Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Hobbit Wars

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  • Simon Bennett,

    I have heard this 'use-by date' argument before, but in recent years, would dispute that it's an issue. Capable and experienced actors with a high profile are an asset to any production.

    For example, having been a principal cast member in a successful show such as OF, makes an actor more appealing to TV networks in New Zealand rather than less. I have experienced this directly. I have had no problems casting Shane Cortese, Antonia Prebble, Antony Starr, Roz Turnbull, and others in subsequent projects. Their OF profiles are perceived to be an assett, rather than an impediment. Just look at how many leading roles Charles Mesure has been able to sustain post OF on multiple networks.

    The pool of experienced screen actors in New Zealand is small. As long as there is drama production, actors who are good and experienced will continue to get work.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 143 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Duignan,

    Agreed, Simon, but how many of those contractors - not actors, but others - would be recognized every time a film was shown? Surely that is the point of residual payments? An actor who has been in (too) many roles is often passed over for a "newer" face. Unfortunately, actors have a "use-by" date. NZ actors are at a distinct disadvantage compared to overseas actors who get residuals

    You're saying residuals are a payment because somehow an Actor's value gets "used up" by repeated screenings of their likeness? I suppose thats true if you are shilling for a beer company or something, but as an actor in a feature film, its a long bow to draw.

    It's true that an actor can be over exposed in New Zealand very quickly, but that is more to do with the fact that we only make 4 films a year (in a good year). Absolutely nothing about what Equity is doing is going to help that situation.

    Since Oct 2010 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Pat Hackett,

    I can't think of how actors can remain independent contractors and have a collective agreement that includes remuneration. The CTU seems adamant that this can be done, but I can't think of an example in another industry.

    Real estate agents are self-employed, GST registered, claim expenses against income etc but their contract is with the individual real estate company, not the industry as a whole. Remuneration levels are set by the company and usually can't be negotiated - if you want a better commission rate you move to another company.

    They may have a standardised agreement, set by the company, but it is not a collective agreement.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • Blake Monkley,

    But as far as I can tell, both the Pink and Blue Books are almost universally adhered to. They're not vague guidelines either -- they even stipulate unglamorous stuff like mileage rates.

    I have alot of friends who are Actors and a very good friend who is a top agent and they tell me that they have to reinvent the wheel each time a production comes in to make people adhere to the pink book. Granted that some of the top production houses do have good compliances and have good guidelines in place, but this is getting harder and harder each time to enforce especailly with the low budget projects that seemed to be funded lately.

    Which two parties? Actors' Equity and Peter Jackson, like the actors say they want? Blake, they can't negotiate an industry agreement. It would be unethical of Jackson to enter into such a process.

    Open communication is the Key and if that leads to whoever is the party so be it!

    Auckland • Since Jul 2008 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Real estate agents . . .

    I recall John Clarke saying that, unlike actors, appearance isn't important for real estate agents, though it wouldn't hurt to have gold teeth and laugh lines around your pockets.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3557 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn,

    "For example, having been a principal cast member in a successful show such as OF, makes an actor more appealing to TV networks in New Zealand rather than less."

    Yes, for a time perhaps. It's when the same actor appears in the next umpteen NZ productions, and the audience starts bellyaching about it, that the work dries up. TV networks can be very sensitive - they are run by human beings, after all :))

    Also, are you suggesting that actors are being cheeky worldwide, demanding residuals?

    I should stress that this is not the main concern in all this, and I'm not trying to sidetrack any discussion on this thread. There are so many conflicting stories/arguments that I hope and pray sane and considered talk is always on the table, between the parties who should be doing it. Just who those parties are is the question, isn't it?

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

  • Dan Slevin,

    Also, are you suggesting that actors are being cheeky worldwide, demanding residuals?

    Many creative contractors restrict the use of their work and negotiate further payment for further (often unforeseen) uses. It's entirely reasonable to expect further payments when a work is used in future editions or formats (or territories if specified).

    I know a book designer who gets a fresh cheque every new edition of a book with that cover (hardback, paperback, international edition, e-book).

