Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Anatomy of a Shambles

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  • Samuel Scott,

    Apparently the Australian bid was very healthy. Imagine that!

    When Gerry Brownlee said this morning "I don't believe financial incentives are the issue here. I think it would be wrong to allow people to suggest that it is the money issue that is behind all this. It is not." he was entirely wrong.

    The union issue started the ball rolling, but it is now in the hands of Warners. That is just straight up fact. There is nothing the union could do now to change the fact that the location of film has been thrown to the wolves.

    Wether you are pro the actions of the union or not, this whole thing is a major bummer.

    South Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 315 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Bloody Actors. How do we know this isn't just an act.It might be a workshop.

    Site specific improvisational performance art!

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Blake Monkley,

    MEDIA RELEASE


    21 October 2010


    Facts on Hobbit


    Helen Kelly, CTU President, said today that it is important that some facts about the union stance on the Hobbit are placed before the public.

    · The union is seeking basic terms and conditions such as hours, breaks, overtime payments etc.

    · The union has always been prepared to agree those conditions as an industry standard rather than a collective agreement.

    · The union advised Warners on Sunday (their time) that they had asked the Screen Actors Guild to lift any “don’t work” orders in place. A statement has been prepared by Equity but Warners have asked to control the time of the release and have delayed several days. We understand Wingnut were aware of this when they met with Technicians last night but failed to pass on this information.

    · MEAA (Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance New Zealand Incorporated) is a registered union in New Zealand. They affiliate to the CTU in New Zealand and are a trans-Tasman organisation. We are used to having hundreds of Trans Tasman businesses in NZ and that appears to be perfectly acceptable. Many of our performers work in both countries so a Trans Tasman union makes sense.

    “These films can be made here”, said Helen Kelly. “Following a meeting last week, which included Hon Gerry Brownlee, good progress is being made on developing an industry standard through improving the content and form of the current “Pink Book”. Last night’s meeting was ironically to begin discussions with Equity members on that process. It will now have to be rescheduled.

    “Helen Kelly said NZ Performers want the movie made here as much as anyone, but let’s get all the facts on the table about taxes, subsidies, and other issues – rather than just blaming the union for asking to meet on basic terms and conditions”.

    ENDS

    Auckland • Since Jul 2008 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett,

    Sadly, Russell, I think you've nailed it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 172 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    Bloody Actors. How do we know this isn't just an act.It might be a workshop.

    Or they need a better script

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 510 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    “Helen Kelly said NZ Performers want the movie made here as much as anyone, but let’s get all the facts on the table about taxes, subsidies, and other issues – rather than just blaming the union for asking to meet on basic terms and conditions”.

    How about blaming the union for their own mixed messages, truthiness and general incoherence?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    hey! a phone number!

    wonder if people are getting their hate on.

    otherwise: new zealand, played like fcking mugs. again.

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

  • Eleanor,

    Again, just for the record, despite the anger felt by film industry workers at last night's protest, the mood was unceasingly good humoured, civilised, and jovial.

    wellington • Since May 2007 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    MEAA (Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance New Zealand Incorporated) is a registered union in New Zealand.

    Except when it wasn't, and folks like Russell were being called liars for checking the Register of Incorporated Societies, the list of registered union on the DoL website and... Oh, why am I bothering? This is turning into trying to rationally engage with Master Baiter on Kiwibog.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    Today's release:

    The union has always been prepared to agree those conditions as an industry standard rather than a collective agreement.

    The No Work order that's still up on SAG etc websites:

    no member of any FIA affiliate will agree to act in the theatrical film The Hobbit until such time as the producer has entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance for production in New Zealand

    Seriously: What. The. Fuck?

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And Union 101: if you want your POV in the media or to negotiate in good faith, return people's fucking calls.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    Many thanks Russell for trying to shovel a glimpse into this wee mess.
    My actor friends are very passionate about this but I sense they are not getting the whole story and their union is letting them down in that.
    I suspect there could be some politicking from the studios as well.
    A lot of heat on both sides - I have been involved in union disputes like this in the old days, hard stands being made by both sides and everyone losing in the end.
    What is to be done to solve this sorry affair?

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 510 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Eade,

    Let's' not forget how this Industry works.From Bloomberg.July 15, 2009

    "Tolkien’s works already have a litigation history. Peter Jackson, who directed all three “Rings” films, sued New Line in 2005, claiming the studio miscalculated his proceeds from the first movie. They settled for an undisclosed sum in 2007.

