An excellent, concise summary of the saga has been posted by a Pundit reader/actor:
by Tabitha on November 03, 2010
I joined Actors Equity in the early 80s. I remember a strike in about 1983 actually, which I was part of. I remember a colleague's sign reading "Ya pay peanuts... ya get monkeys." I thought we were well paid, but I was young and he was a career actor. Anyway, industrial action by actors dates back a long way in NZ - well, back to the primitive, fledgling, infantile production days anyway... maybe not so long ago after all.
I attended meetings about the merger with MEAA a few years back, but my heart wasn't in that. After researching the pros and cons I thought we were better off remaining autonomous. The industry here is generally pretty co-operative, responsive and respectful (in my experience). Around the same time I divaricated my skill base because I decided acting in this fishbowl of a country wasn't for me, unless mixed with other businesses / skills.
Unlike many thumb-twiddling obsevers and confused idealists adding their two cents from the sidelines, I do have an interest in this. Late September / October was a fraught and scary time where although wages were being paid, we had precious little to do. Actors were supposed to be coming in for fittings, paperwork sorting etc. But we were hamstrung with the boycott. It was a scary time and if we'd been employees, then hundreds of redundancies were on the cards. As contractors though I guess 3ft7 could afford to hedge their bets on a weekly basis.
An international actors boycott of The Hobbit was instigated by MEAA in June and implemented by FIA. No vote was ever taken on this action by NZ Actors Equity members in fact most of them didn't know about it. But it was done in their name. Why The Hobbit was singled out has never been clear. Except that MEAA would make a TON of money, with 15% commission on residuals if their demands for a collective agreement were met. In August MEAA sent the letter demanding to meet 3ft7 directors (NOT Peter Jackson, whatever the union actors said later), to confirm the collective bargaining agreement (illegal) for Hobbit actors. Their supposed leverage (blackmail) was the continued boycott. Jackson refused and publicly called them bullies.
I know that NZ Actors Equity and SPADA have not always seen eye to eye, but there has been an open offer by SPADA to meet and re-negotiate the Pink Book (guidelines for actors' terms and conditions), and that they have been left hanging repeatedly by Equity who just cannot seem to get their act together on just about any front. Including not being registered since 2007 until they hurriedly rushed through the paperwork on October 14 this year, under MEAA's name. SPADA left messages again in early October for Equity to call them about terms and conditions but heard nothing back until much, much later in the month. Equity went to ground and the boycott stayed in place. The workers were panicking, PJ was furious, Warners started talking to overseas studios, battle lines in NZ were drawn, the government got involved, Simon Whipp went on holiday. The boycott created an impasse.
Here's something to think about. Techos and actors MIGHT get paid the total same on this film. But the techos may work for 100 weeks, and the actors for maybe three.
@giovanni. Then logically, to avoid the risk of another Bryson, Jackson should take a year off between projects, or completely change the entire film crew for each project.
Because the Bryson case places him at "potential" risk, simply because he is successful. No continuous film work is coming out of many other NZ film producers/directors.
Film industry vs TV industry - there is a lot of difference. I could write a long post comparing employment situations, but I'm sure I don't need to.
Why should Peter Jackson, whose career is a project to project existence, be at risk from a contractor from taking him to court to be re-classified as an employee, simply because Jackson was successful at securing one project after another, and loyal enough to keep re-hiring the contractor from one project to another?
I find the fact that we're only doing this for the film/video industry bizarre.
I don't. In a small town like Wellington, in a small country like NZ, some techos have worked almost continuously on Jackson projects for 10 years or more. Obviously there is a lot of trust and goodwill built up on all sides.
But in an inperfect future I could envisage a scenario where Jackson might be making his movies offshore (or not making any at all), NZ techos work dries up, a smart-arse lawyer or union exec (Simon Whipp style) enters the fray and suggests to financially strapped techos that their long work history with one principal producer suggests they could have a crack at doing a Bryson.
A highly unlikely scenario, but not beyond the realms of possibility. So for an industry with unique employment characteristics such as the film industry, I think some clarification is OK.
Brownlee is an easy target, because he is universally despised by all on the left. I get that. But he must have done some good in the NZAE/CTU/Spada meetings, because Peter Conway of the CTU thanked him 3 times (count that, 3 times!) in one segment on TVNZ a few nights ago.
Re targeting the Hobbit vs Spartacus. My perception is that the leading NZAE protagonists didn't have the same history of working on Jackson projects as they did with Auckland-based projects. So I agree that it was a case of not shitting in your back yard, or in the case of Parker and Ward-Lealand, in your own nest.
Also Hobbit vs Spartacus - one had residuals.
Jackson did feature some giant wetas in King Kong. That hasn't helped tourist numbers.
Re: Conspiracy theories. Simon Whipp as a deep cover plant to re-direct runaway productions back to Hollywood, actually kinda makes sense. Think Green Lantern, Justice League and now The Hobbit.
(Simon Whipp fixation now over. The evil one has been defeated.)
Re: Jackson's promotional video. Just show the Hobbits on a NZ road trip - bunji jumping, jet-boating etc.
Peter Jackson was still the clincher. His passionate resolve to make the movies in NZ would be a huge part of Warners decision. If Jackson had said to Warners "I've had enough of this crap, let's make it in London" it's hard to believe Warners would be fighting him to keep it in NZ.
Although, if the CTU is to be believed, Jackson is about to force his receptionist onto an independent contract.
Simon Whipp and the MEAA are going to be mighty pissed as the NZ film industry contunes to out-perform Australia, and as those residuals pile up accross the ditch but still out of reach of the MEAA claws.