Hard News by Russell Brown

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

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  • Russell Brown, in reply to slarty,

    I think you may find someone does have an issue with it… a blind eye can only be turned for so long.

    So what exactly does happen when the Hobbit law collides with the perspective of IRD? Has this happened yet?

    If you can answer “yes” to most of the following questions, you are probably an employee.

    Phew. I think I'm sweet.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I think McKellen should turn up on the first day and inform Jackson that he has subcontracted his part to the equally capable Judy Dench.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    More wisdom from that raging Marxist John Drinnan...

    ACTING UP

    Talk about Fantasyland. Sir Peter Jackson depicted the Hobbit dispute as a passionate quest to defy the evil unions and keep the movie in New Zealand.

    It was, of course, about money, power and keeping unions out. For producers and actors it was business - part of the old battle for power between capital and labour. But the media have a role in reporting that battle - and their one-sided, naive and simplistic coverage of the dispute was shameful.

    With a few honourable exceptions - notably this paper - many in the media unquestioningly backed producers' versions of events and whipped up hysteria in a manner reminiscent of the 1951 waterfront dispute. Not the media's finest hour."

    BEGGARS' BANQUET

    The Hobbit dispute - and Warner Bros winning an extra $34 million - also illustrated the sense of entitlement in the film industry and in the wider creative community.

    It's part of a disturbing culture of entitlement and taxpayer dependency for film, television and music people who believe they are owed a living. So what if Nana has to wait an extra year for her hip operation?

    FLY ME TO THE MOON

    Taxpayers gave Annabel Fay's record company a $50,000 subsidy while her dad, Sir Michael, put up thousands of dollars to helicopter in commercial radio DJs and a public servant funding executive to their Great Mercury Island hideaway for a promotional gig.

    Something is surely wrong when the Government attacks financially strapped public radio as wasteful, but gives subsidies for pop pap to people who can afford to pay their own way.

    JACKSONVILLE BLUES

    The Hobbit fiasco made it clear. Wellington - or should we call it Jacksonville - is a company town.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5428 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Maybe I’m being unfair but that thing kinda reads to me like John Drinnan simply just doesn’t *like* the whole damn film/television/music industry.

    It’s part of a disturbing culture of entitlement and taxpayer dependency for film, television and music people who believe they are owed a living. So what if Nana has to wait an extra year for her hip operation?

    Yeah, we’re all plainly scumbags making poor granny suffer.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Peter Cox,

    You're suppressing the vibrant free market in culture that existed before state support, Peter #neolibtwatcockery

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19699 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    I think Drinnan's isn't dissing the creative industry per se, but rather the wider socialism for the rich mentality - and getting away with it.

    Has he actually changed his tune about RadioNZ, given he was somewhat critical of it in the recent past?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5428 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Yeah, maybe. That kind of talk just immediately gets my back up.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    It's part of a disturbing culture of entitlement and taxpayer dependency for film, television and music people who believe they are owed a living. So what if Nana has to wait an extra year for her hip operation?

    It was at the point around when film workers got cast as Kulaks in the Great Class War that I thought all hope was lost.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks, in reply to Peter Cox,

    ...that thing kinda reads to me like John Drinnan simply just doesn’t *like* the whole damn film/television/music industry.

    He seems to have a chip on his shoulder about Wellington, too.

    I still thought there were some reasonable observations in there, but...

    A sign of the times. In the online world the trendy folk of Public Address voted recently for a sexual insult "twatcock" as its word of the year.

    Good grief.

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    So what if Nana has to wait an extra year for her hip operation?

    What could possibly go wrong with a system whereby the State takes the money from you, dear reader, that you would have spent on Art/Entertainment and spends it on health.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    Let's cut to the chase shall we - Somalia.
    Right, now back to some intelligent conversation.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19699 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Peter Cox,

    Maybe I’m being unfair but that thing kinda reads to me like John Drinnan simply just doesn’t *like* the whole damn film/television/music industry.

    It’s part of a disturbing culture of entitlement and taxpayer dependency for film, television and music people who believe they are owed a living. So what if Nana has to wait an extra year for her hip operation?

