Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Yet More Hobbit

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  • Jacqui Dunn,

    "...film industry workers can't afford good intentions and toxic levels of naivety from their representatives"

    Agreed. What is needed now are clear and cool heads, some investigation of the whos, whats and whys, and a weeding out of the erroneous, of which there is much. I think a lot of heat has come about because of the general confusion from everyone, and I include all parties.

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

  • Ian Dalziel,

    a pain in the Asgard too...

    If a third Fantastic Four movie every gets off the ground, they should bring it to Australia and cast Whipp as Galactacus, Devourer-of-Worlds!

    ...or maybe as a one-eyed Odin, I've just seen a snippet of so-called action from the Thor movie in production, cringe....

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7704 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    (I don't know about anyone else, but Shane Cortese seems to spend half his screen-time this series with his head between Antonia Prebble's legs.)

    I don't have anything to add to this discussion, but Craig could you please hold back on references to the current season of Outrageous Fortune? There are those of us who are still catching up, due to a delay in the shipping of VHS tapes from an auntie in New Zealand.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    Oops, SPADA don't let you have a Pink Book unless you are a member

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2893 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett,

    As a director and producer I have worked closely with actors for the last 22 years.

    I think that one of the side-effects of committing to a career as an actor in New Zealand is an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. Despite being at the pointy end of the business - it's the characters the actors portray that audiences identify with and care about - actors have very little control over how they are presented or perceived. They don't get to choose their costumes, their scripts, their directors, their makeup, which takes of their performance are used in a final cut. Their working lives are scheduled to the hour. They are told what to say, what to wear, where to stand.

    Actors, by their very nature, are able to retain contact with a childlike ability to play. They crave an audience and approval. Unlike theatre, the screen industry can be quite alienating in this regard.

    What I'm observing at the moment is a strong desire from a number of working actors to regain some sort of control. This is fundamentally a matter of self-esteem.

    The tactics may have been misguided - these people aren't professional negotiators. Nor do they necessarily have a strong understanding of the ins and outs of the production industry. But they know they're not happy with the way some things are done in NZ, and want to see changes happen.

    The only way for any kind of industry-wide agreement to be achieved is through negotiations that involve the actors, their agents (who actually negotiate contracts on actors' behalf, and SPADA - the NZ Producers' organisation. A renegotiation of the Pink Book guidelines was offered to Equity about 18 months ago during the OF stoush. This was ignored.

    I think many actors may feel that to commit to an existing mechanism, and to negotiate with SPADA is to deal with Producers on the Producers' home turf. Unfortunately, this is probably the only legal way to get the actors' concerns integrated into industry practice in any sort of meaningful way.

    Whatever the agenda of MEAA, their tactics are muddying the waters. My own limited dealings with MEAA and Simon Whipp have done nothing to cultivate trust. I find their tactics cynical and destructive. I am dubious as to whether they are communicating openly, honestly and fully with their membership.

    There is a big old-fashioned groundswell among actors, of storming the ramparts and sticking it to the bosses, if the last week's worth of Facebook status updates is anything to go by. It's emotive and passionate, if slightly unfocussed. I think it's a shame that this passion may have been hijacked.

    And lastly, I'd love to know what the actors' agents think about all this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 166 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    because I believe people are basically good

    As do I.

    But as I discovered much to my cost there are some people who really are not good. It is starting to look like Mr Whipp is at the very least acting mostly out of self interest and at the worst he could be extremely "not good".

    In that case extreme caution is not unwarranted.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4426 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    as pawns across the ditch

    When I first saw that I thought you wrote "across the bitch"

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4426 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    The tactics may have been misguided - these people aren't professional negotiators. Nor do they necessarily have a strong understanding of the ins and outs of the production industry. But they know they're not happy with the way some things are done in NZ, and want to see changes happen.

    Which is why, again, I'm pleased that the NZCTU are involved.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    And lastly, I'd love to know what the actors' agents think about all this.

    I believe at least some of them have signed the petition.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Am I the only one thinking that this could be the beginning of the end for NZ as a destination for stupid-budget (nine figures is stupid money in my book) movie production? Which is precisely what SAG want, and now we've got NZAE, however naively, apparently playing directly into SAG's collective hands by portraying our leading silver screen light (and, by association, the rest of the industry at that end of town) as an anti-union hard-arse who won't negotiate in good faith.

