Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Anatomy of a Shambles

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  • nzlemming,

    I doubt that I will ever bring myself to visit the Standard again (not that I did much). I rate it worse on the knee-jerk scale than Kiwiblog.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1768 posts Report Reply

  • Pat Hackett,

    The Standard used to be quite good, but then they banned everyone with anything interesting to say...

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    The Standard's timeline of comprehension:

    1. The Union's doing nothing wrong!
    2. How dare you say the union's doing something wrong, traitor scab!
    3. Oh no, wait - okay, the Union's doing some things wrong.
    4. Okay, wait, the union totally stuffed this up.
    5. Oh, now John Key and the Studios are taking advantage of it!
    6. John Key and the Studio are evil bastards!
    7. I hate Peter Jackson.

    (I'm pretty much just getting this from the headlines)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Given the talk of the exchange rate, I wonder if the government might offer some sort of hedge assistance rather than a topup to the 15% headline rebate.

    Which would be wiggy, but potentially effective.

    Now would also seem to be an appropriate time for Key to call on all the low cunning, intuition and willingness to exploit inside knowledge that served him well as a currency trader.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18508 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Sacha = sagacious

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

  • Jonathan King,

    Not even a modestly good one?

    Nup. NZ Films in profit? Very, very few. Clue: Boy* = not even close.


    *No disrespect to a terrific and astoundingly successful film!

    Since Sep 2010 • 172 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Bad distribution deals people tell me...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Jonathan King - when did an ANZ film actually make a profit in its first couple of years?

    I am truly trying to think of an exemplar- and maybe we could extend that query into "When did an ANZ film actually make a profit?"

    "An Angel At My Table"? "The Piano"?

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

  • Peter Cox,

    Whale Rider, possibly.

    EDIT:

    (from wikipedia)

    Budget NZ$$9,235,000

    Gross revenue US$41,442,113

    Actual profit depends on distribution deals, etc. Doubt anyone creatively involved wound up with terribly much. You'd have to ask John Barnett (good luck there) I wonder if Witi Ihimaera got his %??

    Someone could probably trace the net profit through the film commission if they were truly inclined.

    Did launch a couple of careers though...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Pat Hackett,

    Revisionism 101 (Simon Whipp Style): If we had of known the producers wouldn't meet with us, we wouldn't have instigated an international boycott.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    "Whale Rider" possibly.

    Figures for that, Peter Cox?

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

  • Peter Cox,

    Done :)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Thanks Peter!

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

  • Peter Cox,

    I've been told part of the problem is a Film Commission won't fund a film unless it gets a distribution deal first, which puts the Distributors in rather a good position to negotiate a less than splendid deal with the Producers, and that negotiation has little to do with how good the film is (because it hasn't been made yet).

    Not being a producer, it's not my area of expertise though.

    Funnily enough, it was something Peter Jackson touched on quite strongly in the NZFC report.

    It's also interesting that the Film Commission have delayed revealing their response to the review. Probably sensible really, as it was going to be today until the delayed it...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite,

    The Standard's timeline of comprehension

    My impression too. Between facepalms, or morbidly peeking through my fingers at that intellectual trainwreck, I'm already thinking of potential marketing slogans. "Got cognitive dissonance? Try Conspiracy Theory (TM)! Now with more Fluorine! Yes, once the world seemed like a chaotic place, with cockups exploited by half-competent opportunists, but clinical tests have shown that when you realise that absolutely everything is a scripted charade enacted for your detriment by an incredibly competent opportunists, your sense of aggrieved self-righteousness can increase by as much as three hundred and forty-two percent, completely eliminating any nagging feelings of self-doubt!

    "We can tailor your very own Conspiracy Theory(TM) so that you can be comforted by the thought that you're the only one who knows. Or, for a limited time only, you can get a special deal for our group - sorry, I mean class package..."

    And so on.

    The old joke about conspiracy theorists is that a real paranoid declares that because there is an insidious conspiracy, it will rain tomorrow... and when it doesn't rain, it's because the conspiracy is not only insidious, it's ingenious too.

    Sorry, I'm being mean, but certainly what was a site that once had something to say has become a parallel sewer to Kiwibog.

    Oh look - my coat!

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 955 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Geez, where does one get all these servantly coat-bringers?

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

  • Simon Bennett,

    Interesting email from Equity to members. Draw your own conclusions...

    Tuesday, 26 October 2010


    Dear Xxxxxxxxx,

    Seeking a meeting with an employer to discuss employees’ contracts is a fair and reasonable request. This is all that was asked on the producers of The Hobbit. Their refusal to do so was unfortunate but Equity thanks all NZ members for staying strong and campaigning for the same types of terms and conditions enjoyed by performers around the world.

    We are pleased to report that we are now in discussions with producers’ body SPADA regarding performers’ contracts on screen productions in New Zealand and will meet with them in the coming weeks. We also are currently in the process of rescheduling our members’ meetings in Wellington and Auckland and will send details this week.

