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Actors and The Hobbit


Roy Billing posted 28 Sep 2010, 09:42 AM / edited 29 Sep 2010, 10:02 PM

I read the letter to actors about THE HOBBIT.  i hope NZ actors aren't stupid enough to take heed of casting agents who would ideally like Kiwi actors to be seen and heard only on screen.

It will be a great day for the NZ film industry when casting agents start to respect the people they cannot do without, i.e. actors, stop brown-nosing producers, and stop trying to intimidate the very people on whom their livelihood depend.

Jason Smith posted 28 Sep 2010, 10:41 AM / edited 28 Sep 2010, 05:11 PM

i'm deleting my knee jerk reactions in this thread. I really don't know enough to voice an opinion. Apologies.

Roy Billing posted 28 Sep 2010, 11:28 AM

How sad for Jason Smith, that he feels a "certain amount of bending over and taking it" is required to work in the NZ film industry. What a sorry state of affairs! He should try working in another country where he'd probably find he wouldn't have such a sore bottie.

Jason Smith posted 28 Sep 2010, 11:59 AM / edited 28 Sep 2010, 05:10 PM

post retracted

Roy Billing posted 28 Sep 2010, 12:18 PM

Jason, I do appreciate your concerns but we all have to protect our own patch and, in this instance, I think it is quite reasonable for Kiwi actors to expect the same sort of deal as the imported actors they would be working alongside. This an easily resolvable dispute.  Here is a letter I have submitted to the Dominion and The Herald...

"No one denies Sir Peter Jackson's considerable contribution to NZ film and to the country's economy. His cinematic adaptations of other people's famous books and other people's classic films (KING KONG and...maybe THE DAM BUSTERS to come, I  have heard) have been masterpieces. But he has not been able to achieve this without the input of hundreds, if not thousands, of creative New Zealanders. New Zealand actors have made a considerable contribution to Sir Peter's success and some who have appeared in his films have gone on to bigger careers overseas. But the majority of Kiwis employed by Sir Peter have not enjoyed the same fruits of financial success that he has.
So it is puzzling to see why he is trying to prevent NZ performers from getting the same benefits from THE HOBBIT as overseas performers. The production is funded by MGM, an American studio, so Sir Peter is unlikely to be financially affected by Kiwis getting the same deal as overseas contributors to the project. Put it this way...it's certainly not going to stop him being able to pay the fuel bills for his Lear jet.
Dare I say it about a New Zealand icon? Perhaps he is just mean-spirited."

Of course we actors are not the only contributors to a film...any film is a team effort and I, for one, gratefully acknowledge the input of all the crafts and technicalities involved.

Sir Peter's threat to take the production to Eastern Europe seems like sheer bloody-mindedness to me. If he wants to use English speaking actors he will still have to deal with all the unions and guilds that are involved in the current dispute, no matter where the film is shot.

Welly Watch posted 28 Sep 2010, 12:36 PM
What interests me is: the pre-emptive strike against NZ Actors Equity-MEAA before they've even met (they did not go to the media on this); the argument that because the union is small and insignificant it cannot have a voice; the assumption that increasing the minimum rates and conditions for NZ actors would blow out the budget (yeah right); the outrage at the temerity of actors for raising the issue (the term “cheeky darkies” springs to mind) …

As I read it the main thing being asked for is a better profit share deal, and anyone who knows anything about ‘Hollywood accounting' knows that will be a percentage of nothing.
Jason Smith posted 28 Sep 2010, 12:57 PM / edited 28 Sep 2010, 01:27 PM

i just realised I don't know enough to continue this debate. Good luck to you all!

John Smythe posted 28 Sep 2010, 07:14 PM / edited 29 Sep 2010, 12:04 PM

As the meeting in Auckland commences, this is what I am pondering:

Does NZ employment law really make it illegal for producers to negotiate a minimum agreement with Actors Equity NZ-MEAA for a production where actors are independent contractors rather than employees? When did that happen? (Over 17 years in Australia I was always self-employed and belonged to Actors Equity and the Australian Wtriters Guild, both of which had negotiated minimum agreements from which my agents negotiated upwards.)

If freelance actors in NZ formed a Guild rather than joined a union, would that make it possible to negotiate such an agreement? Just asking …

All this hooha seems so unnecessary. I cannot believe that the proposition of a fair deal for the NZ actor component of the Hobbit production could be so huge as to break the budget. If it is, that must mean the exploitation of NZ actors is crucial to attracting international film production. If not, what is the problem?  

I've just seen Bruce Hopkins give a very calm account on Campbell Live of why the meeting is taking place so expect a follow-up report on Nightline. And keep an eye on the Hobbit Hooha page for updates. 

Roy Billing posted 28 Sep 2010, 08:56 PM

You are right John. This will not break the budget. In spite of what The Great Knight of Middle Earth and his Casting Agent Toadies would have us believe. They should be told..."Welcome to the real world."

In all my years in this industry I have not seen such outright meanness. Back in his school days someone must have pinched the Great Knight's school lunch...or maybe his marbles. What a pity they didn't have school counselling in those days. You might not all be in that meeting now.

Anna Dodgshun posted 29 Sep 2010, 01:13 AM / edited 29 Sep 2010, 08:34 AM

While not quite the same, this article is interesting reading...pertinent, anyway!

Editor posted 29 Sep 2010, 08:41 AM / edited 1 Oct 2010, 01:45 PM

[This account of the Auckland meeting was posted of Facebook by a Wellington actor who flew to Auckland to speak against the Equity action:]

Almost no battery left on my phone but here's a few things to come out of the meeting tonight.

1. Everyone who was everyone (or pretty much everyone) was there - there would have been in excess of 200 folk

2. The upshot of legal advice received by equity was:

- it is simple to fix the de-registration of Equity as an incorporated society. A payment of a $200 re-registration fee and a few working days does this

- but this isn't really necessary. Equity can only negotiate a binding employment contract for people who are EMPLOYEES of a film not INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS. Although there is precedent set (especially in the Weta model-makers case) that some contractors should actually be treated like employees these very precedents mean production companies are unlikely to make those same mistakes again.

- The Employment Contracts and Commerce Acts make it impossible for Equity to negotiate binding contracts for everyone. What can happen is actors have 2 choices. The first is to form a company that contracts actors and negotiates to supply them as a commodity to production companies (risky for all sorts of reasons). The other - more preferred option is that a group of 50 or more folk can form a group to "recommend" a contract. But this recommendation is not legally binding or enforceable under employment law.

3. The mood was generally that "this is a turning point where we can take a stand and change the industry for ever" and that if we don't stand together we aren't respecting ourselves or our fellow professionals.

4. There was anger that production companies wouldn't even enter into negotiations.

5. It was basically resolved (I'll put full resolutions up tomorrow) to ask to enter into negotiating a recommended agreement which is the best we can manage under current legislation.

6. Threats of the Hobbit bring taken offshore were largely dismissed as scare-mongering and a tactic

7. The support of SAG and between 100 & 150 "English speaking actors unions" was waved about. The number was somewhat fluid but the general upshot was they at least supported Equity and, in the case, of SAG were advising their members not to work on the Hobbit as it is a non-union production (meaning it has no union negotiated minimum conditions)

8. Whilst the residuals option offered in the Hobbit was new it was less than the SAG standard (at 2% as opposed to a little over 3%) it's actual application was also unclear and required further definition.

9. There was also objection to the right of producers to have an actors performance overdubbed without their consent and a dismissal clause which allowed actors to be dismissed with a days notice. We were given no legal opinion on this contract, were not told how Equity knew what was in it nor were we given any other side of the argument.

10. There was some uneasiness that this was all seen to be bashing the Hobbit when there are wider problems. But generally most talk focussed on the Hobbit

A vote was taken on the resolutions And as such a statement was delivered to the media by Jennifer Ward-Leland

I was the one "nay" vote.

My objections (in brief at midnight) were as I've outlined all day:

- it is all very well to come together as actors but our actions impact on a whole industry. We are ignoring the other professions behind the camera who make up the bulk of the production and possibly sabotaging their careers
- there has been improvement in the contracts and rates. Maybe not what everyone would like but there has been progress that has come from production companies and not from the work of actors. In fact in most recent attempts to negotiate better deals (most notably Outrageous Fortune) actors have all eventually backed down and accepted contracts offered.

During the meeting it occurred to me that the fault is not with the Hobbit or SPADA but with labour laws and the employment contracts act. There is no obligation for anyone to negotiate here, and if they do to make those negotiations binding.

The best possible outcome under the current Equity resolutions is to have a recommended contract that individuals can still ignore. And ignore it they will. If the failed attempts by casts to stand up to producers tell us anything it is that we ARE independent contractors and if faced with the hard decisions of taking a contract to pay the bills and feed our families even if it is not what our peers want we will - and have. And that should be our right as individuals.

So the best possible outcome here is anon-binding recommendation that will fall pretty quickly if alternatives are offered because there is no way to enforce it. Rightly or wrongly that is what the legislation leaves us with.

The worst possible outcome is all this noise will lose us not only the Hobbit but many large overseas productions and we will have ruined an industry for other fellow performers and a much wider group of fellow film professionals. And possibly for the wider economy as well. And this will happen because the NZ film industry will be seen to have an unstable labour environment.

What I wished would happen was that the employment laws were challenged and a longer term approach was used to get meaningful changes to labour laws. My own views on this are mixed but at least this might benefit more than just actors and might be binding. At the very least it is a debate that needs to happen and the collective media wattage in the room could have been thrown behind this in the way they throw their lot in with smacking, animal cruelty and climate change.

But the mood wanted quick results. People wanted the feelgood but ultimately toothless and pointless resolution to ask for negotiations about suggested/non-binding conditions and, as a result (in my opinion) made an already dangerous climate even more inflammatory.

Editor posted 29 Sep 2010, 08:54 AM

[A response to this on Facebook:]

Thanks for this. As I could not make the meeting it's great to hear some feedback on what was discussed and I appreciate you taking the time and forking out the money to attend.

I'll make a couple of quick comments before I go to bed....

I don't believe the members of NZ Actors equity are ignoring the other professions behind the camera. The industry in NZ is tiny and I am certain many of the actors at the meeting are friends with camera ops, focus pullers, grips, AD's and best boys. I'm sure many of the 200 actors who attended the meeting are also hoping to be employed in The Hobbit. By attending this meeting and speaking to the media about their concerns some actors may well be jeopardising their future employment opportunities, therefore I cannot believe they are taking this stand lightly.

From my understanding, the Outrageous Fortune issue arose from an approach from a number of core cast actors to NZ Equity to enter negotiations with SPP on their behalf. Equity did not initiate these proceedings. I am willing to be corrected however I have heard that these actors were badgered and placed under considerable duress by management and crew to relent and eventually they did. I am sure when you have friends asking why you are threatening their livelihood and their ability to put food in their children's mouths you start to wonder if it's all worth while.

No matter where fault lies I believe these is an obligation to negotiate. This matter should never have reached the press. Regardless of the legal status of Actors Equity NZ/MEAA the producers of The Hobbit should have had the respect and courtesy to at least meet and discuss concerns with them. The FIA wrote a letter to the producers on August 17th asking for contact and the Alliance sent a letter on August 31st. If there could have been discussions and clarification about the improved conditions, rates and 2% residuals this whole situation may have been avoided. I cannot understand why the producers are so unwilling to engage in dialogue. There is no law in NZ that forbids having a chat as far as I know. Yes, under current employment employment law the results may be non-binding, but at least it's a beginning.

There is a perception that this whole thing is just a bunch of Auckland Actors having a hissy fit. I honestly don't believe it is so. Their livelihoods are at stake as well and the risk of blacklisting in the NZ industry is a real possibility. Surely that fact that ACTRA, Equity UK, Canadian Actors Equity, SAG, Actors Equity USA and AFTRA USA are all supporting this makes it a legitimate and important issue?

Editor posted 29 Sep 2010, 09:09 AM / edited 29 Sep 2010, 12:59 PM

 [The response to the response:]  
 
The idea that this is a bunch of Auckland actors having a hissy was not helped by the fact that no meetings were held in Wellington or the South Island and yet a statement was issued. 

The only person not from Auckland there was myself and I... was dissenting. It was a bad look both for performers from the rest of the country and for those at the meeting.
 
And I do believe that the big picture was lost last night - there were murmurs of "yes, yes crews" but the mood was "let's move on" and the even bigger picture of people like the small businesses who depend on films or the wider economy weren't even really touched upon.
 
And I come back to the same point - there is NOTHING to prevent an Outrageous Fortune style fall back on any " recommended" contract. It will happen, for justifiable and understandable reasons. This noise and clamour (cloaked in the guise of reason) is for something that has questionable value but is an instant gratification and far easier than discussing the underlying labour problems that may lie behind it.
 
To me the respect and courtesy issue has another side: The Hobbit has had the respect and courtesy to modify contracts and improve them off their own bat. We already have representatives, our agents, to help clarify that contract. They are recognised as negotiators on our behalf. Instead Equity is an outside party who, due to legislation, has no legal status in this situation and is serving to do exactly what I'd imagine the Hobbit would have feared they'd do - dangerously muddy the waters. So there is a lack of respect shown to depict them as a complete ogre in this instance, keen to kick us when we are down.
Jason Smith posted 29 Sep 2010, 01:36 PM

I agree with Mr/Ms Editor. I wonder how this could affect the wider industry. Some actors may indeed have friends in non-actor production/post roles, but let's face it, actors aren't widely known for their altruism. 

John Smythe posted 29 Sep 2010, 03:57 PM

I don't know which actors you know, Jason, but theatre and film in this country thrives on the extraordinary generosity of actors, writers, producers, directors, designers, crews, administrators, facilities companies … They support each others creative endeavours over and over again for little or no financial return and often at their personal cost. And there comes a time where it seems only fair that the generous spirit that has got us where we are today is reciprocated. It's called a fair go. It's called respect. It's called being professional. 

See the notice re a meeting in Wellington this Thursday.

Jason Smith posted 29 Sep 2010, 04:11 PM

I'd agree with most of that John. I have personally been the recipient of extraordinary generosity of spirit AND resources from people who count acting as one of their skills. And certainly, the rest of the creative types you mention are worthy of such praise. When I think of my own theatre 'family' - I can't think of a more lovely bunch of genuine, warm, sensitive and insightful folk. But lets not get too carried away. The stereotype of the "enough about me... what do YOU think about me?" actor isn't entirely unwarranted..

John Smythe posted 29 Sep 2010, 04:20 PM

Irrelevant to this conversation, Jason.

Jason Smith posted 29 Sep 2010, 04:21 PM

 ...oh and for the record, even though I'm probably painting myself as a bit of a callous monster, I do have a long history of giving my time, skills and facility (recording studio) at little or no cost to my fellow creatives. I don't support indiscriminately, but to those dear colleagues and associates who's work and work ethics I respect and admire, it's a true joy to help out and support when I can.

Jason Smith posted 29 Sep 2010, 04:32 PM

Oh right. The guy with the biggest font sets the pace. My mistake. As you were!

Welly Watch posted 29 Sep 2010, 04:39 PM

That's great Jason (despite your font envy, which is weird). So if Warner Bros wanted to hire you on a mega-budget film, would you tie up your skills, time and facilities for a less than an equitable return just so you could put it on your CV? And if you did, do you really think you would be respected and be offered more work as a result, for proper professional fees at last? Oh yeah? By whom?

Jason Smith posted 29 Sep 2010, 04:54 PM

I do work on international projects. I accepted less than I thought I was worth the first time. I fought for a better deal, made SOME (but not much) headway, and in the end just took the deal - aware of the bigger picture. I was an unknown entity at that stage, and had to suck it up or risk losing the contract. I did a great job, and asked for a considerably better deal the second time, which they accepted. With each following contract, I have pushed for better terms, and so far I'm doing okay. I don't believe foreign productions are here to screw us. They are very smart cookies with high expectations, and pay well if we can deliver the goods. I believe for us kiwis, (and I believe this as my personal work philosophy as well) it's an ongoing process of making oneself indispensable.

Pete Coates posted 29 Sep 2010, 05:11 PM / edited 29 Sep 2010, 11:13 PM

Kiwi actors worked long and hard on all 3 LOTR films for not much of anything (compared to their overseas counterparts in similar sized roles). now the studios want to shoot the hobbit movies here and we are asking to be allowed to negotiate a better deal...isn't that our point jason?

John Smythe posted 29 Sep 2010, 05:41 PM
A couple of proverbs spring to mind:
- you cannot shake hands with a clenched fist
- look within the fist to find the gift. 
Jason Smith posted 29 Sep 2010, 05:47 PM

 how about

- don't bite the hand that feeds you

and

- a slotted spoon holds no soup (irrelevant to this discussion.. just for John ;-)

Ben Hawker posted 29 Sep 2010, 05:50 PM

People are playing with fire here. 

Australian film has been decimated by this bullshit. Don't start slinging accusations of inexperience or ignorance my way - I've worked as an industry professional for 17 years, in the Australian and New Zealand film industries - and yes, I'm also an actor.

NZ actors equity is acting (no pun intended) under the pretense that they should have the same rights in regards to pay and residuals as their foreign counterparts do - they wish to be viewed as equals.

The problem is, we're not equal. We're not even close. What the hell are people thinking? Why apply rules designed around a 100 year old, foreign business with colossal infrastructure, to a tiny fledgling industry? 

Try get a low budget film made in Australia right now. Your cast have no choice but to abide by the rules set down by MEAA, that means demanding a rate your tiny fledgling production simply cannot afford. If you were in the U.S or U.K, no problem - there are enough projects, crew, funds (private and federal) and production companies etc, to support smaller projects such as Duncan Jone's MOON or Richard Kelly's DONNIE DARKO. 

There's 4 million people in the whole of New Zealand. There's 20 million in greater L.A. 

We may be as skilled (or more so in many cases) as our American and European brothers and sisters, but we simple haven't worn a groove deep enough to warrant this stamping of feet. 

- Yet.

 

 

Jason Smith posted 29 Sep 2010, 05:51 PM

Hi Pete. Emotive topic huh?! Long and hard for not much of anything? I know people in LOTR with literally a few seconds of screen time (if that) who are still traveling and cashing in on the fan junket. I recall the entire population of earth was gagging to get in those films. 

I'm actually not sure how I got so involved in this debate. It's been a slow work day. Most of you actor types are alright, even if you do talk louder and more clearly than normal people. I agree that yes of course you should be able to negotiate. But a 'better' deal? I guess that remains to be seen - negotiations tend to favour the big boys. All this huff puff stuff IS part of the negotiating isn't it? Kinda ruthless to do it in public, but I guess if we want to be treated like the rest of the world, we have to accept that these people didn't get where they are by being 'nice'...? I dunno. Good luck. At the end of the day, you'll get what you're worth!

Jason Smith posted 29 Sep 2010, 05:59 PM

Bless you Ben. I was starting to think my tea was spiked. You put it very well and more succinctly than I have managed all day. We simply have to earn our stripes.

Pete Coates posted 29 Sep 2010, 06:05 PM

certainly is emotive Jason, some of the passion at last nights meeting was truly electric. i certainly appreciate and understand your stance, and would like to point out that at this stage the ONLY thing the NZ union has resolved to do, is ask to meet with producers.

John Smythe posted 29 Sep 2010, 06:20 PM

Ben, how many New Zealanders have won Oscars in the last few years? Do we really have to think we're still at Kindergarten? 

Also, Equity means fairness, impartiality; principles of justice used to correct or supplement the law ...

Jason Smith posted 29 Sep 2010, 06:30 PM

Shouldn't the question be how many actors? Although the Oscar winning ones have earned their stripes and are now working in the fully fledged industries Ben talks about, so they're probably not relevant to this discussion, John.

John Smythe posted 29 Sep 2010, 07:00 PM

Anna Paquin - came out of nowhere. Likewise Keisha Castle-Huges (nominated). And they were from the 'inexperienced' sector. In LOTR we saw the likes of Ian Mune for all of 2 seconds in close-up. Many other leading actors played bit parts and featured extras with great commitment and a good grace contributing much to the film's overall excellence. There is no doubt we have quality actors here. Some even make a living at it - and/or deserve to.

Jason Smith posted 29 Sep 2010, 07:06 PM

 I wonder what they got paid on those gigs. Do you think they should have flatly refused those life changing roles if the residuals weren't up to par? Or should Equity have dismissed the offers on their behalves? Sometimes it's better to take the punt, surely?

Editor posted 29 Sep 2010, 07:28 PM

See Gordon Campbell's SCOOP article – an excerpt:  

In his recent review of the Film Commission, Jackson took explicit aim at Treasury's ideological hostility to incentives being offered to major foreign productions, and especially at the deluded belief that major foreign productions will still come here, regardless. This thinking, Jackson said flatly, was “wrong”. They won't, he warned.

So, while the unions would cop the blame if the production did up sticks and move to eastern Europe, a more deserving target would be a Key government religiously opposed to the level of tax concessions for film now available elsewhere in the sinful world. … [Full story]  

Roy Billing posted 29 Sep 2010, 07:31 PM

Ben Hawker, what is all this nonsense about Australian film being decimated. Go to the production report on the Screen Australia website and you'll see what looks like a pretty full slate to me! Local and offshore.

And how demeaning to admit that you are not up to international standard.I can't think of any Australian in our industry here who would admit to not being equal,"not even close" to overseas practitioners.

We have a standard MEAA Offshore agreement for foreign films which gives actors SAG type residuals. No one turns those films down because we think we "haven't worn a groove deep enough".  Australian actors aren't afraid to stand up and ask for what they want, just as Kiwi actors are doing right now. If someone can't afford me, I turn down the work...I am a working actor and I am not here to subsidise aspiring film makers who can't raise their budgets.

 If everyone in the NZ industry had your attitude there wouldn't be any progress at all. Kiwi actors deserve the right to proper contracts and residuals, the same as their counterparts around the world.

Where's your pride man??

Dane Giraud posted 29 Sep 2010, 08:22 PM / edited 29 Sep 2010, 10:03 PM

 If I hear another person refer to last nights meeting as emotional I will scream. I've heard it all day from various people and it's worrying. Actors like to get in rooms together and get emotional, but I think big picture thinking is required here, not emotion.

Roy Billing posted 29 Sep 2010, 08:33 PM

Good one Dane. Emotion for the stage, reason and rationality for business. But an emotive issue nevertheless.

Ben Hawker posted 29 Sep 2010, 09:31 PM

John, nobody is questioning the abilities of New Zealanders or their standing in the world (actors or any industry professionals). 

Over the last eleven years, I've participated in negotiations regarding offshore projects coming to this country. Projects worth millions of dollars. Projects that feed a shit-load of New Zealanders, the majority of which are not actors. This process is always tenuous and nerve racking - at best. Though pre-production on something like THE HOBBIT may look promising, a green light is still by no means a certainty.

The producers of these projects  (most American, some European, many Asian) are investing a great deal of their time and money. At present, they are only attracted to the prospect of shooting their projects in this country, because of our cheap dollar and because we have a reputation for fast turnaround at world quality standard. That and we're not hogtied with unions that punch above our weight.

The reality is, these productions can fold faster than an olympic gymnast. At the slightest sign of trouble. For years now, I've seen production after production collapse. (most of them without the industry ever knowing they existed) Nothing is secure or sacred in this business. Money already invested makes no difference to the security of the project as a whole, even if pre production reaches tens of millions of dollars. It's a fickle, precipitous game and when fists start to fly - we always lose. 

This may not be the reality we want, but - right now, it's the reality we have. It's the way things were between studios when the U.S industry was 50 years old. Things will change over time, we just have to be patient. If we continue down the road proposed by MEAA, (not that we can anyway- it's not even legal) these shows are simply going to go to greener pastures, just like they've done and continue to do in Australia. This is a fact - not a hollow threat. This is contractual position actively held by studios and investors, a position taken without hesitation.

Conditions have improved in New Zealand since LOTR and will continue to do so, so long as we don't lose sight of the bigger picture and fuck it up prematurely. We can't afford to be so arrogant, as to pretend our industry is of equal standing with seasoned industries. One just has to look at the sheer scale of production in the U.S compared to New Zealand - the practical and economic resources available to the American industry are mind boggling. (one AVATAR sized picture drains most of  the NZ workforce in one hit)

Yes, Kiwis have won Oscars. 14 out of 16 of them (if Russell Crowe considers himself to be a kiwi) have been technical awards. Kiwis have been nominated for 25 academy awards. 3 out of 25 of those nominations were for acting. All awards and nominations were well deserved as the recipients worked bloody hard for them. Once again, our talents and skills are not in question here. 

The question is, why do a minority within this extremely passionate, talented, adolescent industry, have the right to risk all our livelihoods? Theres no doubt that we deserve parity, it's just that we simply can't afford it in the present environment.

We've all been hit with a recession and a movie drought, we've all felt the nervousness and desperation associated with desperate times. But we need to stick together on these big jobs if we want to keep them coming. I got into this business because I'm passionate about cinema - not fame and fortune. You have to make sacrifices for jobs that you love. Yes I expect to be paid for the work I do, but the pay isn't why I do it. 

The first thought that crosses my mind when I hear about a new project: "Man, I can't wait to see this film. What can I do to help make it happen..."

 

Roy Billing posted 29 Sep 2010, 09:41 PM

Ben, MEAA has nothing to do with whether a production comes to Australia or not. It mainly depends on the current exchange rate and even when that is high we still get some productions coming in. When a production does come in the producers have no qualms whatsoever about signing up actors on MEAA Offshore contracts which allow SAG type residuals.I know of no production which has not come to Australia because of any MEAA demands. Perhaps you could enlighten me?

All your talk about MEAA being responsible for  downturn in offshore production in Australia is just rubbish, and makes me smell a rat...just who are you actually writing on behalf of?

 

Ben Hawker posted 29 Sep 2010, 09:53 PM / edited 29 Sep 2010, 10:02 PM

 Roy, I have plenty of pride thank you.

"how demeaning to admit that you are not up to international standard. I can't think of any Australian in our industry here who would admit to not being equal,"not even close" to overseas practitioners."

 I am clearly referring to the scale of the industries : "Why apply rules designed around a 100 year old, foreign business with colossal infrastructure, to a tiny fledgling industry? 

 I repeat, we are not equal to the American industry, not even close.

"If everyone in the NZ industry had your attitude there wouldn't be any progress at all.

I shall repeat my attitude: "We may be as skilled (or more so in many cases) as our American and European brothers and sisters".

"Kiwi actors deserve the right to proper contracts and residuals, the same as their counterparts around the world."

I agree. But the New Zealand film industry cannot afford to apply that kind of pressure in the present environment.

"If someone can't afford me, I turn down the work...I am a working actor and I am not here to subsidise aspiring film makers who can't raise their budgets."

Cheers Roy, good to know.

Jason Smith posted 29 Sep 2010, 10:11 PM / edited 29 Sep 2010, 10:32 PM

 Ben - I'm a composer, so one of those practitioners who feels a bit nervous about all this foot stomping. The points you make seem like no-brainers to me. It's all very well to have ideals, pride, and passion, but you are totally right - now's not the time for a revolution. I am the Music Editor for a relatively big budget off-shore television series that is produced here in Auckland. I have seen first hand how precarious the whole thing can be, and am surprised that so many seemingly clued up actors are being so bolshie at a time when they should really be treading very lightly.

Roy Billing posted 29 Sep 2010, 10:13 PM

I should also add Ben, that I am an actor, an MEAA member and a Committee member of that organisation who is in total support of NZ Actors Equity. What I write is fact and can be substantiated.

As I said, I'd like you to tell me which overseas productions have not come to Australia because of concerns about MEAA.

John Smythe posted 29 Sep 2010, 10:25 PM / edited 29 Sep 2010, 10:26 PM

Thank you Roy for clarifying that the rhetoric we hear about MEAA decimating the Australian film industry is unsubstantiated propaganda.

I heartily recommend Gordon Campbell's SCOOP article for a very well-researched understanding of why The Hobbit would move to Eastern Europe. The amount of money at stake with regard to the actors' request for a meeting to discuss an equitable agreement is surely miniscule in the great scheme of things.

What seems to be clear is that if the Hollywood producers “follow the money” it will have nothing to do with the actors' action but they are being set up as a smokescreen to hide the real reason for it. Remember it was the production sector that stirred it all up in the public arena. And at this point I have formed the belief that PJ is the meat in the sandwich and required to sing to someone else's song book. 

Ben Hawker posted 29 Sep 2010, 10:26 PM / edited 29 Sep 2010, 10:45 PM

 Here you go, Roy, here is one example I haven't signed a NDA for:

http://rights.apc.org.au/culture/2005/03/meaa_halts_worldfirst_film_project_in_australia.php

And another colorful if unfortunate example:

http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/gangster-film-to-union--off/2007/08/24/1187462512660.html

I'd be happy to talk to you after the meeting in Wellington tomorrow. I have some very unhappy Australian colleagues that might also be prepared to share their thoughts with you.

It's a huge loss to New Zealand that Robert can't share his thoughts:

http://tvnz.co.nz/content/592009/423466.html

As for who I'm writing on behalf of - it's Me. Look me up. 

I'd like to say I'm speaking for an entire industry - but I'm not that arrogant. 

Aaron Alexander posted 29 Sep 2010, 10:43 PM

 Roy Billing wrote: "I should also add Ben, that I am an actor, an MEAA member and a Committee member of that organisation"

You should ADD??

Don't you think that should preface and contextualise every over emotive name-calling accusation-throwing post you've made, Roy? Talk about a vested interest.

Especially when you cast aspersions at Ben about 'smelling a rat' and 'who is he writing on behalf on'.

Ridiculous.

Welly Watch posted 29 Sep 2010, 10:47 PM

Oh dear, Ben. Your Hobby Farm example clearly shows why actors' unions are needed. Thanks.  

Roy Billing posted 29 Sep 2010, 10:47 PM

Ben... A $100,000 short film that was rejected for very good reasons and a low budget Oz film that was trying to employ actors outside union agreements? I thought you were talking about the sort of offshore big budget films that this discussion is supposed to be all about.

Never mind, we both have completely different views on this and could go on and on here on this site, or just agree to disagree.

But happy to talk to any of your Australian colleagues or you, if you want to take it further, via info@roybilling.com.au

Roy Billing posted 29 Sep 2010, 10:53 PM

Oh dear, the loonies are taking over the asylum. There is an email address here Aaron for you to send things to me, or for  anyone else who so wishes. I'm bowing out!

Good point about HOBBY FARM by the way Welly Watch.

Welly Watch posted 29 Sep 2010, 10:54 PM

As for us being a young industry, is this Gen Y talking who believe the world only started when they were born? NZ pioneered film - haven't you seen Forgotten Silver? :-)

Pete Coates posted 29 Sep 2010, 10:55 PM

ain't that the truth, Welly Watch. a very ironic example...perhaps ben should also disclose his ongoing work for Weta Workshop, in the spirit of Roy's disclosure :)

Dane Giraud posted 29 Sep 2010, 10:56 PM

Roy, has the union over in Australia actually shut down low budget films for not working within union agreements? 

 

Aaron Alexander posted 29 Sep 2010, 11:06 PM / edited 29 Sep 2010, 11:07 PM

 Better late than never, I suppose Roy...

 

Here's a thought:

 

When you're on the committee of an organisation that is supposedly hoping to enter into negotiations with other parties - is it the wisest move to break ranks and start spewing invective all over a public forum, calling anyone who disagrees with you a loonie and calling the man you want to negotiate with all manner of childish names?

