Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Anatomy of a Shambles

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  • Peter Cox,

    All I do is sit in my (tax deductible) cosy room and type:

    EXT. VERY COLD MOUNTAIN SIDE - NIGHT

    ;P

    Admittedly, not terribly many of us get paid for doing so though...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    'The Scottish Thread'

    Nice

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16277 posts Report Reply

  • Jaymax,

    In 2009 New Zealand Equity has continued to grow in numbers and in strength. Eighty five performers have joined their union.

    To me that reads that the union grew by 85 in 2009, (assuming no one left, net growth prob a little less). Which makes the 598 figure sound reasonable. Looks like 'only 85 members' was an early misreading that became a bit of a mantra.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Duignan,

    This is Simon Whipp quoted both through TVNZ, and Stuff today:

    "Unlike the domestic industry in New Zealand, the domestic industry in Australia, at this point, is burgeoning and I'd hope that we can work towards a situation where the domestic industry in New Zealand can be sustainable, and burgeoning, and be a vibrant film industry for the future."

    I don't have hard numbers on this but I do know that BOY made more money at the NZ box office than all Australian films made at the OZ box office in 2009 COMBINED. One film perhaps, but thats not too bad if you ask me....

    Secondly NZ is a country of 4 million people - the idea of a self sustaining domestic industry is mathematically impossible; the local audience just isn't big enough to pay for the millions of dollars that are put at risk every time a film is made.

    The film industry has to be underpinned by international money; there is no other way to have the skills and resources we have now without it.

    My question is this: Is the MEAA's position to discourage international production here (and Australia) in favour of a some kind of closed shop domestic market? If so do they realise that it would leave us with barely 40 million dollars for serious drama - the kind you need actors for - all of which comes from the government?) North Korea has a film industry too, do they see this as the kind of model they would like to adopt?

    Nothing that MEAA has done seems to be constructive or encouraging of foreign productions shooting here (or Australia); including it's blanket objection to bringing in actors from overseas.

    I think that is something Actors need to think very seriously about. Questions of residuals and conditions are valid, but the big picture is whether you think its a good idea to have international productions shot in NZ? If so, are you sure the MEAA share this view?

    Since Oct 2010 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    To me that reads that the union grew by 85 in 2009, (assuming no one left, net growth prob a little less). Which makes the 598 figure sound reasonable. Looks like 'only 85 members' was an early misreading that became a bit of a mantra

    Could well be. Also there's a difference between full and associate membership, although only full members would have voting rights.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    All I do is sit in my (tax deductible) cosy room and type ... Admittedly, not terribly many of us get paid for doing so though...

    Peter, there is a very interesting and pertinent conversation (that I've been thinking a lot about) to be had regarding film writers: when do they get anything like minimum wage, sick pay, holiday pay, job security, cancelation fees etc etc ... Let alone how writers in this country will make a living on their 2-3% of budget when budgets drop as they are to $1-3,000,000, let alone Escalator's $250k.

    Or is it just "your choice" to be a writer?

    Since Sep 2010 • 172 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Secondly NZ is a country of 4 million people - the idea of a self sustaining domestic industry is mathematically impossible; the local audience just isn't big enough to pay for the millions of dollars that are put at risk every time a film is made.

    There was a time when New Zealand made an average of a feature film per decade. Not that long ago. (If you count actual New Zealand films, like Boy, and not just foreign productions shot in New Zealand like, say, The Seekers.)

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7320 posts Report Reply

  • Petra,

    Can't see what the Government is going on about, they borrow the equivalent of a Hobbit project every 3 weeks - I dread to think who from...

    Where can that kind of info be found? I'd love to know who we owe, how much, and what the small print is...

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    "Maybe a moot point, but if residuals don't kick in until 2 years after cinema release*, there probably won't be that much money to pick up, for anyone."

    On the contrary, that's usually when "Special Collector's Edition" type releases start happening. Different rules for a blockbuster with a fanbase than for most films.

    Not only that, but don't forget there are two films. If it works like the LoTR did, it'll go something like this:
    * The Hobbit released Dec 2012
    * Standard edition DVD/Bluray released mid 2013
    * Extended edition DVD/Bluray released late 2013
    * Hobbit Sequel released Dec 2013
    * Sequel Standard edition DVD/Bluray and sets released mid 2014
    * Sequel Extended edition DVD/Bluray and sets released late 2014
    Probably some sort of mega-boxset with LoTR as well.

    So residuals for the first movie would kick in right when the extended edition sets are being released. I think there will be reasonable residuals even 2 years after release, at least for first movie.

    Since Sep 2009 • 343 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Unless they pull a King Kong, and release first of all a DVD with special features only, without the actual film.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7320 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Peter, there is a very interesting and pertinent conversation (that I've been thinking a lot about) to be had regarding film writers: when do they get anything like minimum wage, sick pay, holiday pay, job security, cancelation fees etc etc

    No, but I don't blame the actors for giving it a go though. Obviously, I do give a portion of blame to them for how it's worked out, but anyway...

    To some extent it's everyone's choice if they want to work in the film industry.

    But I try to think about it in terms of overall industry strength and health: it really just comes down to whether things get so miserable, only a fool would want to be a film writer, and you consequently wind up with all our scripts written by fools, or directors who end up having to write their own scripts, even though they don't really want to (or a lot of the time, have the talent, frankly, no offense to the many incredibly brilliant, talented directors who are also rubbish scriptwriters). Either that or our best head off overseas. Which is ALWAYS an option for anyone in this country with talent.

