Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Anatomy of a Shambles

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  • Petra,

    Peter Cox - lol.

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    Peter Cox said

    it rather seems the MEAA have just been caught actively disguising the truth to their AE members, and as a result AE members have been caught disguising the truth on TV as well.

    You mean... again.

    They did that way back when they first went public in response to PJ's press release. On TV (J W-L, I think?)"We are so a registered union, stop telling lies about us" (Paraphrased from memory) followed up a few days later at the Auckland actors meeting with "its just a minor admin issue, we'll sort it in a few days".

    Plus the conflicting with themselves on whether they wanted to address issues industry wide or just Hobbit contract, and then whether they could indeed collectively bargain or not,

    And, "there was never a boycott".. "It was lifted on Saturday".

    As much as I sympathize with them wanting to change things, and support their ability to do so... not only have they gone about it poorly, they've been demonstrably not able to get their story straight (or telling outright porkies whilst accusing others of same) right from the start... which lends them no credence at all when they finally start singing from the same song sheet.

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 893 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    I'm not aware of anyone saying that actors have to be union members to work in a movie.

    That's how the US system works and the model that Simon Whipp is pushing. But even if its not the case its worth appreciating how things work in Hollywood and why that might not transfer very well to a much smaller film economy.

    I'm still trying to figure out if the studios did lie and if so what they hoped to gain. I think it revolves again over differences between how things operate there as to how we would do things. But I might be wrong.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    But even if its not the case its worth appreciating how things work in Hollywood and why that might not transfer very well to a much smaller film economy.

    It's also worth noting that it's not working out too well for Hollywood either. It's a part of the reason they want to make films in places like NZ.

    It's not the only thing that's shit about Hollywood (I think the main thing is their total aversion to creative risk), but it's part of it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Petra,

    Do NZ Equity / MEAA / CTU have a moral obligation to be telling the NZ public the truth? Somehow, and maybe it's unfair, I feel that they do have more of one.

    I don't think it's unfair to positively demand that they tell the NZ public - not to mention their own members! - the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help them Gandalf!

    They are messing with one of NZ's major growth industries, after all, so I think we have a right to know what on middle earth is going on.

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Audrei,

    Hi there. I'm not in the industry at all apart from watching the work offered by New Zealand workers.

    I think my only input into NZ productions was once saying on a Shortland Street board years back that I hated that the receptionist/nurses hogged the main phone for personal calls instead of transferring it because some poor sod could be in the middle of dying waiting for them to take the call. If you've never worked with a person that does this you wouldn't understand why that was annoying to watch when you'd just lived it. Then my niggle was put on the show (yay me!)

    Anyway....feel free to disregard what I have to put forth here due to the above CV.

    Having read Simon Bennett's email from Equity yesterday I can only say the following.

    This:

    However, SPADA has now agreed to meet with Equity to discuss performers’ terms and conditions for other productions made in New Zealand. As a result of this, Equity has agreed that while the parties are discussing new terms, provided a production contracts performers on the terms of the “Pink Book” in their entirety then NZ Equity will take no action against the production.

    negates this:

    New Zealand Actors Equity has assured the producers that no future industrial action would be taken on the production at any time.

    I'm reading it as "if other productions don't follow the Pink Book to the letter then we will put forth more industrial action on this project"

    Am I reading that wrong?

    Pukekohe • Since Oct 2010 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Thought: What the Hobbit producers really want is insurance against them making a pig's arse of their HR like they did in the Bryson case.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • pneumeric,

    I'm keeping track of the "who's been telling fibs". Warners got caught lying about when they were told that the boycott was lifted. NZAE seems to have been caught lying about "talking to the production for months". 1-1, several still to come?

    Did they? I must have missed that... How were WB caught lying about when they were informed of Boycott lift?

    Wellington • Since Jul 2010 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Thought: What the Hobbit producers really want is insurance against them making a pig's arse of their HR like they did in the Bryson case.

    Plausible. How safe are they already with the way they're doing their contracts/HR now?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    The Standard?
    Can't be bothered with a forum where almost no-one is brave enough to use their real name.

    Its the lack of quality in their dialogue that puts me off. But I like the roughhousing. Where as Pundit is bland bland bland.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1891 posts Report Reply

  • Petra,

    I'm reading it as "if other productions don't follow the Pink Book to the letter then we will put forth more industrial action on this project.

    That sounds to me like a fair reading.

    I think it would be wrong for NZAE to categorically state that they will not take industrial action on any production ever, as I believe they should have the right to take action if talk doesn't work.