    Crumbs, my mother still gets the odd cheque for acting work she did thirty years ago (Rumpole of the Bailey released on DVD - another payment). Perfectly reasonable.

    Interestingly, I understand that John Barnett is partially responsible for the lack of residuals in NZ as they were traded away in favour of increased up front fees back in the early 90s when actors were negotiating with SPP. They used to be standard in NZ contracts (which is why no Gloss on DVD by the way).

    Wellington, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Interestingly, I understand that John Barnett is partially responsible for the lack of residuals in NZ as they were traded away in favour of increased up front fees back in the early 90s when actors were negotiating with SPP.

    Enter John Barnett, Stage left

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6268 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Interestingly, I understand that John Barnett is partially responsible for the lack of residuals in NZ as they were traded away in favour of increased up front fees back in the early 90s when actors were negotiating with SPP. They used to be standard in NZ contracts (which is why no Gloss on DVD by the way).

    The Gloss deal was legendarily insane. I think it called for everyone to pretty much be paid all over again if it was re-screened, and for Craig Parker to be plated in gold.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18969 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Crumbs, my mother still gets the odd cheque for acting work she did thirty years ago (Rumpole of the Bailey released on DVD - another payment). Perfectly reasonable.

    I once worked with a couple of actors who'd delight in repeats of The Bill -- another little bit of cash from their bit parts.

    But are Equity actually asking for residuals from TV productions? They haven't said so.

    It's probably worth noting that MEAA has previously employed eye-watering bad strategy in trying to get more money for Outrageous Fortune actors.

    Same MO: waited till a marquee production was ready to roll then started asking for more. It was very stupid, because there simply was no more money --- NZ On Air and TV3 had put in all the funding they could, individual agents had got their best prices for their clients, budgets had been done, etc. The union simply had to go away again.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18969 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Agreed, Simon, but how many of those contractors - not actors, but others - would be recognized every time a film was shown?

    Well, you might want to ask composer Howard Shore that -- who had a very distinctive (and distinguished) career long before Lord of the Rings. Just because most people wouldn't recognise him in the street doesn't make his contribution any less real. As far as I'm aware, Shore doesn't hold the copyright over his film work let alone receive residuals. And IIRC, he quit King Kong under similar clrcumstances to Michael Nyman's falling out with Peter Greenaway.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Dan Slevin,

    It's probably worth noting that MEAA has previously employed eye-watering bad strategy in trying to get more money for Outrageous Fortune actors.

    And it was over things like ringtones - exploitation of likeness and performance in new, previously unforeseen, media. All reasonable things to ask for.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    All reasonable things to ask for.

    Quite possibly -- but I don't think Russell is saying it was unreasonable, just that the timing was dumb as a sack of hammers. Who knows, perhaps this kind of strategy works in Australia but it sure didn't here. If this is how the MEAA routinely operates in New Zealand, then it might be time for NZ Equity to reconsider their affiliation.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    I once worked with a couple of actors who'd delight in repeats of The Bill -- another little bit of cash from their bit parts.

    IIRC, Mike Sengelow had a minor role in that show as - get this - an Aussie overstayer.

    Irrespective of whatever side of the fence anyone is on, the MEAA is increasingly looking like it can't organise a piss-up in a brewery. They're acting more like a business cartel than a union.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4355 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    The Gloss deal was legendarily insane. I think it called for everyone to pretty much be paid all over again if it was re-screened, and for Craig Parker to be plated in gold.

    Ahh the good old days, is it still legal to gold plate gays?
    Lets hope that doesnt get changed.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1230 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Duignan,

    As far as I'm aware, Shore doesn't hold the copyright over his film work let alone receive residuals. And IIRC, he quit King Kong under similar clrcumstances to Michael Nyman's falling out with Peter Greenaway.

    Actually composer usually only sell the synchronization rights - which are the rights to put the music in the soundtrack of the film (and trailer - some times but not always). They retain copyright of the music - so if you buy the soundtrack on disc the composer makes money, not the production company (usually).

