Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jackson Hits New Zealand Airwaves

The Hobbit Director Peter Jackson took to the New Zealand airwaves to discuss the current situation between The Hobbit production and NZ film industry. Thanks to the actor boycott led by NZ Actor Equity, a union whose total membership is essentially a rounding error compared with the total number of actors in the country, it seems that Warner Bros is concerned enough about future boycott and disruptions that they will likely still move the production to the UK. The boycott was lifted but at this point the various organizations that supported this rounding error union are in full save face mode, further complicating things and eroding confidence that a repeat incident will not occur. Jackson took to the New Zealand airwaves to discuss the situation and try to get the New Zealand government to take the repercussions seriously so can help talk WB off the ledge.

Of note of the two interviews is where they take place, essentially proving by the creative choices for the interviews that production was entrenched and fully prepared to film in New Zealand until the boycott, belying the union's claim that the move is about tax credits. Close-Up's interviews (video below) take place in the halted construction on the set of Gollum's Cave and around Lord of the Rings props. The second report comes from NZ 3 News from the rebuilt Bag End set. That report can be found here. Both reports, a little over 15 minutes each, do a good job of brings the various perspectives together.

New Line Cinema, subsidiary of Warner Bros, issue a statement that further bolsters the notion that New Zealand faces an uphill battle to stop the move of the production.
Recent reports that the boycott of The Hobbit was lifted by unions a number of days ago and that Warner Bros asked to delay this announcement are false. It was not until last night that we received confirmation of the retractions from SAG, NZ Equity and AFTRA through press reports. We are still awaiting retractions from the other guilds. While we have been attempting to receive an unconditional retraction of the improper Do Not Work Orders for almost a month, NZ Equity/MEAA continued to demand, as a condition of the retractions, that we participate in union negotiations with the independent contractor performers, which negotiations are illegal in the opinion of the New Zealand Attorney General. We have refused to do so, and will continue to refuse to do so. The actions of these unions have caused us substantial damage and disruption and forced us to consider other filming locations for the first time. Alternative locations are still being considered.
Of note, notice that the union reps focus on procedure (when and how releasing information) rather than any meaningful explanations of what their goals had been for the boycott and what they propose could be solutions to prevent the production from moving. To them, calling of the boycott was sufficient, what’s the big deal? If you are about to invest in an area and suddenly on the receiving end of a boycott without warning, explanation or even demands, wouldn't you be concerned about continuing to do business there? Warner Bros. behavior is not unreasonable and the dismissiveness of it by the union reps shows how poorly they planned their actions and considered the consequences of them.

For those who want to automatically support NZ Equity, it needs to be emphasized this group does not represent not even a full percent of the New Zealand acting community. Reports indicate they have only 200 members out of 4000 plus actors in the country, so .05% of the whole, aka a rounding error. The only reason their actions were so successful is because foreign unions backed up their play, not local actors that should have been the bread and butter of what they were doing. How can you claim to be doing something for the actor community when the actor community never asked you too? There is nothing "union" about what took place with this boycott. Thanks to the for video links.

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