    I'm hoping, though, that should industrial action (or even talks, for that matter) be needed on behalf of workers in the industry, that the players and the play are directed by a new NZAE committee with a clear mandate and a properly thought out and fair strategy.

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    More correspondence emerges:

    From: Matthew Dravitzki [mailto:xxxx@wingnutfilms.co.nz]
    Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 4:04 PM
    To: Frances Walsh
    Subject: Correspondence

    Hi Frances,

    In Jennifer's note to Peter and press release of yesterday, she refers to seeking a meeting with the production for over a month. Our office has not received a single letter or notice for Equity or MEAA inviting us to meet. Could you please provide us with copies of correspondence sent to this office?

    Many thanks,
    Matt

    Followed promtply by:

    From: "Frances Walsh" <xxxxx@actorsequity.org.nz>
    Date: 28 September 2010 4:42:25 PM NZDT
    To: "Matthew Dravitzki" <xxxxx@wingnutfilms.co.nz>
    Subject: RE: Correspondence


    Dear Matt,

    Please find attached letters seeking a meeting with the production company, which were sent to 3 Foot 7 Ltd’s registered office, and which were copied to Peter. Also, a letter from Deborah Fox confirming she is acting on behalf of the production company.

    Regards

    Frances

    Dravitzki is Jackson's comms guy at Wingnut.

    So, er, yes. It does not appear that Peter Jackson himself received a request to meet, as has been claimed, let alone spurned one.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    1. How many members did/does NZAE have?

    I think the ~600 number is the right one.

    2. Whose decision was it to send the August 17 letter?

    The FIA issued the letter, it's signed by the FIA's president and its general secretary. So ultimately it was their decision.

    8. Who is telling the truth between Spada and NZAE about who wouldn't talk to who over the past 2 years?

    Spada refused to meet to discuss a collective agreement. Their belief was that such an agreement would be illegal. I'd also note that even if such an agreement was legal NZAE were not a registered union at the time.
    NZAE refused to meet to revise the pink book.

    So they are both telling the truth in a way, though NZAE's been less upfront about exactly what the situation was.

    9. Was Simon Whipp merely acting on instructions from NZAE, or was he driving it?

    My guess is that the decision to target The Hobbit was Whipp's. NZAE is not mentioned at all in the early correspondence. Whether NZAE was consulted or not before Whipp took it to the FIA is unclear. I suspect if they were it all sounded like a good idea anyway as it appears that both NZAE and MEAA were in denial about the legal situation: they probably both thought the claim that a collective agreement was illegal was just stonewalling by Spada. The MEAA factsheet claims they had legal advice "that there are a variety of lawful means which could be used to establish the minimum wages, working conditions and residuals for performers on the production". Was that advice accurate, incorrect or misinterpreted?

    10. When Helen Kelly intervened, why did she not force Simon Whipp to front the media instead of owning the mess herself?

    I'm sure she thought she could sort it out. When she stepped in it was already apparent that MEAA/NZAE had badly mishandled the whole thing - having a competent third party front up would have seemed like a good idea. And I think it was the right move - I think Helen has done a better job than Robyn and Jennifer in the media.

    12. Why did NZAE impose a boycott BEFORE canvassing their membership on changes that they want to see in their contracts and/or the Pink Book?

    I think it escalated from "let's try to leverage The Hobbit" to "we're boycotting The Hobbit" very rapidly. It might have all happened at the FIA meeting that produced the resolution mentioned in the August 17 letter. What I'd like to know is whether NZAE had anyone at that FIA meeting or whether MEAA were representing NZ actors.

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    I think the studios are quite happy to deal with a strong union - they do it all the time, what the don't want is to deal with a union that doesn't know what they're doing, acts in an impulsive manner and is being used as a vehicle for Whipp's ambitions.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    Plausible. How safe are they already with the way they're doing their contracts/HR now?

    But wouldn't it be great to write a contract that did not have to go through all the machinations to meet the judgement of the 106.68cm case?

    Wow. Just think. Sign here and "we" are protected by the law that says anyone working in fillims is different. You Serf. Me King.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • webweaver,

    Hmmm... it is seriously like it IS coming down to the 3ft 7 court case.

    Quick summary of the James Bryson case:

    From the Supreme Court decision, the 3ft 6 court case dealt with a contractor who had a skill (model-making) and was working first for Weta and then was seconded to 3ft 6 using that skill. However, when he moved across to 3ft 6, he needed training for the first few weeks.