    Parts of that column were so cheap and lazy it made me really angry. The “grandma’s hip operation” argument is worthless: all governments allow a budget for many things that are not a matter of literal life and death. Arts and broadcast funding along the current lines is part of every party’s policy but Act’s.

    Are Drinnan’s greedy creatives rolling in it? Hardly. Their baseline funding has been frozen for two years and is likely to remain so for some time. The NZOA broadcast music funding pool every year is $5 million. The annual health budget is $13.6 billion – nearly 3000 times greater. Does it really even make any sense to compare them?

    And although it’s more his style to be worked by his sources than actually read reports, he should perhaps have a look at Chris Caddick’s report for NZ On Air on music funding – Caddick remarks on how everyone he talked to was conscious of wanting to do justice to the taxpayer’s investment. Caddick gives the impression he encountered the opposite of a culture of entitlement.

    And it bugs me that he continually implies that Hobbit-style tax breaks come straight off the country’s bottom line. As I understand it, they’re narrowly revenue-positive – ie, compared to the film not being made here – and that doesn’t account for taxes on the personal income and spending of New Zealanders employed, or spin-off benefits in terms of creative infrastructure and tourism.

    Taxpayers gave Annabel Fay’s record company a $50,000 subsidy while her dad, Sir Michael, put up thousands of dollars to helicopter in commercial radio DJs and a public servant funding executive to their Great Mercury Island hideaway for a promotional gig.

    Something is surely wrong when the Government attacks financially strapped public radio as wasteful, but gives subsidies for pop pap to people who can afford to pay their own way.

    This is such a terrible argument. Yes, it looks a bit off when Annabel Fay’s label gets album funding and then later on her father lays on the chopper to fly some DJs over to Mercury Bay.

    But show me the rule that would exclude Annabel Fay without unfairly penalising the independent record label (Siren) that is the party actually applying for and receiving the funding. Would record labels have to find out whether anyone in a band they want to sign has rich folks?

    But Drinnan’s proposal for a means test is sillier than that. When he wrote about this recently, he basically implied NZOA album funding was some sort of social welfare benefit. Hardly. It’s not only contestable funding, it’s matched funding: the party that applies for $50k must be able to put up $50k of its own. The idea of applying a means test to a scheme that requires the applicant to have money is ridiculous, a complete and utter non-sequitir.

    And – although realistically only the most successful records fully recoup – the funding is also recoupable. Much as I think Fay’s music is absurd and her father a wretch, her record is probably more likely to recoup than most.

    Anyway, Caddick recommends that the present album funding be scrapped in favour of a “track-based” approach that takes into account performance in online media and student radio. I’ll write about that, but for now I think I’ll go and watch the cricket.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I think McKellen should turn up on the first day and inform Jackson that he has subcontracted his part to the equally capable Judy Dench.

    She's such a good actor, I'm thinking she could pull it off.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Jimmy Southgate,

    The “grandma’s hip operation” argument is worthless: all governments allow a budget for many things that are not a matter of literal life and death.

    And, at the risk of sounding callous, a hip operation might not necessarily be life and death anyway. I've been starting to wonder if that sort of medical expense may start to be questioned if the economy continues to sputter for years to come. I would hate to be involved in deciding what does & does not warrant funding when it comes to health.

    Wellingtown • Since Nov 2006 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Drinnan and others get to whine smugly about 'hip operations' as soon as they've mentioned the billions in discretionary tax cuts skewed mainly to the wealthiest New Zealanders.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19699 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But show me the rule that would exclude Annabel Fay without unfairly penalising the independent record label (Siren) that is the party actually applying for and receiving the funding. Would record labels have to find out whether anyone in a band they want to sign has rich folks?.....

    .....And – although realistically only the most successful records fully recoup – the funding is also recoupable. Much as I think Fay’s music is absurd and her father a wretch, her record is probably more likely to recoup than most.

    Word.