 

I thought a unified front was the whole purpose of your orgainsation. If that is the way the whole committee talks and thinks about fellow professionals then I will never elect to have you speak for me as a professional body. If it's not and you're going all loose cannon on it, well... I bite my tongue. 

Dane Giraud posted 30 Sep 2010, 12:49 AM

Great post Aaron. 

John Smythe posted 30 Sep 2010, 07:52 AM / edited 30 Sep 2010, 08:11 AM

Oh dear, this is starting to look like a producer-initiated devised drama played out by people who have forgotten the rules of theatresports.

Or is it contrived drama? A cock fight. And we are so far down the pit we don't know who's up there using and abusing us. Sad.

Dane Giraud posted 30 Sep 2010, 08:38 AM

Ah, John's voice of reason! Where would we be without it. 

Liz Kirkman posted 30 Sep 2010, 05:41 PM

And a cock fight so it seems.  I'll add my hen to the mix.

I am a member of Actors Equity.  But I must say, I'm on the fence.  I by no means want to see the Hobbit leave, and I certainly don't want to lose myself, or any others a job within this project.  I've read so much on both sides, a lot of which I can agree with.  It would be nice to think the Producers could at least engage in a discussion.  And I'm certainly heading down there now to see if I can get clearer on the facts....maybe I'll see you there!

John Smythe posted 1 Oct 2010, 09:52 AM / edited 1 Oct 2010, 11:22 AM

When I have received the full transcript of the resolution passed as last night's meeting of Wellington performers, I will post it. Meanwhile this audio clip will give you some idea … Radio NZ Morning Report, 1/10  

Incidentally any impression you may have got that Sir PJ et al turned up and were turned away is totally false. There may have been some other communication that said it was not appropriate for them to attend an actors only meeting (which did allow many non-Equity members to speak freely, according them the same respect the union is asking for in requesting a meeting with the producers based on these free and open consultations with performers).

Meanwhile a 6-page written statement “from the production” (headed ‘Background Information' and with no byline) was verbally summarised and distributed, so Sir PJ was, in effect, ‘heard' and his views informed the outcome of the meeting. 

A key point the media is not bothering to cover is this, clarified at the meeting by James from Simpson Grierson.  While Section 30 of The Commerce Act makes it illegal for independent competitors to collude on price-fixing, Section 32 does allow associations of 50 or more members to negotiate recommended terms and conditions. These cannot be mandatory but may be presented as recommendations.

So all that is being asked for is a meeting that allows Equity to formulate such recommendations.

Also keep track of the updated links.

Richard Falkner posted 1 Oct 2010, 11:07 AM

In terms of equitable return:  Has 'equitable return' been defined?  Working for 18 months on the LotR, I found my self equitably paid in terms of the work I was doing, and have no complaints about any of the conditions.  And isn't one of the main points that was raised last night that any teeth have been taken out of the 'negotiations' by inclusion of the term 'recommendation':

Article 3: " Recommends that all performers wait before accepting any engagement on the production of The Hobbit until the production has advised whether it will enter into good faith negotiations with NZ Actors' Equity with respect to the minimum conditions of engagement under which NZ Actors' Equity will recommend performers work on the production The Hobbit, including minimum fees, conditions of engagement, professional protections and residuals. If the production advises it will not enter into such good faith negotiations then NZ Actors' Equity should make a further recommendation to performers on what action should be taken at that time before performers accept engagement of the production."

1: Recommendations have no teeth.  If someone likes the look of their contract they can go ahead and sign it anyway, in exactly the same fashion as recently occurred  with Outrageous Fortune.

2: Are negotiations entered into in the midst of a boycott really 'in good faith'?  Sound more like a gun pointing.

And John: You can shake hands with a clenched fist, it's just slightly weird at first.  I've tried it.  And if the fist likes the cut of your shake, it might open up.

I re-iterate that the concern many people have is not that the conditions Equity desire are not unreasonable, but extremely ill-timed.  I don't think the 'scare mongering', as it has been called is as unrealistic as people think.  There has been real concern in Wellington for a long time that if we have any more consecutive production 'fails', work will simply stop coming here.  Can someone from Equity or MEAA provide evidence that these concerns are unfounded?

Welly Watch posted 1 Oct 2010, 11:20 AM

So why kick a dog that has no teeth?

Richard Falkner posted 1 Oct 2010, 11:31 AM

How is "No, at this present time we don't want to meet with you" a kick in the teeth?  A close relative of mine has recently acquired a family and a mortgage.  his partner has been out of work (doing 3D modelling for PJ) since film slowed down circa Kingdom Come.  If the Hobbit falls through and the industry slows down even more, and he is out of a job... do you think he'll feel kicked in the teeth?

Jason Smith posted 1 Oct 2010, 11:37 AM

Negotiations are tough. In the vast majority of times, at least one party is going to be left wondering if they got the absolute best deal possible. That's kinda the whole point. The trick is to know when to back down and take the deal while there's still one on the table.

Welly Watch posted 1 Oct 2010, 12:36 PM / edited 1 Oct 2010, 12:37 PM

This from http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10677358

< The union have complained that the producers of the film have refused to meet with them to resolve the issue, however Sir Peter said the Screen Production and Development Association, who represent film producers, has been trying to meet with NZ Equity and MEAA for the past 18 months to discuss the actors contracts. >

How can this be when we have seen/heard/read SPADA spokesman John Barnett claiming NZ Eq-MEAA has no legal standing and making it clear they have no interest in meeting with them ever?

< "The MEAA needs to stop playing games and to sit down at the negotiating table with SPADA. This needs to be resolved and quickly for everyone's sake." >

Agreed – but I had the impression NZ Eq-MEAA have been asking for this for ages. 

< Sir Peter maintained his previous threat to take the hobbit offshore should the stand-off not be resolved, with Eastern Europe one of six locales on the cards. "Nobody wants to take The Hobbit off shore, but every day we are blacklisted costs Warners money and the studio is now moving to protect it's investment." said Sir Peter. >

Blacklisted – really? By whom? Costing Warners money? How, when people who were working on it have apparently been stood down without any notice or retainers … which is the sort of Feudal practise those seeking reasonable conditions are trying to avoid.  

Chaz Harris posted 1 Oct 2010, 01:16 PM

The producers of "The Hobbit" should have no obligation to engage in discussions with NZAE because NZAE is seeking a collective agreement for actors to apply to the *whole industry*.

If anything, this should have been a boycott of all NZ film productions, not just targeted at one of the high-profile ones as a cheap publicity tactic. It should also have been the aim of NZAE from the start, to put pressure on SPADA to negotiate, trying to get the producers of "The Hobbit" into a meeting is a complete red herring. They have no authority over the whole industry nor do I think they want to or expect that kind of power!

There is no proof of wrongdoing by "The Hobbit" or WingNut Films on this or any previous productions, then I see it as defamation of the highest degree. Personally, I would like to see WingNut file a lawsuit against MEAA for the damage they have done to his reputation and that of the NZ film industry.

Whatever happened to INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY! Wake up and grow up people before there is no work to get paid anything for!

Ian Hughes posted 1 Oct 2010, 02:47 PM

 Here is a conspiracy theory... PJ has been manipulated and given bad council by forces in SPADA who wish to stop actors have an effective and indeed any sort of union. their ongoing abuse of the contract law , twisting it to their advantage to keep performers AND CREW separated from each other serves them very well. It put the onus in individuals to know the intricacy of contract law and have the resource's to enforce it. PJ has been encouraged to take this to the streets to whip up larger anti union sentiment to squash the union once and for all. The longer this runs in the press and does not go into any sort of face to face meeting the longer it helps their cause – remember who went to the press first. Not equity, the MEAA or the other internationals ( they spoke to their members and the production company). His 11th hour request to go to the meeting ? really imagine if equity members knocked on his door with a half hours notice  and what the responce would be?... just a thought? 

Richard Falkner posted 1 Oct 2010, 03:19 PM / edited 1 Oct 2010, 03:27 PM

 Good, a conspiracy theory!  That's what we need.  

Also, with regard to targetting The Hobbit.  It has been stated by MEAA that '...the overall impact of our demands is miniscule for a production of this size."  Well, that's ok, and indeed the demands would have to be fairly high for WArner Bros to be terribly affected.  But if these became standard conditions, what would be the fate of smaller productions telling local stories, that aren't expecting terrific returns?  Films like Boy or Under the Mountain might have more problems meeting these demands.  And what of absolutely indie films?  Would these have to meet those conditions too?  

And last night Simon Whipp said that if the Hobbit went offshore, their conditions would be applied to that location too.  Does this mean that the MEAA is now issuing a standard contract for the entire world?

Ian Hughes posted 1 Oct 2010, 03:39 PM

 who knows - no one will talk. most industries around the world have a range of contract options. Much of what gets worked out are all the little details – travel, costumes blah blah. But they are things that have been streadly eroded under contract law. We are a long long way from oppressive rules that restrict productions and can anyone really believe that s what the union wants? 

Ian Hughes posted 1 Oct 2010, 03:41 PM

 Oh and i only present a conspisoy theory because PJ has his – that NZ actors are puppets in some sort of weird off shore land grab by the Australians!

Ian Hughes posted 1 Oct 2010, 03:46 PM

and I believe what simon whip meant is that because the federation of international unions have backed NZ equity and raised this issue with the producers the Hobbit would still have to talk to the local union of whatever country it goes into for members of MEAA or SAG or British equity to sign contracts.

 

Chaz Harris posted 1 Oct 2010, 03:49 PM

@Ian - out of either theory, it is PJ's one I'm far more inclined to believe.

if you think those unions wouldn't u-turn, break ranks and welcome them to their country with open arms, you clearly have no idea how Hollywood and the international film industry works.

That is exactly what will happen, resulting in MEAA/NZAE feeling betrayed and all those supporting them shamed with everyone losing.

Richard Falkner posted 1 Oct 2010, 03:50 PM

 My concern is that if they are filming in Czech, for example, they could use Czech union rates, which might still be much less than here...

Richard Falkner posted 1 Oct 2010, 04:00 PM

Gah.  This is fruitless.  Lots of people could lose their jobs for a long, long time.  Because actors want better conditions and profit.  
And while that is not necessarily wrong, the target is off mark and the timing is lousy.  There seems to be a feeling that our film industry is suddenly indestructable, and that really is not the case.

Ian Hughes posted 1 Oct 2010, 04:03 PM

 My personnel experiences with some of the strongest voices in SPADA and way i have been treated by them and my personal involvement with the whole process of the MEAA coming here to help NZ equity and my personal experience with the way i was treated by NEWLINE (not 3 foot 6 –which were amazing) on LOTR make it easier for me to believe mine. But it is with a tongue in my cheek!

The thing with both is they imply an evil over lord driving everything – and that is rubbish . conspiracy theories are not helpful -  But people and companies do what they think is best for them at the time and even when they think they are doing the right thing by others sometimes they are not. PJ has made a offer – maybe it is great? but maybe because he is who he is and not a working actor it is not perfect- maybe it could be better – maybe being allowed to talk about it it could be amazing? An offer with no right of reply is a demand.

John Smythe posted 1 Oct 2010, 04:09 PM

What we need is a turning point so we can get on with the resolution phase.  Roll on Act 3.

Ian Hughes posted 1 Oct 2010, 04:27 PM

 ah! act 3!

Welly Watch posted 1 Oct 2010, 04:51 PM

But will it prove to be a tragedy (everyone dies) or a comedy (happy ending)?

Ian Hughes posted 1 Oct 2010, 05:08 PM

 where is Jim the Eagle when you need him?

John Smythe posted 1 Oct 2010, 05:10 PM

I was thinking 'resolution' in the sense of a positive outcome for all. With all this negative drama in Act 2, a negative outcome would be too predictable.   

Pete Coates posted 1 Oct 2010, 06:23 PM

NZ Actors Equity President Jennifer Ward-Lealand & Outrageous Fortune star and Equity member Robyn Malcolm will be on Campbell Live @ 7pm Tonight - TV3

Editor posted 1 Oct 2010, 11:02 PM
Corin Havers posted 1 Oct 2010, 11:52 PM

 I see, they want a nudity clause.  Now everything makes sense; well worth risking a major film project for.  (Who are these wallies??)

Chaz Harris posted 1 Oct 2010, 11:59 PM

totally, Colin, totally.

and they kept on about meeting The Hobbit producers at the end of the interview, the fools are trying to talk to the wrong people...still! one big epic fail.

Editor posted 2 Oct 2010, 09:18 AM
The Nation: Jennifer War-Lealand and Craig Parker on TV3 11am. Sat.2nd Oct 
Corin Havers posted 2 Oct 2010, 12:31 PM

That was seriously embarrassing, they are clearly completely out of their depth.  I wouldn't trust these people to walk my dog, let alone negotiate a contract on my behalf. 

Editor posted 2 Oct 2010, 01:24 PM / edited 2 Oct 2010, 01:34 PM

Corin, your posts are offensive to some hard working people who are putting their own very significant careers on the line for the greater good. It is part of a time-honoured political process.

I'll  leave your posts there because it is a free and open debate and it's useful to know how everyone is thinking. But if we were all in a room and I was in the chair I would ask you to be constructive.

Communication is conversation as contribution.

John Smythe posted 2 Oct 2010, 01:27 PM / edited 2 Oct 2010, 01:33 PM
Corin Havers posted 2 Oct 2010, 02:01 PM

I object to this comment. I consider myself as firmly behind the hard working people you refer to you as you are, and am a strong supporter of the union movement generally.  Nevertheless from what I have observed, the actors deserve far better representation than they are currently receiving. Pointing out the incompetence of their current representatives is in my view a constructive and responsible act, and a legitimate contribution to this discussion.

Dane Giraud posted 2 Oct 2010, 02:54 PM

Did I hear that right (Campbell Live)? They want actors to have to give permission before their voices can be overdubbed? Is that in standard contracts overseas? I don't see how a business could ensure it was delivering the best product possible for its investors if actors had such control over content. 

 

John Smythe posted 2 Oct 2010, 03:06 PM / edited 2 Oct 2010, 04:45 PM

Yes Dane, that is absolutely standard. It goes to the principles of misrepresentation and passing off, to superimpose another actor's voice on a performance without their permission (unless it is in a different language, in which case the contract should cover that). There may be circumstances in which it's fair enough in which case the actor can give their permission - but it is their face, voice and talent that is being represented. Capiche?

My perception is that all that's being asked for is some basic rights and conditions that will align us to the rest of the English-speaking film-making world. It's about respect, which usually produces benefits both ways.

Re The Nation piece on TV3, I did not see it - it's repeated tomorrow at 8am and it will be a couple of weeks before it is available 'On Demand'.

Jason Smith posted 2 Oct 2010, 03:17 PM

The ADR (voice dubbing) issue seems ludicrous. Imagine how many actors would hold a production to ransom over that one. Actors being misrepresented?? Please. They are playing characters! Should they also get a say in their script, make up, wardrobe, and any VFX that might be laid into their scene/performance? How about the tone of the score under their dialogue? If it was a documentary, and a real interview was altered from 'I am a staunch supporter of the SPCA" to "I am a staunch saboteur of the SPCA" - that would be understandable. But an across the board power of veto over ADR - do these people WANT to be employed???

Dane Giraud posted 2 Oct 2010, 03:32 PM / edited 2 Oct 2010, 03:34 PM

I can see how a leading actor could demand that but a guy in two scenes? That's insane. 

John Smythe posted 2 Oct 2010, 03:44 PM / edited 2 Oct 2010, 04:07 PM

Someone who couldn't do the accent should never have been cast in the first place and the producer has total control over that.

I haven't seen recent versions of standard contracts but I assume such a clause would include 'such permission not to be unreasonably withheld' along with the right to take it to arbitration.

Jason, your "do these people WANT to be employed?" echoes the voice of a feudal landlord: "Do these people WANT to work on my estate?"  He claims to be fair, decent, generous and honourable in his dealings but flatly refuses to recognise a law, agreement or even a memorandum of understanding that gives his serfs a voice or recognises their basic rights against other more unscrupulous landlords.

Jason Smith posted 2 Oct 2010, 04:14 PM

Feudal landlord? Haha. John - I'm a humble composer just trying to make ends meet, and scared that work for me and many of my friends and colleagues could dry up because....why? Actors don't want to be misrepresented by being dubbed?? The cynic in me suggests they wouldn't mind if another fee was involved. I have worked on several american shows, and there are whole roles where a performer is cast for their specific look, and their entire performance is routinely dubbed. Seems like win-win to me. The actor who looks right but can't act gets the very flattering full Post makeover, and the result is a seamless performance. Dubbing is only ever used to IMPROVE a performance, so giving the benefit of the doubt and saying it's not about money, what's the problem?

New Zealand used to be known as a great place to shoot because of the locations of course, and the smart people who not only do world standard work, but aren't precious about it. They 'muck in' with minimum fuss to get the job done. Compared to the national average wage, film work is still very lucrative, across the board. Even with the 'terms and conditions' NZ actors are missing out on, how many are heading overseas? How many are changing professions? Not many. Why? Because we AREN'T Los Angeles. We AREN'T the UK, or Australia. Our celebs don't get stalked to death, there is less competition, less do-or-die hustling. These factors are NOT irrelevant. 

Dane Giraud posted 2 Oct 2010, 04:18 PM

So you personally think it fair that a two scene NZ actor should be able to refuse a Hollywood producer the right to overdub their voice if they see fit?  I cannot go with that at all. That, in my eyes, is trivial, unreasonable and delusional quite frankly. Producers MUST have full control of the content. And what's this about arbitration? That's fantasy! With a two scene actor?! What producer in their right mind would open themselves up to that? 

Ian Hughes posted 2 Oct 2010, 04:23 PM

 I was in LOTR and my voice was dubbed out but only out of 2 of the 3 scenes I was in. I was never told and found out while I was sitting in the theatre (infact they wouldn't tell me if i was in the movie or not!) . I was a bit shocked and surprised – I do a lot of voice work and my voice is a big part of my business – I would have liked to have been asked. And was it my contract ? no – I didn't know what I didn't know – and this goes back to the problem of the onus of analysing and enacting contracts falls to the sole trader actors and their agents. A job that in cases like the Hobbit  we just don't have the resources to do let alone police.

Jason Smith posted 2 Oct 2010, 04:34 PM

Hi Ian. Yeah - I've given up watching half the stuff I've done music for on TV because it is almost always an unpleasant surprise to hear how far back they've mixed the music, or how they've butchered a crucial act-out cue to slam the channel ID over the top instead. I can, and do sit in on the mixes often, but at the end of the day if you don't actually have your fingers on the faders during that final layback.. forget it. It's just how it is. Not knowing what should or shouldn't be in your contract (or even what is reasonable to ask for) is no excuse. I think it's a live and learn situation. The only way to get everything done YOUR way is to be the producer. Even then, the network will probably be on your case the whole time with what they think is best, and if they're paying the bills, then... well, money talks!

Dane Giraud posted 2 Oct 2010, 04:36 PM

 Exactly. It's a right that a producer just couldn't give away, not to small role actors anyhow. 

Welly Watch posted 2 Oct 2010, 04:38 PM / edited 2 Oct 2010, 04:41 PM
Regarding the Employee / Contractor issue, I found this on the public section of the SPADA website. It seems to me that many actors would have more ‘No' tick than ‘Yes' ticks and would therefore be regarded in law as employees for the duration of the contract.

 
EMPLOYEE OR INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR?

Section 6 of the Employment Relations Act 2000 governs whether an individual will be found to be an employee or an independent contractor. If there is any dispute as to status, it is up to the Employment Court or the Employment Relations Authority to determine the “real nature” of the relationship between the parties. 

The recent decision of the Supreme Court in Bryson v Three Foot Six Ltd
[2005] NZSC 34 has confirmed thatthe traditional tests (see the attached checklist), will continue to be used in establishing the true nature of the relationship between parties. In addition, the intention of the parties continues to be relevant, but not determinative. One indication of the parties' intention is the contractual wording. Another relevant factor may be industry practice, although, again, this is not determinative (Bryson v Three Foot Six Ltd [2003] 1 ERNZ 581(EC)).

There are a number of questions to be asked, the answers to which will help to establish whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. A checklist of such questions is set out on the following page.

As a general guide, if you have more ticks in the “YES” column then there is more prospect that the status of a worker is that of a contractor; if you have more ticks in the “NO” column then there is more prospect that the status of a worker is that of an employee.

Relevant questions to ask
Indicates Independent Contractor
YES
Indicates Employee

NO
“Real nature of the relationship test” - look at the contractual wording, industry practice and any other relevant factors, as well as the following tests to determine what the “real nature” of the relationship is:
 
 
“Control Test”: how much control does the worker have?
 
 
Does the worker have control over his or her hours?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Does the worker have control over where the work is done?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Does the worker have control over what work is done?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Can the worker be dismissed without a good reason?
Ĉ
Ĉ
“Integration Test”: is the worker a part of the “employer's” business?
 
 
Does the worker charge the principal GST?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Does the worker invoice the principal?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Does the worker have his or her own client base?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Does the worker pay his or her own ACC levies?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Does the worker pay any overheads related to the job?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Is there anything preventing the worker from having the benefit of “minimum entitlements” such as paid holidays, paid sick leave and paid bereavement leave?
Ĉ
Ĉ
“Fundamental (or Economic Reality) Test”: is the worker in business on his or her own account?
 
 
Does the worker provide his or her own equipment?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Does the worker hire his or her own helpers?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Does the worker take any responsibility for investment and management?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Does the worker have the opportunity to profit from sound management and performance of his or her tasks?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Does the worker undertake any financial risk him or herself?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Other relevant factors may include the following
 
 
Does the worker claim for expenses off his/her tax (eg tools, equipment, clothing, transport costs etc)?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Does the worker operate as a company?
Ĉ
Ĉ
Does the worker invoice for his or her services?
Ĉ
Ĉ


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Disclaimer: This summary has been prepared by Minter Ellison Rudd Watts. It is not intended to be fully comprehensive nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal advice. This summary provides general information which may be subject to specific exceptions or may not apply to particular factual circumstances. Your Minter Ellison Rudd Watts partner can update you with the most current information. Professional advice should be sought before applying the information to particular circumstances. Whilst care has been taken in the preparation of this guide, no liability is accepted for any errors.       
 
 
Ian Hughes posted 2 Oct 2010, 04:40 PM

 this is just a small example - you live and learn? - learn to rollover and go belly up - there has to a balance between pain in the arse actors fussing producers over every little detail and the total loss of any control and repect

Ian Hughes posted 2 Oct 2010, 04:45 PM

 There are plenty of pluses to being a contract worker but the use of it by producers is totally uneven and puts all the power in their hands. a lot of the yes ticks are because people have had to become their own companies etc. to work in the environment the producers favour

Dane Giraud posted 2 Oct 2010, 04:49 PM

I don't think the balance you talk of is possible. At the end of the day actors cannot dictate the terms of an edit, unless you're Tom Cruise maybe. Are we sure that overseas actors have this right in standard contracts? It seems strange to me. 

Jason Smith posted 2 Oct 2010, 04:51 PM

Live and learn might have been a bit flippant. But yeah. I'm sure you have been stung a few times over the years, then been more vigilant to ensure it doesn't happen again. I know I have. Isn't that kinda normal?

I really don't know what the issue about respect and control is. Would love you to tell me. Films or major television productions are huge machines - we all know that. I guess the level of respect that I expect (once I'm actually signed up and on board with a project) is just to be treated like everyone else on the production - not pay or contract wise, but just general civility. No better, or worse, than say, the caterer or wardrobe assistant. In terms of control - someone almost ALWAYS has the ability to override pretty much everyone in a production. I may think I know better about a music cue, but if someone higher up the food chain wants me to change it, I expect the courtesy of being able to briefly argue my case, but at the end of the day, I gotta do what I'm told. What is different about actors?

John Smythe posted 2 Oct 2010, 05:36 PM / edited 2 Oct 2010, 05:37 PM

"I expect the courtesy of being able to briefly argue my case" - that would be a good start in this situation. And I owe you an apology, Jason - I should have said 'There speaks the voice of a serf who accepts the landlord is always right because he hold all thye money and power.'

Dane, as usual you misquote and exaggerate to support your case. No-one is talking about dictating. It's a right to be told and to agree (such agrrement not to be withheld... etc). And in cases where a character is cast as a composite of one actor's face & body and another actor's voice, that agreement would be factored in up front.

I find it astonishing that there should be such resistence to the idea that actors are entitled to basic respect and the right to protect their professional integrity, within reason.

Chaz Harris posted 2 Oct 2010, 05:48 PM

"I find it astonishing that there should be such resistence to the idea that actors are entitled to basic respect and the right to protect their professional integrity, within reason"

I think you are putting words in people's mouths now John. Who is saying that? Not I at least.

The tactics employed to bring rise to the issue have compromised a whole industry, there were smarter and more diplomatic ways to do it. And moreso, JWL said on Campbell Live she wanted to meet with SPADA early on in the interview and then when she got to the end her emphasis was on meeting with 3foot7 producers. I don't think she even knows what the actors union wants!!

I have an incredible amount of respect, compassion and appreciation for all the actors I have worked with in New Zealand, they deserve fair treatment and contract clarity, yes. But not this method - in fact anyone who is an actor right now is being painted as evil and that is very unfair on all of them. It is the select few spoiling it for everyone else.

Jason Smith posted 2 Oct 2010, 06:08 PM

John - that wasn't really an apology now, was it. You just used 'I owe you an apology' to set up another determinedly blinkered negative response to my point of view.

As for briefly arguing a case - the Equity spokespeople on Campbell Live had that very opportunity last night, but at the end of the interview we were left none the wiser as to what it is they actually want - other than that it was certainly NOT about money... We all know that residuals is a huge part of this debate, and so the confusion rolls on...

Chaz Harris posted 2 Oct 2010, 06:10 PM

@Jason agree! They contradicted themselves completely.

Jason Smith posted 2 Oct 2010, 06:22 PM

I should say that JWL is a dear friend of mine, and I don't doubt for a moment that her intentions are absolutely noble. I know these issues are not new, and it is just incredibly unfortunate timing that it is all coming to a head now. We are by no means out of the recession, and the American film industry is absolutely hemorrhaging. All the non-actor film workers I know (and it must be said they surely outnumber the actors 20:1) are horrified to think of where this could all lead.

John Smythe posted 2 Oct 2010, 06:23 PM

ONE News claims a top level conference call is in progress dedicated to resolving the issue.

Meanwhile it has just occurred to me - thinking through the LA Times article - that if there is pressure on the production to move to Eartern Europe, the position taken by SAG, British Equity, MEAA et al, as well as NZ AE, will be a major factor in keeping the production in NZ, They will be helping to protect evryone's jobs here.

Mick Rose posted 2 Oct 2010, 07:00 PM

I'm not a regular reader or participant on these forums and I don't intend to be, but I want to respond to some of the material posted by Chaz, Corin, Richard et al.

There are clearly substantive issues at play in this dispute and it's insulting to downplay this and instead focus so much of your attack on the personalities involved.

You've obviously all got time on your hands so I'd invite you to work towards finding, as John phrases it, a positive resolution.  There are many more creative and useful contributions you could make than, for example, stirring up division through online petitions or encouraging litigious action.

Equity welcomes all actors as members and if that role-description fits I'd encourage you to join.  As evidenced by the recent meetings in Auckland and Wellington there's plenty of room for robust engagement and divergent views - we'd like to have you with us.

Regards, Mick

Corin Havers posted 2 Oct 2010, 07:50 PM

 Mick Rose, I suggest that your comments could just as easily have been directed at the Equity executive.

Ian Hughes posted 2 Oct 2010, 08:02 PM

 Hi Mick – thanks for joining in.

Chaz, Corin, Richard et al

The question I have is this – are you opposed to the principle or the timing? Is it the idea or the target?

Because you have a huge amounts of passion – on line petions, all this blogging – SPADA have FINALLY agreed to at least talk and if you support the principle of a mutually agreed bottom line for all performers so they all don't have to become experts in contract law and get on with acting then we need your passion – join equity and let your voices be heard and help steer the ship toward a better future.

But if you find the whole idea of actors being more empowered by joining together and having a voice then nothing anyone says will sway you.

Jason Smith posted 2 Oct 2010, 08:29 PM

Ian - your either / or position is a bit Bushy. There's actually a lot more to it than being simply for or against actors getting a fair go. I for one am absolutely FOR actors getting a fair go, but I guess the definitions of 'fair' can differ wildly. Having to ask permission to dub an actor's performance, for example, I am against. If there's a bunch of requisite disclaimers attached like 'the actor can't reasonably withhold consent' etc - then what is the point? Just to feel included and respected? These projects simply move too fast for that to be viable. It sux when you get cut out of a scene, or dubbed, or a team of craftsmen spend weeks building a set only for it to get written out, or the wardrobe assistant is up all night hand-painting a pair of boots only to have the DOP go for a tight CU at the last minute. Or a VFX artists painstakingly creates a swirling snowstorm one snowflake at a time, and never even gets told that some anonymous producer on the other side of the world has decided to go for a tsunami instead, from a different VFX vendor in Canada. So much blood sweat and tears go into these things that gets discarded for reasons never explained to us mortals. And frankly, the majority this lost labour isn't from actors. So while I believe nobody is denying anybody a 'fair go', it's not simply about ticking box A or B.

Ian Hughes posted 2 Oct 2010, 08:34 PM

 Ok fair enough – no one likes to be given the “bushy” card! I guess i find it frustrating after so many years of silence and capitulation and very real abuse of power and endless stories of injustice – today i spoke to an actor who is getting $200 a day less on almighty Johnsons than they got 6 months earlier on Outrageous - that  there is so much desire to just keep heads down and keep low.

Nic Farra posted 2 Oct 2010, 08:36 PM

 I worked on Heavenly Creatures in two roles as a Borovnian stiltwalker and a boarder in the Rieper household. As anyone who's worked in a rubber suit can tell you it's hard work doing that kind of stuff and the pay was appalling too - $50 for three days. Most of the Borovnian extras were teenage non-actors, so for most it was a bit of a lark. As for me I'd trained at a drama school and at that stage I felt I'd fallen as far in my professional standing as I could and was eating the bread of sorrows to a similarly suited friend during a break. Someone in the Art Dept overheard and pointed out that many people in other parts of the country including some of we yokels in Christchurch hadn't got any kind of part in HC and were currently gnashing their envious teeth over my rubber suit and fifty folding ones. I enjoyed my work a lot more after that and even made a few suggestions to PJ and AlBol and had them taken up. Since then I've benefited slightly from my few frames in that film. A couple of eagle-eyed directors have flicked a bit of work my way on the back of it.
 
On the same shoot the producer came on set to apologise for the schedule running behind and to ask if some overtime could be worked to make it up because the production had run out of money. The largely Mexican crew switched off their phones and got on with it. Having only themselves to answer to and knowing upon which side their bread was buttered, off they went.
 
You may suspect I have a dim view of the gang with the Orwellian name ‘Equity'. Those of you with longer memories, perhaps even Roy and Mick, may recall how quickly the northern membership dropped its southern branches without even a say during the days when the Government were busily extracting teeth from the union movement by enforced amalgamation. No sooner had that cut been executed than the Wellington members were out quicker than a socialist could sing the Red Flag before downing a chardonnay. Bending over backwards to do the bidding of the bosses was what I recall the middle-class executive doing best. In those days of course the tax breaks that had made the industry were removed and Richard Prebble had thunk it best to carve up the TV stations and the radio broadcasters as well. I can't think of anything that was improved by that collection of class traitors.
 