    Messages of support for New Zealand performers’ attempt to secure fair terms and conditions continue to pour in from across the globe. We will be sending some of these – and all other updates – in bulletins this week.

    In the meantime, please find a question and answer fact sheet below regarding The Hobbit. And, if you have any further questions please email them to comms@alliance.org.au

    If you are having trouble reading this email, view it online here.

    The Hobbit Q&A

    Why did actors’ unions around the world join NZ Equity in advising members to hold off on signing contracts for The Hobbit?

    NZ Equity has been seeking to bargain with a variety of producers in film, television and theatre production since it came into existence in 2006 as a branch of the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance.

    NZ Equity has also sought to bargain with the screen producers association SPADA.

    For a variety of reasons none of these attempts had been successful.

    The commencement of The Hobbit provided an opportunity to work with unions from overseas to improve the conditions of performers working in New Zealand.

    The producers of The Hobbit refused to even meet with Equity to discuss performers’ contracts.

    However, SPADA has now agreed to meet with Equity to discuss performers’ terms and conditions for other productions made in New Zealand. As a result of this, Equity has agreed that while the parties are discussing new terms, provided a production contracts performers on the terms of the “Pink Book” in their entirety then NZ Equity will take no action against the production.

    Why was NZ Equity concerned about performers working on The Hobbit? What action did we take? Was it reasonable?

    The Hobbit contracts sighted by Equity provide arrangements less than Pink Book standards in several respects.

    All NZ Equity sought was to meet with the production and discuss the conditions under which performers would be engaged. We hoped we would be in a position where we could say the contracts under which the production was to engage performers were recommended by the union.
    This request to meet was backed by the International Federation of Actors (FIA) and performers’ unions around the world including SAG and Equity UK.

    The request was in the first instance made privately, without the glare of the media on August 17. After it was refused on several occasions the request to meet was taken public on September 29. The request was then publicly backed by member and non-member performers alike who attended meetings in Auckland and Wellington.

    After becoming public this request stood for a total of three weeks.

    During this time the situation developed from day to day. Proposals were made for a meeting between the production’s lawyers and the union and then reneged upon. The producers made the unprecedented request of vetoing some union officials from the meetings, which was agreed upon.

    Only when it was clear that no progress was going to be possible did the union decide that to persist was fruitless.

    Did NZ Equity do all it could to get a fair deal for performers working on The Hobbit?

    Equity contacted the producers for months in an attempt to meet and discuss the performers’ contracts. The producers were approached in a calm and reasonable manner. Our requests were simple and straight forward. Equity made every effort to ensure the production was not jeopardised and made this clear to all involved. Equity sought the support of performers’ unions around the world to ensure we were in the strongest position possible to reach a fair result for New Zealand performers.

    However, had we continued as we were against the production the sense was that things would not change. A stalemate had been reached.

    The Board formed the view that in the interests of harmony between cast and crew and for the sake of the NZ screen industry the commitments made in discussions with SPADA were significant enough to justify ending the dispute with The Hobbit.

    Why is the studio behind The Hobbit talking about moving the production away from New Zealand?

    This is not due to industrial uncertainty. New Zealand Actors Equity has assured the producers that no future industrial action would be taken on the production at any time.

    New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told Radio New Zealand this morning that there were several issues being considering by the studios including: “the confidence that Warner Bros had in the Government, and possibly other economic issues”.

    Why did Equity choose to avoid the media spotlight?

    First, Equity wasn’t trying to fight this issue in the media. We hoped and wanted to resolve issues without the glare of the media nor is it the appropriate place for the issues to be played out.

    The media is rarely sympathetic to the union in an industrial campaign.

    In relation to this situation the union made a considered decision that to be engaged in the public brawl only served the interests of those who wanted to create a sense of uncertainty and insecurity in the industry.

    Why did the union cancel the recent meetings in Auckland and Wellington?

    The union cancelled the meetings in Auckland and Wellington out of concern for performers’ safety.

    These meetings were about the meetings with SPADA which will, when concluded, provide enhanced security for international productions. For this reason the rally was entirely counterproductive. It was also unnecessary. An agreement to end the advice to members had been reached days before the rally was held. The details of this are also confirmed on the SPADA website. This was known to the producers.

    The producers claimed that those present at the rally outside the meetings wanted to talk to the union about its position with respect to The Hobbit.

    The union is more than happy to speak to anyone about the position it has taken and in this regard will suggest to The Techos Guild a joint meeting between their Guild’s Board and the NZ Equity Board to discuss the issues.

    However, it is clear that there was no desire to have a discussion about the situation by those who attended the meeting in Auckland. You don’t attend a discussion with a loud hailer!

    What right do overseas unions have to tell NZ producers what to do?

    Film and television production is an international business.

    The financing and distribution of film and television product does not take place in one country alone.

    Similarly, producers in New Zealand do not rely only on New Zealand performers when making casting decisions (unfortunate for us as that may be).