    The accounting methods used by New Line Cinema, the Time Warner unit that made the movies, will face a jury’s scrutiny in October, when the heirs’ lawsuit against the New York-based media company is set for trial in Los Angeles Superior Court.

    The case, if not settled by then, may provide a window into accounting practices that let Time Warner deny proceeds of the Oscar-winning films to Tolkien’s heirs. The litigation also threatens to derail two “The Hobbit” films that, if their predecessors are a guide, could generate $4 billion in sales.

    “Usually it’s not outright thievery by the studios, but death by contract,” said Pierce O’Donnell, the Los Angeles- based lawyer who represented the late columnist Art Buchwald in a successful case against Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures in 1988. “It’s an esoteric world where black doesn’t mean black, and white doesn’t necessarily mean white.”

    auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 1112 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    Eighteen months ago, Equity refused an offer from the Screen Production and Development Association (Spada) to renegotiate the "Pink Book" code of conduct which covers actors' pay and conditions and has been untouched since the MEAA moved in. Its precondition for any talks with Spada was that the existing system, which does generally work, be scrapped and replaced with collective agreements.

    It's hard to imagine a good outcome when this opportunity was not taken. Should it be possible, I'd appreciate it if someone could explain why it wasn't?

    Apparently the Australian bid was very healthy. Imagine that!

    I despair. Could this be a very clever act of economic terrorism? The Australian industry is in the toilet - according to MSM coverage.

    I'm less inclined to go the CTU - partly 'cause I'm not nearly across all the information but also because they've not been in control of this since the start and are only one of many groups claiming to be representing actors.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    I'm having a media moment...

    Are LA and Sydney the two towers ?

    Has anyone noticed that the Herald on-line has put up an article by Graham on Dublin ?

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Idiot/Savant just characterised the screen works who met and marched yesterday as "useful idiots".

    I'm restraining myself in response.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Gordon Campbell has more on government incentives and the impact of the MGM takeover deals on the table, including timing.

    Again, why isn’t the government at least thinking about raising our production rebates, to keep us in this very lucrative game?

    If such a response truly isn’t being considered by the Key government, this must mean either (a) The Hobbit production is already in the bag for New Zealand, thanks mainly to Jackson or (b) the location shoot is as good as lost, and the government will be more than happy to blame the unions for it.

    ...

    How is the outcome of the MGM deal likely to impact on The Hobbit calculations? As mentioned, the Spyglass option means that MGM would shed its marketing and distribution arms, and there would be considerable costs downstream in contracting out those roles to say, Warners, their co-partner on The Hobbit.

    ...


    Those are among the extra costs that the Warners/MGM bean counters will be running through their calculators, and they will be stacking them up against the higher production subsidies available elsewhere in the world. I can’t see how any final decision on these matters – or on The Hobbit – can be made at Warners before the MGM creditors finally choose their poison, come October 29.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett,

    Eighteen months ago, Equity refused an offer from the Screen Production and Development Association (Spada) to renegotiate the "Pink Book" code of conduct which covers actors' pay and conditions and has been untouched since the MEAA moved in. Its precondition for any talks with Spada was that the existing system, which does generally work, be scrapped and replaced with collective agreements.
    It's hard to imagine a good outcome when this opportunity was not taken. Should it be possible, I'd appreciate it if someone could explain why it wasn't?

    Because at the time Equity/MEAA wanted to impose a blanket industry-wide binding contract (along the lines of the Australian one), and saw returning to the Pink Book as being counter-productive. Now, they're going to the Pink Book, which is the only logical course of action within current legal parameters.

    I wonder how many actors have actually READ the Pink Book - I think they'll find the recommended guidelines for contracting performers are very similar to the things they think they're fighting for. Namely, nudity clauses, breaks, overtime, working days etc.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 172 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Oh, I see, the thread has moved: just to bring my post back from the other thread. Sorry for interrupting the flow, but, at Russell's request:

    I could see the next generation of those involved on all sides lobbying the government to follow Ireland's example for allowing collective contracts in order to be part of the global film industry.

    This is exactly what the New Zealand Writer's Guild had (past tense?) literally set as the high priority focus for the next two years. So you can imagine my reaction to all this...

    RB:

    Shit -- really? Could do you do me a favour and expand on this topic in the discussion for this morning's new post on the debacle? I'm really interested.

    Well, it's hard to talk about because it's something we've been working on with our international unions. All writer's unions around the world except for the US and Canada work in a very similar system to us, complete with pink books type stuff, recommended rates etc.