With the return of regular work to Auckland, actors found the going rough when commuting to Australia without an Equity card, so I guess it made sense to reconvene a group that would say who could or couldn't work. Principles after all, are very important. I can't afford them myself. I live in Christchurch and have to take whatever work I can.
 
I'm not entirely agin the ‘union' in this. There's a point I suppose in asking Mr Sykes for a little more. His presence on the street hasn't done much to change conditions for any of the other thieves competing for the scraps that fall from the tables of the rich, but the smell of the gravy train doesn't put everyone off. There's no trickle-down. It's never worked that way. I've a mate who's won an oscar® but can't get any work because people assume he's too expensive now, but mostly I suspect, because he lives in Christchurch.
 
So all in all I suppose supporting inequity is just as good as not. It won't make any difference to anyone, SPADA or not, south of Cook Strait.

Jason Smith posted 2 Oct 2010, 08:56 PM

Abuse of power? Film productions aren't democracies. Not even close. 'They' have the power, and 'we' have to do whatever we can to get the gig. It's competitive and ruthless. A movie like the Hobbit isn't about acting. If it came down to me and 5 other guys the same height who could walk in a straight line with a bloody great helmet on their head while saying "Lord Bimblebong, the halfling has escaped", I wouldn't be disputing the finer points of the contract toooo vigorously..

Jason Smith posted 2 Oct 2010, 09:43 PM

sorry Ian - that was rude. I was just trying to be funny. I honestly hope it all works out for everyone, and I have a feeling it will. I think what we have here is an organisation of actors facing a major issue that cuts to their collective core, so OF COURSE there's gonna be a bit of drama. It's what y'all do! All the best!

Ian Hughes posted 2 Oct 2010, 09:59 PM

 Jason it is cool – i was trying to funny back. After stuff I've been through i can handle it – tough as leather us actors - In the end all the noise is great in the long run. As i said somewhere else talk and debate is better than silence.

John Smythe posted 2 Oct 2010, 10:43 PM

Deal Near for ‘Hobbit' Films in 3-D - the NY Times version

nik smythe posted 2 Oct 2010, 11:03 PM

As I'm yet to be initiated into the fold of feature-film acting myself, pretty much everything I presently know about this issue I've learned from reading this inspiringly passionate forum thread.  It's the best read I've had in ages!  Thank you Mr. Billing for instigating this rigorous debate, and to everyone else for using these forums to their full potential.  Plenty here for all factions in this political standoff to consider deeply. Please do continue!

I'm on the side of positive resolution for all concerned.  Exactly who made this a news story first is still a bit unclear to me, but all the snappy name throwing back and forth, as distasteful as I find some of it, has probably brought an unprecedented amount of people's attention to the issue and now if everyone can just simmer down and rationally work out exactly what's important to everyone concerned, there is no reason I can see that an amicable result should not be entirely possible.

William Gilbert posted 3 Oct 2010, 12:11 PM

Hi everyone, I've just joined this forum, and I'm an actor from the Horowhenua (yes there are some here!).

Firstly, I will admit that the first time I heard anything about this situation my reaction was along the lines of: "WTF!? Someone I don't know is messing with my dream career without me asking them to, or giving them permission to!  Wife!  Fetch my torch and pitchfork! I'm after forming a mob and teaching these #@*%ers a lesson!!"

Since then (and after a couple of remarks I made through FB groups) I have had a look at both sides of the argument and managed to form a more rational and non-emotive response (I hope!), if anyone wants to hear it read on, otherwise I'll not be offended if you scroll past my post, hey I won't know if you do ;-)

While on the surface, having a union trying to protect the rights of workers is a good thing, the reality is that the film industry is a different beast to normal labour situations.  I am a union member for my day job, so I can fully appreciate and support what a union does and is for!  I won't comment on Equity's status here in that regard, because we all know by now!  As to AE's intentions?  I feel that they are coming from the right place, even if execution is somewhat misplaced.  Thank you guys for wanting to protect us even if we aren't (like myself) part of your... ah... collective body shall we say.  I humbly, though, reserve the right to slap my head at the "audacity" of you saying you speak for all of us.  While you are (as I said) coming from good intentions, your numbers represent the minority so you don't actually have the mandate from the rest of us to do this.  (I shall point out here that I am not trying to offend anyone, or wanting to enter into an argument about alleged motivations of overseas bodies involved, they obviously feel that they have valid reasons for what they are doing)

We as an industry in NZ have two main choices when it comes to our productions:
1. Either have the situation we have now, where overseas companies can produce quality here for less than they would at home, which invests in our industry. This provides valuable skills, experience, money and passion for our film industry locally to build on.  And then collectively work towards the goal of quality productions, with the same rights as everyone else (which from what I have read Sir PJ has been doing in his own way, if I'm wrong please correct me on that).


Or 2. Demand in as loud a voice as possible that we get the same rights as a film/television industry easily 10 times the size of ours or more. That amounts to a small fish trying to wear a set of false shark teeth to intimidate a fisherman (strange image I know but the metaphor that works for me!).  My personal opinion on this option is hopefully self evident.  As we all know, screen production is primarily a business, and a successful business is always looking towards its bottom line.  We can all hope and pray for a utopia where everyone does business from a fully ethical, moral, sustainable, and green model, but there are as many business practices and outlooks as there are personal opinions.  So we all need to look past that and work within the culture we are in at the moment, whilst (as I mentioned above) laying groundwork and taking the steps to change it down the track at the same time.  Hopefully this is essentially what is happening now, just a little too publicly!

If and when we as a an industry can safely say we can front it and compete with "the big boys" safely in terms of contracts, then by all means do so, if it can legally be done in NZ at that time.  Which raises a thought from me:  There seems to be some confusion around the definitions of "individual contractor" and "employee" with actors contracts, and it would be tedious and cumbersome if you had to go through the Employment Tribunal every time you had a greivance.  Instead of blaming SPADA (who are not intrinsically "evil") and the offshore production companies (who still have to answer to their stakeholders in the end), perhaps a concerted effort to lobby the government through other unions and our MP's would have more of an effect?

Unfortunately we are still in a crucial area for our industry. We are growing and getting more competitive, but we're not big enough yet to be able to "punch" at that level.

Be ambitious? YES!... but come on, be realistic as well people!

My dollar fifties worth.

William Gilbert
Actor (when I get the work!)
Horowhenua

Editor posted 3 Oct 2010, 01:11 PM
eryn wilson posted 3 Oct 2010, 01:29 PM

the facebook crew need to head over here and get talking. too many confrontational status updates, which alienate non-industry friends, and get people understandably worked up. it's not the forum for it... theatreview coming into its own right now.

Luke Hawker posted 3 Oct 2010, 04:08 PM

 So I've read MOST of this forum, and decided to start my two cents. Firstly an introduciton for those who don' t know me. ( I'll be transparent from the outset) I'm an Actor in Wellington and a diverse Crew member. I moved back to NZ from Sydney to work on LOTR as a creature and make up effects artist at Weta in 1999. This was a dream come true for me - working in the industry that I adored so much in any capacity. 

Now I've read some remarks from actors claiming ill treatment in regards to their voice or final apperance in the LOTR films. Well at Weta initially we had to DROP our rates when we went on set - At one point we were told that we would not be paid overtime and broken turnaround. Many of the effects and models (and puppettered creatures) I created/worked on, NEVER made it to the film. And there was even a stage where all 150 to 200 Weta crew credits where going to be all lumped into one;  "Creature, Armour, Weapons and minatures by Weta Workshop". So you'd think given the NZAE stance I'd be pissed -  NO way. I got to work on a film Trilogy that would inspire a generation of filmmakers and audiences and make life long firends and collegues. People in Hollywood were requesting to work on these films FOR FREE. We were the envy of the entire film making world and it changed our industry and through it I and hundreds of other Actors and crew learnt amazing skills and gained a standing in our new Big budget industry and the international industry as well. My work was seen by MILLIONS of people world wide.... If your an actor from tiny NZ, don't you think that having your voice changed would be a small price to pay to be seen in these films?

In the past five years I have returned to acting, and am also a writer and Producer. And through working on many differeing levels of film and making my own independent feature film, I understand that to think that small part Actors deserve to be told A) if they'll be in the final cut and C) if their voice will be over dubbed for a minor role is egocentric and deluded. THere are SO many attributes pressures and hurdles to cross when making a film - I had my voice redubbed for MY OWN film and didn't know until I saw the final cut - but at the end of the day all these changes and exclusions are for one reason that if you've studied theatre, script writing or love film understand MUST be paramount. Story.

Why should one actors ego or performance jeopardize the whole films story. Leave your cliched ego's at the door. If you're in a main role of course - but they wont 'clear' the scenes that didn't make the final cut... It not your job to worry about that, its the Directors. And you didn't write the script, you didn't raise the funds you added your perspective of the character so why should you be told if the STORY needs it to be changed to make a better film?

I had no idea if I'd appear in the final cut of AVATAR and when I did I was ecstatic. And ALL the LA Actors who appeared in the same scene with me will be getting residuals and why you ask shouldn't I? Because A) I don't live in LA I live in tiny little Wellington and B) I didn't fight THOUSANDS of American actors to be there, only around one hundred Kiwi actors - I didn't have as much at risk. And It's a small price to pay to not get residuals than it is to be another face at an LA casting call and be able to live in awesome NZ. Delusions of Grandeur abound.

 I agree with establishing good standard contracts for Actors in this country ESPECIALLY with TV but again the NZEA hasn't even SEEN the contracts they're doing all this for and all the examples of ill treatment given at the Union meeting were for NZTV or theatre NOTHING to do with big budget movies or PJ film. And why would big budget Studios give two F&@KS over what some NZ actors, who haven't even been cast, want. IF you want change don't target a produciton that will just turn around and walk away. Target the industry as a whole - they are our employers and thats how industrial action works, by targeting your employers plural - I should know I am a staunch Unionist and have been a Union delegate at my Day job for four years -but my intelligence over rides which team is only dressed in my colours .

Sorry I realize this is a long post but I'm almost done - One last thing to think about is why LOTR was made here in the first place. 1)Peter Jackson and 2) the fact that LA was becoming so Union strangled that it never could have been made there. In fact they wouldn't be able to make them the way we did here with rise in rates in our still young international industry... I got paid $12hr when I first started in the industry, less than my first waiting job in a Sydney Resteraunt. Now I get paid well, when I act and when I'm crew. 
 
Thanks  PJ
 
Chaz Harris posted 3 Oct 2010, 04:15 PM

@Luke - I AGREE!!! 100%

Cath Harkins posted 3 Oct 2010, 07:21 PM / edited 6 Oct 2010, 05:49 PM

Hm have no desire to discuss after all!

Hmm, Nic Farra if you ever read this...I trained to be a professional actor at Toi Whak factory for three years.  I worked in the industry for a number of years.  I have worked for Weta workshop.  I have worked for the Film Commission.  I ran my own actors agency in Wellington.  The last acting film job I did was in 2008 on Laundry Warrior.  2009 I worked for SPP.  I am not working now because I have children to look after.  Next time you say someone has no experience in the industry I suggest you do your homework.

Jason Smith posted 3 Oct 2010, 07:43 PM

With respect Cath, you're out of touch. Heal the world and all that, but we're talking livelihoods. Productions come and go all the time, but even when hardly any NZ actors are involved, there are hundreds of local crew and technicians employed. A production like this packing up shop would be a real blow. But more significantly, if subsequent productions are less inclined to come here in the future, it doesn't take long for an entire industry (of which actors are but a teeny percentage) to get in serious trouble. This would result in genuine hardship for a large number of people. Nothing compared to some of the mass tragedies in various parts of the world, sure, but hungry kids, mortgage foreclosures - that kind of thing.

Nic Farra posted 3 Oct 2010, 08:32 PM

 When Luke comes out and says it like it is for people who actually work in the biz it's not surprising folk whose opinions wax larger than their experience withdraw with tails tween legs. "Who cares, it's only a film" Well I'll remember that next time I need to console myself.

William Gilbert posted 3 Oct 2010, 11:50 PM

Well said Luke!!!!

Editor posted 4 Oct 2010, 08:57 AM / edited 4 Oct 2010, 09:06 AM

Philippa Boyens, co-screenwriter & co-producer of The Hobbit, to be interviewed on Nine To Noon - first up after the 9am news.

Chaz Harris posted 4 Oct 2010, 09:59 AM

Philippa was fantastic. Understandably emotional and trying to remain calm but that just really shows everyone - this is not a bluff!

Avid listener posted 4 Oct 2010, 10:17 AM

What needs to be said about the interview with Philippa Boyens is:

·       It was clearly sanctioned from the highest levels of the production

·       It continues the practice of the production itself stirring things up in the media (whereas Equity preferred not to have the battle fought out in public with the media as arbiters)

·       It occurred just when the feeling was a resolution was imminent

·       It is therefore a clear attempt to maintain the panic in the public arena  

·       So the production itself must take major responsibility for destabilising itself in the eyes of the world and provoking other countries to pitch for it.

It has not been well managed by either side but it is playing out the way it has always done through history. The moguls in LA know this. I'm surprised someone hasn't nabbed the format rights.   

Chaz Harris posted 4 Oct 2010, 10:46 AM

@Avid listener - are you serious?

MEAA/NZAE went "public" with it by sending out their SAG alert to everyone in Hollywood and elsewhere in the world. Actors talk, to studio heads, to executives, to crew. He had to respond publicly before the water coolers of Hollywood and elsewhere had chance to turn it into something bigger.

If someone humiliated you and your project in front of the entire global industry like that (in such a devious and under the radar way, I might add),  I challenge you not to do the same!

eryn wilson posted 4 Oct 2010, 11:13 AM

national radio now. tune in.

Editor posted 4 Oct 2010, 12:02 PM

At last, the Radio NZ podcast of the Nine-to Noon interview with Philippa Boyens plus some relevant commentary on Politics with Matthew Hooton and Andrew Campbell.

Nic Farra posted 4 Oct 2010, 02:01 PM

 Anybody got any idea who Equity is? I gather Bruce Hopkins, who, poor bugger, got ripped off being in TTT and ROTK is part of it. He's had the hardest time buying a house too. I gather Jennifer Ward-Layland holds an office of some sort. Who's the other one? Craig Parker? Is there anyone else? I seem to remember when The Northern Distribution Union ran Equity they deemed it too small to warrant an organiser. One organiser that is. For the whole country. I saw the membership form for the club they wanted to start and there wasn't even a mention of any representation, just that the club would be part of Australia and there would be affiliations to other overseas unions, right? And of course when the Chicago gangs got out of Hollywood in the 40s there's been no more corruption since, yeah?

Chaz Harris posted 4 Oct 2010, 02:03 PM

http://www.actorsequity.org.nz/equity-committee

John Smythe posted 4 Oct 2010, 04:11 PM

I am uncomfortable about personalities being brought into this when they are elected to a position that requires them to take action for what they perceive as the greater good for no personal gain.  It is all part of a robust political process. 

Let's please focus on the issues, not the people - i.e. don't shoot the messengers. 

Nic Farra posted 4 Oct 2010, 04:43 PM

 It's relevant when these 'elected officials' are given a mandate by a couple of dozen people when the 'greater good' seems to have wider repercussions than they are prepared to consider. This official status is predicated on a fairly minuscule foundation. No one in the South Island is represented by this specious organisation. No one would be silly enough to part out an outrageous fee to be part of a club that gives them nothing in return, certainly not any representation.

By anyone's definition this is tyranny. Let the tyrants be named. Let them explain why their imagined residuals are more important than hard working crews livelihoods. Let them tell us why, with no consultation, they decided to speak for an overwhelming majority of people who do not endorse them, have no confidence in them and wouldn't in return behave in so cavalier a fashion with other peoples' interests.

It is all about personality when I read the names of people with standing in the acting community who are unafraid to publicly state, as have many who signed the petition, that they are unimpressed with the oligarchy that calls itself Equity and that they disapprove.

He that doeth evil hateth the light.

Corin Havers posted 4 Oct 2010, 04:48 PM / edited 4 Oct 2010, 04:51 PM

(John Smythe) - Fair enough, except that Equity are the protagonists, not the messengers.  The fact that they are democratically elected is neither here nor there - Obama was also so elected, and several thousand people recently protested in Washington because they consider he isn't doing the job he was elected to do - that's also 'all part of a robust political process'. Equity have handled this situation appallingly and any actor, unionised or not, and everyone else whose job is being put on the line by their incompetence, has every right to protest.

Chaz Harris posted 4 Oct 2010, 04:48 PM

I'll second that Nic!

They made it personal the moment they discriminated against one filmmaker and one production. The messengers would not need shooting if the actions taken were done with integrity and were logical and just. Myself and over 2000 others do not believe that to be the case.

John Smythe posted 4 Oct 2010, 05:16 PM / edited 4 Oct 2010, 05:31 PM

Your use of the words "a couple of dozen" (it was about 500 in total) and "evil" diminishes the value of your argument, Nic.

Personally I see value in both sides of the argument and I am in no doubt that Sir Peter is deeply committed to treating his actors well.  I think our Employment Contracts Act and Commerce Act need renovation - and I have no idea when the right time would be to raise consciousness of the problems they cause.

Just musing on the whole scenario, and given the involvement of high level government ministers, I cannot help but feel that if the upshot is that they increase the tax incentive to keep the film in NZ, that would - dramatically - be a splendid 3rd act twist.

Dane Giraud posted 4 Oct 2010, 05:35 PM

 It certainly would. 

500? How New Zealand actors are members of MEAA? I know a few people went to the meetings and that this was seen a show of support but many of these people (I would think the majority) were not and have no intention of ever being members. Can someone answer as to the exact amount? Sincere question. I'd like to know. 

John Smythe posted 4 Oct 2010, 06:04 PM / edited 4 Oct 2010, 06:35 PM

The meetings were for ‘performers', were open to members and non-members, and everyone present was allowed to speak. This is very unusual for a union-type meeting and all factions commented favourably on the mutual respect this involved.

I only attended the Wellington one where there was strong representation for the anti-Equity position. A move was made from the floor to only allow financial members to vote for the resolution – available in full here (scroll down) – but it was voted down and everyone voted. 

The resolution (same wording at both meetings), begins: “This meeting of New Zealand performers…” This differs from the prepared statement read to the media, which referred to NZ Actors Equity members overwhelmingly voting for the resolution.   

I thought (but cannot find the source) that there were nearly 500 at Auckland (although the Herald reports about 200, so I may have ‘misremembered') and I think there were 40-plus at the short-notice meeting in Wellington, of which 70% were in favour (from memory). I don't know the exact numbers but certainly more than “a couple of dozen”.

Corin Havers posted 4 Oct 2010, 06:25 PM

 Yes Dane, I would like to know too; it's a fairly vital point given the claims that are being made.  Somewhere between 24 and 200, it seems.  Surely someone knows?  As the minimum joining fee is roughly $370, I would suspect closer to 24.

Ian Hughes posted 4 Oct 2010, 06:28 PM

 just over 600

Michael Smythe posted 4 Oct 2010, 06:28 PM

I cannot find a video clip of Bruce Hopkins' eloquent explanation of how NZ Actors Equity became aligned with the Australian union. Would someone please contact Bruce and ask him to repeat it in writing here? Thanks.

Pete Coates posted 4 Oct 2010, 06:30 PM / edited 4 Oct 2010, 06:49 PM

hey john you're pretty close, there were just under 450 @ Auckland meeting and just over 40 @ Wellington. The media under-reported Akld and over in Wngtn. 

 

hey dane, At the time of the Auckland meeting there were 598 members of Actors Equity and there have been numerous new members signing up, and unfinancials becoming financial, since then.

 

hey corin, the minimum yearly fee is roughly half of $370, @ 170 per year, it depends on how much you earn from acting work each year.

 

cheers

Ian Hughes posted 4 Oct 2010, 06:56 PM

I don't doubt the conviction of those who have debated here for silence and capitulation but I have to say i am never going to agree with the line of - actors should know their place, be quiet and stop complaining. I am just not. I am an actor.

Personally i have committed my whole adult life to this industry, worked very hard and given much of myself and it has been generally good to me. That being said i don't feel it unreasonable to ask for a seat at the table with the grownups. i also know that as a lone voice i cannot effect as much positive change as when i stand with the people and colleges i have worked with and admire. I believe that change is coming and it will be good for everyone. The road has been rocky, scary and painful ( and will continue that way for a while - much hurt has been done but it will heal ) but my admiration for those who have stood with quiet conviction in the believe in their own worth is huge. As i said somewhere else. 

ACTORS ROCK!

Corin Havers posted 4 Oct 2010, 06:56 PM

Thanks - and as for the joining fee, I was quoting from the website which says that those actors earning 0 - $29,999 pay  $369.20. 

Nic Farra posted 4 Oct 2010, 07:10 PM

 Don't be fooled: if voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal. I'll declare my beliefs openly. I believe capitalism is a crime against humanity. Private property is robbery. Tyranny is murder and Anarchism is freedom. When I use the word evil, I mean it. The actions of a tiny minority forming a club and negotiating, according to their website a lot of discounts on wine and theatre tickets, does not mean they have a mandate and they have over-reached themselves. There are many crew members and actors who subsidise the film industry here by working for little or no pay to ensure that films get made. They are the true radicals. Unlike capitalist film investors like Warners who will in Phillipa Boyens' words, 'do the numbers' and with no thought for the thousands of workers can up-sticks head for the Czech Republic (or wherever).

The union movement here has been rendered completely ineffective by a succession of governments, who have also been 'elected'. The unions laid down and took it. There wasn't so much as a whisper against it.. The elected officials of the workers accepted inroad after inroad conspiring with the bosses to enslave the hapless membership more than ever before.

To have a small group playing at unions trying to throw their weight around is evil. There is no question of that. Are they prepared to explain to the thousands of non-actor industry workers how much value they place on their working conditions? It goes a lot deeper than letting the crew queue up first at unit.

Dane Giraud posted 4 Oct 2010, 07:17 PM

And these figures are indisputable? Can they be verified in anyway? Independently I mean? 

I think another point we need to remember is that, just because overseas unions demand certain conditions, it doesn't follow that all are rational, helpful or constructive. I feel the dubbing clause is case in point. Are we wanting these protections out of principle? Simply because others have them? Or are they all sincerely worth fighting for? 

Pete Coates posted 4 Oct 2010, 07:27 PM / edited 4 Oct 2010, 07:28 PM

hi corin, a number of my friends who are only in their first couple of years outta drama school  pay roughly  $14 a month, i myself pay roughly $30.

hi dane, there were lists of attendees taken @ the door of both meetings. The people I know @ Equity, from whom I know numbers of members, I consider reliable, truthful and honourable people. I have no reason to doubt the membership numbers.

cheers

Dane Giraud posted 4 Oct 2010, 07:32 PM

Well, i would think it was pretty obvious why any union would want to appear to have more numbers and support than it actually has. Which is not to say they don't have the numbers you bring up, but is there any independent way to verify the numbers?  

Pete Coates posted 4 Oct 2010, 07:36 PM

i certainly had to fill out a couple of membership forms, we receive regular magazines, and all members have a membership card, so no doubt there is a substantial paper trail that could be independently checked if required.

Nic Farra posted 4 Oct 2010, 08:25 PM

 And so are they all, all honourable men. No, seriously it sounds neat. A magazine, huh?

Corin Havers posted 4 Oct 2010, 08:32 PM

Puzzling that no one authoritative is anxious to verify the membership figure. However, I sincerely hope that Pete is right and that numerous new members are signing up  - this should ensure that the inevitable vote of no confidence in the current executive is passed without a hitch, and that officers are elected who know how to represent actors (who do rock, Ian, I agree with you) responsibly, instead of endangering the industry they and their colleagues rely on. They could also ensure that the membership information on their website is correct.

Jason Smith posted 4 Oct 2010, 08:55 PM

I guess I'm repeating previous sentiments but isn't a big part of why we get any international projects at all down here is that we're one of the few places NOT choked by the unions? Beyond that, we really don't have much to offer that can't be got much closer to home to these international cats. End of story, isn't it?

Editor posted 5 Oct 2010, 11:02 AM

I think we crashed - "too many connections"! But it seems we're back now. Thanks for your patience and perseverence.

John Smythe posted 5 Oct 2010, 11:03 AM / edited 5 Oct 2010, 01:13 PM

EDITORIAL  

As the hoo-hah over The Hobbit plays out, I would like to thank all those who are contributing to this forum.  Some hold strong positions and “fret and strut” in support of them with deep commitment and passion.  Others have raised genuine questions in the spirit of enquiry, employing the inquisitorial system of attempting to arrive at the truth.  

For better or worse, however, NZ operates under the adversarial system, from parliament where the laws are passed, to the courts where cases are tried and laws are tested, to the negotiating arenas where advocates from all sides vigorously represent their constituencies in seeking a fair and equitable deal.  

As with all adversarial team sports, it is a process that involves game plans, strategies, and the capacity to adjust and readjust according to the way it is playing out as each side pursues their goals. 

From the time it was first invented, drama has also thrived on conflict, played out by role-paying actors who are enabled and supported by creative, technical and administrative production teams. It is all a process. 

It is therefore as inappropriate to heap scorn and vitriol on an individual playing out their designated advocacy role in the Hobbit conflict as it is to personally insult a government minister or opposition spokesperson; a crown prosecutor or a barrister for the defence; any sportsperson playing to the best of their ability regardless of the outcome …

Nor do cast members confuse their fellow actors with the characteristics of their roles, whether they are playing Iago or Desdemona, Lady Macbeth or King Duncan, The Dark Lord of Mordor or Gandalf … although they and their audiences do claim the right to critique their skill in playing the role. And everyone involved in all arenas may appeal to the speaker, judge, referee or director for rulings on points of law or lore.  

In an ideal world mutual respect is maintained through all phases of the process, although in the heat of ‘battle' or debate it may seem difficult to believe. That's why most of the rituals have a phase at the end where good feeling is restored. After strong feelings are expressed on the marae, we gather for a kai. The code of an Aboriginal bush meeting (e.g. tribal representatives v the mining companies) is that it does not finish until a good feeling is restored. But perhaps we have forgotten that part in the modern world,

It is my sincere hope that respect and good feeling will prevail when the Hobbit conflict is resolved and that no individual who has played out their role with commitment and integrity will be disadvantaged, regardless of which ‘side' they were on.

“All the world's a stage” and this is a stage we're going through.  Kia kaha. Arohanui. 

Chaz Harris posted 5 Oct 2010, 11:14 AM

an elephant never forgets...

Yvette Reid posted 5 Oct 2010, 01:23 PM

Can I please point out some inconsistencies in the monitoring of this forum.

Roy Billing refers to people as "Casting Agent Toadies" and "loonies" - and thats fine with editor/John.

Corin says "wouldn't trust these people to walk my dog, let alone negotiate a contract on my behalf."  and he gets a "Corin, your posts are offensive to some hard working people who are putting their own very significant careers on the line for the greater good. It is part of a time-honoured political process"

WTF!

Chaz Harris posted 5 Oct 2010, 01:30 PM / edited 5 Oct 2010, 01:31 PM

this is me...picking up my pom poms and doing a cheerleading dance:  "can I get a Y. V. E. T. T. E!" haha ;) definitely, so true. moderation should be neutral.

John Smythe posted 5 Oct 2010, 01:31 PM

Fair comment Yvette. I tried to be hands off to start with ... then intervened later. Roy's comments were certainly hostile and offensive.  And my 'Editorial', aimed at all the players, attempts to moderate in retropect as well as for the future.

Jason Smith posted 5 Oct 2010, 01:42 PM

Hehe.

Roy Billing posted 5 Oct 2010, 02:07 PM / edited 5 Oct 2010, 02:11 PM

I acknowledge that my earlier comments were hostile and offensive to many and I apologise for that. They came as a result of me being offended by the" Australian bully boy unions" comments being bandied around.The pit bull in me came out.

My position remains the same and and I still support NZ Actors Equity so I have nothing further to add to the debate other than to pass on an Australian perspective, which is not intended to be hostile and offensive, just giving yet another view....

"Sir Peter Jackson is being asked to sign a collective agreement. In Australia international productions do that anyway, and it works, with wages remaining under control and the cost of local production still tightly constrained by budgets. It is unlikely that any payments will make much difference to the budget - indeed the production may well be paying the teeniest little Smaug's egg more then the contracts will require."

For the full article go to... http://www.screenhub.com.au/news/shownewsarticle.asp?email=true&newsID=34752  

I am sure Screenhub would appreciate comment from NZ. The dispute is being reported widely in the media over here and our industry is following it with great interest.

Editor posted 5 Oct 2010, 02:36 PM / edited 5 Oct 2010, 02:37 PM
Dane Giraud posted 5 Oct 2010, 02:43 PM

 That article was written by Chris Trotter!!! Come on Ed. Let's keep the debate on planet Earth. 

Luke Hawker posted 5 Oct 2010, 03:40 PM

If the collective agreements outcome is so insignificant then why all the hoop la? Why even for ONE Second should hundreds of peoples jobs be at risk for ONE small section of the film industrys, heavily deabted actions and selfish agenda. Film should always be the winner on the day. Sadly at this moment and for years to come I am going to have to tell all my crew friends which side of this debate I was on.... friendships and working relationships will now be even more tested in this highly creative environment.

It may work in Australia but that doesn't mean it will or we want it to here. We are our own people.

Editor posted 5 Oct 2010, 03:41 PM

Yes Dane, it was, Well spotted. I am attempting to bring all published opinion and news on the topic to the site - calling 'witnesses', as it were, as part of the 'inquisitorial' process. I'm sorry if you think censorship or the banning of individual voices might be more approapriate (although I have to say you have sorely tempted my tolerance over the years).    

Chaz Harris posted 5 Oct 2010, 03:47 PM / edited 5 Oct 2010, 04:05 PM
Editor posted 5 Oct 2010, 04:10 PM

Thanks Chaz

Zelda Edwards posted 5 Oct 2010, 04:14 PM

AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL NZ ACTORS – Tuesday 5th October 2010

*************

Dear NZ Actors,

I would like to take the opportunity to share with you all why I was one of the eleven nay sayers at the Wellington Performers meeting last Thursday.

I hoped that being privy to the performers meeting in Wellington I'd understand what the problem is.  Five days and several media interviews later it is still very unclear what the MEAA & NZ Actors Equity want.

There have been vague mentions of ‘residuals, a ‘nudity clause', ‘voice over rights' and ‘green rooms' but these have not been consistent. There has been no reliability in message that equity are trying to communicate. ‘We just want a meeting' is not a valid reason for all this drama.

I am all for open debate I think it's healthy and necessary but it should be about sharing information and not bagging each other as it's such a small industry. I have tried to be open minded about this situation and am all for workers rights. I have previously been affiliated with unions and guilds but have been very disappointed in the way that this has played out.

Not once has MEAA or NZ Actors Equity acknowledged any the risks involved to others in this industry. Risk being; The Hobbit going overseas, the NZ film industry looking weak on the international market and our local economy loosing up to $6 billion.  

While it was great that the panel did come down to Wellington to open their forum to non-union members I have several issues with how this event was organized.

1.      I have confirmation in writing that Wellington actor's agents were not emailed or informed of this ‘performers meeting' as stated by many Equity members. I found out by coincidence from Facebook. With such short notice given it is naive to consider this meeting as a fair representation of Wellington actors.

