Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: A few (more) words on The Hobbit

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  • Sacha, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    Not wishing to stir but whateva

    Less of the passive-aggressive stuff, please. Just say what you want to say.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I do think that Simon Whipp has a touch of the British Leyland/Red Robbo syndrome about him - cantankerousness at any cost. By contrast, Helen Kelly did manage to keep her cool.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4431 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King, in reply to Russell Brown,

    alarmed by Equity’s bid to get its private casting notes to try and contest the cast of non-New Zealand actors

    Oooh, I'm trying so hard not to get drawn into this again ... but this bit made my jaw drop when I saw it in the papers. For Equity to ask for written reason why every actor was not cast in a production is just ... mental.

    I've waded through hundreds of auditions to cast a handful of roles, and I can tell you there are a million reasons why someone isn't cast -- the most common one being that they just aren't quite 'it'. But no way would I a) write down those reasons for every person, and b) let anyone else see those notes -- what a ghastly betrayal of trust for the actors auditioning that would be! Shame on Equity for even suggesting such a thing. But then it's clear that they were asking for that to be vexatious, not to actually find work for their members.

    And, as Craig has pointed out, hypocrisy much? We -- and probably they [Equity] -- are quick to cheer when one of ours lands a gig overseas.

    Since Sep 2010 • 174 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve,

    Fundamentally I find Equity's ability to hold a veto over actors to be absurd at any level. Casting is a pivotal part of the creative process of film making. No guild or union should be able to hold veto over that.

    NZ actors aren't missing out on these parts they aren't being cast for, because they'd never have been cast for them. However if those productions are shot here then many many more NZ actors will be cast in other supporting roles, not to mention the hundreds of NZ crew jobs that will be created.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 262 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Russell Brown,

    pursuing employee status for actors as a means to collective bargaining was a really dumb move for Equity. It wasn’t going to happen.

    If that’s what they were after! Maybe there’s too much murk in the water to be sure.
    The hope (AFAIR- possibly way wrong :)) was for a collective agreement, but one that would apply to contractors (the ‘pink book’ but with legal teeth).
    WETA claimed this would violate some section of the commerce act designed to protect us all from cartels. Chris Findlayson jumped on board, waving the crown law opinion, but not letting anyone see it.
    Kelly has always insisted this is a nonsense (I asked her at a public meeting why it couldn’t be tested in court, and she said she didn’t think it needed to be, it was rubbish.)
    That’s why the crown law opinion (still withheld, though WETA and Warners seem to have seen it) is another key element in the farce. Whatever the relevant section of the commerce act says, it clearly wasn’t INTENDED to prevent lower-level contractors like actors from collective bargaining- still less, to prevent someone in Peter Jackson’s position even talking to Equity (which he said would be illegal).
    As someone who contracts from time-to-time in television, I’d like this sorted out.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1599 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    The hope (AFAIR- possibly way wrong :)) was for a collective agreement, but one that would apply to contractors (the ‘pink book’ but with legal teeth).
    WETA claimed this would violate some section of the commerce act designed to protect us all from cartels. Chris Findlayson jumped on board, waving the crown law opinion, but not letting anyone see it.

    Kelly has always insisted this is a nonsense (I asked her at a public meeting why it couldn’t be tested in court, and she said she didn’t think it needed to be, it was rubbish.)

    It was the position of the wider production industry for a long time before the Hobbit dispute, and it took amendment of a similar law to achieve collective bargaining in Ireland. I don't think it was rubbish as such. As you say, it could have been contested in court.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve,

    This article is also odd...

    The Hobbit documents released: Jackson's frustrations revealed

    It suggests that there never was a plan to shift production out of NZ...

    A later email between Ms Blackwood and Mr Brownlee showed that New Line Cinema did not plan to film The Hobbit in a different country, despite its concerns about the labour dispute.

    Government warned in October 2010 that the films could be moved offshore if the dispute was not resolved.

    Ms Blackwood said there was growing momentum to find alternative places to film, and asked Mr Brownlee to consider similar incentives to those offered by New South Wales.