    He worked regular hours, and was not able to nominate his own hours of working. He was treated like an employee and paid for downtime. There was no evidence that he was operating a business on his own account. His income was not linked in any way to the profits or losses of 3ft 6. He worked continuously for over a year on one production with no outside work. He did not supply any of his own equipment and did not operate as a sole trader. He was not able to delegate his work to anyone else.

    I was planning to make an argument that an actor is a completely different beast, for a number of reasons... and then I got stuck. Not so sure they are, now.

    Anyone care to help me out with an argument in either direction?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 332 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    In Jennifer's note to Peter and press release of yesterday, she refers to seeking a meeting with the production for over a month.

    So that does, indeed, seem to mean the 17th August letter. Sigh. What a s**tstorm.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Petra,

    I'm confused about Fran Walsh's role. Is she working for NZAE, and if so, how does that gel with her relationship with PJ and Hobbit producers?

    So confusing that I might take up beer swilling and bathing. (It works for fury, so it may work for confusion, yes?)

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I'm confused about Fran Walsh's role.

    Different Fran. There are two, with near identical names.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'm confused about Fran Walsh's role. Is she working for NZAE, and if so, how does that gel with her relationship with PJ and Hobbit producers?

    Easy -- there isn't one as they're not the same person.

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

  • Russell Brown,

    Did they? I must have missed that... How were WB caught lying about when they were informed of Boycott lift?

    I think they were, and that the intention was to exploit the union's weak position and not allow them to claim a win. The correspondence released by NZAE seems to suggest that.

    OTOH, MEAA/NZAE seem to have piled in so much bad faith and disingenuous public pleading leading up to that point that I'm not surprised that Warners might have have decided to join the game of hardball.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • webweaver,

    @Audrei

    This:

    However, SPADA has now agreed to meet with Equity to discuss performers’ terms and conditions for other productions made in New Zealand. As a result of this, Equity has agreed that while the parties are discussing new terms, provided a production contracts performers on the terms of the “Pink Book” in their entirety then NZ Equity will take no action against the production.

    negates this:

    New Zealand Actors Equity has assured the producers that no future industrial action would be taken on the production at any time.

    I'm reading it as "if other productions don't follow the Pink Book to the letter then we will put forth more industrial action on this project"

    Am I reading that wrong?

    I spotted the exact same bit yesterday and thought "uh oh they're putting conditions on their promise to lay off the industrial action" but then I re-read it and wasn't so sure.

    I think its meaning (and significance) revolves around the use of the word "the" and what that refers to (shades of Bill Clinton, anyone?).

    Reading this para:

    However, SPADA has now agreed to meet with Equity to discuss performers’ terms and conditions for other productions made in New Zealand. As a result of this, Equity has agreed that while the parties are discussing new terms, provided a production contracts performers on the terms of the “Pink Book” in their entirety then NZ Equity will take no action against the production.

    ...could be read two ways:

    provided a production contracts performers on the terms of the “Pink Book” in their entirety then NZ Equity will take no action against that production.

    OR

    provided a production contracts performers on the terms of the “Pink Book” in their entirety then NZ Equity will take no action against the Hobbit production.

    aaarrrgggghhhh

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 332 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I'm confused about Fran Walsh's role. Is she working for NZAE, and if so, how does that gel with her relationship with PJ and Hobbit producers?

    I'll refer you back to the concluding paragraph of my first post on the matter, on Sept 29:

    But there's one, fairly amazing, wrinkle to this that can't go unremarked. Actors' Equity's New Zealand contact is Frances Walsh. I presume that's the same Frances Walsh, journalist, who was the subject of a bizarre legal threat from Peter Jackson's partner, Fran Walsh, who accused her of passing herself off as the real Fran Walsh when she wrote a feature about the New Zealand screen industry under her own name, Frances Walsh. That got bitter. And it's hard not to feel that this scrap too may get worse before it gets better.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Petra,

    lol, I was going to facetiously ask if they were even the same person, but thought I might get Whipped. D'uh!

    Thanks for clarifying that. Parallel universes unite!

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I was planning to make an argument that an actor is a completely different beast, for a number of reasons... and then I got stuck. Not so sure they are, now.

    Anyone care to help me out with an argument in either direction?

    It's really just that the Employment Relations Act passed by Labour requires the court to look at the real nature of the relationship, rather than just what it was called. Various elements of the Bryson case, including the fact that he was trained, led the Supreme Court to conclude that he was actually an employee.

    But pretty much every commentary on the case suggests that this was an atypical example.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

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