2.      New Zealand Actors Equity statement 1 Oct read:  “As it happened a performer at the meeting, who was not a member of the union, was given the opportunity during the event to read a six-page letter from Sir Peter”.  While the union would like the media to believe this is true, this was not the case. The actor was slammed down by union members before he could finish the second page.

3.     At the Auckland meeting non-union members were welcome and their votes were counted without question. In Wellington this was not the case. All actors present were invited to vote, the motion was read and the ‘yays' counted. But when non-union members raised their hands to vote ‘Nay' - exclamations of “should they be allowed to vote!” rang out. The motion vote was then suspended while the panel debated whether non-union members actually had the right to vote at this meeting. Non-Union actors were then made to feel uncomfortable and awkward while the Union members held a separate (Union only) vote to decide if the non-union member's votes should be counted. This is a lack of basic professional respect. Any group, guild or board will know that you make this decision before an open meeting and not after you have already invited non-members to attend your forum (and seen the nature of their vote).

 The MEAA/ NZ Equity decided on taking industrial action to boycott The Hobbit well before sounding NZ actors or consulting other NZ industry guilds. Claims that this is “not a boycott” conflict with SAGs statement “do not work order; The Hobbit is a non-union production”. Demanding a collective bargain agreement to this effect is illegal.

This production has struggled to get off the ground for the last few years and has still not been green lit. The production has had ongoing issues with securing the rights, loosing Director Guillermo del Toro due to scheduling problems as well as changes in the economic growth and filmmaker tax breaks - even months into production of LOTR, New Line almost pulled the plug on the films twice.

To have the The Hobbit filmed in NZ was given to Sir Peter Jackson as a courtesy and not a right.  In the meantime this publicity has been damaging to the NZ film industry. The reality is now it may not be in the funder's best interests to continue filming here due to the industrial unrest. These funders have the right to change their minds and pull NZ as a location at any given time. “Right now in America Warner Brothers studios accountants are running the numbers on five to six different locations... that has put at risk the livelihoods of countless thousands of NZ industry workers”.  - Philippa Boyens.

Sir Peter Jackson has offered some of the best working conditions for NZ actors. "If an NZ actor is contracted to appear for 'run of picture' in a small supporting role, they would attract at a fee of around NZ $5000 per week. Looking at the current published rates of the Screen Actor's Guild of America (which is the gold standard to which NZ Equity aspires), the ...SAG weekly minimum for the same role and time commitment is NZ $3,800 per week. Therefore Wingnut Films pays NZ actor's approx $1,200 per week more than his (or her) US counterpart.”

How can we use The Hobbit as the bench mark for standard terms and condition for the rest of the NZ film industry? Not all productions can afford the generous rates that Wingnut already pay. If we set the standard and conditions too high then the likes for Boy, Second Hand Wedding, Number 2 and Sione's Wedding could not be made. Separation City's budget got blown out by 25% due to SAG members demands.

There has also been talk that actors rates and conditions on Auckland productions are often not good enough, perhaps this is where a lot of the energy in the scene up there is coming from.

Are there really that many actors out there that genuinely feel ripped off and dissatisfied by contractual negotiations between their agents and production companies.  Since when was it decided by equity that the pink books guidelines are considered unacceptable? Have equity members have actually read these guidelines?

Again I ask what is the problem here? What is it exactly that Equity wants?  It seems so unfair when the problem is so indistinguishable and the risks are so high and will effect so many.

 

Zelda Edwards

Actor/ Production Manger

 

Simon Smith

Actor/ Writer

Chaz Harris posted 5 Oct 2010, 04:14 PM / edited 5 Oct 2010, 04:21 PM
Ben Hawker posted 5 Oct 2010, 04:57 PM

A friend in Annandale, Sydney, just sent me this link. We were discussing our shared anger at the Hobbit being at risk. I was unaware that there was any connection between the Hobbit's woes and the loss of one of the biggest projects in Australasian film history - until this:

http://www.smh.com.au/news/film/mega-miller-movie-refused-rebate/2008/03/18/1205602383792.html

Anybody else see a pattern here?

This person either has absolutely no idea what damage his words and actions cause, or he simply doesn't care. Justice League was a fully union covered job. Top rates, best conditions plus residuals for all actors involved, fantastic crew rates and yet this man personally lobbies to have it struck down. Millions of dollars, thousands of jobs for hundreds of families over an accent?

This is me - extremely restrained: That short sighted, obstructive, posturing piece of SHIT.

We put our hearts and souls into that job, some of the best work we have ever done. A massive franchise helmed by a gifted, Australian director - we would have had incredibly satisfying, fun work for years on multiple films from this property. Now I find out today, the same man that has driven a wedge into our film community is the same man that cost my colleagues and countless other Australians their livelihoods two years ago?!

This same man never even bothered consulting the NZ actors he represented before blacklisting the most generous filmmaker in the country, and for WHAT? All we have worked for, the brightest opportunity we had to look forward to - all put at risk on the whim of this ... Person.

Lets see him try and build something for once, lets see him CREATE. That's all we in this industry know how to do, it's why thousands of us are lining up to be heard in a desperate effort to have this vile dissembler cast out.

FUCK I'm angry.

 

Michael Smythe posted 5 Oct 2010, 05:19 PM / edited 5 Oct 2010, 05:35 PM

Does anyone really believe the Beehive summit involving Peter, Fran, Chris and Gerry and some of Gerry's officials was really about mediating between parties in an industrial dispute? Surely it was about the producers asking the Government to increase the tax rebate to match competing countries.

It is worth noting that most New Zealand trade unions are clued up participants in building a stronger economy - the ham-fisted militant image has not applied for many years. In this instance both the Council of Trade Unions and Actors Equity have been extremely polite and relentlessly constructive. The requested face-to-face chat was always going to be the best forum for discussing all the macro and micro issues. It is a pity that never happened so the mutual respect and fellowship that characterises our film industry could have tackled its common goals together.

It would be sad if far more powerful forces were able to turn the underdogs into scapegoats.

Yvette Reid posted 5 Oct 2010, 05:20 PM

Wow Ben!

That is ridiculous!

 

Yvette Reid posted 5 Oct 2010, 05:43 PM

Equity members saying that if Hobbit moves it wont be because of what they have done are delusional!! You are NOT a scapegoat! You all know damn well that Peter always endeavours to shoot in New Zealand. Why would he have started pre-production here otherwise? It was all humming along in Wellington until the boycott happened. 

Stop saying actors are just a scapegoat. If you are going to support equity and their boycott - then the least you can do is take some responsibility.

Michael Smythe posted 5 Oct 2010, 06:01 PM / edited 5 Oct 2010, 06:31 PM

For the record, Yvette, I am not an equity member - I was commenting as a detached observer. My field is design. The draft text of a book I am writing includes the following:

"New Zealand does not have any more brilliant designers per square metre that any other country, and many of our creative people shrink from seeking heroic status. Our secret weapon is our capacity for interdisciplinary teamwork. It is so secret – so embedded in our egalitarian heritage, our intimate scale, and our intrinsic versatility – that many of us fail to recognise it. Evidence of its existence can be found in our internationally successful film industry where cross-disciplinary collaboration is the norm."

I hope it doesn't turn out to be an obsolete view.

Nic Farra posted 5 Oct 2010, 07:46 PM

 This is a polemical debate. 'Moderating' it is censorship, plain and simple. The author of the thread set the tone and people have responded as they have seen fit. I don't see why any sensible person would have any difficulty with this.

The 'Editorial' (why that needed to be cloaked in such a way John, is beyond me) is the worst sort of mealy-mouthed hand wringing. No one who's ever listened to Parliament or read Hansard could believe for a moment that it is inappropriate to insult a government minister etc, that is the stuff of parliament. To value inquisitorial methods over adversarial is weird to say the least. Adversarial justice is an affront to justice and has nothing to do guilt or innocence. Inquisitorial justice... frankly Tomás de Torquemada springs to mind.

Roy's link was to a MEAA site, membership required to read more than the first couple of sentences. Thanks for that, Roy. Contributed to the debate no end. John Smythe's link to Chris Trotter's opinion piece in the The Press... dear oh dear! Chris is well known for his romantic yearnings for Blackball '08 and the IWW. I think we can leave it at that.

Quite apart from the Equity Club not being a registered union, or not even an incorporated society, here are some things I'd like to see the club members respond to:

  • Trade Unionism is a division of workers that sets the employed against the unemployed. In many places, such as the US & the UK, you cannot get work without a union card. How would they regard the unity of all workers, whether employed, unemployed or self employed?
  • That same form of Trade Unionism relies on a closed shop to operate which of necessity depends on parliamentary action to make gains for the workers. The leadership become of primary importance. They have the power to expel a member, and hence deprive them of a job. It seems quite clear that the overwhelming majority of New Zealand actors reject the closed shop. How does the club see its role in the light of that?
  • Implicit in this arrangement is State intervention. So used to that role are the current crowd of clowns in the Beehive that they immediately got involved. The CTU also got into it. Does anyone remember how well Equity was looked after by the NDU? Does anyone want the State with all its attendant authoritarianism and bureaucracy involved? If so, WHY??

Employers do not create work. People in coordinated groups create work. Capitalists like Warners have money which buys scads of gizmos, but the lack of same doesn't prevent films from being made. Films get made because people want them to get made. If The Hobbit goes off-shore because Warners decide to do that, does anyone imagine for a moment they'll lose sleep over the jobs they axe? The sad fact of commercial film making is that commercial interests apply. Those with the good fortune to ride the gravy train may work as hard as they can to make it as good as they can but even a finished film does not represent a commitment on the part of the capitalists to release it. If it makes more commercial sense to leave it on the shelf, on the shelf it will stay.

Some may find my opinion extreme I challenge anyone to find the individual's interests at the hearts of any of these gangs of rogues. Freedom's always preferable to tyranny and tyranny is what's on offer here. Name your poison.

Yvette Reid posted 5 Oct 2010, 07:55 PM

Oh sorry, in that case let me correct myself.

People saying that if Hobbit moves it wont be because of what Equity has done are delusional! Actors are NOT a scapegoat! Some of you have very convenient imaginations...

Corin Havers posted 5 Oct 2010, 08:20 PM

Yvette, I sympathise, this situation is tough enough without having to wrangle silly misreadings; and thanks for the support. However, I also support Roy Billing's right to express  himself as he wishes - I do wish the Editor would stop deciding on everyone's behalf what is and isn't offensive; I for one rarely agree. (Some great posts and links here, great reading, thanks to all.)

Dane Giraud posted 5 Oct 2010, 10:00 PM / edited 6 Oct 2010, 07:07 AM

Nic, I agree. Which is why I found Mick Rose's post so laughable. A power union does not equate to powerful actors... A powerful union is a power union! 

 Ed's call for calm and civility normally always coincides with the opposing view gaining an upper-hand. 

 

Roy Billing posted 5 Oct 2010, 10:27 PM / edited 5 Oct 2010, 10:42 PM

That link I posted was to an industry newsletter Screenhub...not an MEAA site Nic! It is a subscription only site and I believe the link may not have worked.

So here's the article and Screenhub's address for any comment...

Is The Hobbit actually at risk? Is NZ Equity really running a crash and burn strategy that could pay off? Will the terror in tinytown create decent conditions for other NZ actors? Only Gandalf knows the answers, but here is some evidence...

The big problem for the two film beast that is the LOTR prequel is actually gettting it financed. Owned jointly by Warner and MGM, it is entangled in the hideous slow motion mess that has engulfed MGM over at least the last decade. One figure will suffice: "As of mid-2009, MGM had US$3.7 billion in debt, and interest payments alone totalled $250 million a year."

Both parties desperately need The Hobbit to hit the world's screens in December 2012 - and it will be an evil moment in LA if the first film flops. At the moment, the New York Times reckons they are about to sign a deal which enables Warner to lend MGM its half on terms that will satisfy the creditors, who have now delayed the axe several times.

With that issue resolved, and the clock ticking on delivery, the main spotlight switches to the current Equity dispute.

On Sunday, Actors' Equity posted a statement that said “Helen Kelly, CTU President has met with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh and we are hopeful that a meaningful dialogue between Equity, SPADA, and Three Foot Seven can be established.” The Council of Trade Unions is the peak organisation for New Zealand Unions.

On NZ breakfast television this morning, Prime Minister John Key said that he was hopeful of a resolution, that the government was prepared to facilitate discussions, and that it was “a wider dispute between actors and producers and that'' where the debate should be held,” referring to Friday's offer by SPADA to meet with NZ Actors' Equity.

Behind all this is the instruction by the international federation of actors Unions, FIA, that members should not work on the films.

Equity president Jennifer Ward-Lealand argued on two NZ talk shows over the weekend that there was no boycott in place, although the argument is about semantics. Of the FIA members, the SAG and AFTRA notices issued last weekend require, to all intents and purposes, a boycott of the production by their members.

MEAA and NZ Equity are in close alignment - the Equity website says that "NZ Actors' Equity is an autonomous part of the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance and is the industrial and professional organisation representing performers who work in New Zealand's entertainment industries."

The contact point for the FIA action is Simon Whipp, from the MEAA.

However, this situation has become embroiled in some Australia v NZ nastiness. Sir Peter Jackson referrred publically to Australian bullying. Whipp is a known crusader.

Now Phillipa Boyens, a writer on The Hobbit and a long term script collaborator with the Jackson team, and a co-producer on several projects, had a substantial interview on NZ radio in which she suggested that some elements of NZ Equity figured the threat to take The Hobbit offshore is a bluff.

She claimed that MGM is running the numbers on moving the project to five or six countries, - Scotland, Ireland, Canada and Eastern European countries with Australia "making a huge play for this production."

MEAA and NZ Equity are clearly backing off from any suggestion of Australian involvement. According to The Australian, the role of MEAA is irrelevant, and "New Zealand Actors Equity is a fully separate entity (to the MEAA) with 598 members and an elected board that drives policy.

Meanwhile, Chaz Harris, an actor and filmmaker, has started an online petition, which says

"By signing this petition, I confirm that I do not support MEAA/New Zealand Actors' Equity in their international boycott of "The Hobbit" film production.

Furthermore, I request that this boycott be removed and rescinded immediately to avoid more damage to New Zealand's reputation internationally as a film-friendly and flexible place to make films."

The online petition against the boycott was signed by over 1,800 people on Monday morning. Names included a significant number of both producers and directors outside the WETA empire. Several hundred crew members have signed as well.



 

Over the 100+ actors who signed, 65 claimed to be from Wellington, perhaps encouraged by the petition's statement that "**When signing this petition, please include a comment stating your involvement in the New Zealand Film community below along with your location** i.e. : "I am an ACTOR from WELLINGTON"

That line about "a film-friendly and flexible place to make films" is intriguing, hinting as it does that collective action and industry contracts is inherently somehow inflexible and film unfriendly.

At the moment, the situation seems to look like this: Equity, supported and advised by MEAA, has found significant leverage in its campaign to create industry-wide agreements for actors. Everyone seems to now agree that this can only happen if IR legislation is changed.

The government is now paying attention. Sir Peter Jackson is now talking to NZ Equity. The Council of Trade Unions is mediating.

It seems from here that the members of NZ Equity are staunch.

On the down side for Equity is the fact that the strategy puts its members at odds with the industry.

The Hobbit

folks are incensed. The petition is a lightning rod which collects and focuses the anti-Equity energy, which will be felt personally by members.

Sir Peter Jackson is being asked to sign a collective agreement. In Australia, international productions do that anyway, and it works, with wages remaining under control and the cost of local production still tightly constrained by budgets.

It is unlikely that any payments will make much difference to the budget - indeed, the production may well be paying the teeniest little Smaug egg more than the contracts will require.

However, he still has the problem of the IR legislation. He is remaining staunch on his side with SPADA, which knows this is the thin edge of the wedge, even if it is possible. To make matters worse, we understand that the deal has to be signed with New Line, which has carriage of the production. How they would jump is unknown.

Looming in the background is the possibility that the international actors, like Geoffrey Rush and Cate Blanchett, will adhere to their SAG rules and decline to be in the show. That really would create a problem for the film. They are keeping schtum, at least in public.

The question of tax law is intriguing.

The Standard

is a blog continuation of an old Labour newspaper in New Zealand, and questions that choice to be a contractor rather than an employee.

Change that, and the whole problem goes away.

Meanwhile, SPAA continues to point out, with some determination, that this has nothing to do with Australian conditions and contracts.

David Tiley
David Tiley is the editor of Screenhub, and can be contacted at editor@screenhub.com.au. or 03 9690 6893.

editor@screenhub.com.au
http://www.screenhub.com.au

Editor posted 6 Oct 2010, 02:40 PM
Editor posted 7 Oct 2010, 01:55 PM
Editor posted 7 Oct 2010, 05:36 PM / edited 7 Oct 2010, 05:41 PM

Another Meeting of Wellington Actors has been called by Wellington actors for next Monday, 11/10, to discuss the Hobbit situation [more]
[Apologies - the news item did not display fully at first - fixed now -ed.]

Nic Farra posted 7 Oct 2010, 06:01 PM

  Thanks for the post Roy. It does clear a few things up. I still find the question of representation an important one.  An organisation that is neither a union, nor an incorporated society and which does not have the support of actors in New Zealand operates how? To me the 'national' committee of this tenuous body acts as a crowd of oligarchs on behalf of a membership that pays for, someone said a magazine I think. Not much value for money. I pay less for insurance.

The award system in this country does not exist. The Labour Government of the 80's removed all power from the union movement. There haven't been many strikes since then, but show me a country with no strikes and I'll show you one without freedom. Gordon Campbell is living in Cloud Cuckoo Land when he believes that unions are finally able to do what unions do elsewhere in the work force. Thanks to the government with the connivance of union leadership, workers have no means of holding out for anything.
 
NZ Equity may be staunch, but they are also tardy in their record keeping and misguided in their estimation of support. I don't believe David Tiley has heard a dicky bird from either Cate Blanchett or Geoffrey Rush. He is mischief making. That kind of lie being out is more of a lightning rod for anti-union sentiment than anything even I could dream up.
John Smythe posted 7 Oct 2010, 06:43 PM

Nic, as the 'publisher' of this site I have to caution you against making unsubtantiated claims against named persons as it could put me in the proverbial as well you.

As I understand it there is, in principle, a solidarity between English-speaking actor unions although it may well surprise many international members to discover how our (anti) labour laws work. Other commentators have indicated the current posturing is standard, and expected, and a minor issue compared with the financing issues for the studios involved. It comforts me to think that's so.

Personally I think it's important the actors avoid fighting publicly between themselves as this simply plays into the age-old 'divide and rule' strategy which may or may not be part of the game plan here. 

Nic Farra posted 7 Oct 2010, 08:02 PM

 A certain editor of a certain industry newsletter bandies names in an unsubstantiated manner. I don't subscribe to this newsletter, I read it on this site. The wording of the paragraph I refer to is this:

"Looming in the background is the possibility that the international actors, like Geoffrey Rush and Cate Blanchett, will adhere to their SAG rules and decline to be in the show. "

As a one-time member of the yellow press, I fully understand the technique of conflating a name with suggestive words like 'possibly' or 'could', and these are admissible as arguments. However they contain not one gram of fact, rather they insinuate. The only other name I mentioned was a certain reporter who believes somewhat romantically in his opinion piece that unions have teeth in this country.

As to dividing and ruling, I am personally opposed to any form of rule at all, whether it be by religious, political, financial or ideological masters. Dissent is an important thing to maintain. It challenges dominant paradigms, it propounds better ways of doing things, it can even stir people out of their complacency to act.

I am unafraid of names. Why should I be? There they are, posted in this public forum, claiming what they claim with nothing to back any of it up. Let them defend their own notions. I don't see why anyone should take this as read, especially when a vital question of representation is central to this debate. I say Equity is not a union. It is not even an incorporated society. The poor folk who've handed their hard-earned folding in good faith could quite seriously ask what is being done with their money. I certainly would be. 

This informal club has the stated support of 598 people. People other than me have opined this is a small percentage of actors in New Zealand. To me, and I think to any logical person, this is a minority forcing its will upon a majority and it is they who need to justify what they mean by it and how they presume to make other people's decisions for them.

Dane Giraud posted 7 Oct 2010, 08:12 PM / edited 7 Oct 2010, 08:16 PM

I have to ask why anyone would trust an organisation to represent their interests that has created such a PR disaster for themselves?!? And one needs to be careful in blaming the media for it. They're an easy target. I mean, there are actors out there still telling people there was never a boycott. 

Whether or not Equity has a case is almost another issue. This has been bad, bad, bad for the image of actors, who's lives, for more the most part, are supported by the taxpayer in this country.

I tend to feel that those who have a sincere case don't need to resort to smoke and mirrors.  

nik smythe posted 8 Oct 2010, 10:31 PM

I agree with you Dane:  I don't personally understand why Equity saw fit to attach this cause to a specific production.  The producers only need to know what's legally required of them.  There are two distinct issues here:  1) The professionalism and conduct of Equity, and other parties, in the raising and addressing of this matter. 2) The rights of actors.  There's some evidence that the beaurocratic bottom line as it stands can use an overhaul, which could have been attended to quietly through the appropriate channels.  No-one had to be the villain in this story.

 

Editor posted 9 Oct 2010, 12:56 PM

Today's Dominion Post carries the following item (pA3):
Hobbit Contract dispute stalls
Attempts by the Council of Trade Unions to settle a dispute between The Hobbit producers and actors' unions over a collective contract have failed, according to industry sources. CTU director Helen Kelly met Sir Peter Jackson and his film-maker wife, Fran Walsh, last week in an attempt to resolve the issue, but could not confirm whether her attempt had stalled. NZ Actors' Equity wants to meet film producers Three Foot Seven but Sir Peter has so far refused, saying they need to meet the Screen Production and Development Association. Spada chief executive Penelope Borland said yesterday that several attempts to contact NZ Actors' Equity to resolve the dispute had met with “absolutely no response”.  
- - - - - - -
The following have also just been added to
HOBBIT hooha – all the links
Fri 8 October, 2010
Hobbit makers 'still waiting' on MGM deal, NZ Herald
Thur 7 October, 2010
Canadian union backs NZ actors over Hobbit, NZ Herald
Wed 6 October, 2010
Jackson Hobbit deal close – report, Stuff website 6/10
Sam Neill calls for calm, NZ Herald

Dane Giraud posted 9 Oct 2010, 01:26 PM

 PJ is basically this generations Ed Hillary... He's untouchable! So if you want to go after him you gotta have a damn good reason! DAMN good... P.R. nightmare! Learn how to pick your battles guys. 

Editor posted 10 Oct 2010, 11:41 AM

Sun 10 October, 2010
NZ film stuck in muddle earth, Sunday Star Times
Disney abandons Auckland film studio, Sunday Star Times
(The latter may or may not be relevant to the Hobbit situation.)

Editor posted 12 Oct 2010, 02:49 PM / edited 12 Oct 2010, 03:19 PM
Editor posted 12 Oct 2010, 10:38 PM
Editor posted 12 Oct 2010, 10:40 PM
CALLS FOR CALM ON THE HOBBIT
Tuesday, 12 October 2010

NZ Equity has called on the makers of the feature film The Hobbit to resolve the industrial issues surrounding the film through private good faith discussions.

“We want to see this film shot in New Zealand,” said Actors' Equity New Zealand President Jennifer Ward-Lealand. “We believe the best way to do this is to sit downcalmly and talk. ”Over the last few weeks there has been a high level of interest and emotion in the issues surrounding the engagement of performers on the production.

“We have chosen, in a deliberate decision, to avoid the media fray on this. Negative comments don't serve the primary objective of seeing the production made in NewZealand,” said Ms Ward-Lealand.

“We want to see this film produced in New Zealand,” said Simon Whipp, Director of the Actors' Equity Section of the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance of which NZEquity is a branch. “We have chosen not to discuss this matter extensively in the media. We believe discussing the terms and conditions for the engagement of performers with the producers in a calm and reasonable manner will be more productive. Media speculation will only serve the interests of those who seek to lure the production from New Zealand,” said Mr Whipp.
Corin Havers posted 12 Oct 2010, 11:39 PM

Calls for 'calm'?  Exactly who is panicing?  The only people likely to be in a panic are those who whipped up this storm in a teacup so unnecessarily in the first place, i.e. the little bunch in Auckland who regard themselves as having some sort of national mandate, quite unjustifiably as it turns out.  It's far too late and far too much damage has been done for 'Equity' to try to reassert its authority and sound like the voice of reason by calling for calm!  It would be much more appropriate for a call to go out for them to apologise for the PR disaster they have caused. 

Chaz Harris posted 13 Oct 2010, 06:45 AM

Totally agree Corin, they lost the right to keep what they want a secret a long time ago when they put everyone's jobs on the line.

They now owe it to the crews and others in the industry to tell everyone what was so important that it was worth taking this action for. If they can't prove that, I fear they will find life on a film set very hard in the coming months or even years...

Dane Giraud posted 13 Oct 2010, 07:48 AM

I have to ask the question again... Why would a group of professionals want this organisation representing their interests? 

Editor posted 13 Oct 2010, 09:29 AM / edited 13 Oct 2010, 09:32 AM

Screen production talks mean fresh hope for Hobbit, Radio NZ, Morning Report

NINE-TO-NOON
09:30The union dispute between actors and the producers of The Hobbit
Greg Ellis, Wellington actor - not a member of an actors union; Graham Dunster, long time actors agent, and head of Auckland Actors (agency) www.aucklandactors.co.nz

Editor posted 13 Oct 2010, 01:20 PM
Zelda Edwards posted 13 Oct 2010, 03:04 PM / edited 13 Oct 2010, 11:00 PM
Any other actors wanting to sign their name to this statement, please go to 14-16 Allen St, Level 3, Dermalogica Building between 9am - 7pm Wed 13 Oct or email zeldapants@gmail.com by 7pm, including your phone number and name of your agent for verification that you are an actor.
Editor posted 14 Oct 2010, 02:33 PM
Hobbit meeting held in Wellington, TVNZ Best Media site

Statement on behalf of SPADA, Actors' Equity and CTU

The Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA), Actors' Equity, and Council of Trade Unions representatives met today, in a meeting facilitated by Minister for Economic Development Gerry Brownlee.

It was a useful and productive discussion.

The parties have agreed to work together to update the conditions of engagement for performers in the New Zealand screen production industry.

The parties believe this process will help to ensure New Zealand remains an attractive screen production environment.

No further comment will be made. 

SPADA
Actors' Equity
Council of Trade Unions

Michael Smythe posted 14 Oct 2010, 04:56 PM

Whew! Looks like I won't have to revise the concluding comment in my book on NZ design that says:

"Our secret weapon is our capacity for interdisciplinary teamwork. It is so secret – so embedded in our egalitarian heritage, our intimate scale, and our intrinsic versatility – that many of us fail to recognise it. Evidence of its existence can be found in our internationally successful film industry where cross-disciplinary collaboration is the norm."

Dane Giraud posted 14 Oct 2010, 07:21 PM

Aren't all films made that way?

Chaz Harris posted 14 Oct 2010, 07:37 PM

@Dane - nope. In the UK, it's so unionised and regimented that people like the master carpenter would only move his toolbox and then sit down and watch everyone else hurry and struggle to move things in time for the next camera setup (even if it means he goes home later) because that means he gets more overtime for being on standby and "it's not in my job description".

Nobody would do anything unless it was specifically their job to do it, hence why I left the UK industry behind and moved to NZ because I didn't like that lack of passion to be there and the lessening team dynamic.

Editor posted 15 Oct 2010, 10:30 PM / edited 15 Oct 2010, 10:51 PM

An unofficial statement that was put up here (because it sounded too good to be kept secret) has been taken down because it contravened the terms of the ... whatever it was. And apparently it was innaccurate, incomplete and misleading. Apologies if anyone has been compromised by the premature articulation.

Editor posted 16 Oct 2010, 11:38 PM / edited 16 Oct 2010, 11:39 PM

Green lit but no decision on location:
Jackson to direct The Hobbit in 3-D, DomPost online

nik smythe posted 17 Oct 2010, 04:16 PM / edited 17 Oct 2010, 07:03 PM

The Herald On Sunday, bastion of journalistic integrity that it is, has a similar report (unfortunately requiring paid membership to read online).

It also mentions that the standard conditions for kiwi actors is under negotiation and review via Equity et al.  Plus it claims Martin Freeman to be hot favourite for the lead.

Editor posted 18 Oct 2010, 09:26 AM
Editor posted 19 Oct 2010, 03:17 PM

NZ Equity meetings, Wn 20/10; Ak 21/10 [more]

Editor posted 20 Oct 2010, 10:12 PM / edited 20 Oct 2010, 10:22 PM

(As advised via Facebook)  
Wellington Equity meeting cancelled

Sorry to all of you that tried to attend our meeting in Wellington tonight to discuss terms and conditions on minimum standard contracts given recent progress with SPADA. At 5 pm today a mtg was called at Stone St, for technicians. Following the meeting we had info that our meeting was going to be descended upon and disrupted by an angry mob. We had no desire to expose our members to this.

We will reschedule the meeting when we are confident we can meet safely. We are deeply saddened by this action given the promising progress made in the last few days.
John Smythe posted 20 Oct 2010, 10:23 PM

This is indeed sad – and counterproductive, if it is true that any whiff of industrial unrest will put the willies up the decision makers in LA and encourage them to take the production elsewhere.

A lot of effort has gone into redirecting the focus where it needs to be: on the Equity/Spada ‘Pink Book' in the short term and on NZ's labour laws in the longer term. Stirring up antagonism within our own film-making community now will get us nowhere.  

Corin Havers posted 20 Oct 2010, 10:29 PM

 I presume this advice was also passed on to Mr Whipp?

Welly Watch posted 20 Oct 2010, 10:42 PM

It seems the technicians took their placards to parliament and they have made it a personal vendetta against Simon Whipp. As John says, this is totally counterproductive.  Coming up of TV3 Nightline.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tG7mTlCQbg0&feature=player_embedded

Editor posted 20 Oct 2010, 11:07 PM / edited 20 Oct 2010, 11:12 PM

Wednesday 20 October, 2010
Taylor says film industry 'at peril', TVNZ Best Media site
One News Update
TV3 Nightline

Dane Giraud posted 21 Oct 2010, 07:03 AM / edited 21 Oct 2010, 07:10 AM

Oh! So it's all the technicians fault! Ah, I see! 

I understand the partisan nature of the acting community but come on! 

 

 

Welly Watch posted 21 Oct 2010, 07:54 AM

I have to ask (ask yourselves, ask each other):
- why has ALL the headline-grabbing panic-mongering and demonising of unions in general and actors equity in particular come from Miramar?
- what ‘muscle' has equity had when they have always known (and said) that all NZ's labour laws allow them to do is make a series of NON-BINDING recommendations to actors to bring their CONDITIONS in line with international standards?
- didn't I hear Robyn Malcolm just say on Morning Report that the so-called boycott had already been lifted but they had been sworn to secrecy about announcing it – so all the current meetings are/were supposed to be about was the ‘pink book' which again only involves non-binding recommendations?
- where, then, is the actual industrial instability – and who has created the PERCEPTION of it and why?
- who is manipulating whom in this scenario and why?
- could it be that Warners has crunched the tax-incentive numbers and wants it to go elsewhere and a scapegoat (Australian-led Actors Equity) has to be found so the gods of NZ film are not seen as weak and compliant?
Seriously before you start smashing windows, rounding actors up and trucking them off to concentration camps, think these questions through. 

Dane Giraud posted 21 Oct 2010, 08:18 AM

Your allusion to the Holocaust (Why?!?) is absolutely disgraceful. 