    But she reassured the minister that the company was committed to making the films in New Zealand.

    "As I have said to you on every occasion that we have spoken, we are committed to New Zealand..."

    Bomber has grabbed on to that at Tumeke and gone, well, Bomber on it.

    Here's what the email says:

    First, and most importantly, when you asked me if the decision had been made to move the films offshore, I told you that the decision had not yet been made. And it hasn't. As I said to you on every occasion that we have spoken, we are committed to NZ, both because of Peter and Fran's deep commitment to be there, as well as our own - we filmed all three Lord of the Rings films in NZ and are not making any decisions to move this production lightly. If that were to happen, it would honestly be a blow to all of us. That said, we are in a very precarious position given our significant investment to date (and in the future) and we feel that the uncertainty of the labor issues creates a real risk to us

    That seems clear to me - they issues were forcing them to consider alternatives. Understandably.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 262 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    Not wishing to stir but whateva. I learnt that National are still the Party that I still can’t stand.

    And that's fine - I'm totally with Russell that the latest documents 1) probably aren't going to shift anyone's mind on this, and 2) don't reflect particularly well on any of the parties in what was a fraught and unpleasant moment in industrial relations. (See point one above.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12073 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    (still withheld, though WETA and Warners seem to have seen it)

    Small note: 'WETA' is not a synonym for 'Peter Jackson's Film Production Company'. WETA Digital is a Visual FX company, WETA Workshop is a design and practical effects company ... I expect neither were involved in any of this directly. Wingnut is Jackson's film company.

    Since Sep 2010 • 174 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Jonathan King,

    Might be a non-trivial distinction to point out to *cough* certain folks who've been accusing Richard Taylor of various things I'm not sure it would legally advisable to repeat here.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12073 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    I've also loved the pearl-clutching that (gasp!) Peter Jackson didn't exactly bathe in the milk of human kindness when Simon Whipp's name was raised. This revelation deserves a hashtag: #noshitsherlock

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12073 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The sanest summary of the situation yet, in my opinion.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 144 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    NZ actors aren’t missing out on these parts they aren’t being cast for, because they’d never have been cast for them.

    Particularly the case with the Vincent Gallo fiasco. The creative theme in the Steinlager Pure ads series was craggy, cool Americans who liked our beer. Arguing that Gallo wasn't famous enough to front an ad campaign over a New Zealander was idiotic.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Something I keep meaning to say: if Equity wanted public support for actors' demands, then it should have gone to the public. This was an absolute sitter for a managed PR campaign via social media and conventional news sources.

    How much better would Robyn Malcolm have looked calling for "a fair go for New Zealand actors" on Campbell Live than trying to defend an aggressive position whose purpose was never clear?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Arguing that Gallo wasn’t famous enough to front an ad campaign over a New Zealander was idiotic.

    And, frankly, how many Americans knew who Ant Starr was before he got the lead in Banshee? Or Jay Ryan before the CW started the hype machine up on the Beauty and the Beast re-boot? Or Daniel Gillies, Cliff Curtis. Manu Bennett and Martin Henderson who all have significant roles this pilot season? And I still have to (figuratively) clear my throat every time Karl Urban is called an Australian on Trek fan boards. :)

    Finally, as a side-bar, I recall reading some harrumphing in the Daily Mail that the British taxpayer paid for Jane Campion and Elizabeth Moss to have a holiday in Queenstown. I’m pretty sure every Kiwi actor and crew-member who “stole” British jobs in Top of the Lake will respond with a cheery one-finger salute.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12073 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett,

    Not to mention demanding something that it’s not within the power of the producer to offer. No single producer is able to agree to contract on the basis of ‘industry-wide contracts’ as s/he does not act for the industry as a whole.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 144 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It was the position of the wider production industry for a long time before the Hobbit dispute

    In the sense that most everyone was/is a contractor, yes. But nor was it a completely de-regulated contractual free-for-all. There was widespread adherence to both the ‘blue’ (craftspeople) and ‘pink’ (actors/front of camera) books (which are more contract guidelines than rules, but established some benchmarks) by many productions. Just not all- and the exceptions were occasionally egregious.
    Plus, both were, at that point, somewhat dated and in need of a re-write.
    Plenty of reasonable voices on the production side here (asking for casting notes is beyond cheeky: it smacks of petty authoritarianism.) MEAA/Equity certainly stuffed this whole thing up.
    But the actors basic position wasn't (in my rather biased opinion) unreasonable. Nor, since both books are widely followed, would it have been terribly disruptive for them to become codified.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1599 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Russell Brown,

    if Equity wanted public support for actors’ demands, then it should have gone to the public.