    I have my own serious reservations about the way the NZOA has worked in recent years as anyone who knows me well or has read the infamous c%#$^^^t thread will perhaps be aware, but Drinnan managed to miss every one of those concerns in that misfire. The target is so large to be able to miss it so badly is some feat.

    That said, I don't think Chris' report goes far enough, but that may be more his terms of reference (or the fact that he's shooting from an inside position as former head of EMI) which seemed to call for a fine tuning review rather than the more radical reflection I think is needed.

    There is arguably more meat in Rob Mayes' independent report and it's only 10 pages long. I understand he's had off the record support from former NZoA board members.

    OTOH, I was very pleased to see Brendan get a gong thingy at NY despite my personal conviction that our awards system is mostly quite silly.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    This is such a terrible argument.

    The other half of the argument, left unsaid in this instance, is that State funding of the Arts is ok if it serves a purpose.

    An argument gently mocked here, State funded of course:

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Jimmy Southgate,

    Now curious how much a hip replacement might cost; according to this page, multiple grandma’s would have to wait a year…

    http://www.everybody.co.nz/page-56d7ef0e-9e87-46ad-9ab9-843e76f8301e.aspx

    And also, I had no idea New Zealand was so attractive for medical tourists?!

    http://www.medtral.com/Destination-New-Zealand/Why-is-New-Zealand-so-affordable/default.aspx

    Wellingtown • Since Nov 2006 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby, in reply to Sacha,

    Are Drinnan’s greedy creatives rolling in it? Hardly. Their baseline funding has been frozen for two years and is likely to remain so for some time. The NZOA broadcast music funding pool every year is $5 million. The annual health budget is $13.6 billion – nearly 3000 times greater. Does it really even make any sense to compare them?

    hmmm... is he confusing 'creatives' as in the artist's dole and other funds with the amount spent on big-budget films since 2000?

    an amount running into the 100s of millions?

    could well be.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison, in reply to Che Tibby,

    an amount running into the 100s of millions?

    I see your point. However the tax subsidies to large productions do add value to our economy and it allows the development of skills used on, I hate the expression, our stories such as Eagle vs Shark.

    We could partially address that issue by adopting the French state film funding model where that's derived from a tax on box-office takings. So Avatar gets to subsidise the production of French films that not many people go and see. Still, French culture gets the protection it needs and they get to see their stories. And it adds a certain number of jobs to their economy such as intellectual film critics who get to explain what those stories mean.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    There is arguably more meat in Rob Mayes’ independent report and it’s only 10 pages long. I understand he’s had off the record support from former NZoA board members.

    It get its core point, but I think you’re being very generous about many of its prescriptions. Let’s pluck out this bit:

    4) Seek alternatives.
    Commercial radio has been indifferent to the objective of get- ting more of New Zealand’s musical culture on air. 20 years and many millions of dollars have got us essentially no closer to expanding their scope. Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge this and seek alternatives to achieving the same goal.

    I think the idea that there has been no progress at all in “get-ting more of New Zealand’s musical culture on air” in 20 years is absurd, although I suppose it depends on how you define “New Zealand’s musical culture”. I’d have thought, say, The Naked & Famous being all over the radio last year and Smashproof the year before would be pretty significant examples to the contrary. If you really think there has not been a significant improvment in radio’s engagement with local music in 20 years, you basically can’t remember what it was like 20 years ago.

    a) Non-commercial radio.
    Follow the BBC’s example of Radio One, which features a wide variety of sounds on a government owned network. With an attractive playlist that does include ‘Our’ sounds.

    That would be nice. But the chances of a dedicated non-commercial contemporary music station on the taxpayer’s coin are precisely nil.

    It has worked before with Channel Z, a local network in the early 2000s that featured large amounts of local content mixed with current cutting edge music. It was highly successful in creating an appreciation of New Zealand sounds with its audience.

    Unfortunately, not very many people actually listened to it; fewer than bFM or George by the end (admittedly that was after Mediaworks had given its strong Auckland frequency to The Rock, which went on to be a raging success).

    The BBC is proactive in representing British culture with special recording sessions to profile new material being a part of their regular schedule.