Jason Smith posted 21 Oct 2010, 08:19 AM

THe demonising has not come from Miramar - it's been a national effort.

They were sworn to secrecy about having already lifted a boycott?? WTF?? So they were just 'acting'?? Well that approach turned out well, didn't it. Instability IS a perception.

Warners don't need scapegoats. If it was a case of the numbers simply not working, they wouldn't bother engineering all this. I doubt they even could. 

Good one Actors Equity. Everybody saw this coming except you guys.

 
Corin Havers posted 21 Oct 2010, 08:33 AM

 I'm amused at Helen Kelly's attempt to convince us that an actors' boycott wouldn't influence the big studios.  If that's the case, why on earth have one then? What was the point of it?  And yes, why on earth keep it a 'secret' once it's lifted!?  If they had let everybody know then they would probably have avoided yesterday's confrontations. Yet another example of 'Equity' handling everything in the worst way possible. 

Jason Smith posted 21 Oct 2010, 08:38 AM

Agreed. The whole thing reads as a 'how to' of what not to do. If only they had tried to interface with their own actual industry, rather than going it alone, as possibly the most expendable sector of a film production.

Welly Watch posted 21 Oct 2010, 08:56 AM

Dane:  Last night's march was very redolent – I make no apology for the analogy
Jason:  Don't let a few facts, rational questions and logically extrapolated answers get in the way of a good lynch mob, eh? And what? Actors are the “the most expendable sector of a film production” -? Bang goes your credibility, mate.
Corin:  Wasn't some optimistic statement about things getting resolved pulled from these very pages because of an injunction on the participants not to divulge the terms on which talks were proceeding?

This has all turned very nasty indeed, it is not the way the creative community works in NZ and from where I stand it is not Equity that has been stirring it up.  If there was ever any muscle in their actions it was from the British Equity, SAG and Australian MEAA members.  Let's see how they respond to being asked to work in a country that offers worse conditions than what was apparently on offer here.  All the previous analogies to feudalism, kings of castles, forelock-tugging serfs etc etc apply.  

Jason Smith posted 21 Oct 2010, 09:19 AM

Welly Watch dude! They are! When things were humming along in this country, (I hope I don't have to use that in the past tense forever) the techs struggle to keep up with demand. Still, there are no end of actors each lining up for roles. There's a whole department (casting) to cater to the fact that often, any number of people can fill the acting roles.

Dane Giraud posted 21 Oct 2010, 09:27 AM

Let me get this straight... a march by some technicians over possibly losing work on a big budget film took you back to Hitlers Germany?!? I believe there is a name for this syndrome. At some point in every argument someone brings up Nazi's. Any allusions to serfs, Nazi's is COMPLETELY  irrevelant in this debate, unintellectual and cheap.

From where you are standing eh?... I fear you may not have the best view.  

Editor posted 21 Oct 2010, 09:33 AM / edited 21 Oct 2010, 10:09 AM

Hobbit looks headed offshore, DomPost Online-updated from print edition
- Radio NZ National -  
The Hobbit moves offshore, Morning Report 06:10
Jackson says Warners coming to NZ to decide Hobbit fate, Morning Report 06:37
Warner Brothers heading to NZ to decide Hobbits fate, Morning Report, 07:10
Warner Brothers heading to NZ to decide Hobbits fate #2, Morning Report, 07:14
[At the end of this clip re earthquake co-ordination Gerry Brownlee is asked about tax incentives for The Hobbit], Morning Report, 07:28
[Nine to Noon – still to come]  

Michael Smythe posted 21 Oct 2010, 09:45 AM / edited 21 Oct 2010, 10:05 AM

There is something fishy going on here.

Fran and Philippa championed the collaboration for which the New Zealand film industry has become known. Then they turned every opportunity to demonstrate that into a chance to polarise the industry.They seem to have gone out of their way to turn this into a highly dramatic public spectacle from the start.

Why?

Jason Smith posted 21 Oct 2010, 09:53 AM

 nothing fishy. it's as simple as it first appears. the boat got rocked too much = instability = bye bye Hobbit

Welly Watch posted 21 Oct 2010, 09:57 AM

Last week Philippa Boyens went on radio to re-ignite the anti-actors feeling when strenuous efforts had been made to defuse the hysteria. Today she and Lady Fran Walsh (to distinguish her for NZ Equity's Fran Walsh) go on radio to do the same, insisting that any perception that discussions on actors' terms and conditions progressing well are a myth. Why?

And honestly, do we really believe that Richard Taylor in his “modest little model making workshop” also decided completely off his own bat to stir up last night's march? 

I have to ask (ask yourselves/ ask each other): would a huge enterprise like this (the biggest film budget ever!) really allow its major players – Boyens, Walsh and Taylor – to ‘independently' run off to the media at such a delicate stage in proceedings? If this is not a carefully managed strategy then those people are certainly behaving extremely unprofessionally and destructively. If it is a carefully managed strategy, sadly this is what ‘being professional' in the film industry has come to.

Jason: who has been doing the rocking? Who has stirred up the storm? I too smell a rat.

Editor posted 21 Oct 2010, 10:41 AM / edited 21 Oct 2010, 11:30 AM
Jason Smith posted 21 Oct 2010, 10:44 AM

This isn't a dig at you personally Welly Watch, but has anyone else noticed that it's never actual professional people who say "oh.. be PROFESSIONAL! That's not PROFESSIONAL!" I've encountered it a few times when people (who may not be exactly sure what the word entails) don't like how a situation isn't going their way.

Who's been rocking the boat? I'd say actors equity. And before I hear any claims that the media sensationalised the whole thing, nobody FORCED certain high profile actors to drive to TV3 and sit down to an interview with John Campbell, as one example.

Welly Watch posted 21 Oct 2010, 11:28 AM / edited 21 Oct 2010, 11:35 AM
OK, so, despite all the information (well documented here) that there were delays because Warners was working to extract The Hobbit from MGM's ‘bankruptcy black hole', Philippa and Fran say the decision to green light The Hobbit was delayed a week because of the ‘actors boycott'. 

Helen says NZ Equity had advised Warners they had lifted the ‘don't sign contract' (not that any were on offer) instruction on Sunday 16 (NZ time?) and on Saturday 15 (LA Time) Warners announced The Hobbit was green lit, but they have not released the agreed announcement that NZ Equity has lifted the ‘don't sign' order.

The following SAG Member alert appears to still be in place (as from September 24):
http://www.sag.org/hot-news/Member%20Alert 
"The makers of feature film The Hobbit – to be shot in New Zealand next year – have refused to engage performers on union-negotiated agreements.

"Members of Canadian Actors Equity, US Actors Equity, the Screen Actors Guild, UK Actors Equity, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (Australia) and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists are advised not to accept work on this non-union production."

(Note no mention of NZ Equity)

So if NZ Equity was responsible for the hold up in it being green lit, how come it was green lit when all the other unions have a ‘no work' alert in place?

Meanwhile …

NZ Equity is attempting to go through a process of consultation with its members regarding forthcoming negotiations with Spada on the Pink Book, which has no bearing on The Hobbit because no matter what is agreed, NZ employment laws do not allow it to stand as a binding collective agreement where actors are hired as contractors.

Warners is coming to NZ next week – to talk about moving the production elsewhere (where?) and/or to talk to the NZ government about a better tax deal if it remains in NZ. 

If it goes to Eastern Europe for a better exchange rate and tax deal, and non-union bit part actors and extras, how will the above-mentioned unions react to that? If it goes to Hollywood … will that have been SAG's goal all along?

(And Jason, Equity was dragged very reluctantly into the media spotlight well after Sir Peter, Spada et al had stirred up the media with inflammatory statements designed to turn the whole of NZ against an actors union that was simply doing its job within the adversarial system we are saddled with for better or worse.)

Jason Smith posted 21 Oct 2010, 11:37 AM

All I know is that equity caused a fuss, and immediately had the entire industry coming down hard on them saying 'noooo nooooo! - don't do this! it'll end badly and we'll all lose our jobs'. But they knew better, and saw it as some kind of challenge. I can just picture a bunch of them in a room; geeing each other up to fight for their rights.... and here we are. Real jobs lost - as opposed to no longer getting an audition. Selfish, ill advised, and extremely poorly timed.

john bach posted 21 Oct 2010, 11:37 AM

so glad you see thing clearly Welly Watch, and can put them down so clearly. thanks.

Editor posted 21 Oct 2010, 01:58 PM / edited 21 Oct 2010, 02:07 PM
Editor posted 21 Oct 2010, 02:09 PM / edited 21 Oct 2010, 02:10 PM
Editor posted 21 Oct 2010, 02:54 PM

This from a Facebook posting:

NZ Equity advised Warners on Sunday (their time) that they had asked the Screen Actors Guild to lift any “don't work” orders in place. A statement had been prepared by Equity but Warners asked to control the time of the release and delayed several days. Wingnut were aware of this and had control of that press release when they met with Technicians last night but failed to pass on this information. Why would they not let NZ crew know? Why didn't Sir Richard tell them? Did he not know either? Why would they tell them otherwise? I don't understand. :-(

Jason Smith posted 21 Oct 2010, 03:05 PM

that radio interview with Phillipa and Fran says that the removal of the boycott has been talked about for the past month, but it's been just that - no ACTUAL clear authoritative removal ever took place, up until at least this morning. Is it still on their website? Seems, at best, like a case of gross mismanagement.

Editor posted 21 Oct 2010, 05:23 PM / edited 21 Oct 2010, 05:51 PM

Jason: see the link 2 above + NZ ACTORS' EQUITY NEWSLETTER [more]

Corin Havers posted 21 Oct 2010, 06:33 PM

 Robyn Malcolm is reported as saying she 'could not believe that a request for a discussion around conditions like overtime, penalty rates and transport was enough to derail a multi-million dollar movie project.'   If these were the things equity wanted resolved, why didn't they say so in the first place in their generous media interview opportunities, instead of rambling on about nudity clauses etc?  And isn't it time Robyn and others faced up to the fact that rather than overtime, rates and transport, it was actually the international actors' boycott that caused the derailment? At least they seem to have given up trying to deny there was one.  

Representatives of equity have been shifty, evasive and inarticulate all the way through this disaster, and I no longer trust any excuses they try to spin, including the whitewash in the newsletter cited above.

Dane Giraud posted 21 Oct 2010, 08:39 PM

This is a side issue obviously but this whole mess has really demonstrated to me the lack of leaders in the acting community. Not that actor need to be cohesive or like minded or anything like that but, honestly, where were the kaumatua?! 

James Mason posted 21 Oct 2010, 08:43 PM

"Equity was dragged very reluctantly into the media spotlight well after Sir Peter, Spada et al had stirred up the media with inflammatory statements designed to turn the whole of NZ against an actors union that was simply doing its job within the adversarial system we are saddled with for better or worse"

Sorry, I had to register just to say this but:

I'm sorry, but that is patently ridiculous. You were expecting zero media coverage after calling an international boycott of the Hobbit? That's either ludicrously naive or flat out dishonest. Of COURSE it was going to come out in the media.

My god, you put so many people's jobs on the line with this and yet you take no responsibilty at all. No responsibility for making clear demands. No responsibility for the damage this might cause to the industry. My God, you wouldn't even wear the fact that it was a boycott in public. You couldn't even be honest about the money in case peolple thought you were greedy actors.

And I don't care how much this took you by surprise, it's no excuse for fudging the truth about it "not being a boycott" (The Nation) or falsely claiming to "have never asked for a collective bargain" (The Nation) or pretending it wasn't about money (campbell live), when it was in large part about residuals, which is *very clearly* money.

I can't understand for the life of me why an AE meber would accept all that as reasonable behaviour on their behalf and not take ANY responsibility for the rucus this is causing. It's NOT a media beat up. Nobody has been brainwahsed against you. This has been a terrible screw up, right from the legally dodgy way the MEAA put it together to begin with through the utterly irresponsible and incompetent way it's been carried out.

It's outrageous and I'm outraged. A lot of other people are too, and until you wake up and deal with that responsibly, you're going to destroy the good will of this industry.

But maybe you just don't care. Sure doesn't look like it so far.

Michael Smythe posted 21 Oct 2010, 09:10 PM / edited 21 Oct 2010, 09:12 PM

John must be out doing his 'real' job tonight. Close Up interviewed Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens then Helen Kelly and Gerry Brownlee. Campbell Live interviewed Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens then Robyn Malcolm and Tandi Wright.

On both programmes, especially Campbel Live, it was made clear that Actors Equity has offered the producers an unequivocal assurance that they will undertake no industrial action against the Hobbit production. They are willing to cooperate as usual to ensure the project is delivered on time and on budget.

This is great news for those seeking resolution and business as usual in the NZ film industry.

James Mason posted 21 Oct 2010, 09:31 PM

And we expect the studios to believe "trust us" from the unions, anymore than the unions would expect a "trust us" from the studios.

Just giving your word isn't good enough anymore.

Why are people STILL not grasping that? Arg!

Dane Giraud posted 21 Oct 2010, 09:50 PM

They are willing to cooperate as usual? Michael, did you just wake from a Coma! They were part of a worldwide boycott!!! They targeted this production when they had no legal or moral right too AT ALL!!! Wake up!

 

 

Michael Smythe posted 21 Oct 2010, 10:23 PM

Oh dear. How easily manipulated people have been. All the union advised its members to do was wait until a meeting had taken place before they signed any contracts. The high drama, polarisation and demonising has all come from the production side. Why did they not simply talk it through in the spirit of collaboration that characterises the industry?

Why are some people so keen to maximise divisions rather than seek resolution?

Dane Giraud posted 21 Oct 2010, 10:32 PM

 They simply advised people to wait!!! Hang on! This is a joke isn't it. Let me remind you that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit Michael. 

John Smythe posted 21 Oct 2010, 11:04 PM

I'm back now and about to work at collating the latest lot of links. Meanwhile there has been much discussion out in theatre land and everyone is asking the same question: why, every time assurances are made that negotiations are under way and The Hobbit is no longer a target, does it all get stirred up again? And with such venom?

And what's with this "we don't trust Equity" thing? Who in their right mind would go on national television and tell the world they will do nothing to disrupt production then turn back on their word? It is all deeply bewildering.

Editor posted 21 Oct 2010, 11:19 PM

Sir Peter Jackson speaks out, TV One Close Up
The Hobbit: Jackson and the actors speak out, TV3 Campbell Live
The Fellowship Union of the Ring, TV3 Nightline
NOTE: The Nightline clip is a welcome piece of satire.

Dane Giraud posted 21 Oct 2010, 11:22 PM

 What's with this 'We trust Equity" thing, John? 

nik smythe posted 22 Oct 2010, 12:15 AM

I'm glad to see PJ had the sense to advise the technicians to desist their demonstration.  It's clear that it will acheive little except strengthening the impression that we are an unstable industry to work in.  These Warners producers watching this dispute are probably far more disconcerted by the nature and behaviour of all the parties' inability to communicate or co-operate in a rational manner than by the details of any kind of policy being attempted to discuss.

This is also relevant to Mr. Brownlee's assertion that the alleged sole concern of the Hollywood bigwigs is the situation of the industrial dispute, which harks the question John tells us everyone's asking out there:  why all the venomous backlash whenever things start to look like they're proceeding more calmly and sensibly again?  Who the hell has anything to gain from this dramatisation?  No-one I can make out.

 

James Mason posted 22 Oct 2010, 12:46 AM / edited 22 Oct 2010, 12:48 AM

Michael and David, at the risk of being rude, are we really still not understanding this?

It's not whether you, or I, or the crew, or even Peter Jackson trusts Actor's Equity or not.

It's whether the Studio who are investing their 500 million dollars do. Is there any LEGAL GUARANTEE that they won't strike again half way through the film to 'renegotiate' their position?

No. So if you can't figure out why that's substantially increasing their risk factor in whether NZ is a good location then you need to go away and think about it some more.

Corin Havers posted 22 Oct 2010, 07:54 AM

 Exactly - it has been made absolutely clear that the producers have been heartened by the opposition to NZ  Equity, and the actors' and film workers' massive direct support for Peter Jackson, not 'disconcerted'.  

Editor posted 22 Oct 2010, 09:09 AM
Jason Smith posted 22 Oct 2010, 09:47 AM

that sound bite 'Disgruntled actors considering split from Equity' is great. Good on you Greg Ellis. I challenge any of you Equity supporters to listen to that and not see the sense in what he is saying.

Editor posted 22 Oct 2010, 10:06 AM
Jason Smith posted 22 Oct 2010, 10:21 AM

Hmm. Full respect to Ian Mune... but he seems to quite clearly know no more than the rest of us. He seems more interested in giving a performance than adding anything to the debate. That seems to be one of the issues here. The actors just don't have anyone in their camp who can give us a simple, undramatised account of what they want. At this stage, they're just trying to gloss over the fact that they are a major (if not the only) cause of this whole mess.

Sideline Sam posted 22 Oct 2010, 11:37 AM / edited 22 Oct 2010, 11:52 AM

Listen carefully to Gerry Brownlee on Close Up last night and all will become clear – it may begin to answer Ian Mune's niggle and the acting community's bewilderment.

The key factor is neither Michael's fish nor Welly Watch's rat but merely a fly in the ointment, ie: the case law created by the 2005 Supreme Court Bryson v Three Foot Six Ltd decision.

Here is a possible scenario: Warner Bros became aware of this precedent at the eleventh hour. When Actors Equity began attempts to find a way to collectively bargain despite New Zealand labour laws the case law became meaningful. The opportunity was seized to deploy a sophisticated PR campaign (think Crosby Textor tactics) to orchestrate a palpable sense of impending disaster. Its purpose was to create an environment in which a change to our labour laws could be rushed through overnight by a Government cast in the role of saviour.

Everyone has been stepping up and playing their part on cue but, like much spontaneously improvised theatre, the production is generating sound and fury signifying little relevant substance. And, like other imperialist exercises, the damage to local communities will finally be seen as sad but unavoidable ‘collateral'.

Remember, the fact that this is a conspiracy theory does not mean it hasn't hit the nail on the head.

Editor posted 22 Oct 2010, 12:32 PM

- Radio NZ National -
Emails contradict Warners on hobbit boycott, 12:15

Also has links to Gerry Brownlee and Greg Ellis on Morning Report

Jason Smith posted 22 Oct 2010, 01:05 PM

I think there's something to the notion that the Equity/union guys are more interested in being 'right' than keeping the Hobbit in NZ. 

Dane Giraud posted 22 Oct 2010, 01:33 PM

 Sounds good to me. Change employment laws so this crap can't happen again... And use the military to escort Mr Whipp back to Australia. 

Nobby posted 22 Oct 2010, 02:21 PM / edited 22 Oct 2010, 02:22 PM

You guys (Dane and Jason) are sounding like stuck records. Listen - respond - develop - pursue an objective - explore the options - act - react - arrive at a resolution changed by the experience ... Or should I assume you are not actors so don't know what I am talking about.

Chaz Harris posted 22 Oct 2010, 02:46 PM

it doesn't take an actor to recognise the unjust actions taken against a film with life-changing contracts and more than fair t's and c's (as has always been the case with that producer).

it does however take an idiot not to realise who caused the door to be opened for The Hobbit shooting elsewhere and an even bigger one not to front up and take responsibility for doing so.

that is all.

Editor posted 22 Oct 2010, 02:55 PM / edited 22 Oct 2010, 02:58 PM

Hobbit cast announced- Dominion Post online 
New Zealand to 'Fight Like Hell' for 'The Hobbit', The Hollywood Reporter (21 Oct LA time)

Sideline Sam posted 22 Oct 2010, 03:29 PM / edited 22 Oct 2010, 04:05 PM

Validation of the scenario I suggested (see above) can be found at the bottom of the DomPost article, ie:

Jackson said Warner Bros had noted some actors citing the court case of former Weta Workshop model maker James Bryson – deemed to be an employee, not a contractor. "Now they are saying: `What if an actor working on The Hobbit wakes up in the night and decides they are an employee, not an independent contractor, just like that other guy?"'

Does it really require such a heavy-handed union-bashiing onslaught to sort that out? The Kiwi film industry, actors included, has always understood it occupies one waka taking on the world. Let's hope the Kiwi culture of cooperation survives this weird wobble - but not yet methinks. It will be necessary to sustain dramatic action at the verge of the precipice until the government has promised to change the law. Then we can all get some sleep.

Grant Buist posted 22 Oct 2010, 03:37 PM

Positive news: if everything works out, in 2012 there's going to be a little action figure of Peter Hambleton.

Jason Smith posted 22 Oct 2010, 03:55 PM

Nobby I am really keen to hear an argument on the Equity side that stands up. I'm totally prepared to have my view on the matter altered, if someone will present a case NOT based on assumptions, conspiracy theories, character assassinations, or generic bleating about a lack of respect. The world isn't a level playing field, and I think it's totally logical that NZ actors need to 'drive to the conditions'. Why is the Hobbit not filmed in LA or the UK? Because the terms and conditions actors have in those countries effectively prohibits it. So why oh why would we want t's and c's here that would rule us out too? It's lunacy. The LACK of union strife is our point of difference. Why is that so hard to see?

Editor posted 22 Oct 2010, 04:13 PM / edited 22 Oct 2010, 04:17 PM

On the latest stage of The Hobbit drama, Gordon Campbell on Scoop
Jackson's Wounded Pride
, Christ Trotters ‘Bowalley Road' blog

nik smythe posted 22 Oct 2010, 06:23 PM / edited 22 Oct 2010, 06:28 PM

So, according to Equity detractors (including Sir Pete) today the critical issue for our Hollywood benefactors is concern for whether the actors might pull some dirty trick like this halfway through the $500 million shoot and on the basis of this concern may opt for shooting locations elsewhere.

I may be showing my ignorance but when people get jobs, they sign contracts and from there they are legally bound to adhere to said contract no?  So the only instance an employee could ever dispute a signed contract is if the employer is in some way breaching their side of it.  So as long as Warners/New Line etc maintain their legally stipulated end of the bargain there's no dispute.  And as the law stands, no actor has any legal obligation to do anything Equity advises so anyone who wants to sign the contract happily shall. 

This is my layperson's reasoning on the matter: major production houses have no need to be threatened by legal action against a signed contract by a union body with no binding legal clout.  Am I missing something?

 

Corin Havers posted 22 Oct 2010, 06:37 PM

 Yes Nik.  What if Warners/New Line were convinced they were keeping their end of the bargain, and some employees became convinced they weren't? What if these employees belonged to a union with a penchant for calling for boycotts at the first sign of trouble?  I'm sure it would all be sorted out in the end - but after how long? And at what cost?

James Mason posted 22 Oct 2010, 06:40 PM

 Over the course of a 2-3 year film there will be multiple contracts needed to be signed. They don't all get done on day one. There-in lies the issue.

nik smythe posted 22 Oct 2010, 06:55 PM

Contract issues where one party believes the other is in breach whereas the other party disagrees can happen anywhere, anytime with any contract.  The onus is always on the accuser to prove their case, and logically thereby no-one will initiate such a dispute unless they believe they are right in the eyes of the law, in which case under the precepts of our allegedly free and democratic western world they ought to. 

Regardless of when a contract is signed, it will always be prior to the contracted work beginning at which point once again both parties will either agree and sign, or not whereby the employer will find someone agreeable to the terms who will sign.  So I'm still unclear on what the perceived threat is.

Jason Smith posted 22 Oct 2010, 07:12 PM

A huge film project like this (actually ANY significant film project) requires flexibility and adaptability. As James pointed out, many contracts may not get signed for another year or more. Script rewrites, as just one example, might impact on an actor's deal. Further availability might be required.. there are any number of likely yet unforeseen circumstances that might require further negotiations mid shoot.

Dane Giraud posted 22 Oct 2010, 08:41 PM

Nobby, if that's a stage name, it's a bad one.

I agree with Jason. For a scene to work well your scene partner needs to match your energy and, unfortunately the pro-Equity debate just doesn't seem to have the steam. So if you don't like my performance, can I blame, in this instance, my scene partner? 

 

Editor posted 22 Oct 2010, 10:42 PM / edited 22 Oct 2010, 10:45 PM
Editor posted 23 Oct 2010, 10:10 AM

RALLIES FOR ALL NEW ZEALANDERS, Industry & public
on Labour Day Monday, 12.30-2pm!


These POSITIVE rallies of support are timed to coincide with the visit of Warner Bros. movie executives to discuss moving The Hobbit away from NZ. We're going to show them that we like them, we want The Hobbit filmed here and we SUPPORT Sir Peter.

Go to:
POSITIVE rallies of support for HOBBIT on Labour Day

Sideline Sam posted 23 Oct 2010, 10:33 AM / edited 23 Oct 2010, 10:43 AM

This extract from an article in the Weekend Herald, 'This is our livelihood' - Middle Earth's real-life battle, clearly articulates what Gerry Brownlee was talking about when he said on Close Up last Thursday night, "There is a piece of case law out there that has caused a huge amount of angst, and that was the New Zealand courts determining the employment status of a contractor on a previous engagement. That's what's at the heart of this matter ...":

The final decision will be with Warner Bros executives, and Prime Minister John Key is promising to do everything he can to keep the project in New Zealand.

He is taking advice on how labour laws might be changed to allay the fears of Warner Bros, not only about more industrial action but also about a Supreme Court ruling - where a Weta Workshop modelmaker was deemed an employee, not a contractor - that could see actors taking up disputes in mid-production.

The ruling found that even if a worker is called a contractor in a contract, that worker can be deemed an employee if that is the real nature of the job. Collective bargaining with employees who are performers is not illegal, but it is if they are independent contractors.

All the rest is manufactured drama designed to create the climate for a law change. The "huge amount of angst" was obviously being experienced by Warner Bros who have demanded it be addressed if the film is to stay here.

Paradoxically it was not an actor who successfully challenged the law back in 2005 but a model maker. The actors have been relentlessly calm and constructive while others have blocked very opportunity for reconciliation. Let's hope when John and Gerry have saved the day and the Hobbit remains in New Zealand, while the actors work with Spada to update terms and conditions, the other creative professionals, trades and crew find themselves being treated well as independent contractors.

I suppose there is no chance that the rallies will create reconciliation within our film industry. Can good Kiwi creative collaboration overcome the dark forces fomenting fury and distrust to force a change that might have been achieved over a cup of tea with cards calmly laid upon the table?

Corin Havers posted 23 Oct 2010, 11:07 AM / edited 23 Oct 2010, 01:20 PM

What an embarrassing performance from Robyn Malcolm

http://tvnz/close-up/s2010-e221010-video-3839657  

"I can't understand why all this has happened ..."  she says yet again, as she continues to attempt to shift blame. She and 'equity'  have to face the fact that it is their JOB to understand, and to negotiate such crises effectively.  

I now also understand the disagreement about the timing of the lifting of the boycott.  The communication that equity claims announced the end of the boycott was so ambiguously worded that it was unacceptable.   It was several days before acceptable wording was agreed upon by all parties, and that is why the actual date of the boycott's termination is later than equity claims.

Given the shameful contortions Robyn Malcolm goes through in this interview to avoid being straightforward and to lay blame on everyone but themselves, I am left in no doubt how evasive and misleading equity's  original communication must have been - and will probably continue to be.

Welly Watch posted 23 Oct 2010, 12:35 PM / edited 23 Oct 2010, 04:00 PM

I disagree absolutely, Corin, with your personal attack on Robyn Malcolm. The need of some factions to find whipping-persons (pun intended) and publicly malign them serves only to create the impression of the very unstable (not to mention immature and emotive) employment environment they say Warners fears.

I see Robyn Malcolm as totally authentic in her dismay at the way what could and should have been a quiet process of consultation and mutual agreement has played out in such an ugly and divisive way. I also firmly believe that in the unlikely event that Simon Whipp (MEAA Australia) really does have a dastardly game plan to pull some industrially disruptive stunt mid-shoot, Malcolm and her colleagues will have none of it. Why would they risk their professional reputations by going on the public record to say so if they do not mean it?

Indeed I salute their bravery in standing up for principles that are common to all other English-speaking film-making countries and I sincerely hope that NZ's creative community is not so politically naïve as to personally punish advocates who have acted perfectly legally in this democratic – but adversarial – system.

I concur with the theory that the endgame now is to tighten the law that allows contractors who are required to work as directed at specified times and places over sustained periods, according to schedules prepared by employers, to be regarded as ‘employees' when it comes to rights and conditions like how much notice is given for dismissal … etc. (See the checklist I posted on 2 Oct, above)

Final point: how will any of that be resolved by taking it to Ireland for the scenery (on 27 Sept Stage News reported ‘
Irish actors win collective bargaining right' – the very thing NZ Equity has been vilified for wanting) and England for the studio facilities (which are highly unionised, as Gordon Campbell notes in his latest piece)?

I heard someone say last night that they thought we were into Act 3 of this story a couple of weeks ago but no, this is a PJ epic and as usual the fight sequences have gone on way too long. The challenge with the proposed Labour Day [sic] rallies will be to stop them becoming battle grounds.  

Corin Havers posted 23 Oct 2010, 12:52 PM / edited 23 Oct 2010, 01:18 PM

Not a personal attack, a considered opinion. I absolutely agree with you, I am sure her dismay is authentic.  

For some excellent comment on the whole shambles (and excellent discussion following) I recommend:-  http://publicaddress.net/default,6916,anatomy-of-a-shambles.sm#post6916

Jason Smith posted 23 Oct 2010, 12:56 PM

It is amazing how much this issue has developed and STILL we have no idea what it is NZ Actor's Equity actually want. The same terms and conditions as the rest of the world?... vague, but okay, but surely there are better, more compelling examples than the nudity clause rubbish (clearly irrelevant in the case of the Hobbit). The only conclusion I can draw is that either a) they don't KNOW what they want, or b) they're too embarrassed to actually front about what it is for fear of it being slammed as unreasonable. It's too late to just say 'we're not telling because it's private'. Surely if they want to garner support they would benefit from telling us something we can get behind? My guess is that they suspect the rest of the country, including the rest of the film industry, would think they were already on a sweet deal.

Jason Smith posted 23 Oct 2010, 01:03 PM

 wow that's the clearest I've ever heard this issue put. Nice work.

Dane Giraud posted 23 Oct 2010, 01:07 PM

 Welly Watch, I got to say, I am sick to death of the "we just want a chat" crap. This was really about a sit down, cup of tea and chin-wag? No! This was a politically bewildered attempt to unionize the whole industry, a directive that would have most certainly come from head office across the creek. It's about absolute power, not cups of tea! 

End game? We all pay through losing more rights through employment changes... Go the MEAA! Go home that is!

Jason Smith posted 23 Oct 2010, 01:40 PM

Corin, Dane, Chaz - it seems like reason and logic doesn't hold much currency in here. These guys make a living from 'suspending disbelief' and my feeling is they'd call a potato a European Ground Egg for the sake of staying true to an argument that has more holes than a wooden colandar in a termite colony.

 

Welly Watch posted 23 Oct 2010, 03:58 PM / edited 23 Oct 2010, 04:08 PM
Russell Brown begins with an excellent summary, but misses the crucial point that Equity had a legal opinion (Simpson Grierson) that organisations of 50 or more could negotiate non-binding recommendations on behalf of a group of independent contractors (Commerce Act s32). This is exactly what is now under way with the Pink Book negotiations – and by the way it is standard union policy for executives to meet with their members in the process of formulating policy and determining what will be asked for, then again to bring what's negotiated back to members before it's agreed to. That's called democracy, I think.