    Please don't jump down my throat and say that that's not what's happening. I know it's not, but I also know that as someone who's only passingly followed the details of the story it's an interpretation which can be easily reached. Of all the industries in the world, Hollywood is by far the one to which the adage of "It's not what's really real, it's what looks like real" best applies.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    And lastly, I'd love to know what the actors' agents think about all this.

    There's a few names on the petition with "Agent" against them, including Gail Cowan.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2893 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Am I the only one thinking that this could be the beginning of the end for NZ as a destination

    At the end of the day, they can't actually legally do what they've been trying to do, and as soon as that starts to become more clear, I'm hopeful things will settle down.

    Though this whole thing hasn't been exactly helpful. Quite a few producer friends of mine who have been negotiating US financing have been telling me some gruesome stories of how this is being taken in the states.

    Anyway, I think once the dust settles, and assuming the hobbit survives (which I'm hearing is no certainty) we'll be okay.

    Now, if the hobbit leaves NZ... that's another story altogether. Game over.

    And by no means, it won't just be the stupid high budget films. Any international financing on any level for anything will be one hell of a lot harder to come by.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    With what I have read about this dispute it seems like several different disputes all happening at once.

    It seems there are aspects of working conditions that (some) actors are unhappy about. It seems very strange that those issues have not been raised with SPADA which appears to be the organisation that represents their employers. It seems very hard to get the actors to define their issues but they clearly are not happy.

    It seems that the Australian Union MEAA would like to have New Zealand actors all working under their union. But that would seem to be contrary to New Zealand law - or have I got that wrong. That could be read as a genuine concern for New Zealand actors or as a power play by the MEAA. Personally I am uncomfortable with an Australian union representing New Zealanders simply because it is likely to lead to conflicts of interest at worst and confusion at best.

    It seems as though SAG want to control film contracts worldwide. This would clearly benefit Californian members of SAG but I fail to see how that benefits any New Zealand actor (except for the few that are SAG members).

    One thing I find sad is that it's clear that The Hobbit is being targetted because it is likely to make big news. That's a pretty cynical and calculated move.

    Wherever this gets finally negotiated can someone please put Simon Bennett in the room. His comments have been pretty well balanced and he seems able to understand most sides of the arguments.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4426 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    As a director and producer I have worked closely with actors for the last 22 years ...

    Simon, thanks, that's really good. I think you've nailed it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22537 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    Am I the only one thinking that this could be the beginning of the end for NZ as a destination for stupid-budget (nine figures is stupid money in my book) movie production? Which is precisely what SAG want, and now we've got NZAE, however naively, apparently playing directly into SAG's collective hands by portraying our leading silver screen light (and, by association, the rest of the industry at that end of town) as an anti-union hard-arse who won't negotiate in good faith.

    I'm pretty sure that's exactly what a number of us think. And it looks a lot like MEAA has the same motivations. Thus Russell's multiple references (in the other thread) to the potential for fallout if The Hobbit ends up being made in Australia.

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    It doesn't matter how many times JW-L claims it isn't a boycott, the SAG have made it one.

    If you read the article that Russell quoted from today, you'll realise that the SAG rule one basically means that any production that doesn't have SAG approved union contracts, is not to have SAG members sign up to it, since 2002. Their statement probably isn't so much activating a boycott, as highlighting the fact that these movies don't meet those conditions so SAG members shouldn't sign for it.

    SAG members face possible sanctions at a union tribunal of their peers if they do so (the article states it's not clear whether this has ever happened).

    The author of the article was quite sympathetic to SAG, and I still finished the article feeling like this was 1970s closed shop unionism. It's basically Hollywood trying to protect their jobs and producer funded pension fund. Bizarre.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6242 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    What I'm observing at the moment is a strong desire from a number of working actors to regain some sort of control. This is fundamentally a matter of self-esteem.

    The tactics may have been misguided - these people aren't professional negotiators. Nor do they necessarily have a strong understanding of the ins and outs of the production industry. But they know they're not happy with the way some things are done in NZ, and want to see changes happen.