    So we've been having some discussions about what to do about that.
    Basically, the lobbying aspect would just be common sense stuff: various ways of gaining public support and then some political will out of that, because you need to make the govt think there's some significant votes in it for them, or at least losing some significant votes if they don't do it. Obviously, I can't go into the specifics of those strategies though, but they were being worked on.

    Some general political good will doesn't hurt either if you can phrase your arguments so it fits in with their specific political ideologies.

    Funny thing was I literally got back from the International Writer's Guild meetings in Ireland, put my bags down, turned on the TV and saw John Barnett on Closeup taking about it, and thought WTF is this?!

    And that's basically the phrase I've been repeating to myself ever since.

    By the way, thanks Russell for your work on this. The one criticism I have on this post, is about the way the Auckland/Wellington meetings were conducted. I don't think you can take one report as gospel truth on it. I've heard mixed reports on this: some, from Mick Rose, and Geoff Houtman are floating about the internet. They paint variously different pictures on things. Geoff even suggests at one point 'Simon Whipp' brought up the issue of AE voting on the boycott itself and was shouted down (?!). I've also been told that the statement itself was only two pages long and he did finish it, etc, etc. I have no idea on the truth of it all myself. Just saying, I don't think anyone can be really sure that didn't attend and see for themselves. I wish I'd gone myself. No idea if they would have let me in though.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    New statement from Spada CEO Penelope Borland below.

    It does seem that the union had completely backed down just before the shit hit the fan:

    Recent Discussions between SPADA and NZ Actors’ Equity

    Last week SPADA held a meeting with representatives of NZ Actors’ Equity. Helen Kelly from the CTU also attended and the meeting was chaired by Hon Gerry Brownlee.

    There was an acceptance by the parties that the targeting of individual productions by the union had not been a successful strategy and that henceforth the parties would discuss matters with each other in the first instance.

    At the meeting SPADA and Equity agreed they would enter a period of discussion and good faith negotiation on the Pink Book. While all matters of form and content relating to the engagement of actors in the screen industry will be discussed, you should be aware that this is no more than what would normally happen in such discussions and that these are the discussions we were trying to have with the union around 18 months ago.

    This recent period of industrial unrest has been damaging for New Zealand's reputation as a shooting location and created a lot of uncertainty.

    In an effort to restore the confidence of the international and domestic film financing and production communities, and to ensure a peaceful stable period while we discuss the Pink Book, we negotiated an interim agreement until 31 March 2011 when it is expected that the Pink Book negotiations will be concluded.

    Any production that commences pre‐production before 31 March 2011, and adheres to the guidelines as set out in the Code of Practice for the Engagement of Cast in the New Zealand Screen Production Industry dated 6 June 2005 (and more commonly known as the “Pink Book”), will be covered by this agreement.

    Equity has contracted with us that they will not enter into any negotiations or undertake any industrial action against those productions or encourage or facilitate any of its affiliate bodies or members to do likewise.

    Over the weekend, Equity was to request their affiliated international unions to lift the “boycott” on The Hobbit.

    We were hopeful that this action, together with the green-lighting of the picture and the interim agreement between SPADA and Equity during the negotiation period, would mean that The Hobbit and other productions would go ahead in New Zealand.

    In the case of The Hobbit, the situation is obviously uncertain but SPADA wish Peter, Fran, Philippa and Carolyn all the best in their efforts to persuade Warner Brothers to keep the film here. The difficulty of this task should not be underestimated.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Tristan,

    no member of any FIA affiliate will agree to act in the theatrical film The Hobbit until such time as the producer has entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance for production in New Zealand

    This is an intresting alert... Seems to me if it does move to Ireland actors will still not be able to work on it untill a contract is written in NZ (unless they change the name of the production..)

    And if SAG do remove the alert if it moves off shore arnt they endorsing what is it 'run away' productions?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 221 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Idiot/Savant just characterised the screen works who met and marched yesterday as "useful idiots".

    I prefer to see them as people who are worried about the economic climate, are like many people finding it hard to keep their finances under control, and who had been thinking, "Well, it's tough this year, but at least I should have work on The Hobbit for the next couple of years."

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Ladies & gents, runaway production politics has spilled over to NZ.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5430 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    Thanks Simon, in which case this situation is all the more tragic frankly.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Lars man standing...

    Bloody Actors. How do we know this isn't just an act.It might be a workshop.

    The Curs of of Dogma meets Dogme
    everyone loves Triers...


    a glimmer of glamour...
    Jackson's good at
    weaving movie magic
    he just can't spell...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7944 posts Report Reply

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