Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Studios Respond to Actor Unions

New Line, Warner Bros. and MGM have officially responded to multiple Actor Unions (in US, Australia, UK, and Canada) demanding their members boycott The Hobbit production claiming to "have refused to engage performers on union-negotiated agreements." Peter Jackson had responded previously to their threats and below is the official studio response.
New Line, Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures are concerned by the recent allegations of unfair treatment of actors in New Zealand and instructions from the performers’ guilds to their membership to withhold services from the producers of “The Hobbit” in New Zealand. We are proud to have good relations with all of those performers’ guilds and value their contribution to the motion pictures produced in their respective jurisdictions throughout the world. But we believe that in this case the allegations are baseless and unfair to Peter Jackson and his team in Wellington who have been tireless supporters of the New Zealand motion picture community.

To classify the production as “non-union” is inaccurate. The cast and crew are being engaged under collective bargaining agreements where applicable and we are mindful of the rights of those individuals pursuant to those agreements. And while we have previously worked with MEAA, an Australian union now seeking to represent actors in New Zealand, the fact remains that there cannot be any collective bargaining with MEAA on this New Zealand production, for to do so would expose the production to liability and sanctions under New Zealand law. This legal prohibition has been explained to MEAA. We are disappointed that MEAA has nonetheless continued to pursue this course of action.

Motion picture production requires the certainty that a production can reasonably proceed without disruption and it is our general policy to avoid filming in locations where there is potential for work force uncertainty or other forms of instability. As such, we are exploring all alternative options in order to protect our business interests.
Again I have to re-iterate that just because a union wants something; it doesn't by default make for a good thing. In this case you have several problems they are refusing to address. The least of which is The Hobbit has not been green lit so as of yet no actors have been contractually hired. As in no actors have been abused because none have yet to hire as the movie currently has no official budget.

Why let the fact of no actual signed actors get in the way. Instead how about this other issue of no "union-negotiated agreements." In general an actor is covered by the union they are part. So a United States actor would be covered by Screen Actors Guild agreements, Australian actors by the MEAA, and so forth. In other words, if you are a member of a guild, you are covered by agreements that already exist with that guild. If you are not a member of a guild, you are not and instead accept what the studio is offering (like when most of us get jobs in the real world). However, New Zealand law essentially prevents an official New Zealand actor union from forming and The Hobbit from negotiating with them. In other worlds, by law the studios cannot do anything. In effect, when claiming production has "refused to engage performers on union-negotiated agreements" the unions are really saying you must not hire New Zealand actors for roles because they are not part of a union.

How can you claim to be doing something for New Zealand actors while at the same time pushing an agenda that a) prevents them from getting hired or b) causes the production to move to another country (and therefore prevents them from getting hired)? If your agenda to increase your member rolls (and revenue from dues) while trying to get your existing members acting jobs then it all makes sense as it is win-win for the unions.

This thing stinks to high hell. The unions must offer proof that what they want is superior to what The Hobbit production is offering actors (whenever the actual hiring process begins). They must also offer a means of getting around New Zealand law. As of now this reads as a pure greedy power play that has nothing to do with concern over New Zealand actors. If the studios pulled this kind of stunt, most of us would be very angry. The unions should be judged by the same standards.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of all this is the possibility that Hobbit production ends up taking place in eastern Europe, as hinted at by PJ in his response.
    And in the longer term it might well be that both the New Zealand & Australia movie industries suffer as the big studios steer clear of Australasia as being too problematic as locations.
    In which case thanks for nothing MEAA