited above comment quoted above.

    But it is upsetting to have the honest actions of 1000+ people with VERY real things at stake being characterised as tools of "the production".

    Simple facts: Equity were invited to talk to SPADA 18+ months ago; they declined.

    When they first applied No Work order and demanded to talk to Hobbit they were advised to talk to SPADA; they refused.

    Now, with much damage done they're proudly trumpeting that they've been ... talking to SPADA.

    This is not an outcome for them to be proud of and it makes me very cross.

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • Sue,

    So i'm going to focus on the 2 things that annoy me

    from helen kelly

    Those foreign actors contracted to the Hobbit will be on union negotiated contracts and will be union members - luxury!

    hobbit producers have always said they honour all union agreements and the pink book, does helen kelly have proof they didn't until now?

    then from equity

    However, we are heartened by the new sense of opportunity to rebuild our relationship with SPADA

    didn't SPADA want to talk to them 18 months ago?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 527 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Why is it risky for Warners to be in a country that values worker rights? They operate in US, Canada, Oz, UK - they are all unionised and have vibrant film industries. What is your alternative for NZ performers (or workers generally for that matter).

    If you put yourself in Warner's position, it's not unreasonable for them to say: 'hey, this union seems amazingly adversarial - what if they strike or call a boycott again half way through filming? Let's move the production to a country in which that's less likely to happen.'

    Like other people have pointed out this might mean moving to a more unionsed country, just one in which the union is less likely to try and pick a fight with the studio.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Yeah. NZAE and the CTU do appear to have been on the back foot, slow reacting, or too diplomatic in playing at media warfare. They could use a McCarten...
    But I still don't believe they've been acting in bad faith. And I'm not so sure about some of the other players...
    (disclaimer: I am broadly pro-union, and in a mild, long-ago way know both Jennifer W-L and Robin M. I don't think either is stupid, or naive, or at all interested in grand-standing for its own sake.)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2110 posts Report Reply

  • tim kong,

    As you know, with the help of the teachers’ union (NZEI) many of you were phoned over the course of the campaign and we were gratified that you conveyed your continuing support.

    As an NZEI member, and NZEI rep - I'm confused by this - mainly because it's the first I've heard of it. And I doubt I would have been helping even if I had been notified of it.

    I'm starting to not like this "all for one" union approach. I know there's strength to be had in numbers - and being a teacher I'm aware of what it is to be collegial.

    But I'm also aware of what it is to be pragmatic enough to not screw up what you've already got, in the desire to gain something you think you might.

    Fighting for principle, when the reality of the situation is so much more important, just seems gratuitous. As Jonathan has said, real people, with real mortgages and real families are being hugely affected by this.

    If the production leaves NZ - NZ Equity members don't get to work on it... If the production does stay in NZ - do any members of NZ Equity actually imagine they'll get work on it?

    What possible "win" situation does the NZ Equity/CTU actually believe possible after this shambles?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    They could use a McCarten...

    EVERYONE could use a McCarten!

    (but seriously, Matt is just a damn fine man. Had to toss that in.)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • pneumeric,

    From someone who could say this far better than I...

    "The sad fact of it is that it no longer matters why The Hobbit is leaving New Zealand – it no longer matters whether a union boycott or our tax incentives are the root cause. Because a few weeks back, an organisation put their hands up and tried to halt progress on the production until their demands were met. When they were informed that a cost of this action could be the loss of the production, they publicly chose to call the filmmakers' bluff. Now that it turns out they may not have been bluffing, this organisation has precious little room to point the finger of blame elsewhere."

    Continues...

    "Surely the thing to do now is not to point the finger elsewhere and say, "It was someone else's fault anyway." Surely the thing to do now is to say, we got what we wanted – we're having our discussions. We've lifted the boycott. Now what we can do to help address the fallout – what can we do to ensure the jobs we were fighting over are still there for our actors to take?"

    Wellington • Since Jul 2010 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Like other people have pointed out this might mean moving to a more unionsed country, just one in which the union is less likely to try and pick a fight with the studio.

    Or in which the union is less shambolically run. But there is also an accusation being levelled here that an Australian union in the person of Mr Whipp was trying to either make some money out of The Hobbit (the document that Russell linked to) or serve the interests of Australian actors as opposed to their Kiwi counterparts. Them are big accusation and at any rate we can't have it both ways: was this a shambles of an honest industrial action, or a dishonest one that achieved its objectives? If critics could make up their mind either way it would help the discussion.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I have had to google some of the names I have been called today - one theme - all sexist and many sexually violent. Lynch mob?

    @Helen: Your words, apparently. Of course, if they've been falsely attributed to you (and I've perpetuated that) please take the media outlets concerned to the BSA or Press Council.

    And I don't know how much time you spend around PAS, but sexualised and violent abuse directed at women is not tolerated. Not by Russell, not by the folks with moderator privileges, or the rest of the PAS community.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    Sorry Gio.
    Both sides need to take a deep breath and start again

    Unfortunatly it may be a little late for that and I would not underestimate the damage that may have been done to the union movement

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 578 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 4 5 6 7 8 68 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

This topic is closed.