    Writer's don't get paid AT ALL on the Escalator scheme. AND the scripts are written before the budgets are even approved for the productions. So you do all your work without even knowing if it's even going to be put on, AND you don't get paid for it even if it does. Minimum wage nothing, ANY wage would be a start.

    And people wonder why scripts are often the things that let NZ productions down...

    But hey, go talk to the Film Commission about that... hmm... maybe we should go on strike. Let's see how the commission do with their review first, though ;)

    Television is touch and go. You have the Shortland Street Writers/Storyliners of course. Then there's maybe eight to ten or so writers who make a decent-ish living for TV. But even they have their lean times.

    At the end of the day though, domestic funding is minuscule compared to Australia. Blame our 4 million population, our government not valuing the industry enough, and our lack of huge tracts of minerals to dig up.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    Minimum wage nothing, ANY wage would be a start ... At the end of the day though, domestic funding is minuscule ...

    So why is that just 'the way it is' for one, crucial, sector of our film industry when, at the same time, another sector -- I dunno ... actors, say -- are taking militant action about being paid more, "raising wages and conditions" etc etc?

    Since Sep 2010 • 172 posts Report Reply

  • Pat Hackett,

    This is what Simon Whipp wrote in 2004, regarding a merger of NZ and Aust actors unions:

    http://centralarchive.co.nz/?webid=ONF&articleid=15626

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    So why is that just 'the way it is' for one, crucial, sector of our film industry when, at the same time, another sector -- I dunno ... actors, say -- are taking militant action about being paid more, "raising wages and conditions" etc etc?

    Like I say, I don't blame them for wanting those things, but I don't think anyone's under the impression they did an effective job of achieving that though. We'll see about these talks with SPADA. TBH, I don't have a clue how 'the pink book' would be any different to 'non legally binding, standard terms and conditions', but w/e, as long as it keeps everyone happy, and lets everyone save some face, who cares really.

    Look at it this way: actor's union demands increase local budgets. Two things can happen:

    1 - budgets have to go up a bit to accommodate those demands. But less films get made (not the end of the world, and, pretty much what many people have been asking for all along - ie if we want a professional industry, you can't treat people like wage slaves)
    2 - Govt is forced to increase industry funding to keep film production at the current level.
    3 - TV pretty much meets basic standards anyway, at least in terms of upfront costs (residuals probably need some negotiation, if it's true Robyn Malcolm got precisely nothing from the DVDs). So no real direct budgetary pressure there.

    I'll tell you one thing that does p**s me off though: the MEAA trying to get MEAA conditions in NZ local production, but not accepting SAG standards in Australian local production. Hypocritical at all?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Going overseas is not "ALWAYS an option" for everyone: significant factors - like family for example - can constrain...

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn,

    Starting a whole new union or trying to destroy the one they have is just going to lead to the most terrible problems.

    Yes. I can understand people not liking what's happening - me too! But starting another union is stupid. If you don't like the way it's being run, join it, and change it from within.

    And Craig, I of course got your point re money per hour! When you average out the "good" pay over a year, it's watered down to the point that if you don't have another way of earning your bread, you won't last in the business. Which I think is why so many people in the film/theatre/entertainment industry have many strings to their bows - they have to!

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

  • Peter Cox,

    Going overseas is not "ALWAYS an option" for everyone: significant factors - like family for example - can constrain...

    True, true. But, if the going gets tough enough...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    1 - budgets have to go up a bit to accommodate those demands. But less films get made.

    Budgets are going DOWN. No two ways about it.

    Going overseas is not "ALWAYS an option" for everyone: significant factors - like family for example - can constrain...

    True, true. But, if the going gets tough enough...

    Breaking in as a screenwriter "over there" is super, super hard. By my reckoning the number to have made it stands at: 1. Andrew Niccol.

    Since Sep 2010 • 172 posts Report Reply

  • Jaymax,

    I think there will be reasonable residuals even 2 years after release, at least for first movie.

    What are TV broadcast fees like for major films? I can easily imagine things like five-week runs of Hobbit+LOTR in 10 years.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Breaking in as a screenwriter "over there" is super, super hard. By my reckoning the number to have made it stands at: 1. Andrew Niccol.

    True, but not terribly many people seem to try it though; at least in terms of physically relocating. Funnily Actors seem to do better... mainly off the back of offshore productions made locally (ironic, that). But I do also mean local writers staying in NZ but writing purely for overseas market. Of which there are quite a few. Phillipa Boyens, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson for a start. It's pretty much where I've been sustaining myself, so yeah, you can imagine how good I feel about the overseas market potentially having a downturn (I think it'll turn out okay though).

    Still, the passion is writing NZ stories at the end of the day, at least as far as I'm concerned. Would love to be able to focus purely on that, and remain above the poverty line. But wouldn't we all...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Pat Hackett,

    And here's a reminder of how it all started - the official boycott notice:

    http://www.caea.com/EquityWeb/NewsAndEvents/News/2010/FIAHobbit.pdf

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    I love that Guardian article about potential locations if Te Hobbit shifts to England. It finishes with the question:

    But where would you shoot The Hobbit? Suggestions below, please.

    and the first comment is:

    I would shoot the Hobbit in the face

    F T W

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1768 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I'll say.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7320 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    I love that Guardian article about potential locations if Te Hobbit shifts to England. It finishes with the question:

    Are we calling it "Te Hobbit" now?

    I think we should.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Should really be Te Hopita then.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8305 posts Report Reply

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