    Yep. But first: consolidate the base (that's the actual actors!) Then get the techies on-board with what you want. Then get some writers to craft a decent story- with a clear, achievable climax/set of goals.
    Then hire a producer :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1599 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    But the actors basic position wasn’t (in my rather biased opinion) unreasonable. Nor, since both books are widely followed, would it have been terribly disruptive for them to become codified.

    I don't disagree with any of that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    Yep. But first: consolidate the base (that’s the actual actors!)

    Someone at Actors Equity might want to tell "organizer" Phil Darkins that calling potential members/allies "patsies" is a less than entirely constructive way to do that. There were actors on that march, and one I've talked to today isn't impressed. Funny how that happens...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12073 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason, in reply to Jonathan King,

    Small note: 'WETA' is not a synonym for 'Peter Jackson's Film Production Company'. WETA Digital is a Visual FX company, WETA Workshop is a design and practical effects company ... I expect neither were involved in any of this directly. Wingnut is Jackson's film company.

    But.

    Here in the Employment Relations Act is (one of) the bits that was added after this shit fight. It NOW relates to video games. Which was way out of line IMHO. That whole industry may now be "temporary employment" in line with film making.

    Now, what was that about WETA???

    In this section,—


    film means a cinematograph film, a video recording, and any other material record of visual moving images that is capable of being used for the subsequent display of those images; and includes any part of any film, and any copy or part of a copy of the whole or any part of a film


    film production means the production of a film or video game


    film production work—

    (a) means the following work performed, or services provided, in relation to a film production:

    (i) work performed, or services provided, by an actor, voice-over actor, stand-in, body double, stunt performer, extra, singer, musician, dancer, or entertainer (whether as an individual or not):


    (ii) pre-production work or services (whether on the set or off the set):


    (iii) production work or services (whether on the set or off the set):


    (iv) post-production work or services (whether on the set or off the set):


    (v) promotional or advertising work or services (whether on the set or off the set) by a person referred to in subparagraphs (i) to (iv); but



    (b) excludes work performed, or services provided, in respect of the production of any programme intended initially for broadcast on television


    video game means any video recording that is designed for use wholly or principally as a game

    But not Television.......interesting....

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1510 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Reading the DomPost's latest editorial, a thought just struck – is there a category in the Golden Raspberry awards for this whole Hobbit Wars affair?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4431 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    New Zealand’s laws should not be changed at the behest of Hollywood moguls

    Of course not, we should be paying for the senior staff of influential US federal legislators to subvert their own ethics rules instead. Don't hold your breath waiting for Campbell Live or Seven Sharp to lead with that any time soon...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12073 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Its not exactly a big story if the government is caught doing what it should be doing.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    In the interests of domestic harmony, I’ll just say this is not my idea of what our Government “should be doing” to secure a FTA with the United States.

    More and more foreign governments are sponsoring such excursions for lawmakers and their staffs, though an overhaul of ethics rules adopted by Congress five years ago banned them from going on most other types of free trips. This overseas travel is often arranged by lobbyists for foreign governments, though lobbyists were barred from organizing other types of congressional trips out of concern that the trips could be used to buy favor.

    The overseas travel is covered by an exemption Congress granted itself for trips deemed to be cultural exchanges.

    And as the linked story notes, these same ethics rules make it illegal for a registered foreign lobbyist to buy a congressional staffer a cup of coffee. But the New Zealand Government picks up the tab for a "cultural exchange" -- with no disclosure whatsoever of any lobbying activity - and it's OK?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12073 posts Report Reply

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