That is why they astutely attempted to avoid premature ejaculation all over the media. That's wasted seed and it makes a mess. 

The Supreme Court upholding of the rights of model maker contracted long term to be deemed an employee also points to the law's pulling up short of imposing a totally feudal system on projects that employ workers on contracts. This presumably is what made Three Foot Six and/or Wingnut refuse to meet with NZ Equity and what made PJ burst out in a media release that sparked off the whole public fiasco. 

If next week brings feudalism to the employment environment for independent contractors it will not be Equity's fault. It will be the ‘resolution' contrived by ‘dark forces' who then go on to make two films about little people going to battle and triumphing against ‘dark forces' …

That said, I do like Chris Trotter's analysis of Jackson as “charismatic leader”, which includes:

“It is surely no accident that Jackson made his reputation translating the work of J.R.R. Tolkien to the big screen. For what is Tolkien's great trilogy if not a marvelous, magical, but essentially anachronistic evocation of the charismatic and traditional forms of leadership which, even in Tolkien's childhood, were fast disappearing from the Western world?”

I also like this observation:
Around Jackson's banner have gathered every solipsistic libertarian geek, every Ayn Rand devotee, and every National and Act Party voter yet to fathom that while it is often the charismatic entrepreneur who begins the great tales of capitalism, it is the rational-legal or "bureaucratic" modern corporation that finishes them.”
- although I expect a knee-jerk reaction to the notion of a ‘bureaucracy' making big-budget movies. Let's say it requires a well organised workforce totally aligned to the outcome and ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen in an environment of mutual respect and fair dealings all round.  

Sideline Sam posted 23 Oct 2010, 04:03 PM

"End game? We all pay through losing more rights through employment changes... Go the MEAA! Go home that is!"

Dear oh dear oh dear Dane - wake up! The employment law changes were always the objective and the union has been used, abused and demonised to justify the change. It's one thing to allow yourself to be easily manipulated, but blaming the union for losing rights after criticising them for daring to seek to improve rights is as circular as the ring you have just disappeared up. I am sure you will feel at home wallowing in your own bile.

Oh dear, sorry - the vitriol seems to be contagious. It seems that any amount of opprobrium can be heaped upon the actors union but as soon as exasperation undermines the decorum of those seeking resolution it is pounced upon with glee. As Jennifer has recently said, we all want the same thing so let us work together to achieve it.

Corin Havers posted 23 Oct 2010, 04:41 PM

Oh dear, Welly, you are scraping the bottom of the barrel now.  The Peace Movement attracts a lot of nutters too, but that doesn't make them wrong!

Whatever legal opinions equity had, their obligation was still to keep their finger on the pulse of the industry and handle negotiations sensitively in a way most likely to result in a mutually satisfactory conclusion.  Even Ayn Rand would be able to see that initiating a worldwide boycott on The Hobbit was an insane way to go about it.  

If they had admitted their mistake and apologised as soon as they realised the damage they had caused, they might have extracted themselves from it all with some dignity.  

As it is they have given all the rabid right wingers out there a great opportunity to take advantage of the resulting mess, and have only themselves to blame.

 

Jason Smith posted 23 Oct 2010, 04:47 PM

Speaking of Jennifer, we haven't heard from her in a while... smart woman.

Sideline Sam posted 23 Oct 2010, 04:55 PM

Dear oh dear Corin! Blaming a union for trying to do its job quietly and respectfully, however naively, without second guessing the opportunist reaction of the people in charge is like blaming a woman for being gang banged with the video put on You Tube because someone didn't like what she said in private.

Dane Giraud posted 23 Oct 2010, 05:29 PM

Can a union, or anyone wanting to operate in this world, afford the luxury of naivety? (Which is the polite way of saying stupid of course).  This is an operation that assumes to be able to represent hundreds of peoples professionals interests, yet even a one-eyed supporter like yourself calls them naive? Answer me this, should the actors who are currently members continue to seek representation through this naive organisation? 

Editor posted 23 Oct 2010, 05:33 PM

I should have posted this earlier:
Saturday 23 October, 2020
Technicians 'terrified' about losing livelihoods, DomPost 

Sideline Sam posted 23 Oct 2010, 05:42 PM

I surrender Dane. Clearly your objective is to weaken Actors Equity to the point of annihilation - we get that loud and clear. Repitition is is boring.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have better things to do in this lovely spring weather.

Welly Watch posted 23 Oct 2010, 05:43 PM / edited 23 Oct 2010, 05:45 PM

Naive? Consider:

At the second Wellington Actors meeting Penelope Borland and Dave Gibson made it very clear that SPADA was rejecting Equity's request to negotiate a collective agreement while Equity was saying they wanted to move on from the Pink Book concept, so the stalemate was two-sided. 

Part 2 of the Commerce Act 1986 No 5 (as at 01 April 2009) deals with Price Fixing. The relevant links (below) are s30 and s32.
30 Certain provisions of contracts, etc, with respect to prices deemed to substantially lessen competition

32 Certain recommendations as to prices for goods and services exempt from application of section 30

Equity finally caved under the combined might of the Jackson empire (fronting for Warner Bros?), SPADA, the NZ Government and film workers (including actors) who had been cleverly spooked by the aforementioned forces.  

But just because Equity has moved to a fall-back position after trying to get a better deal, they can't be blamed for having a go. And they certainly can't be blamed for any changes that occur to employment laws as a result. Those changes are being driven by the powerful anti-union faction with Equity and the anti-Equity protester all mere pawns in a much bigger game.

Can we really believe Jackson, Boyens, Taylor and Walsh all fronted the media independently, driven by personal passion, upset and loyalty to the masses? Or were they playing their roles in an orchestrated strategy that was always focussed ensuring that independent contractors would be reduced to the status of serfs (albeit well looked after serfs) in a feudal system where the Squire has all the power?  
Corin Havers posted 23 Oct 2010, 06:06 PM / edited 23 Oct 2010, 10:11 PM

 The excellent replies to Welly Watch's /Beejay's (almost) exact same post on Publicaddress.net are worth repeating here:- 

'For "having a go" in the thoughtless way they did, yes, they can be blamed.  The idea that Equity bears no responsibility for the consequences of its actions is breathtaking.'  

and

'I would tend to say that, in the manner in which a badly planned and executed industrial strategy stuffs thing up for allied unions and alienates the general population, yes actually they can wear the consequences of their actions.

'Or were they playing their roles in an orchestrated strategy'

While people might have exploited the fuck-ups that have run through the campaign, I think this is more a case of opportunism than somehow manipulating A.E. to stuff things up so badly so that they could take advantage of that.

'all mere pawns'

Aside from that fact that if unions actually coordinate their actions with other unions they multiply their strength and become substantially more than pawns, that is a really bad metaphor. If a pawn, for reasons it cannot clearly articulate, goes and attacks the wrong piece, in the wrong way, at the wrong time, that will severally stuff-up the entire side.

I may never have held union office (for all I've been a member all my working life, and struck on occasion) but even I know the basic, kindergarten level of industrial strategy:
1) Co-ordinate with allied unions before you do anything, and if possible act jointly.
2) Be clear about what you want and how who you are targeting can make that happen.
3) If people outside the union are going to be suffering for your cause, get them onside before you start. Be clear, and detailed, about why you are being forced to make others suffer.

4) Don't leave gaping truck-sized holes in your campaign which people can exploit to make you look like incompetent muppets (have your union registration up to date).'

Jason Smith posted 23 Oct 2010, 06:19 PM

yet another emphatic point well made, Corin. I'm looking forward to the well reasoned response... hehe

Dane Giraud posted 23 Oct 2010, 06:31 PM

I don't want to weaken Equity at all. I think the merger was a disaster though.

One thing I think should be said on the dark forces at work though; if this mess does result in changes in employment laws affecting actors... and if this in turn leads to even more films coming in... Would we in time owe Equity a thank you?  

I think when the dust settles it'll be a win win. 

nik smythe posted 23 Oct 2010, 08:27 PM / edited 23 Oct 2010, 08:28 PM

I don't believe I have ever actually read a copy of the controversial memo that began this debacle, the one Equity claims was a recommendation to hold off signing contracts til they've had a conversation about contract terms, which PJ's camp asserts was a call to boycott due to their refusal to participate in technically illegal negotiations.

Can someone produce this document for analysis?  Equity's credibility regarding their position as explained by Robyn Malcolm to Sainsbury seems to me to hinge more or less entirely on the wording of it.

Nic Farra posted 23 Oct 2010, 09:46 PM / edited 23 Oct 2010, 10:14 PM

 From the SAG website, a few days ago:

SAG STATEMENT REGARDING THE FEATURE FILM PRODUCTION "THE HOBBIT"

 

Los Angeles (October 20, 2010) - Screen Actors Guild today released the following statement regarding the feature film production The Hobbit:

“Today, our sister union New Zealand Actors Equity issued a statement recommending all international performer unions rescind their member advisories on the feature film production The Hobbit. In light of this recommendation, Screen Actors Guild will be alerting its members that they are now free to accept engagements, under Screen Actors Guild contract terms and conditions, on The Hobbit.”

And from Canadian Actors Equity:

EQUIFLASH [EQUITY MEMBER ADVISORY - "THE HOBBIT" NON-UNION FILM]

CAEA e-drive caea-l at list.web.net 
Fri Sep 24 10:23:55 EDT 2010

EQUITY MEMBER ADVISORY - "THE HOBBIT" NON-UNION FILM

Despite their best efforts, Equity's colleagues at New Zealand Equity and Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) in Australia have been unable to persuade the film producers of "The Hobbit" to agree to hire the New Zealand based performers under any kind of union agreement. As you are no doubt aware, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy was one of the most successful film franchises in the history of the medium. The prequel to this saga, "The Hobbit" promises to be an equally large release and is backed by a major Hollywood studio. Canadian Actors' Equity Association supports the MEAA's efforts to secure a union agreement. At the spring meeting of the Executive of the International Federation of Actors (FIA) in Copenhagen, a motion was passed supporting our colleagues. There is no reason why performers on this production should not receive appropriate compensation, both for their work and for the additional use of that work. Unfortunately, that has not happened and now we must take this fight public. It is essential that Equity show solidarity with our colleagues in New Zealand and Australia on this matter. This is a very high profile, big budget film production which has no excuse for not engaging performers under appropriate terms and conditions. Members are requested not to accept work on this non-union production, and to immediately inform Equity if they are offered work on this production. A letter of support signed by all the English speaking union members of FIA and a FAQ sheet from MEAA outlining the issues is available at  

Corin Havers posted 23 Oct 2010, 09:53 PM / edited 23 Oct 2010, 10:55 PM

 And an earlier post on the SAG site went thus:- 

"No member of any FIA affiliate will agree to act in the theatrical film The Hobbit until such time as the producer has entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance for production in New Zealand" 

I'm sure a member of the MEAA executive will be happy to supply a copy of the memo that led to this

Keef Burtains posted 24 Oct 2010, 12:07 AM

Have just read the thread. A fine read.

Ok - so actors are indeed noble, passionate, and talented individuals. But they are looking like complete cocks and there is serious blood in the water.

Isn't this whole thing really about MEAA muscling in on NZ potential collective residuals to collect 15% as a ticket-click and the interest while it sits in their bank accounts between quarterly disbursements? Why else would they be wading in?

NZ actors have been sucked in. And hasn't Robyn Malcolm - the grinning face of Actors Equity already - shifted house to Aussie anyway? That's what I'd heard.

Shabby, dishonest, and a complete mess from every angle. And i think that there are several Producers and Directors who, on principle, would avoid casting any actor stupid enough to mention Actors Equity on their one-page bio. Folks are seriously pissed about the damage this has done - and not just to The Hobbit.

 

Nobby posted 24 Oct 2010, 07:39 AM

Beef: Since Peter Hambleton, now cast as a lead dwarf in The Hobbit, is a member of NZ Equity, your last statement is nonsense. This is a free country and membership of a union is a civil right. It really is a worry how happy so many people are to piss all that away, in principle, because they have faith in one benign and generous lord and master.

Editor posted 24 Oct 2010, 08:57 AM
Corin Havers posted 24 Oct 2010, 09:27 AM

 According to Q&A this morning, British Actors' Equity and the MEAA are yet to officially lift the boycott.

Editor posted 24 Oct 2010, 01:34 PM
Editor posted 24 Oct 2010, 05:08 PM / edited 24 Oct 2010, 07:44 PM
Dane Giraud posted 24 Oct 2010, 07:47 PM

I am confused by the pro-boycott's wanting to remind people of the low average wage of actors all the time, as if this was somehow an argument. Acting is a part time job. None of us like to admit it, but it's true. 

Q & A was a good watch, today. Sue Bradford should write for PJ. I think she actually edges out Tolkien when it comes to fantasy fiction. 

Editor posted 24 Oct 2010, 08:30 PM / edited 24 Oct 2010, 08:31 PM
Welly Watch posted 24 Oct 2010, 09:45 PM / edited 25 Oct 2010, 07:18 AM

Re the Q+A segments, I have to say:

a) Helen Kelly behaved with consummate professionalism in the face of Paul Holmes' appalling performance, in which he confuses the role of ‘devil's advocate' with ‘agent provocateur'

b) Sue Bradford likewise refused to be goaded and put the case for workers' rights clearly while all Holmes could do was rant about the supremacy of money above all else. Even the panellist guy (2 men standing, 2 women sitting – what was that about?) felt the need to concede that both sides of the employment equation were entitled to a voice.

Why do people persist in saying Equity was inept when a process that is perfectly standard in other countries was responded to with such fear, loathing, venom and vitriol by forces infinitely larger than them? And why did Holmes fail to follow through on his introductory observation that “The government's even offered to change the employment laws.” 

Is it not screamingly obvious that they have grabbed the opportunity to castrate the unions and independent contractors over this? It is the perfect catalyst for their strategy to ‘protect their investment' in the Rugby World Cup? And this way Brownlee and Key will look like the saviours of the nation! (I'm sure better political analysts than I will know the name for this sort of deal.)

Given Holmes though it was his job to regurgitate the bile being spat at Equity and the CTU, he should equally have floated that theory too. That's his job.

Editor posted 25 Oct 2010, 07:19 AM
Welly Watch posted 25 Oct 2010, 07:52 AM
From: Hobbit fears and G-20 knock NZ dollar

‘The threat of New Zealand losing the US$500 million production of 'The Hobbit' was also reported in the Wall Street Journal as a factor adding to the kiwi dollar's weakness.

"RBC Capital Markets foreign exchange strategists noted that the New Zealand dollar was the second worst performing G10 currency overnight, with downside pressure on the kiwi coming from the "Hobbit" news," the WSJ reported.'

How wonderfully ironic! A lower NZ dollar makes filming The Hobbit in NZ more attractive to Warner Bros – their millions of US dollars will go much further here! So now a whole new conspiracy theory is possible: the end game has always been to talk down the NZ dollar. Man, what's the genre here? Fiscal thriller?  Probably a TV docudrama to be made in 2020. 
Editor posted 25 Oct 2010, 09:10 AM
Monday 25 October, 2010 (Labour Day)
Save our Hobbits: thousands expected to attend rallies, DomPost
Unions fed frontwomen to mob, says TV producer, NZ Herald
Sideline Sam posted 25 Oct 2010, 09:19 AM / edited 25 Oct 2010, 09:26 AM

Interesting thought Welly, but the lower NZ dollar end game scenario doesn't stack up because when The Hobbit retains its New Zealnd location the NZ dollar will shoot back up again - if this carry-on had anything to do with it dropping in the first place.

I do like the docudrama with 2020 hindsight idea though - I nominate Michael Galvin and Craig Parker to play the Warner Bros. The genre? Maybe low-brow farce with scripts plagiarised from talk-back radio, Paul Holmes and Fran O'Sullivan transcripts - working title: 'Carry On Clobbering".

Welly Watch posted 25 Oct 2010, 09:40 AM

What about the window of opportunity in which the film finaciers are converting US$ unto NZ$ even as we blog?

Sideline Sam posted 25 Oct 2010, 10:50 AM / edited 25 Oct 2010, 10:52 AM

More irony! It seems the opportunistic seismic upheaval designed to rush through changes to NZ law is not actually needed despite Gerry Brownlee's claim that “There is a piece of case law out there that has caused a huge amount of angst …” (presumably to Warner Bros).

An article in Saturday's Otago Daily Times (reproduced this morning in the NZ Herald) quotes Otago University employment law specialist Prof Paul Roth condemning the suggestion that law changes could be made to suit the producers of The Hobbit movies. The article concludes:

The 2005 Supreme Court case cited by Mr Brownlee involved James Bryson, a special-effects worker for The Lord of the Rings at Sir Peter Jackson's production company Three Foot Six, who was made redundant and sought to claim unjustified dismissal. To do this he first had to establish he was an employee, not a contractor. The court found he was an employee.

Prof Roth questioned whether a law change was needed with proper drafting of contracts.

"As a lawyer, it is perfectly possible to draft a contract which will hold up in court as a contracting relationship."

One of the issues which worked in Mr Bryson's favour in his claim to be considered an employee was that he had to be trained by the company. If he had been trained by someone else, or required to produce a certificate showing training had been completed, that might have been different, Prof Roth said.

So actors would never be able to use this case law even if they wanted to because they are not trained by the production companies. It is the technicians manning the barricades who could use it – although they have not in the five years since the Supreme Court case. Presumably that is because, as Prof Roth points out, contracts have been better worded since.

John Barnett might like to reconsider who has been “hung out to dry” by whom for what spurious purpose.

Editor posted 25 Oct 2010, 05:00 PM / edited 25 Oct 2010, 10:12 PM
Editor posted 25 Oct 2010, 10:13 PM
Editor posted 26 Oct 2010, 09:51 AM / edited 26 Oct 2010, 07:44 PM
Editor posted 26 Oct 2010, 05:03 PM / edited 26 Oct 2010, 05:05 PM
Editor posted 26 Oct 2010, 07:46 PM
Editor posted 26 Oct 2010, 10:03 PM
Corin Havers posted 26 Oct 2010, 10:53 PM

One conspiracy that hasn't had much attention is the one to rewrite history, and I see Simon Whipp does it again in this interview.  The revised version goes something like, "All we wanted was a meeting; Peter Jackson didn't want one; all hell broke loose."  The bit about equity/Mr Whipp instigating a world wide actors' boycott is cunningly never mentioned.  It's a bit like missing out the bit about Hitler invading Poland from your history of WW2.

Welly Watch posted 27 Oct 2010, 09:25 AM

So, Warner Bros & New Line have imposed a boycott on using NZ locations and studios and is holding the whole country to ransom … OK let's not use emotive language …

Their strategy has been not to sign anything that will ensure The Hobbit gets made in NZ until they have got a meeting with the NZ government (and they have) that provides ‘a stable employment environment' and improves the financial bottom line vis a vis tax breaks, etc (negotiations in progress).

On the first point, the official line is that they do not trust the unions' many public promises that there will be no industrial disruption of that project, and the answer seems to be a fast-track renovation of the labour laws so that independent contractors may in no way be regarded as employees and may never negotiate collectively on minimum terms and conditions. But Bryson v 3 Foot Six happened ages ago and there has been ample time to attend to any legal loopholes that may have revealed.

Also, if any other country being considered for filming is seen as having ‘a stable employment environment', it is because unions are a respected part of the infrastructure, meetings have been had, negotiations have taken place and binding agreements have been made. And why is that not possible here?  

As for ‘the financial bottom line' … It's the weak US dollar that has made all the exchange rates unattractive and nothing can be done about that by either the NZ government or Hollywood moguls. So giving the tax incentives a nudge is the only real option – which Sir PJ argued for ages ago in his report on the NZ Film Commission. Again panic is being used as … a weapon?

I concur with those who say the real question is whether The Hobbit will be made to the level of excellence the world expects. The infrastructure, talent and teams are already in place in NZ and ready to deliver the first film for a December 2012 release. Going anywhere else will delay that and degrade the quality of the outcome.

Besides, if ‘the little people' don't win out against the powerful forces, telling the Hobbit story in film will become a very cynical exercise indeed.

(Corin – it is the reporter/interviewer who was remiss in not asking Mr Whipp about the so-called boycott. And let's be clear, it is absolutely common practise for an organisation to advise its members to ‘check with the office' before they sign a contract applying to anything where further negotiations are being anticipated. That's all that was. And there was no intention to battle it out in public either. I bet Warners and New Line also wish their presence and activities were not headline news. It's bloody embarrassing all round really.)

Editor posted 27 Oct 2010, 10:11 AM / edited 27 Oct 2010, 11:01 AM
Sideline Sam posted 27 Oct 2010, 10:50 AM

Well said Welly - thus the story unfolds as foretold. As stated on the front page of this morning's Herald: "Mr Key said the 'paramount' problem was that film workers on independent contracts could be legally seen as employees, even if their contracts specifically called them contractors." Surprise, surprise!

This has nothing whatever to do with the boycott ballyhoo which was resolved a week and a half ago. Corin - it is not reinventing history to state the obvious fact that the boycott was gleefully grasped as an opportunity to manufacture the means to change the case law problem that had been festering for five years.

Further evidence (to add to the producers' Chicken Little activism when they might have been expected to work for resolution) comes with revelations that Gerry Brownlee was talking to New Line /Warner Bros well before the eruption (presumably that is when he learned about the "huge amount of angst" surrounding the case law) and that John Key knows a senior executive from Warner Bros head office “quite well”. It is beyond belief that work on amending the law only began last night after their 'first' meeting.

Another point that needs to be made, more in sorrow than anger, is that John Barnett on Q&A saying that Jennifer and Robyn were good people "hung out to dry" was not merely patronising. His labelling of them as 'damaged goods' (a term sometimes applied to rape victims) before resolution has been achieved can only be see as an unveiled threat to any actor who might dare to stand up for better conditions. Must we conclude that the brilliance demonstrated by Peter and John in building a film and television industry - from which we all benefit hugely - can only exist with a nasty streak embedded?

Please can we find a better way to collaborate.

Editor posted 27 Oct 2010, 11:21 AM / edited 27 Oct 2010, 11:23 AM
Editor posted 27 Oct 2010, 01:51 PM / edited 27 Oct 2010, 01:52 PM

PM back in Hobbit huddle, Business Day, Stuff 13:39

James Mason posted 27 Oct 2010, 02:02 PM / edited 27 Oct 2010, 02:02 PM

So then, how do you all feel about the MEAA lying to its Actor's Equity members? And AE leadership lying on National Television on behalf of its members.

It appears now that the VERY FIRST letter sent to 3'7/Peter Jackson too place AFTER the international boycott was already declared - the letter arrived on the 17 August.

That letter was from the FIA. It said:

1. the boycott/no work order on the Hobbit was already in place, and had been for months earlier.

2. That 3'7 needed to engage in 'collective bargaining' with the MEAA for a contract for ALL ACTORS on the film (not just AE members). Since been admitted by Jennifer Ward Lealand was illegal (adding: 'we never asked for a collective bargain')

Does that sound like a nice 'cup of tea' sit down which Peter Jackson is to blame for not accepting?

Is it any wonder everyone is so angry about all this?

Why are AE members genuinely confused as to why Peter Jackson would not want to simply have a meeting and is therefore to blame if the Hobbit goes overseas?

If NZ labour laws were changed the Actor's Union have NO ONE to blame but themselves.

Shameful the complete lack of responsibility. After all: 'all they were asking for was a conversation' TOTAL LIES.

Editor posted 27 Oct 2010, 02:16 PM / edited 27 Oct 2010, 02:22 PM

- Scoop -

Jackson on Equity Meeting Request Claims

Hollywood comes to Premier House, and the PM aims to become a deal-maker, Lindsay Shelton

Looney Toons in Hobbiton, Werewolf

‘Two issues' stand between Hobbit and NZ shoot, Pattrick Smellie 

 

[Part of me wants to say let's all just breathe through our noses and wait for the process to work itself through, but as long as the players keep commenting publicly and the media keeps reporting on it, I feel I need to keep updating the links.-ED]

Sideline Sam posted 27 Oct 2010, 02:22 PM

Masterful manning of the smoke machine, James, but some of us can see throught it.

James Mason posted 27 Oct 2010, 02:38 PM

Prove one single thing I've said that isn't an incontrovertible fact. Please, I dare you.

Or do you think it's okay for the MEAA to lie to its own members? Or for AE members, like Robyn Malcolm where they get put in a position where they're lying (obviously without their knowledge) on TV?

Corin Havers posted 27 Oct 2010, 02:38 PM

 James, don't waste time feeding trolls - there is sane debate on publicaddress.net.

Nobby posted 27 Oct 2010, 02:47 PM

Yes, some wrong phrasing was used off the cuff while everyone was on a fast learning curve about the underlying issues. Most unfortunate in retrospect.  

Now what about the 'lies' that actors union action was the insurmountable obstacle when the last couple of days are proving it has only ever been about a legal precedent involving a model maker, the low US dollar and the less attractive tax incentives? 

James Mason posted 27 Oct 2010, 03:16 PM

The phrasing - of an EXTRAORDINARILY IMPORTANT FACT was repeated yet again, last night in a letter from the MEAA to all its members.

Those other issues - so what? I'm talking about a Union flat LYING to its members to disguide their screw up, FFS.

Again, that's not a problem for you?

And, yes, I hate arguing with trolls. But I'm not doing it for the trolls. I'm doing it for the actors who are caught up in all this and need to know the truth about what the MEAA is telling them.

Editor posted 27 Oct 2010, 06:48 PM

Apparently the PM will be holding a live press conference at 7:20pm tonight - on TVNZ Close-Up and presumably TV3 Campbell Live

Editor posted 27 Oct 2010, 07:24 PM / edited 27 Oct 2010, 07:30 PM

AGREEMENT REACHED - BOTH HOBBIT MOVIES TO BE FILMED IN NZ!

Link to media conference will be posted as soon as it is available.

Nobby posted 27 Oct 2010, 07:40 PM

That's brilliant! I was going to trawl (like a troll?) through the links to specify when, where and how many times Philippa Boyens said it was absolutely not about the money/tax deals, etc, but that would be too petty now. 

I really hope everyone - all the actors especially - can be friends and  colleagues with fully professional integrity from here on in.

History may tell who took whom for a ride. Meanwhile, hey - we've got two films to make!!!

Sideline Sam posted 27 Oct 2010, 07:50 PM

O _M _ G ! ! ! !

Who could have possibly predicted this outcome???? I never knew that trolls had psychic powers!

We have all learned a lot during this saga - which finally turned out to be a loss of innocence drama with a happy ending. But methinks a few aoplogies are due to good people who were used and abused before we can really celebrate.

Editor posted 27 Oct 2010, 08:09 PM

The Hobbit gets NZ green light, Stuff, Business Day
Hobbit to stay in NZ, NZ Herald on line 
ONE CloseUp, TVNZ

Editor posted 27 Oct 2010, 10:07 PM
Michael Smythe posted 27 Oct 2010, 10:08 PM

Well that is good news, albeit with a sour after taste.

Memo to whomever creates the docudrama - don't underestimate the significance of the Christchurch earthquake empowering act (or whatever it was called). The ease with which the government rammed it through the house obviously emboldened it. How many more artificially induced shockwaves will they generate to forward their agenda?

Corin Havers posted 27 Oct 2010, 11:34 PM / edited 30 Oct 2010, 12:27 PM

From Chaz Harris :  

now, it is the time for solutions: All NZ actors are invited to check out -

www.nzactorsguild.org.nz

and if it sounds like something you would want to be a part of - or it's close to being something you could be a part of, then fill out the questionnaire here and tell them what's important to you ...

https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dGjhMU1qLWpOQkxZQXR1ZnBCLVI4VOE6MQ

nik smythe posted 28 Oct 2010, 12:26 AM

I'm compelled to respond to Mr Mason's notion that 'If NZ labour laws were changed the Actor's Union have NO ONE to blame but themselves' ...Backfiring militant left-wing strongarm tactics and questionable spindoctoring and all, I'd still be inclined to put more of the responsibility on reactionary capitalism.

Chaz Harris posted 28 Oct 2010, 12:32 AM / edited 30 Oct 2010, 12:26 PM

the truth hurts Nik.

Anyone who thinks all they were asking for is a meeting should read the original letter (the first one sent as a CC to Peter Jackson). It very clearly threatens the blacklist unless a meeting is given (and the blacklist had clearly already been orchestrated before mid-August).

Where is the earlier first letter from NZAE politely requesting a meeting with the producers of "The Hobbit" to discuss terms and conditions? I haven't seen it yet, so can only conclude that there isn't one...

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Keep-The-Hobbit-film-shoot-in-NZ/144590555584156#!/photo.php?fbid=447601014365&set=a.133748149365.108885.714589365

Welly Watch posted 28 Oct 2010, 09:15 AM

It is of course wonderful that the 2 Hobbit films will be made in NZ. I heartily approve of the ‘loss leader' financial incentives that will bring funds in from overseas and generate a great deal more personal and government income all round – although I'm not sure what John Key meant last night when he suggested that the more successful the film were the more the NZ taxpayer would pay to the studios (???).

But I do feel compelled to note – in relation to Peter Jackson's assertion that the actors unions wanted to negotiate while holding ‘a gun' to his head (i.e. a “don't sign anything until this process is completed” advice to members) – that Times-Warner/New Line walked into NZ with ‘fully-loaded howitzers' pointed at our head of state. Yet negotiations proceeded.  

Now the National government will go into the house to compel parliament to pass changes to our labour laws without due process, holding yet another ‘gun' to dissenters' heads on the grounds that this is part of the deal with Times-Warner/New Line. Some democracy we've turned out to be!

And what has this change in labour laws got to do with what Equity was asking for (the opportunity to collectively clarify and/or negotiate some basic conditions such as they are now negotiating with SPADA)? Could it be that the SPADA negotiations have been put on track in the full knowledge that the way will be blocked by the impending legislation. If so, who's being devious now? If not – what the hell was all the anti-Equity vitriol about anyway?

As I and others have said before, this has been a process in which all the players have played their designated roles. For anyone to hold a personal grudge against any individual, or worse to professionally punish any individual for doing as they have done in good faith, would be extremely immature.  John Key and Helen Kelly have a job to do and get paid well to do it. Likewise Simon Whipp. Robyn Malcolm, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Tandy Wright, et al, are unpaid elected representatives of a professional body who have acted in good faith and been unnecessarily vilified – yes, turned into scapegoats.

Think about it. The Hollywood Studios / NZ Government ‘negotiation' was always going to happen and it was always about the financial deal, not the nature of our employment laws (given every other country being realistically touted has more equitable employment laws). If Equity-MEAA had not been held up as a shield-cum-battering ram, Sir PJ himself may have been seen as colluding in the proposition that The Hobbit could be filmed elsewhere and that might have made him to focus of opprobrium.  

Editor posted 28 Oct 2010, 10:25 AM
Michael Smythe posted 28 Oct 2010, 10:37 AM / edited 28 Oct 2010, 10:38 AM

The ease with which the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Bill swept aside democratic process on September 15 obviously emboldened the John Key government. We now have Make-A-Quake – a Shon-Key new methodology for changing the law by creating upheaval.

They will make a hobbit of it.

 

Editor posted 28 Oct 2010, 12:19 PM

The court cases that we may assume have provoked the changes in labour legislation being rushed through parliament today may be viewed here:

http://courtsofnz.govt.nz/cases/james-bryson-v-three-foot-six-limited/at_download/fileDecision 

Welly Watch posted 28 Oct 2010, 02:47 PM

As Gordon Campbell asks in reply to a comment on his latest Scoop article: “…perhaps Mr Key can explain how it was that a notoriously picky director such as James Cameron can do Avatar here without a murmur about the Supreme Court's 2005 independent contractor ruling on Bryson, but it was somehow essential that it be changed for Warners.”   