    It might have been polite to do some research into exactly what Radio New Zealand is already doing in this vein. How many live shows have been expertly recorded and mixed by Andre Upston?

    The whole report carries on as if Radio NZ – which is funded via NZ On Air – does nothing for contemporary NewZealand music, when in fact its programming in that line has become better and better.

    They also appeal to a broad range of listeners including youth and current demographics, something Radio NZ does not at present do.

    Sigh … again, compare what airs now to what aired 10 years ago. Listen to the Saturday music programming. Listen, even, the the kind of music that gets programmed into something like Nine To Noon.

    The precedent for government owned enterprises going into competition with privately owned ones is already set with Kiwi Bank a ‘Government Bank’ competing with privately owned commercial banks. Support the creation of a competitive and professional network that will play our culture.

    I submit that publicly funding a new radio station to directly compete against commercial radio stations in an extremely crowded radio market would be a very poor use of limited resources.

    7) Lobby for increased funds.
    Why has NZOA stayed practically stagnant against inflation for almost the entirety of its existence? Why hasn’t the organisation built on its success and pushed for and procured more funds to work with?

    Actually, Brendan Smyth, the guy they’re perennially hating on, did just that, more than once. You can certainly argue about the effectiveness of some schemes, but the idea that Smyth didn’t win new money is palpably wrong.

    12) Expand the Hit Disc programme. Reinstate the deleted Indie Hit Disc which catered to existing NZ radio formats and expand the Disc programme to cater to other genre specific targets to not only make this music avail- able for play at present and future times but also to present a visible and permanent record of our culture as it progresses.

    Oh please fucking no: print up even more Hit Discs? Who in the fucking real world of independent music in 2011 gets their stuff to interested parties on CD?

    It’s a job for a secure online hub, with MP3s for sampling and optional WAV files. It would be cheaper, more flexible and more effective.

    The report’s sole contribution to ideas about how the internet can be embraced in the broadcast funding environment is this: “Why not a YouTube channel set up to present NZ music?” Ironically, in the same paragraph, the report accuses NZ On Air of being off the pace with this new-fangled internet thing:

    b) The internet.
    How many people discover and watch videos via terrestrial TV any more? No one with a decent internet connection does. An increasing number of music followers use YouTube and myspace for music video discovery. If this is the case then commercial radio criteria becomes irrelevant. The question must be asked, why has it taken so long to get in line with this very obvious trend?

    Actually, the edict has been for about three years that all NZOA-funded videos should also be available on YouTube, typically via the artist’s own channel.

    I think the onus should be on the recipient to make best use of wonderful tools like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, YouTube, LastFM, etc. I think that Amplifier has a special claim to being a media organisation as well as a retailer.

    How you define expectations – and measure results – is an intriguing question, but it’s one worth answering. But there’s none of that in this report. The word “internet” appears in only one paragraph in the whole report.

    Like I said Simon, I think you’re being very generous.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Caddick remarks on how everyone he talked to was conscious of wanting to do justice to the taxpayer’s investment. Caddick gives the impression he encountered the opposite of a culture of entitlement.

    It’s exactly the same at the film and television end. It feels like we’re suddenly all getting painted greedy hollywood wannabes who don’t appreciate what we’ve got, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Problem is attacking art-types is always a good sport for anyone who wants to feel like they’re sticking it to those scumbag elites for the sake of the common man (and nanas, I guess). Not very often you get pompous elitists who think they’re better than everyone else AND welfare bludgers at the same time. Sweet target.

    Inspite of some recent disagreement with Chris Trotter, he proves he’s actually a pretty good dude on occasion too with this:

    Like so many other populations descended from pioneering stock, New Zealanders place a much higher value on practical achievement than they do on artistic talent or intellectual accomplishment. Artists and intellectuals tend to make most Kiwis nervous…

    By contrast, great intellectual acuity and creative power are innate qualities. No amount of hard work can increase our native stock of intelligence and creativity (although it will certainly sharpen the skills we do possess). It’s an inconvenient truth which gives the lie to, and undermines, New Zealanders’ cherished egalitarian faith. That’s why so many Kiwis are suspicious of individuals with too much talent. It smacks of unfairness, privilege and elitism. Such people are not to be trusted.