    However - the Hobbit is offering residuals right? So this is a moot point? There is no way most NZ film productions would be able to do that; some of them don't even have a distributor. Having a standard contract for NZ productions that ensured residuals is unworkable, apart from the largest budget films.

    But those larger budgets almost alway come with international stars attached, and apart from this particular fracas the MEAA seems to have a blanket objection to bringing in foreign actors, even on productions like Spartacus, which would not happen without them:

    http://tvnz.co.nz/close-up/stand-off-over-hobbit-continues-3814024

    In a display of incredible ignorance they objected to Vincent Gallo, and I happen to know the producers of local TV shows have had three hour long shouting arguments with Frances Walsh about bringing in a single American actor to work on a local shoot. The immigration officials they dealt with admitted they had been to the minister so many times to get approvals for foreign actors that they had to find another loophole to get them in.

    If you look at the standard MEAA contract (which I'm guessing is what they would like to implement here), the pay rates are 75% more if you have an "imported artist".

    http://www.alliance.org.au/resources/equity/

    This obsession with stopping foreign actors from coming in is much more aligned with SAG's interests than anything else.

    Since Oct 2010 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks,

    There's one aspect I am on the side of the EA, namely that the government should stay out or keep neutral. Gerry Brownlee should shut the fuck up. Him telling the union to "sort it out" is just pointless bluster that doesn't help.

    Also, am I missing something, or is this article getting people confused:
    "NZ Actors Equity organiser Frances Walsh told NZPA." ??

    (Edit: never mind, I guess she just has the same name as PJ's partner.)

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett,

    "Interestingly, I understand that John Barnett is partially responsible for the lack of residuals in NZ as they were traded away in favour of increased up front fees back in the early 90s when actors were negotiating with SPP."

    Urban myth I think. Barney wasn't running SPP back then. SPP was a subsidiary of TVNZ.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 143 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Duignan,

    Also, am I missing something, or is this article getting people confused: "NZ Actors Equity organiser Frances Walsh told NZPA." ??

    Thats not a mistake; they have the same name. Frances used to be a journalist for Metro. She took the job soon after she left. As far as I know (and this needs to be confirmed) her salary is paid entirely by the MEAA. Combine that with the fact that they have let their legal status in NZ lapse and I think you have a clear case of Australian interference in the NZ industry.

    Since Oct 2010 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Combine that with the fact that they have let their legal status in NZ lapse and I think you have a clear case of Australian interference in the NZ industry.

    The Underarm with clapsticks, methinks?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4355 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Duignan,

    Something just occurred to me ( I am speculating here;)

    But perhaps the reason why NZ equity has not been filing returns (and subsequently struck off) is due to the fact that they are being bankrolled by the Australian union. If they filed returns they would have to show a large in flux of cash from Oz, which would undermine their claim to be an "independent" arm of MEAA, acting on behalf of NZ actors.

    Suddenly it doesn't look like ineptitude, but dirty tricks.

    Since Oct 2010 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    __All reasonable things to ask for.__

    Quite possibly -- but I don't think Russell is saying it was unreasonable, just that the timing was dumb as a sack of hammers.

    Actually, I was a bit wrong on the timing. It was during season five. So the money was well and truly spent.

    But there was the same thing of trying to get industry-wide contracts by targeting one marquee production. Confusion over status and representation -- all the actors had agents, but no one seems to have officially authorised a union delegate:

    Employment law specialist Gordon Anderson, of Victoria University, said the union had a right to initiate bargaining if it was trying to negotiate a collective agreement, but it appeared Actors Equity was attempting to negotiate individual base contracts, in which case it needed authority from the individuals involved.

    MEAA needs to talk to Spada.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18969 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    @Michael Duignan: Thanks for the info -- always nice to have some help pushing back the frontiers of my own ignorance. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    MEAA needs to talk to Spada.

    Am I the only one wondering if Kiwi actors would be better served if anyone but the MEAA was doing the talking? FFS, they seem to know nothing about the industrial landscape here, and care even less.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    The mere thought of Gerry Brownlee 'suggesting' a course of action is a true worry.

    Particularly given that he has dictatorial power under the Canterbury Enabling Act.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1660 posts Report Reply

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