Corin Havers posted 28 Oct 2010, 03:13 PM

 Possibly something to do with the added irritant of Equity's call for a world-wide boycott on The Hobbit,  and the introduction of the MEAA's bullying  tactics to our filmmaking culture.  And the glaring incompetence of our local union. Just guessing.

Welly Watch posted 28 Oct 2010, 04:50 PM

But Corin, the heroic fixes have nothing to do with MEAA etc's ‘delay signing until we have negotiated on behalf of NZ actors' advice to members (it was hysterical to call it a boycott or blacklisting and it pointed to a flaw in our law that such a negotiation would apparently be illegal – although that was disputed).

The danger Gerry Brownlee speaks of, which has apparently been causing ‘enormous angst' for 5 years, is the focus of the bill being debated in parliament right now. It's not about fixing the above-mentioned flaw. As for the dosh deal – that too has nothing to do with what the actors wanted or did.

As for who was bullying whom – who was extorting what from whom and why …?!?!

Corin Havers posted 28 Oct 2010, 05:51 PM

However, all the International Actors' Unions' websites refer to it as a boycott, a blacklist, and as prohibiting actors from working on the film; nothing as mild as 'delaying signing'.  This is clearly what they were advised to say by MEAA.  Or are British Equity and SAG being hysterical too?

Dane Giraud posted 28 Oct 2010, 05:55 PM

 Corin, stop taking the bait. Welly Watch is taking the piss... They've got to be! 

Corin Havers posted 28 Oct 2010, 06:04 PM

 Yes, Dane, of course they're taking the piss!  But there are some truths that bear repeating nevertheless, and I welcome any opportunity to repeat them.  The one that amuses me the most at the moment is the desperate (hysterical?) attempt to pretend the boycott never happened!  

Zelda Edwards posted 28 Oct 2010, 06:09 PM / edited 30 Oct 2010, 12:24 PM
Yvette Reid posted 28 Oct 2010, 06:42 PM

You know what has been the most frustrating thing over recent weeks for me - it wasn't those with opposing views (I had many passionate yet friendly debates with them) it is those who are Actors in this industry and were/are completely apathetic to the issues that effect their careers. Those who didn't go to any meetings, didn't vote, didn't sign anything, didn't have an opinion or a voice. Those who threw their arms up in the air and said "Ï don't know" but didn't investigate further, just sat on the fence and waited for the results to come through - their lack of passion for their chosen career saddens me.

Editor posted 29 Oct 2010, 09:41 AM

This is the amendment to the Employment Contracts Act 200o which is being rushed through under urgency: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill 

John Smythe posted 29 Oct 2010, 11:11 AM

HOBBIT hooha - all the links – updated

On the reports of serious threats being made against staff and elected members of Actors Equity-MEAA, and the abuse and intimidation they have been subjected to, this is clearly an appalling state of affairs. 

Everyone who has allowed their emotions to get stirred up and overwhelm their rationality needs to take a good hard look at themselves.  As for those who went out of their ways to actively stir up those emotions by demonising and personally abusing people who were doing their jobs or meeting their responsibilities as elected representatives, they too need to ask what sort of society they have created.  

Our stock in trade as performing artists is to create drama, comedy, debate and discussion that has the values of humanity at it core. It's time to start absorbing our own work, take its essence to heart and be what we espouse.

Peter Elliott posted 29 Oct 2010, 06:42 PM / edited 30 Oct 2010, 12:25 PM

 As requested by John Smythe, from the Jim Mora panel yesterday:

 Well all I can say is Paul Henry must be absolutely delighted with the eruption of Mt Doom.

His racist inanities were quickly forced out of the headlines by a slavering media, still thrilled and bloody at the slaughter of one of their own, suddenly switching to an even less fearsome target. NZ Actor's Equity. It was brilliant to watch these so called journalists - unleash a torrent of personal and emotional invective against a hapless opponent - instead of engaging in what they are paid to do. i.e. Presenting the facts to get to the truth at the core of an issue. Perhaps even going so far as to look at both sides dispassionately.

But no. Instead we had the enormously edifying picture of a purpled and sweating, let's be fair, an engorged Paul Holmes, vilifying with all the fervour of demonic possession, a couple of brave and stoic actresses who were prepared to face the onslaught. 

Fran O'Sullivan leapt into the fray, bravely weighing in against the friendless actors as well  shrieking that they had singlehandedly destroyed an industry, albeit one that they helped build along with their natural allies the crews..

This issue was taken nuclear by those most upset by a request to discuss terms and conditions. It was they who raced into print and onto the airwaves with reports, as Ian Mune eloquently expressed on Breakfast, that “the sky is falling”.

Fortunately in the last few days some sanity has appeared.

Robyn Malcolm's sincere and able rebuttal of the tabloid sensationalist questioning by Mark Sainsbury and co on Close Up started the return to reason. I applaud her and Jennifer Ward Lealand and the rest of the Equity executive for standing against a tsunami of frothing invective.

We are sincerely thrilled that the Hobbit has remained in these waters and grateful to John Key for negotiating a way through the apparent fiscal and legal needs that Warner Bros required to ensure that this production did not tootle off to an area where actors were not so uppity.


It would be interesting to note - just as an aside - exactly how much more money any actors demands - had they even been allowed to ask them, would have cost.

I think it would amount to .. oh...absolutely nothing for overburdened taxpayers, and a few thousand, at most,  for the production.

Not millions and certainly not tens of millions. And legalese up the booai.
 

That said, The president of New Zealand Actors equity Jennifer Ward Lealand, has expressed her gratitude on behalf of NZ performers for the Gov's leadership over the past three days, in negotiating a positive outcome with studio execs and producers.

She says, In many ways this issue has helped build public awareness of the size and importance of our film industry, and the industry will be stronger as a result.

We remain positive about the progress already being made in sitting down with SPADA to agree terms and conditions, these discussions started on October 15th and with good faith shown by all parties we expect to have them concluded by March of next year.”

 

We actors have been painted, erroneously, as villains - so lets put this into perspective -

 

The Hobbit is about a group of tiny rag tag adventurers setting off with no real chance of success in their quest, and led by a wizard, to throw down a dragon in a distant land. This all-powerful dragon had just pots and pots of money. Along the way they meet antagonistic forces and every man's hand is turned against them. Somehow they survive and win. (Well it is a fairy tale)

I think it extraordinary that a tiny union in a backwater of the world with only a handful of people to stand up for them should have somehow managed to bring in - Government legislation, a plane load of international financiers, a bill rammed through in urgency to outlaw collective talking by actors, force an half an industry to march in the streets and to receive physical harm threats, and all this by suggesting that they would like to talk about terms of employment. 

I'm sorry - who are the defenceless hobbits?

 

Ranting and silliness aside...

 I welcome the opportunity to now talk with SPADA and discuss these terms in a calm and reasoned way over the next few months. This entire non-negotiation has been calamitous for our industry and has retrenched all players in a way that may take years to undo.

It has been a civil war, brother against brother, sister fighting sister, and I pray it ends, now.

I do hope that no party drags the chain and puts more blocks in the way of fair and reasonable discussion. Let us attempt to build some bridges. 

 

Ok. I'll start. I apologise unreservedly and sincerely for any and all offence I may have unwittingly caused.

Ok. Let's talk.

 

Dane Giraud posted 29 Oct 2010, 07:38 PM / edited 29 Oct 2010, 07:53 PM

Eloquent but too partisan. I think that Equity showed that in the big game their political nouse is sorely lacking. And though this will be taken as an anti-union statement it shouldn't be. Of course employees should be allowed to speak with employers... but in a post union environment, you need a serious game plan. Boycott was a bad idea, it begins and ends with this really. 

Sideline Sam posted 29 Oct 2010, 09:33 PM / edited 30 Oct 2010, 09:09 AM

One more time (though it is clearly futile)

Let's accept the boycott label. It was heaven sent as far as the producers were concerned because they were desperate to find a vehicle for pressuring the NZ government into changing - sorry 'clarifying' - the employment laws. The evidence that this was achieved by maximising the sense of impending doom can be found in the way producers sought to create conflict while the actors' union sought the create resolution. The producers' tactics worked and they got what they had wanted all along - an employment law change and more financial sweetners - neither of which had anything to do with what the actors were seeking. This cannot be called a conspiracy theory because the facts support it.

Dane Giraud posted 29 Oct 2010, 09:49 PM

Let's accept the boycott label....

Which says to me you still kinda don't. This is surely the root of the issue. If you don't think so (And many actors don't it seems) then Equity are destined to make the same mistakes. Guys! Deal with it! You played the wrong chess move! Accept the screw up, dust yourselves off and pick up your game for next time. 

An actor friend on facebook posted the stunning revelation that ultimately this was all about money (facepalm!)

 

Chaz Harris posted 30 Oct 2010, 04:57 AM

I love the smell of facepalm in the morning... ;)

Corin Havers posted 30 Oct 2010, 09:07 AM

Now we're getting somewhere, Sideline Sam. Of course the producers took advantage of the situation; they can't be blamed for that. The blame lies with those who gave them the opportunity in the first place; the union.  And surely, one of the most important responsibilities of a union is NOT to hand opportunities like this to 'the bosses'!  

As far as I'm concerned, the best thing equity could do now is to admit their incompetence and apologise, which would go some way to restoring actors' trust in them and the public's trust in unions in general, but unfortunately they seem to find this really hard to do. 

Sideline Sam posted 30 Oct 2010, 09:22 AM

So all the powerless people who are abused by the very powerful should accept full responsibility for their fate? Sounds like a Clayton's argument to me. I thought we had recently expunged the defence of provocation.

Welly Watch posted 30 Oct 2010, 09:33 AM

So it's fine that “the producers took advantage of the situation; they can't be blamed for that” – but it is absolutely unconscionable for Actors Equity to try take the opportunityy to attempt to secure some basic rights for actors. So glad you cleared that up, Corin.

In your world, then, any serfs who dare to suggest they would like to negotiate as a group are responsible for whatever action the shire squire chooses to take to prove who is boss and improve their own lot. Welcome to the 21st century?

Dane Giraud posted 30 Oct 2010, 09:36 AM / edited 30 Oct 2010, 09:44 AM

Sideline Sam, the downtrodden you speak of aren't exactly sweat-shop Bangladeshi's... they're essentially middle class New Zealanders currently slumming it in Grey Lynn who were most likely brought up on the North Shore. 

Welly Watch, that's not even the argument. 

Corin Havers posted 30 Oct 2010, 09:39 AM / edited 30 Oct 2010, 09:39 AM

No Sam; what the powerless people do is form a union and elect representatives to act on their behalf; and pay them union fees to do so (in actors' equity's  case a minimum of $370 per annum, last time I looked at their site.)  

If their union then lets them down, handling negotiations with the powerful so incompetently that the powerless end up even more disadvantaged, then the powerless have a right to be angry, and to demand explanations and apologies. Most actors, union members or not, could see that calling a worldwide boycott was an utterly ridiculous and self defeating way to go about improving terms and conditions (as has been conclusively proved).

However, the powerless also have the right to abandon their inept union and form an alternative body to represent them.

Editor posted 30 Oct 2010, 09:54 AM

Saturday 30 October, 2010
Mean things, Chris Trotter, Bowalley Road

Held hostage by the Hobbits, John Roughan, NZ Herald

Extra Hobbit subsidy will be staff tax break, Vernon Small, Dominion Post

Corin Havers posted 30 Oct 2010, 10:12 AM

 "A few (more) words on The Hobbit"  -  http://publicaddress.net/hardnews

Welly Watch posted 30 Oct 2010, 10:13 AM

Still learning from your great wisdom, Corin … Anyone what wants to collectively negotiate before they sign has called a boycott, and any boycott should be seen in advance as a screamingly obvious opening of the door to a sovereign state's coffers and legislature. Ha! How could I have been so blind?

And Dane … it's so hard to find any coherence in your blatts … Are you suggesting there is something inherently wrong in people who have succeeded in their craft seeing it as their moral responsibility to work voluntarily on behalf of their yet-to-be (may never be) A-list colleagues?  This is what libertarian doctrine (if that's not an oxymoron) has come to, is it?  

Corin Havers posted 30 Oct 2010, 10:24 AM

 Welly - ? What was that about coherence? You are making absolutely no sense at all.

Dane Giraud posted 30 Oct 2010, 10:31 AM

 Welly Watch, did I even point towards that in my posts? You have a tendency to re-imagine others posts in order to push your agenda. I actually said that employees should be able to engage with employers, but in a post union environment you need a robust plan.

Ironically you and Sideline Sam are more insulting to the actors that myself, Corin and others on the other side of the debate. You suggest they are powerless, serfs etc. I don't agree with that at all. An actors union could force change, if, like anyone else, they had the right strategy.

 

John Smythe posted 30 Oct 2010, 11:00 AM / edited 30 Oct 2010, 11:04 AM

I'm sorry that Peter Elliott's excellent ‘rant' (14 posts above) was so speedily over-run by the never-ending exchanges between Corin, Sam, Dane and Welly. I don't think you're going to agree, people; I think we all get where you stand, so can we please move on?

Dane Giraud posted 30 Oct 2010, 11:05 AM / edited 30 Oct 2010, 11:05 AM

 Fair enough. 

Peter Elliott posted 30 Oct 2010, 11:10 AM

 Sadly the only power, the ONLY power that actors have is the ability to say I will not work on your production. I have the right to say no.

It is not a huge tool, but when wielded makes people notice them, but only if there are more than one saying it. Thats all.

Previously no one would listen or talk with the union in productive ways.  

There is no doubt that starting a negotiating stance with the only "gun" you have (to quote SPJ) is a somewhat dubious tactic and its origination was by international union collective FIA, as I understand it, as a way of requesting that producers actually talk to NZAE. 

As I said earlier the resulting furore was escalated by apoplectic people furious that somehow NZAE had the temerity to invoke anything. Escalating this thing into Vesuvian proportions only resulted in the aforementioned foment.

It has been resolved, for better or worse, and for which I am extremely grateful, so could we now all pull our horns in and have a cup of coffee.

Corin Havers posted 30 Oct 2010, 11:25 AM

I can understand actors' equity's desire to have everyone consider that this issue is 'resolved', and personally I wish it was;  but I suspect that it is actually far from being resolved , and that the consequences of equity's mistakes will be rumbling on for some time to come.

John Smythe posted 30 Oct 2010, 01:27 PM / edited 30 Oct 2010, 03:21 PM

What needs to be clarified, on behalf of actors and others – in general terms, and well away from specific productions – is the right of contract workers to negotiate collectively for minimum rights, rates and conditions (i.e. the minimum fees and conditions for the minimum talent to do the minimum work, from which all is negotiable upwards). Currently organisations of 50 or more may only make non-binding ‘recommendations' – as per The Pink Book, The Blue Book, etc.

Actors Equity in Ireland recently won
the right to negotiate collectively on minimum rates for such work as voice-overs, after fees had fallen dramatically since a ban was imposed on collective bargaining for contractors.  Many professional actors depend heavily on voice-over work for a relatively regular income, and presumably ‘hobby actors' were undercutting them for ‘pin money'. This is not exactly the result competition in the ‘free market' was designed to produce.

This ban on collective bargaining,” Stage News reported, “strictly policed by the Competition Authority [in Ireland], also applies to other workers in the arts such as session musicians, and Equity has been lobbying for some time to have the law changed. Now the Department of Trade and Enterprise has promised to put legislation amending the competition law before parliament by the end of the year.

Chaz Harris posted 30 Oct 2010, 01:27 PM

yes, I agree, let's talk about resolutions now.

Personally, it would take one hell of an apology for me to trust NZAE/MEAA again after all this so the only solution I see is for NZ actors who want to have their interests represented by an NZ run organisation to check out and join: www.nzactorsguild.org.nz

*I'm not involved with this organisation, but I very much trust and respect the actors who are.

John Smythe posted 30 Oct 2010, 04:57 PM / edited 19 Apr 2011, 05:27 PM

Hmmm… I'm still trying to formulate my position on this, Chaz. 

First, I don't think NZ Equity needs to apologise. As soon as they accepted that their specific targeting of The Hobbit (in their continued pursuit of more general goals) was counter-productive, they moved expeditiously to remove it from its sights. That this was not accepted, indeed was aggressively distrusted, seems to prove that extremely powerful international forces had leapt at the opportunity to get all NZ to blame someone other than themselves for their threat to move the production to somewhere more financially attractive to them.

Although “unstable industrial relations” were cited as part of the problem, the legislation rushed through parliament over the last two days bears no relation to what Equity was trying to achieve. It attempts to address something thrown up by a model maker five years ago, working in a way and under conditions no actor is likely face.

In Kate Newton's Dominion Post news feature today (A4, not online), Actors' Equity NZ's Frances Walsh is quoted as saying, “We never saw this kind of perfect storm coming. It would be very foolish and arrogant of us not to say we're going to have a really good look at how we did this.” I am a firm believer in the value of learning from experience, and prefer to see mistakes as opening up opportunities for improvement. 

As I see it, the elected committee members who found themselves in the front line of a very nasty fight (remember they had no desire to battle this out in public) behaved with a much bravery and integrity ‘under fire' as we could expect from people whose primary skill is not, after all, trade union advocacy. If NZ Equity is under-resourced in this area, that's because so many people who call themselves actors have not joined and/or have been too apathetic to get actively involved in policy and strategy.

So is the answer to set up a rival body? Will the focus of this new body be any wider than the wants and needs of those who work on international film blockbusters? How well will they represent actors in the realms of live theatre, radio drama, radio commercials, other voice-over work, TV drama, TV commercials, corporate and educational DVDs, homegrown short films and feature films …?  

The notion that the Equity brand has been forever tarnished by the Hobbit debacle is just more anti-union rhetoric, in my opinion, and while I do prefer the Guild model in the creative sector, I fear for a society that disenfranchises its workforce to the extent of eliminating unions. (Despite what Dane says, we are not a “post union” society yet.)

If Equity had no standing, and no strength in its relationships with international actors' unions and guilds (note, SAG is a guild), it would not have been necessary to be so ruthless in battle with them. And now that particular test match is over, it is Equity that Spada recognises in it ongoing negotiations. What would it take for Spada to negotiate with NZAG too?

By all means get in there and renovate the way Equity operates; ensure your voices get heard and takes action to see your wants and needs met through the established democratic processes. But why split off to reinvent not so much the wheel as the intricate mechanism of cogs and pulleys that may best serve the diverse sectors of the acting profession? Wouldn't it be better to fix what's already there than create a whole new entity based on the passions inflamed during one highly emotive campaign?

These are my thoughts to date. (And by the way, since acting is no longer my main occupation and it is a long time since I have earned anything significant from it – although I, like many,  have done many ‘freebies' for student and non-budget film-makers – all the above is said from the perspective of a relative observer.)

Roy Billing posted 31 Oct 2010, 12:06 AM

After having started this forum, I have hooked back in and had a read of what's been going on over the last weeks. Some fascinating rants! Some really intelligent stuff, and some really stupid stuff....but that's the whole point of these forums isn't it? The Hobbit situation has been reported in the trade media here in Australia but has not had the same coverage  in the mainstream media as in NZ, obviously, but those interested enough have sites like this to look into as well as the websites of the mainstream NZ media. A very wide range of opinions to consider. Thanks to all contributors. There's not much more that can be said now... it is all over and dusted...so I won't be logging in again.

I guess you are now a nation of "Warner bro's." Choice eh! Enjoy it.

 

James Mason posted 31 Oct 2010, 01:00 AM / edited 31 Oct 2010, 01:05 AM

Well Roy, you were going great until that last sentence. With an attitude like that on the MEAA board, it's becoming increasingly obvious why you've been as ineffective for your members, and damaging to the wider industry in New Zealand as you have been in Australia. Glad to see the back of you.

Editor posted 31 Oct 2010, 01:16 PM / edited 1 Nov 2010, 03:50 PM
Sunday 31 October, 2010
My precious subsidy is real Hobbit motto, Finlay McDonald, Sunday Star Times
We don't know Jackson half as well as we thought, Matt McCarten, Herald on Sunday
Editor posted 1 Nov 2010, 03:42 PM

Film industry still at risk of disputes – EPMU, Radio NZ News, 1/11

CTU meets Equity, CTU online, 31/19

A Hobbit's tale (revised), NZ Herald, 30/10

The Hobbit: You. Shall. Not. Unionize!, IGN Movies, 29/10 (LA time)  

Editor posted 1 Nov 2010, 05:26 PM
An expat NZ actor now working in Australia has asked me to pass on the following response to points often bought up and published in the mainstream media without verification – e.g:  

MEAA has destroyed the Australian industry....
it looked pretty good the last time I stuck my head out the door. I urged people to look at the production report on Screen Australia's website which details the very healthy state of our industry.

MEAA has forced offshore productions from coming to Australia / has stopped Disney from coming to Australia....

The reason o/s production is down in Australia is that our dollar is nearly on a par with the US dollar. When it was down we had lots more o/s production. Not that it has stopped completely. We have Spielberg's sci-fi TV series TERRA NOVA shooting here at the moment and recent offshore production has included the 3rd NARNIA movie, SANCTUM; DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK; THE PACIFIC; THE KILLER ELITE; HAPPY FEET 2; LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIANS...and there are more.

Rich Ross, CEO of Disney and chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, dismissed claims by New Zealand director Peter Jackson that Disney is avoiding bringing its productions to Australia due to problems with unions, but admitted that it is “challenging” due to the exchange rate.

“It's not the case [that Disney is not bringing productions due to the MEAA], and I'm not sure why anybody would talk about somebody else's company. I'm not sure why he said it; we go where it makes sense,” Ross told Encore.

In one of his public statements Jackson said: “I've been told that Disney are no longer bring movies to Australia because of their frustration with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance”.

Ross said that choosing Australia as a shooting location would happen “when we have the right film and it makes sense for us to come here”, from a creative and financial point of view.

The LA-based executive admitted that due to the current exchange rate, shooting in Australia is “pricey right now for us”.

This was not reported in the NZ media.

The $3billion dollar NZ film industry?...
Figures like this are taken to be annual figures. That means the NZ industry is bigger than the Oz one. And why all the fuss over missing out on a $250m film one year when there is another $2.75 billion being spent on film in NZ?

The boycott was called by an Australian union...

For some time international actors unions have been concerned about the treatment of NZ actors, in comparison with their overseas counter parts, on offshore productions. FIA decided to stand up for the Kiwis employed on THE HOBBIT and, after a meeting with NZAE was refused, called on actors not to sign HOBBIT contracts. This was signed off, on MEAA letterhead (being the umbrella organisation for NZ and Oz), by all the English speaking actors' unions yet the line consistently followed by the mainstream media was that it was only MEAA, Australia, involved.

SPADA have been trying to talk to NZAE for 18 months...
Other way round. SPADA have refused to talk, or set up meetings then pulled out.
[As I understand it, SPADA only wanted to discuss the non-binding ‘Pink Book' guidelines while Equity wanted a binding collective agreement on minimum terms and conditions – ED]

In a nutshell...

When NZAE asked to meet Jackson to discuss terms and conditions he steadfastly refused. What the conversation would have been, was no business of the NZ public nor the media. One thing NZAE would have asked for was residuals consistent with those of overseas actors working in NZ. In Australia we have a standard offshore film agreement which allows us to participate in SAG type residuals. (These payments have no bearing on the cost of making a movie. Our residuals are a share of the ancillary income derived from a movie after it's theatrical release – i.e. from sales of DVDs, DVD rentals, TV broadcast sales etc. In some cases, like the MATRIX trilogy, these can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a reasonably sized support role.) [Note: Jackson did announce there would be a separate ‘residuals pot' for non-SAG actors – ED.]

As we know, Jackson's response was to shout “the sky is falling in” and claimed Australian bully boy unionists were trying to destroy the NZ film industry. Thus all the hysteria started. The mainstream media sided with Jackson and published whatever was fed to them, actors were vilified and threatened in the street for trying to take food from the mouths of families, and the whole thing degenerated into an extremely undignified dog fight.

Bear in mind that at this time, apart from some pre production work going on in NZ ‘on spec', the film had not been greenlit due to financial problems with MGM in the US. Nor had Jackson signed on as director. This all came to pass during the furore. Warners would have been looking at other locations based on exchange rates and better incentives. All the NZ government could offer was a 15% offset. But now, with popular opinion blaming a union for the possibility that THE HOBBIT might run away, ‘petitions' and ‘rallies'urging that the film be shot in NZ, and public adulation running high for Jackson; Warner execs had a perfect opportunity to apply the screws to the NZ government. And, boy, did they! The film now has, in effect, a 20% offset or $US100m of NZ taxpayers' money. And Jackson has labour laws applying to his industry only which will allow him to exploit NZ creative talent even more than he has done in the past.

I am really glad I don't have to work there. One of the things that really shocked me was the level of hatred directed towards actors. This must have been festering for some time, surely. It can't just have been because of THE HOBBIT situation? Over here our more popular actors are well liked by the public and the industry, shown respect, and given the financial rewards they are due. It's the same everywhere in the world. But look at how Robyn Malcolm has gone from being one of NZ's favourite women to being openly vilified, just because she stuck up for what she believed in. All in the matter of a few weeks.

The industry over here is gobsmacked at how Warners got what they wanted so easily. The term Banana Republic is being bandied around, and some wit called the NZ industry the “Warner bro's industry.”

Another thing often bought up was that
MEAA had been responsible for a US film falling over:  JUSTICE LEAGUE to be produced by Australian George Miller.

This assumption seems to have been based on a press report where Simon Whipp supported the decision to not allow access to the 40% Australian producers offset. The film was an obvious American production and Screen Australia turned it down because it did not meet Government Australiancontent guidelines for the Australian producers offset. They were offered the 15% offshore producers offset which they declined. For some reason film crew over here blamed MEAA and this opinion seems to have been picked up by NZ film crew.

MEAA had nothing to do with the decision which was Screen Australia's alone to make...on behalf of the Australian Federal Government.

In the meantime it's nice to have actors to blame. Although for what?

THE HOBBIT stays in New Zealand ... Isn't that what all the people who signed petitions to no one, who marched in the streets, who swore fealty to St Peter wanted? They should be thanking the actors not vilifying them!

James Mason posted 1 Nov 2010, 05:55 PM

 I have one simple question in answer to the above:

Please show one tiniest piece of evidence that Actor's Equity tried to contact The Hobbit before the boycott was instigated.

Actor's Equity have themselves said that the 17 August letter saying that the boycott was already started and demanding a collective agreement was the FIRST request for a meeting that was sent.

But they were NOT simply asking for a meeting.

They were asking for:

1. A collective bargaining agreement to be made with the MEAA (not Actor's Equity)

2. This bargaining agreement would cover ALL actors on the Hobbit (not just AE members), whether they wanted it or not.

3. That the boycott was already in effect and would remain until the Hobbit 

Here is the letter here if anyone wants to check whether what I'm saying is true.

http://www.alliance.org.au/documents/letter1.pdf

From the MEAA's own website.

This is THE FIRST communication made to Peter Jackson/3'7 requesting a 'meeting' of any type,

MEAA, please stop distorting the truth to your AE members. And AE members, please do further investigation into the claims of the MEAA, for the sake of the rest of the people in the NZ industry effected by their actions.

All this trouble was NOT because AE were just 'asking for a meeting'.

Thanks.

James Mason posted 1 Nov 2010, 05:58 PM

Typo, should be:

" 3. That the boycott was already in effect and would remain until the Hobbit agreed to the collective bargain with the MEAA"

Edit not working for some reason.

Editor posted 2 Nov 2010, 12:22 PM
Hobbit sorted - what's the next bad law?, Tapu Misa, NZ Herald 1/11/10
Editor posted 2 Nov 2010, 02:07 PM
Corin Havers posted 2 Nov 2010, 02:25 PM

On the contrary; rather than caving in to bullying Australian unionists, we proudly dragged ourselves fully upright, defied them, and formed our own, indigenous all-NZ actors' union instead.  Allen Curnow would be proud. Somebody has clearly misinformed the (often misinformed) Chris Trotter.

Welly Watch posted 2 Nov 2010, 03:10 PM

Gosh, I too am misinformed Corin. Please advise, what is this ‘indigenous all-NZ actors' union'? When did it become incorporated? When was its first AGM? Is SPADA interested in talking to them?

Jason Smith posted 2 Nov 2010, 04:25 PM / edited 3 Nov 2010, 10:00 AM

A close friend of mine who is staunchly in the Equity camp has just had me up about my posts in here. I don't shrink from any of my comments, but feel compelled to clarify that in essence, I have no problem with the actors, or any union, going for a better deal. My concern from the start has simply been that in the current economic climate, as a 'technician' I and many friends are often almost solely reliant on U.S. productions coming to New Zealand, and it feels like a very bad time for a small sector of the industry to risk (perhaps inadvertently, but risk nevertheless) the livelihoods of so many.

It has become increasingly difficult to differentiate speculation from fact in all this. Vitriolic blame has been apportioned to either side with equal conviction, so naturally when actor friends have me up on my position, I have to wonder if I've been sucked in. I don't THINK I have, and I guess writing in this forum was about trying, through reasoned debate, get a better handle on the issue. That hasn't really eventuated, and now I'm just suspicious of everybody! All I know for sure is that the situation is rather precarious,  and I really can't afford for work to dry up. I guess time will tell...

John Smythe posted 2 Nov 2010, 05:39 PM / edited 2 Nov 2010, 06:39 PM
Thanks for that Jason. I certainly do hope this forum has helped people to work out what's what and where they stand, and that we all better understand the views of others, even when we disagree.

My main view has been that it's all been part of a process that is common to the adversarial system of law-making and industrial negotiations that is endemic to the democratic system. I like to think most of the main players were acting in good faith throughout.

It may emerge one day that some were being cynically manipulated by others without realising it … And that could apply to all sides of the debate, including the NZ parliament. The minute people start eroding our trust in each other or the systems by which we operate – or the minute we let outside forces push us into doing that to each other and ourselves – we are on a slippery slope and it's hard to claw our way back. 

What has upset me most has been the personal vitriol heaped on the elected representatives of a properly constituted group who set about doing ‘their job'.  That members of parliament have sunk to such depths, under the protection of parliamentary privilege, is especially despicable and my enduring disrespect is reserved for them.  

I fear for a society that effectively neuters unions without allowing independent contractors to organise in a way that lets them to negotiate legally binding minimum standards within their industry in general. 

Film-making is a wonderfully creative and collaborative profession which can only suffer when we are not aligned and mutually respectful. It is essential we regain that mutual trust and respect.  
Dane Giraud posted 2 Nov 2010, 07:28 PM

 I am less concerned with the Hobbit than the idea of unionized local industry. Are we yet robust enough for some of the bottom lines proposed? The actors were right when they said that many of their demands wouldn't amount to money in their pockets, but they would be costs to a production (Easily absorbed by the Hobbit, not so easy by local productions). Budgets are so limited here that one could argue securing a green room (a caravan for location shoots maybe) could mean cuts elsewhere! Actors fees maybe! Who knows, but I do ask the question - is the local industry robust enough for some of these standards

Welly Watch posted 3 Nov 2010, 09:33 AM / edited 3 Nov 2010, 09:53 AM

If a producer using actors – and I'm talking real actors here, not the extras who have been most voluble in this debate – does not think it is important to provide their actors with a place to relax, refresh and prepare for their next scene, I'm not sure the NZ film industry needs them. Actors do a huge amount of work in private, without fuss, in order to deliver the goods on the day. The least a producer can do is ensure that professionalism is not compromised at the last hurdle.