    Performer unions overseas are expected by their members to provide advice to them about the conditions of engagement for performers in New Zealand. Some unions (for example SAG) have already introduced rules which require that when performers work in New Zealand they do so only on a SAG contract.

    In this instance, those performers were happy to take that advice and supported calls for the production to meet with NZ Equity so that all performers might be on fair contracts.

    Was our campaign for a fair deal on The Hobbit worthwhile?

    The contracts now being offered by the producers of The Hobbit include conditions such as residual payments for performers. This is a great result considering how reluctant the producers were to improve performers’ terms and conditions.

    As well as this, SPADA has agreed to meet with Equity to discuss performers’ terms and conditions for future screen productions. In the mean time, they will use the Pink Book as the basis for performers’ contracts. In the past the conditions set out in the Pink Book have been completely disregarded by producers. The Pink Book is now being used as minimum – this is a huge step forward.

    Our actions in no way jeopardised the filming of The Hobbit in New Zealand. It is ridiculous to say that asking for meeting could have such an effect.

    New Zealand performers approached this issue in a calm and professional manner and have every reason to be extremely proud of themselves.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 141 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    The request was in the first instance made privately, without the glare of the media on August 17.

    So that WAS the first request then.

    I have officially never seen anything madder, and on such a grand scale as this. That entire email... I'm just gobsmacked...

    I'm honestly just going to have to step away from the computer for the rest of the evening before I say something I'm going to regret.

    Words cannot convey what I'm feeling right now...

    ...actually, they can, which is why I need to walk away.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    The contracts now being offered by the producers of The Hobbit include conditions such as residual payments for performers. This is a great result considering how reluctant the producers were to improve performers’ terms and conditions.

    That is just fucking unbelievable. They're claiming credit for something Peter Jackson negotiated on the behalf of actors on his own initiative well before the union bullshit.

    I think it's wrong in itself to call black white but I bet it's not a good strategy either.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • rodgerd,

    I hate Peter Jackson

    This seems to be the baseline for rather a lot of people, including a few PASers. He's a rich, he has a private jet, he's successful, he doesn't spend all his time grovelling and wearing a hair shirt, he must be an arsehole Q.E.D.

    Given Jackson's one of the handful of people in the world who's got a good track record in producing and directing good movies with huge budgets and making money on a fairly consistent basis - putting him in such rarefied ground as the likes of Spielberg - it's a pretty sad indictment of a chunk of our culture that we fling poo at him for staying here and bringing money and jobs into the country.

    People whine and complain that New Zealand celebrates sports too much and not arts and academia, we have a famous success in the arts, and... hmm.

    Now would also seem to be an appropriate time for Key to call on all the low cunning, intuition and willingness to exploit inside knowledge that served him well as a currency trader.

    I hope he'll take it as an opportunity to demonstrate a good eal for New Zealand. And I find the criticism of the PM for trying to help land a major deal for New Zealand bizarre. Helen Clark jetted across the world to score the RWC. Key damn well should try to save a few hundred million in work for Kiwis, so long as he can do it without making a disasterous deal.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 512 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Revisionism 101 (Simon Whipp Style): If we had of known the producers wouldn't meet with us, we wouldn't have instigated an international boycott.

    Someone pop the Campbell Live clip up when it appears so we can share the gobsmack. Here's my unofficial transcript off the screen:

    Amanda Gillies: "Look is there anything you would have done differently?"

    Simon Whipp: "Well, I don't regret standing up with performers in New Zealand for their rights. Um, as I said, if we'd known the production would never agree to meet with us we may have decided to not proceed down this road.

    But how would we ever have known that someone would not agree to meet? Um, any reasonable person thinks it's appropriate to try and meet to resolve something. Maybe when you have that meeting you can't resolve it. And maybe at that point in time you can go out and swing punches. But, you know, we thought that people would be prepared to sit down and talk to us to try and resolve it.

    We're very happy now that we have an agreement with the Screen Production and Development association to sit down and talk about the conditions of performers in New Zealand for the future."

    Seems to support Russell's proposition that the differences between Australian and NZ industrial landscapes may not have been understood. We'd need to see pre-boycott communication to know for sure.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16270 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce,

    willingness to exploit inside knowledge that served him well as a currency trader.

    That's a fairly bold statement, do you know something we don't ?

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 344 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    So that WAS the first request then.

    oh

    hang on:

    Equity contacted the producers for months in an attempt to meet and discuss the performers’ contracts.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16270 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    Whipp is liar. he never wanted to talk, he wanted to hold the Hobbit production to ransom.

    Talking, gerenally speaking, does not equate to boycott. Except there never was a boycott or the boycott that never existed was lifted or... what ever biss they come up with.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    It's not at all bizarre, rodgerd, when you consider what else the current PM espouses(things that support millionaires) - and your typo "a good eal' kinda sums it for me: was that a "goo deal" perchance?

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

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