Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Hobbit Wars

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  • Eleanor,

    Well it can't be an actual boycott until there's an actual production.

    Exactly Kyle, which is why it smacks of sabotage.

    I do apologise if I have appeared somewhat abruptly here, and used some strong language... but it's personal, with my family's income completely reliant on the film industry. The Hobbit has been fraught with setbacks, but this one is especially alarming because it appears to be controlled and supported from "within", so to speak.

    I have also acted in film and television in this country. I support reasonable endeavours by actors to get a fair deal - but I completely fail to see that they WON'T get a fair deal on The Hobbit, in fact, it's a career-maker. There has been NO boycott threat by the union on any other production that I'm aware of - so why the double standard?

    In addition to this, I know actors who are furious at the clumsy way in which this has been handled - it makes us look really, really amateur - and as Craig pointed out, pawns in someone else's game.

    wellington • Since May 2007 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    @ Kyle

    it would be possible to have a contract which didn't mention pay at all, but simply conditions

    Over 30+ years of filmmaking in this country, very clear guidelines of 'standard', 'reasonable' and expected conditions have been established. And -- already -- woe-betide the production that doesn't meet them.

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Sorry Joe - didn't mean to offend. But your generalisation seemed to require a response. Just in case you think I also generalised I don't think all union workers are perfect - but most try to practice an 'organising' model that focuses on growing and supporting the collective rather than endlessly and uselessly fronting the boss over individual disputes. And, again, I apologise if you already knew that.

    Sorry to have overgeneralised Jan. My experience of these things is now pretty much historical, so I'll butt out. Appreciate your comments, they've always been made in a spirit of goodwill, right back to verbwrangle.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And why did Helen Kelly tell me they weren't seeking a collective agreement?

    Exactly. If nothing else, it defies reason that she would be stupid enough to tell a not unsympathetic media commentator a falsehood, let alone do so on the record. Kelly always struck me as a media-smart unionist who never engages mouth before brain.

    Didn't think it was possible, but I'm even more confused.

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

  • BenWilson,

    I don't see why this shouldn't be treated as any other industrial relations issue.

    Well, not all disputes are equal. But yes, I expect the process by which they are usually resolved will apply in this case - the corporation will make the usual highly plausible threat that the work will vanish, the union people will fight amongst themselves about how much they really want to risk that, and then will come back with some compromise to both internal factions, which the corporation will then make a counter-offer to (probably over better conditions in place of cash), and at some point a deal will be struck.

    I very much doubt that it would be in the union's advantage not to compromise at some point. If The Hobbit is lost, things won't go very well for them at all.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Over 30+ years of filmmaking in this country, very clear guidelines of 'standard', 'reasonable' and expected conditions have been established. And -- already -- woe-betide the production that doesn't meet them.

    I'm not sure if I see your point anymore Jonathan. You said:

    1. How can we have a standardised contract to cover this range of productions AND
    2. Guidelines of conditions are already established and are clear to everyone.

    Surely that means it would be very easy to make a standard contract for all productions in NZ, which covered the vast majority of their employment, leaving only pay and any unusual matters to do with each production to be figured out.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    Conditions (not that I'm entirely sure what 'conditions' means -- but I'm thinking of my experience of conditions on a film: hours worked, overtime, turnaround, health & safety, meals) tend to be standard. Certainly I don't believe for a second -- as Peter Jackson has said today -- that they will be sub-standard on The Hobbit.

    Pay scales / residuals / profit share VERY different.

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Exactly Kyle, which is why it smacks of sabotage.

    That's a strong word.

    I'm not inside the industry, but is anyone trying to kill this production or force it overseas? Are they doing anything illegal?

    I'm not part of the industry, whereas you are. But isn't your point of view ("we really need this work") part of the normal debate that employees will have when considering their approach to industrial action. I've been in meetings where members have said similar things, but certainly no one ever called it sabotage just because members were willing to take industrial action over better pay/conditions.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Jonathan, yes exactly my point.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    Jonathan, yes exactly my point.

    But the long-standing 'Pink Book' already covers agreement on all those things.

    And if it needs renegotiating, why don't the actors (and / or their reps) meet SPADA and negotiate it?

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • Eleanor,

    no one ever called it sabotage just because members were willing to take industrial action over better pay/conditions.

    I haven't seen the NZ members call for this boycott though Kyle. That is the point. It's MEAA that is doing it, and they have an agenda which is cynical and not in the best interests of NZ actors. That is why I think the NZ Actors Equity needs to state whether it is for or against the boycott - but they are steering clear of that point altogether. I don't believe they have a democratic mandate for such a boycott, not in the slightest.

    Do you understand this differentiation?

    wellington • Since May 2007 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall,

    Jackson's Miramar studio complex has gone up in flames, several engines in attendance, according to RNZ news.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 760 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    ...and now one of Weta's warehouses / studios is apparently on fire!!
    [4pm Radio NZ news...]