    Don’t completely agree about the innate part, but I suspect most people think that’s the case, so he makes the point pretty well about where the attitude comes from.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • kevin russell,

    re channel z

    Unfortunately, not very many people actually listened to it;

    I think you'll find the Wellington and Christchurch stations had very different results to the Auckland one.
    Re Radio NZ appealing to youth, haha, excellent. Only an old person would think they do. Youth want their own station to identify with. They don't want to listen to the odd show aimed at their parents who are desperately trying to keep their finger on the pulse. How out of touch can you be?
    A Radio NZ station aimed at youth culture is a fantastic idea, but you wouldn't expect to hear the industry back it because it challenges their strangle hold on that market.
    And Upston's work is great, but how bout a regularly funded show like the peel sessions. Now that really would do some good (and we know this because of the impact it had on the British scene).
    Reminds me of the joke.
    How many social workers does it take to change a light bulb?
    Just one, but the light bulb has got to want to change.
    One gets the feeling this light bulb doesn't want to change at all.

    hamiltron • Since May 2010 • 37 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    Like I said Simon, I think you’re being very generous.

    Perhaps but my point was more that it offered something to discuss, something to go forward with whether you strongly disagree with it or not. The very fact you've been able to post at such length about it and argue the points is a positive.

    The official report seems to have garnered rather less interest and discussion in these pages and elsewhere than Rob's.

    I think the idea that there has been no progress at all in “get-ting more of New Zealand’s musical culture on air” in 20 years is absurd, although I suppose it depends on how you define “New Zealand’s musical culture”. I’d have thought, say, The Naked & Famous being all over the radio last year and Smashproof the year before would be pretty significant examples to the contrary. If you really think there has not been a significant improvment in radio’s engagement with local music in 20 years, you basically can’t remember what it was like 20 years ago.

    I'm perhaps the very last person to disagree with that. Of course I can remember and I think it's a mighty thing that the Radioscope chart for 2010 had such a New Zealand dominance.

    NZoA deserves the credit for that (along with the last government). You won't find me anywhere 'hating on' Brendan, quite the opposite.

    However, for all that the singles chart was not an exciting place from a NZ music POV. The NZ singles that do so well on the airwaves, with honourable exceptions such as Smashproof, are soundalike (and very dated soundalike to be more ruthless) versions of things that radio liked to add from abroad and do the industry no favours in the longer term.

    So yes, we have music made in NZ being played on radio stations. Where does that take us next? How do we turn that positive into something that gives our recording industry legs? Those are the questions I hoped Chris' report would address but it really doesn't (hence my terms of reference qualifier above).

    It may be worth noting (although I'm perhaps reading too much into it given the times) that the album by The Naked and Famous failed, with all the hype, to even go gold. Lots of albums in our country still reach that mark though and yet this record, all over the radio, failed to excite 7500 people to buy the long player (I'm not hating on them either BTW).

    What disappoints me that we seem to be painting ourselves into a corner. New Zealand is too small to sustain a viable domestic industry and needs to find a way to move what we make into the global marketplace. We do this by encouraging artists that rattle the cage, that make music rather differently or are radically individual rather than pale soundalikes.

    For all the radio play and growth inside the nation it's also a sad fact that the music we produce has mostly a lower global profile now than it did a decade back. Even in Australia.

    For me that's where the discussion needs to go next but we missed an opportunity to do that and just getting radio to play songs that they don't feel threatened by isn't enough.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    That’s why so many Kiwis are suspicious of individuals with too much talent.

    Are those the kiwis who filled their pockets from, and screwed the property market?

    It smacks of unfairness, privilege and elitism.

    Silly me, I thought a talent for something came from a combination of genetic makeup, upbringing and a fair amount of practice.
    You can get into all sorts of trouble when you talk in generalities like that, Trots.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

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