    That was an interesting perspective Simon, thanks for contributing it.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6242 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Their statement probably isn't so much activating a boycott, as highlighting the fact that these movies don't meet those conditions so SAG members shouldn't sign for it.

    It's an automatically effected boycott. That's how unions work and collectively have power. Just because it's automatically effected doesn't mean it's not a boycott.

    (edit: Oh, sorry, I kept reading and realised you already knew that)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Graham Dunster,

    Thanks to Simon Bennett for his post (2.05 today). There is so much misinformation about it's no surprise that so many people are confused. However, whilst the relevant parties are talking in private it is most productive to let them do this without adding more confusion to the mixture.

    I am an actors agent, I run Auckland Actors, and I work for the actors on my books and also, wherever possible, actors in general.

    I support the performers’ union NZ Actors’ Equity in their attempts to improve the working lives of performers in this country.

    I do find it disheartening to discover that there are agents who have put their name to the 'Petition by the New Zealand film community against the boycott of "The Hobbit" '. I guess the actors whom they represent will have to decide whether this works for them.

    Is the Peter Cox posting in this thread the Peter Cox who is the President of the Writers Guild? It's not clear.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2009 • 184 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    And it looks a lot like MEAA has the same motivations. Thus Russell's multiple references (in the other thread) to the potential for fallout if The Hobbit ends up being made in Australia.

    The MEAA has signed up to the global rule one (with the exception that it doesn't apply to local Australian productions which originate there). So I'd fail to see how it could be made in Australia without signing union approved contracts any easier than NZ. If they sign union approved contacts in Australia Jackson's position back here in NZ is going to look bizarre. Eastern Europe is more likely - the second Narnia movie was mostly shot in Prague, Slovenia and Poland.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6242 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Is the Peter Cox posting in this thread the Peter Cox who is the President of the Writers Guild? It's not clear.

    Yes, I am. But the comments I have been making here are my personal views and not those of the NZWG officially. Hence, I'm not signing myself as the president.

    The official NZWG position is that we don't believe it would be constructive for a positive outcome for the NZWG to publicly take a position, and that the relevant parties involved should be left alone to reach equitable resolution.

    (although obviously that could do with a copy editor, but you get the point)

    I'd like to also hope that upon looking at my posts you'll see I haven't taken any specific position of support or non support for the MEAA's stop order. Though I do what I can to add facts to the discussion, and to ask questions I think are pertinent.

    Also, very well said Simon, they echo a lot of the sympathy I have towards the actors in the way this has played out.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Duignan,

    At the end of the day, they can't actually legally do what they've been trying to do, and as soon as that starts to become more clear, I'm hopeful things will settle down.

    I kind of doubt that. Nothing about how the MEAA has acted up to this point seems rational or constructive; people have been pointing out to them that obvious legal point for quite some time now.

    The only way I can see this ending is if NZ actors realise that the MEAA can't represent them because the Australian and NZ industries are in direct competition with each other.

    When do we reach that point? Perhaps when Middle Earth has an Australian twang?

    Since Oct 2010 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Pat Hackett,

    However, whilst the relevant parties are talking in private it is most productive to let them do this without adding more confusion to the mixture.

    I hope this is true, and that the "relevant parties" inculdes AE and Spada talking together.

    If they are talking in private, it is still important to let the media know, otherwise the news vacumn will get filled by rumours.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    Their statement probably isn't so much activating a boycott, as highlighting the fact that these movies don't meet those conditions so SAG members shouldn't sign for it.

    In which case, why the singling out of The Hobbit? Where are the advisories for all the other foreign productions that have been made here since 2002?

    So I'd fail to see how it could be made in Australia without signing union approved contracts any easier than NZ. If they sign union approved contacts in Australia Jackson's position back here in NZ is going to look bizarre.

    I don't follow. PJ is saying that he can't legally negotiate a collective agreement here. If he can and does in Oz, then how does that make his position here look bizarre?

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • Pat Hackett,

    On one hand, losing the film to Australia would be the best of the bad case scenarios, because a lot of NZ film crew may still be employed in the production.

    But imagine the furore of The Hobbit being made in Australia. AE would have nowhere to hide.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 95 posts Report Reply

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