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall,

    15 engines in attendance, according to the NZ Herald.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10677453

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 760 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Hosed off actors...?
    Time for Peter Jackson to do the
    Flick the Little Fire Engine movie, then?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Pat Hackett,

    It doesn't seem clear who Jackson is meant to get around the table with, and indeed, who is in charge on behalf of the Actors - Ward-Lealand? Kelly? The MEAA?

    But it seems patently clear that Jackson has no intention of negotiating an MEAA contract for his film - and the MEAA have no intention of letting the film go ahead without one. The MEAA have some form on letting runaway productions fall over to show their strength. Eastern Europe have some form in getting big productions made.

    If the NZ actors are dead-set keen on getting the MEAA to represent them on every NZ production from now on, they should first get the house in order - get it registered and everyone signed up as members. But in the meantime they need to tell the MEAA to back off so that an important production for their livelihoods is not sabotaged mid-stream.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn,

    "Some media are reporting the building is a film studio owned by Sir Peter Jackson. A spokeswoman from Weta Digital said it was not one of the company's buildings." NZHerald site

    So, not so. Well, maybe not so.....

    And by the way, does anyone remember early tv filming - Hunter's Gold - where they used live ammunition for the shootouts?

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    So, not so. Well, maybe not so.....

    well "there is a lot of smoke" ...
    ...and mirrors?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    Building is miniatures studio, apparently.

    sabotage.
    That's a strong word.

    I just though of a stronger one.

    Terrifying, if this is not a coincidence.

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • Pat Hackett,

    And there is much more at stake here than just the actors. The Hobbit will provide up to 2 years work for the multitude of film crew, and by employing flim crew from around the country, it leaves vacumns in other film and TV work outside Wellywood - meaning there is lots of work available for everyone in the industry.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • Eleanor,

    Well said Pat. Summed up nicely what I've been trying to say. I am backing out of this now but I hope that Kyle and others can now see that MEAA does not actually represent actors in NZ - even paid up union members were not consulted on MEAA's damaging boycott. MEAA has a cynical agenda, they do not care if NZ loses The Hobbit. In this case, "union solidarity" is misguided and cannot be taken at face value. The "union solidarity" stuff means that MEAA has NZ actors over a barrel, and is precisely why NZ Actors Equity needs to differentiate themselves from MEAA's rash boycott. Meeting the producers in good faith is totally separate. Oh and a petition is underway against the boycott - for what it is worth! Lots of actors signing up, as well as film workers...

    http://www.petitiononline.com/nzhobbit/petition.html

    wellington • Since May 2007 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I'd really like to read this in full. Does anyone have relevant journal access?

    Copyright (c) 2002 by the Southwestern University School of Law
    Southwestern Journal of Law and Trade in the Americas
    NOTES & COMMENTS: GLOBAL RULE ONE: SAG'S ANSWER TO RUNAWAY PRODUCTION
    2002 / 2003
    9 Sw. J.L. & Trade Am. 357
    Author

    Kathryn E. Pietrolungo*, Brian Tinkham**
    Excerpt

    I. Introduction

    What do Noah Wyle and Clint Eastwood have in common? Besides saving people's lives on screen, both high profile actors support the enforcement of Screen Actor's Guild ("SAG") contracts worldwide. This article explores Global Rule One, a SAG contractual provision primarily used to prevent Hollywood producers from leaving California 1 to pursue film projects in Canada. The recent growth of runaway film productions, where producers leave Hollywood in search of cheaper production costs, has left many SAG members troubled and without a job. 2 SAG approximates that every year 1,500 of its members work in foreign productions. 3 However, the number of roles for SAG members in movies and television has dropped and the SAG Pension Fund has lost millions of dollars since 1996 because some foreign producers have not contributed to the fund. 4 Nevertheless, the enforcement of Global Rule One will return some of these lost benefits to SAG and its members.

    As early as 1996, SAG members were concerned about runaway film production to Canada and were hopeful that SAG would take action. The members then urged SAG to extend its membership rule and regulation, Rule One, beyond United States borders. This action would transcend Rule One into a global rule which would require SAG's 98,000-plus members "to ensure that a producer is a SAG signatory 5 and to get a SAG contract wherever they work in order to get the protections of SAG's agreement, even when working outside the United ...

    It might be useful to seek a response from the local actors on the aims of Global Rule One.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    And if it needs renegotiating, why don't the actors (and / or their reps) meet SPADA and negotiate it?

    Well I don't know. I was just disputing that it would be difficult to have an employment contract that didn't allow for different scale/funded productions.

    I haven't seen the NZ members call for this boycott though Kyle.

    But in that case does it really matter? A union that isn't a legal entity in New Zealand has called for a boycott. If New Zealand actors don't follow through on that boycott - the movies gets made and the actors and crew get paid. Are the SAG going to boycott the company when the NZ actors were clearly happy with the situation?

    I still don't see a big problem on either side. The actors union and the production company meet, put the issues on the table and take away what they can. Entirely normal industrial relations.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I haven't seen the NZ members call for this boycott though Kyle.

    Unless NZ Actor's Equity disaffiliated from the MEAA, they have. Did the membership get polled first?

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

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Emailing it to you now Russell.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

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