It's sad if a binding agreement is required to ensure that happens but if that's what it takes to get the necessary respect, so be it.

I have to add that the opinion permeating this forum – and others – that NZ film is fledgling industry must be challenged.  Have you forgotten FORGOTTEN SILVER? (joke). But seriously we have been making feature films since the 1920s – just Google Rudall Hayward.  Some of the young people in this debate need to understand the world and this industry existed long before they did.

Editor posted 3 Nov 2010, 04:34 PM

Letter: Please don't knock the acting craft, Michele Amas, DomPost print 2/11, online 3/11

Editor posted 4 Nov 2010, 07:44 PM
Concerning Hobbits 

Last week there appeared to be genuine fears that NZ's movie industry would collapse unless a film about little people with hairy feet fighting a dragon was made on our shores.

Steve Hart [
smART reporting, The Big Idea] looks at how The Hobbit drama played out and resulted in the government pushing through a change to employment laws. [more]
Editor posted 5 Nov 2010, 11:13 AM / edited 5 Nov 2010, 11:35 AM

Collective contracts for actors, nine-to-noon, Radio NZ National, 5/11
Actress Robyn Malcolm talks about why she's still fighting for a collective contract for actors. (duration: 14′31″)

 

Law with Andrew Scott Howman, nine-to-noon, Radio NZ National, 3/11
Andrew looks at the changes made by the Government to employment laws over the Hobbit. (duration: 14′26″) 
Editor posted 10 Nov 2010, 12:08 PM

[Belatedly adding – just for the record – this letter from NZ Equity in response to the statement from Wellington actors that arose from the 11 October meeting.]

To Wellington actors

Thank you for your recent letter and we appreciate you raising your concerns with us.

To address what are now your historic concerns regarding The Hobbit, first, our campaign had been completed in the week commencing the 18th of October, when the NZ Equity Board agreed to rescind the advice to members not to work. The producers were advised of this on the weekend of 16 and 17 October.

With respect to the negotiation of a standard agreement, NZ Equity and SPADA, with the Government's support, have signed an agreement to discuss standard industry terms and conditions recognising the various types of productions in our industry and honoured by all producers. There will also be 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 Mach 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 industrial action from Equity.

We agree with you that Sir Peter Jackson's companies and many other NZ film and television companies have brought much success to the NZ economy and the NZ production industry. So have NZ performers. It also needs to be remembered that many productions in recent times including The Hobbit have failed to meet the recommendations set down in the Pink Book in the engagement of actors.

It is not true to say that we had “targeted” the producers of The Hobbit. All we had asked for on The Hobbit was what we had asked for on many other productions including This is Not my Life and The Cult, that is, to meet with producers to discuss standard conditions for the engagement of New Zealand actors. The producers on all of these productions have to date refused to do so.

For the past two years we have sought to meet with SPADA to discuss this issue and establish enforceable standard conditions. Until recently they too had refused to meet, insisting that the recommendations of the Pink Book were sufficient. The signing of the agreement to discuss enforceable terms with SPADA therefore is an important breakthrough that will provide greater certainty to New Zealand actors and benefit the entire industry in the long term.

We will continue to be discussing with our members the details of what will be included in the agreement – cancellation clauses, residual terms etc, and we would hope that you all will work with us to ensure a brighter more secure future for NZ actors.

Kind Regards

Frances Walsh
[NZ Equity]

Dane Giraud posted 11 Nov 2010, 09:21 PM

 Ed hasn't got to it yet but hunt out the herald article on producer comments on this issue at the SPADA conference. Worth a read. 

Editor posted 11 Nov 2010, 10:14 PM
Thursday 11 November, 2010
Dane Giraud posted 12 Nov 2010, 07:05 AM

 ... And the most interesting point in to come out of both articles was the admission by Insatiable Moon producer that his micro-budget film was threatened also, which is the great concern. 

Editor posted 13 Nov 2010, 12:53 PM / edited 13 Nov 2010, 11:20 PM
John Drinnan on the SPADA Hobbit session and Peter Jackson
(scroll down to ‘Lion's Den' and read on… - NZ Herald, 12/11

Pre-SPADA conference John Drinnan piece – NZ Herald, 5/11

Corin Havers posted 15 Nov 2010, 08:23 AM / edited 18 Nov 2010, 03:18 PM

 video clip of SPADA Conf  - here.

Editor posted 15 Nov 2010, 10:28 AM / edited 18 Nov 2010, 03:17 PM

Try this link for the SPADA conference panel

Editor posted 21 Dec 2010, 10:14 AM / edited 21 Dec 2010, 10:32 AM

What really happened, and in what order, regarding the Hobbit Hooha ...

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Union still seeking new conditions for actors – Morning Report, Radio NZ, 08:23
Labour renews criticism of Hobbit employment law change
– Morning Report, Radio NZ, 08:17
Actors Hobbit boycott played no role in filming decision – Morning Report, Radio NZ, 07:22
Union: Protest did not affect Hobbit decision – NZPA, DomPost online
Sir Peter: Actors no threat to Hobbit – Derek Cheng, NZ Herald

Monday 20 December 2010 
Warners used Hobbit threat to get law change – Checkpoint, Radio NZ, 17:26 

For the full unfolding story go to HOBBIT hooha - all the links – there's a thesis in there somewhere for someone! 

John Smythe posted 21 Dec 2010, 11:00 AM / edited 21 Dec 2010, 11:03 AM

And now I am hoping that those who publicly vilified the MEAA, NZ Equity, the CTU and its office-bearers personally (from producers, politicians, Spada spokespeople, media commentators and bloggers, to actors, extras and film-workers) will revise their opinions, consider who got emotionally manipulated by whom and to what end … and even apologise in the appropriate forums (not holding my breath).  

Editor posted 21 Dec 2010, 08:23 PM

This from an expatriate Kiwi actor now working in Australia who prefers to remain anonymous:

“I have spoken to many people from the international film community over the last weeks from Australia, UK, USA and Asia and the general impression is that Warners really put one over a very gullible NZ Government who have been made to look pretty stupid, internationally.

“Everyone outside NZ knew it was always on the cards that Warners could move THE HOBBIT production overseas somewhere, probably to their new hundred million quid UK studios where they would have had to put up with British unions who have far more power than little old NZ Actors Equity so the union boycott, and subsequent withdrawal, would not have influenced them as far as NZ was concerned. I seriously doubt whether they were that worried about a ‘stable employment environment', which the NZ film industry has anyway.

“Anyway, no worries now for Warners about workers' injury compensation, holiday pay, sick pay, overtime etc. They've got what they apparently wanted, plus another $US25m on top of the 15% subsidy, i.e. 20% of the film budget subsidised by the NZ taxpayer.
 
“During THE HOBBIT hooha the hysterical reaction to reasonable demands from actors, all the over-the-top ill informed commentary, the espousing of conspiracy theories, and the death threats to actors and their union representatives from some in the NZ film community have led to these particular types being labelled, in some quarters, as the ‘hillbillies of the South Pacific.'

“It would be good to see those who vilified so many people and organisations apologising but I can't see that happening. Attitudes are too entrenched and, THE HOBBIT issue aside, I think there is an underlying contempt for the acting profession within the NZ film community. Where it comes from, who knows?

“Elsewhere in the world our profession is seen as being integral to the whole film making process and our craft is respected (and let's face it – they can't do it without us; even animation requires actors' voices) but not in NZ... e.g. one of your forum posters said something about actors being a dime a dozen and easy to get. Charming!

“I wonder why Hollywood producers go to so much trouble and expense to cast specific actors, and how many people would go to see, say, a Johnny Depp film if Joe Bloggs was playing the lead role? Whereas no one is really aware who the grip or the gaffer is... not that I wish to debase their important contributions to the film making process.”   

Editor posted 22 Dec 2010, 07:50 PM

 Wednesday 22 December 2010

Govt makes another concession to Hobbit movies – Radio NZ, Checkpoint, 17:14

Actors' union demands apology from Peter Jackson – Radio NZ News online 

Editor posted 23 Dec 2010, 10:09 AM / edited 23 Dec 2010, 10:11 AM

 Sir PJ responds …  

Thursday 23 December, 2010
 
Unions' Hobbit blacklist almost hobbled movies, Tom Hunt, Dominion Post 

John Smythe posted 10 Jan 2011, 03:03 PM / edited 10 Jan 2011, 03:07 PM

In its wisdom the Listener reworded key parts of the letter published over my name in the latest issue. Here, then, is the unedited text: 

AN ACTOR REACTS
John Barnett's continued aggression and abusive language does nothing to support his status as a leading film and television producer (Acting up, January 8). It insults an industry that has creative interaction and teamwork at its core.
     It is misleading to say actors are “the best paid people on any production” when their paid days are often separated by many more unpaid days, during which their chances of picking up other work are severely limited. Besides, the paid time must compensate for the unpaid hours spent researching, learning lines and otherwise preparing for the role.
     Mr Barnett's suggestion that because his South Pacific Pictures pays actors well, actors therefore have no right to collectively seek better minimum rights, rates and conditions across this very diverse industry, is absurd.
     Recently an awful lot of low-to-no-budget shorts and feature film producers have asked actors to work for a pittance or nothing (I was offered $50 for my last role and expected to gift it back to the production). We may accept such work to support emerging directors, keep ‘match fit' and maintain exposure in the hope the outcome will be good enough to enhance our prospects for properly paid work. ‘Yeah right.' Meanwhile respect for actors as professionals has waned.
     Robin Scholes' comment that “contracts were offered and it's absolutely the choice of the individual to take it or not,” even when they fell short of the unenforceable ‘pink book' standards, proves the need for professional actors to unite in improving their lot.
     If producers think dividing the creative community will help them rule it better, I beg to differ. Our adversarial system may oblige us to engage in robust debate when it comes to negotiating, but descending to vitriol and peddling misinformation is simply destructive.

John Smythe 
Mount Victoria, Wellington  

Editor posted 17 Jan 2011, 08:54 AM / edited 17 Jan 2011, 10:03 AM

 John Barnett's reply in The Listener reads as follows:

ACTING THE PART
   John Smythe's assertion (Letters, January 15) that I believe “actors have no right to seek better … conditions” is incorrect, and he offers no evidence to support the position he attributes to me.
   My views on the Hobbit dispute and the role of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) are well known. I have been a vocal critic of the MEAA's tactics in that fight, and its complete lack of efficacy in the three to four years it has run NZ Actors' Equity. But I have never questioned the right of New Zealand actors to organise themselves into a local organisation to represent their rights and to negotiate an industry agreement. 
   As Screen Production and Development Association members, we are already signatories to the Spada/NZ Actors' Equity Pink Book agreement, and I actively support the upcoming discussions between those organisations to review that document. 
   Like many on all sides of this argument, Smythe may have strong feelings about the issues, but they don't excuse his unfounded and incorrect assertions. 
John Barnett
South Pacific Pictures Ltd
(Henderson, Auckland)

John Smythe posted 17 Jan 2011, 09:57 AM / edited 17 Jan 2011, 10:06 AM

 I am of course delighted that John Barnett actively supports the upcoming discussions between Spada and NZ Actors' Equity to review the Pink Book. I note this is not a binding agreement, however, and (as the original Listener article stated) there is no guarantee its basic recommendations will be met by individual productions.

For the record, my inferring that Barnett dismissed the value of an industry agreement arose from this part of the article:
   ‘Agent Graham Dunster, of Auckland Actors, thinks actors are undervalued by the industry and held in low esteem.
  ‘South Pacific Pictures' Barnett disagrees. “That's absolute crap. Who are the highest-paid people on any production? The best-paid people on any production are the actors.” And if Dunster believes his actors are underpaid, “he should get off his arse and do some work negotiating for them.” ' 

The assertion that actors are “the highest-paid people on any production” is rebutted above.

Barnett's language exemplifies the aggressive nature of his adversarial approach. If this is the tone he brings to the Pink Book negotiations, Equity members have to hope that their negotiators are equal to the fight. But even if they are, the result will not meet the need for a binding minimum rates, rights and conditions agreement, from which individual contracts may be negotiated upwards.

The main focus of concern is the labour laws that apparently make it illegal for a collection of contractors to negotiate a binding agreement with employer representatives. Revision of that legislation needs to be an election year issue. 

Dane Giraud posted 17 Jan 2011, 12:23 PM

 Barnett's language exemplifies the aggressive nature of his adversarial approach...

John, enough with accusing anyone with an opposing view to your own as aggressive

Chaz Harris posted 17 Jan 2011, 12:33 PM

Amen Dane.

p.s. if that law about collective bargaining for contractors is to be an election issue, I definitely won't be voting for the party proposing for it to be changed. That's just opening the door for unionisation and even though I'm a member of several Guilds here, I don't think NZ's film industry needs to be unionised.

The law or collective bargaining agreements aren't needed, all we need are some guarantees for compliance with the new Pink Book terms and conditions when they are agreed upon. It's up to actors and/or their representatives to call a production out and report them to SPADA if they're failing to uphold those standards, and that should also be an agreed as part of enforcing the new Pink Book - isn't that what actors mean when they say "I'm calling my agent" if they're not happy at work anyway?

John Smythe posted 17 Jan 2011, 02:03 PM

 Dane, it is an objective truth that “absolute crap” and “he should get off his arse” are aggressive phrases. It is also reasonable to observe that producer sector's treatment of the MEAA, Equity and the actors fronting the campaign was abusive in overt and covert ways and that Equity chose not to descend to that level.

Chaz, I'll be interested to observe how the break-away NZ Actors Guild (which has yet to be mentioned by the mainstream media) fares in being an effective voice for actors. As I see it the hate campaign directed at Equity – either by design or as an unintended consequence of the producers' strategy – proves they are a force to be reckoned with, not least because of their alliance with international guilds and unions. As such, given the way the adversarial system works, they are actually respected by those who vilify them. How will the NZAG go about winning such respect? 

Chaz Harris posted 17 Jan 2011, 02:15 PM

I think NZAG have done a pretty good job at gaining respect and building trust so far, they've been transparent about all their movements right from day one - enough for me, as a filmmaker, to put my money where my mouth is and pledge my own support.

They politely asked SPADA if an NZAG rep might be allowed to sit in on the Pink Book negotiations (only as observers) since it would be something that would also impact the interests of their membership, during which time they became a legally incorporated entity to represent actors so actually had a right to be there to discuss the Pink Book in my eyes.

SPADA responded that they had no problem with it if Equity agreed to let them sit in. Equity waited several weeks and then responded with a "no". If we're talking about gaining respect:

NZAG 1

Equity 0

p.s. also let's be clear, a Guild being mentioned by the mainstream media is not a measure for success, in fact it's probably a sign of failure. Serving members and working collaboratively behind the scenes with the rest of the industry means there should be little need to mention them in the press at all.

Dane Giraud posted 17 Jan 2011, 06:09 PM

I really don't know what you think your superior call for calm is adding to the debate, John.  

 

John Smythe posted 18 Jan 2011, 10:17 AM

Thank you Dane. I take it yours is an inferior call for turbulence. 

Dane Giraud posted 18 Jan 2011, 07:56 PM

Turbulence would be more productive than a woefully slanted commentary on etiquette. 

Michael Smythe posted 18 Jan 2011, 08:34 PM

Oh dear - a fundamental disagreement! Dane is all for constructive disruption while Chaz calls for collaboration behind the sceens which will be successful if there is not enough disruption for the media to take an interest.

I agree with Chaz, but I am bemused by his anti-union tone. By far the majority of Kiwi unions do work constructively behind the scenes and good employers recognise their value.* That was what Actors Equity was attempting to do within their meagre resources. It seems very clear which side of the action chose to create a big media drama and keep fanning the flames (in spite of repeated conciliatory statements by the union) until John Key and his Warner Bros mate could do a deal at the expense of New Zealand taxpayers and workers. Well done all the aiders and abetters!

But that's all so last year - now John and John's little spat has shown that protagonists are on the same page and aimed in the same direction.

(*My first post-graduate design job was with Fisher and Paykel and they set the benchmark for building a cooperative relationship with thier worker through unions. Even so many rank-and-file jobs have gone overseas and its mostly an expanded design and management team that remains in New Zealand.)

Chaz Harris posted 18 Jan 2011, 11:15 PM

Let's be clear, I'm not anti-union, but I do take issue when a union takes action that impacts an entire industry and thousands of jobs without first consulting their fellow crew members, industry Guilds or even taking a vote of their own membership. There is a process for that kind of thing and it was all totally overlooked. If the Directors Guild (of which I am a member) took global industrial action on my behalf without at least asking me as a member first, I would not be a happy camper.

Maybe a lot of actors agreed with NZ Equity's driving principles of improving terms and conditions and standards for actors working in the industry, how could they not? Even I agreed that actors have a right to have such things and not be mistreated or disrespected. So, with that said, isn't it just incomprehensible to have targeted a production and group of producers who have a reputation for being the most fair and respectful? Even Robyn Malcolm and others leading the charge couldn't say they had ever had a bad experience on a PJ film. So why was only one film, a film by them, the target? Why not all international productions working in NZ? This question was never answered as far as I am aware, or if it was, I missed the explanation. 

I read in the latest ONFILM issue that Roy Billing mentioned there was a lack of respect for actors in NZ. I can only speak for myself here, but I have a LOT of respect for actors and to the best of my knowledge I have never treated an actor I have worked with badly in my career so far (nor do I intend to in future). That's not to say that actors don't get disrespected and treated poorly sometimes, but those stories I've heard have been rare blips rather than regular and widespread issues - at least in the world of independent filmmaking, perhaps TV up in Auckland or elsewhere in the country is a different ball game?

The disrespect and abuse actors experienced during this fiasco was caused by threatening the livelihoods of everyone in the industry without having just cause to do so. Perhaps if the target had been more deserving of the pitchforks more people would have supported NZ Equity's cause and action?

The media drama was born out of a necessary reaction to invoking global unions into blacklisting a film that had done nothing wrong and was, by all accounts, going to treat actors very well. If they were not, nobody was able to provide details or specifics of the problem or issues and representatives from NZ Equity even refused to do so when asked by others in the industry including myself.

re: "...until John Key and his Warner Bros mate could do a deal at the expense of New Zealand taxpayers and workers. Well done all the aiders and abetters!". I agree, well done to those folks over at MEAA along with Simon Whipp who went around the world back in July to organise the blacklisting (something that huge doesn't just happen overnight, it is strategic and calculated). That opened a door and it completely blew back in their faces, Warner Bros had every right to demand anything they wanted after that to keep the film in New Zealand, and I don't blame them for that, they have shareholders to please. Someone handed them an opportunity where they could, and it wasn't someone in New Zealand.

The cause of the law change was not the media storm started by the first release, invoking that kind of global industrial action destroys confidence and the reputation for the industry overseas without any need for comments from anyone but then it demands a response. That put the producers and studio in a position where they were forced to defend themselves for doing nothing wrong. I'm still baffled as to how that was a fair thing to do, no matter the end goal or crusade.

So I guess that's why I might come across as anti-union, when in fact all I am doing is voicing my objection to doing the wrong thing to the wrong people and causing more damage than necessary in the process.

Editor posted 20 Jan 2011, 11:21 AM

 Minister misled us on Hobbit, says Labour  
By Derek Cheng  

NZ Herald Thursday Jan 20, 2011  

The Labour Party is accusing a senior minister of being in contempt of Parliament, saying he misled the House when The Hobbit movie project was under threat of being moved overseas.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard has written to Speaker Lockwood Smith asking him to investigate Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee for his answers to questions at the time ministers were negotiating with Warner Bros executives.

Last year, the two movies were subjected to a boycott from several international actors' unions, including the Australian Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance and its New Zealand affiliate, Actors' Equity. Warner Bros eventually decided to make the two Hobbit movies in New Zealand, having secured a change to employment laws and up to $34 million in additional tax breaks. [More

Editor posted 27 Jan 2011, 04:24 PM

Sir Peter's surgery delays Hobbit filming    
NZ Herald, 27 Feb 2011 

Sir Peter Jackson has undergone surgery after being admitted to Wellington Hospital with acute stomach pains. 

The New Zealand filmmaker went to hospital on Wednesday night and had surgery for a perforated ulcer, The Hobbit publicist Melissa Booth said. 

He is currently resting comfortably and his doctors expect him to make a full recovery. [More
 

Editor posted 14 Mar 2011, 11:32 AM

Kiwi actors ready to role-play
KIM KNIGHT
Sunday Start Times 13/03/2011

At least half the 75 main character roles in the two Hobbit movies could go to overseas actors.

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show Sir Peter Jackson's production company has permission to bring in 40 internationals for speaking parts.

Shooting on the two-year project begins in Wellington tomorrow week.

The Sunday Star-Times understands only 33 of the main roles – defined as those with any dialogue – have been assigned so far, with 16 spots going to Kiwis. Britain's Martin Freeman will play The Hobbit's hero Bilbo Baggins, and big- name stars Sir Ian McKellen and Cate Blanchett are back to play Gandalf and Galadriel, respectively. Local actors on the project include Mark Hadlow and Jed Brophy. [More]  
 

Editor posted 14 Mar 2011, 11:33 AM

Press Release from the NZ Actors' Guild regarding The Hobbit

NZ Actors' Guild seeks to celebrate the positive impacts on the lives of Kiwi actors

In the light of recent statements from Actors' Equity the New Zealand Actors' Guild looks to celebrate the positive influence The Hobbit is already having on New Zealand actors and film professionals.

It is an amazing thing that so many talented and deserving Kiwi actors have been rewarded with key roles on The Hobbit already, and in doing so have netted life-changing contracts. To have so many fantastic New Zealand performers in meaty and lucrative roles in a major Hollywood production is something to be justifiably proud of and speaks volumes of the talent available. Especially after an extensive casting search within New Zealand and overseas to have so many Kiwi actors in major roles is a coup.

The New Zealand Actors' Guild is enormously proud to have one member in a major role and already several other Guild members have secured lucrative contracts. With more than half the major roles still to be cast we have every reason to anticipate that this number will increase.

The Hobbit is a major studio production with a serious budget and has already been dogged with issues and the studios who have invested in it will be demanding the best possible returns. Therefore it is an immense credit to Sir Peter Jackson that he has championed the cause of so many New Zealand actors who are largely unheralded overseas. Like Sir Peter, the New Zealand Actors' Guild has every reason to believe that they will do the country proud.

The NZ Actors' Guild believes that it is churlish and argumentative to call into question the whole casting process that has already benefited New Zealand performers and will continue to give countless opportunities to actors outside the speaking roles. The actors in the roles of stand-ins and doubles are also on generous contracts for extended periods of time and there will be the opportunity for a large number of performers to benefit from extra roles, giving many actors valuable experience and an ongoing income in uncertain times.

“It is amazing to be working alongside some of the most talented actors from abroad and from our very shores,” says Guild member and core cast member Jed Brophy. “We are being treated amazingly well and working very hard to ensure this is a fantastic film. I feel very privileged to be in this company of performers and they are enjoying working with their Kiwi brothers and sisters. We are a true ensemble.”

“I have a great contract and awesome working conditions and a performance fee that is almost double my ‘day job' wage,” says NZ Actors' Guild member Gareth Ruck. “I look at the hundreds of fellow actors and crew members I'm working with and think how bad it could have been if Equity had it's way.” 

So New Zealand actors will be rubbing shoulders with overseas counterparts but Kiwis are present in this Hollywood film in large numbers and this is to be celebrated. The Hobbit will be providing a good living for many Kiwi film professionals across the board and this is something that could so easily have been taken away from them only months ago.

Gregory Cooper posted 12 Apr 2011, 06:33 PM

This is quite long but well worth a read. The 'who knew what when' information is very interesting.

www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1104/S00081/helen-kelly-the-hobbit-dispute.htm

Editor posted 19 Apr 2011, 05:19 PM

SINZ: New combined screen industry group formed   

Recently a meeting was held between the screen industry guilds, organisations and unions resulting in the formation of a new combined industry group entitled “Screen Industry New Zealand” (SINZ). [More]

Editor posted 18 Jun 2011, 11:11 AM

Belatedly posting this news a) because it is highly relevant to the Hobbit dispute and b) attempts to share this information on other sites have been censored.


Fair Deal for Performers on Mr Pip
[more]  
Nic Farra posted 3 Jul 2011, 09:09 AM

 As far as I can tell both Equity and the Actors Guild regard producers as the ones who create work and therefore have to be negotiated with in order to get something. What bollocks. Only an Anarchist/Syndicalist grouping of actors will ever be effective. As long as everyone hands the bosses power on a plate, they'll take it. So what do you really want?

John Smythe posted 3 Jul 2011, 12:44 PM / edited 3 Jul 2011, 12:46 PM

Whether you like it or not, Nic, there will always be screen and stage producers who commission scripts or buy rights in ‘properties', manage them through development stages, raise production funds then contract actors (and directors, designers, crew and admin staff) to bring a production to fruition. In these scenarios actors (and the other groups) need collective representation, in their own interests and in order to contribute constructively towards a professionally managed negotiation and understanding of minimum rates, rights and conditions agreements between professionals.

Much will be analysed and written about which element of the above failed in the Hobbit situation, and at whose instigation it persisted well beyond rational argument. But at the Wellington meetings, when the notion of a Guild model was being canvassed, I cautioned strongly against setting up a splinter group, suggesting that any disaffection with Equity should be dealt with from within the organisation. (Besides the guild model is best for artisans who own the copyright – as distinct from having moral rights – in work they create.)

It is not surprising to me that Equity remains the organisation that SPADA and its member producers continue to deal with. If they didn't have respect for their professional standing their appointed (and self-appointed) leaders would never have done such battle within the less-than-constructive adversarial system we persist in using at every level of society.

Roy Billing posted 3 Jul 2011, 07:42 PM

Well put John.

Nic Farra posted 6 Jul 2011, 01:39 PM / edited 6 Jul 2011, 01:41 PM

 A union in which worker solidarity, direct action and self-management are held to be the defining principles is the one model I believe will ever give actors a 'fair' deal. This is something Equity will never be, as you quite rightly point out John, they are part of this ridiculous adversarial system.The elected or self-appointed executive acts much the same way as a parliamentary executive. The membership is powerless when set against their choices. Hence in my analysis, Equity had no choice to act in any other way than that which was directed by their overlords. Put it how you will, this is how Socialism functions and it equates with tyranny.

A 'Guild' model, as you stated John, does indeed suit artisans who own copyright on their work. What is Equity trying to achieve by obtaining residual payments if not a recognition of this idea? However the Guilds spawned not only the Labour movements of early industrial times, but the anarchist thinkers of more recent times. The Actors Guild of New Zealand welcomes any and all capitalist activity in the film industry, on whatever terms it likes. They will be happy with the crumbs the bosses let slip from the table and they will show their gratitude by turning up for work.

Worker solidarity, direct action and self-management have been seen during the mid-eighties when actors as unified workers took on all the bosses and (within the award system) achieved more by direct action than by sitting down and negotiating. The potential existed to take everything much further, but the Government, with the compliance of the Unions took any power away the actors had by enforced amalgamation and removal of the right to strike.

I hold that anyone purporting to act 'for' the actors is simply flexing another form of authority. Just because something is present in our midst does not make it right. I put these people in the same basket as SPADA. They do not have our interests at heart.

Michael Smythe posted 6 Jul 2011, 02:31 PM

What century are you living in Nic? The New Zealand union movement (with the possible exception of Matt McCarten's Unite) has not operated in an us vs them / bash the bosses mode for many years. It is well understood that investors, executives, employees and contractors are all in the same waka. In New Zealand especially it is the rest of the world we are up against, not each other. Only narrow minded right-wingers persist in characterising unions as socialist control freaks.

My sideliner view of the Hobbit dispute is that Equity attempted to open discussions in a collaborative and constructive way and was opportunistically steamrolled by a US force, aided and abetted by ‘our' government, which does not understand how we do things here. Whether PJ was a script-writer or a manipulated player remains a Key question.

Editor posted 27 Apr 2012, 12:47 PM

Gordon Campbell analyses the latest revelations re 'the Hobbit legislation': http://gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz/2012/04/27/gordon-campbell-on-the-latest-hobbit-revelations/ 

Editor posted 27 Apr 2012, 02:30 PM / edited 27 Apr 2012, 03:18 PM
Editor posted 27 Apr 2012, 03:19 PM / edited 28 Apr 2012, 05:00 PM

Actors Equity issues a statement on the Hobbit hooha + Radio NZ Checkpoint item .

Editor posted 30 Apr 2012, 09:50 AM

Actors Equity unhappy with Government-Warner Brothers Hobbit deal - Audio

Fri, 27 Apr 2012 18:01
Andrew Patterson speaks to Phil Darkin about revelations about the government deal with Warner back in 2010 when the plug was nearly pulled on production on New Zealand. 27th April 2012. 
 
larry gregory posted 8 May 2012, 10:33 PM / edited 9 May 2012, 08:36 AM

Every Actor in the country must be respected and should be given what he/she deserves because i believe being a entertainer is most difficult role or work to do and an entertainer make you cry and makes you laugh. 

Editor posted 28 May 2012, 09:54 AM

Sir Ian McKellan talks about Actors Equity (following a performance of his fundraising show for the Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch).

Michael Smythe posted 30 Sep 2012, 02:44 PM / edited 30 Sep 2012, 03:09 PM

Kim Dotcom, was officially granted permanent residence in New Zealandon 29 November 2010 - the day after the pre-emptive strike against Actors Equity for daring to suggest a chat over a cup of tea. The plot thickens! Synopses for HOBBITON DOT COM - the opera are invited ...

Editor posted 26 Feb 2013, 05:59 PM / edited 26 Feb 2013, 06:12 PM

FRANKLY SPEAKING (Frank Macskasy):

And the Oscar for Union-Smashing and Manipulating Public Opinion goes to…

.… Peter Jackson, John Key, and Warner Bros, for their cunning performance over, ‘The Hobbit‘! [More]  

Editor posted 26 Feb 2013, 06:11 PM

Radio NZ podcasts:

New papers on the Hobbit dispute reveal the Government came under intense pressure to do a deal to ensure the movies were made in New Zealand. (8′56″) 
http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2547546/govt-under-intense-pressure-to-do-hobbit-deal.asx  

Phil Darkins is an organiser for Actors' Equity. (3′22″)
http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2547547/actors'-equity-responds.asx

Editor posted 26 Feb 2013, 09:48 PM / edited 26 Feb 2013, 09:56 PM

Links to the Hobbit documents via NZ Herald and the analysis on TV3's Campbell Live: 

Hobbit documents:

http://media.nzherald.co.nz/webcontent/document/pdf/20139/NZHHobbitDocuments.PDF

 Campbell Live's succinct analysis:  

http://www.3news.co.nz/Behind-the-2010-Hobbit-dealings/tabid/367/articleID/288211/Default.aspx

Marilyn Monroe posted 27 Feb 2013, 06:59 PM

I see we're determined not to be pushed around by Hollwood and are demanding apologies from Argot.

Editor posted 2 Mar 2013, 05:26 PM

RNZ Focus On Politics, 1 march 2013: Release of documents reveal truth about Hobbit dispute. (16′55″) 

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/focusonpolitics/audio/2547931/focus-on-politics-for-1-march-2013.asx