Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Yet More Hobbit

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  • Peter Cox,

    Oh, I wasn't too far off then. :)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    And Trotter's article is a useful and somewhat balanced take on a complex situation.

    No, it isn't. It's unbalanced, unhelpful and, in places, quite untrue.

    Note the membership numbers for actors equity are 600 not the 200 that Russel guessed at. Makes a big difference to one of Russel's arguments ie equity only represents 10% of NZ actors

    It wasn't my guess, but someone else's. And there wouldn't be any debate about it if Equity had fulfilled the minimum reporting requirements for the last three or four years.

    The actors may be hopeless at PR ( compared to Jackson) and may be overly emotional about this but so what. I think its important for us all to try and unravel the truths from this mess as much as is possible.

    I don't think people here are being "overly emotional", and I think Simon in particular has shown real empathy with the actors' position. Compare his careful arguments with Trotter declaration of of class war and tell me who's being emotional.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    RB's just tweeted that Whipp has gone on leave. If he's the instigator, this is a classic way of avoiding having to do anything.

    The news came via the Hollywood Reporter, a publication Whipp deigns to talk to. He's gone for two weeks. I have no idea what to make of it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    I don't think people here are being "overly emotional", and I think Simon in particular has shown real empathy with the actors' position. Compare his careful arguments with Trotter declaration of of class war and tell me who's being emotional.

    Russell I was referring to actors getting emotional about this issue - not the people on this blog.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 509 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    It wasn't my guess, but someone else's. And there wouldn't be any debate about it if Equity had fulfilled the minimum reporting requirements for the last three or four years.

    Fair enough and yes Equity seems to be somewhat shambolic , which of course makes its very difficult uncover the facts.

    There are other under reported facts on the producers side , Jackson talk of a residuals deal for all NZ actors working on the Hobbit sounds very generous , except the residuals only kick in 18 months after the DVD release - making them almost worthless . Devils in the detail.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 509 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    That might have been something good to mention instead of nudity clauses.

    And I'll also add: I don't believe the shambolic nature of this thing is actually Actors Equity's fault - it's the MEAA who set this thing up, dropped it on them, and has been apparently not been a great source of advice on how they should deal with this thing.

    And now AE, who have had to front up, and defend it, apparently without time to develop a proper media strategy, wind up looking bad. If anything AE have been doing a good job with the s**ty script and direction they've been given.

    And to anyone who says: PJ brought this into the media first. What the hell was MEAA expecting when they started this boycott? If you're going to try and use all your leverage, then the other side is going to use theirs.

    Just because they're not prepared to deal with it, is nobody's fault but Simon Whipp and the MEAA.

    So, nice of him to take leave for 2 weeks now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Also, I'll add: I have no problem with the NZ actors and their cause. I love a great many of some fairly vocal AE members very dearly, and completely defend their right to be well paid.

    But the more I think about how MEAA have gone about doing this thing on their behalf, and have c**ked it up so badly, it just makes my blood boil.

    Okay, now I'm REALLY going back to work this time :)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    and completely defend their right to be well paid.

    I wonder if the concept of 'right to be well paid' is part of the problem here. Do we -- those of us who choose a career in the arts or fringe enterprises in a TINY market -- actually have right to be well paid? Of course we'd LOVE it ... but, you know, seriously, why do we have a right -- especially when, as is the case with most NZ productions the economics don't stack up for that to be the case?

    Obviously a mega-budget film like The Hobbit distorts these questions -- working on a big thing like that you do have a right to be paid. And I have no doubt that that's why they're pinning everything onto this film ... But remember, they're asking for a standard contract that will cover across everything.

    If everyone on a New Zealand film was well paid the film wouldn't get made (especially -- as I keep saying -- as budgets get smaller and smaller, which they are) and then no-one would get paid.

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    power plays...

    The news came via the Hollywood Reporter, a publication Whipp deigns to talk to. He's gone for two weeks. I have no idea what to make of it.

    Same M.O. as Tony Marryatt Council CEO in Chch (Except he hasn't spoken to anyone for a month as far as I can see). Paid almost half a million a year and buggers off to Australia for 10 days, ostensibly to see the NRL final (that's one day!) and leaves all the hard decisions on buildings' fates in Chch to his deputy - nice work if you can get it!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I have no idea what to make of it.

    Union organisers wouldn't tend to take leave in the middle of a large dispute like this. Either he's not really involved, or... who knows.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Okay, well to put it another way: I defend their right to make their case to be well paid. Which is why I wish they'd just been straight up about it right from the start instead of trying this 'it's not about the money, we're not greedy actors' line.

    Goddammit, if you've got a case, make the damn case!

    If people think it's reasonable, they'll back you on it!

    Again, I blame the MEAA for not realising that right from the start, because that bird has well and truly flown. If they start going on about residuals now, they're just going to get that quote thrown right back in their faces. "Oh, so you ARE greedy actors then?" *sigh*.

    This isn't about Peter Jackson's ingenious spin machine. Everything they've done or said should be entirely expected. This is just about the MEAA charging in and f***ing this up.

    But remember, they're asking for a standard contract that will cover across everything.

    Well, Simon Whipp (rather foolishly) said that to the Hollywood reporter. Unfortunately Robyn Malcolm repeated something similar. Maybe in their heads that was somehow a sound strategy once upon a time. I think they've backed away from that well and truly now.

    Anyway, it doesn't seem to be what the members have actually voted for. And that's what counts. On the other hand they didn't vote on the No Work order either, so what the hell do I know.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And in all of this, I seem to be left trying to decide whether NZ Equity/MEAA are incompetent or flat out liars. Don't know about anyone else, but neither option is comforting.

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

  • nzlemming,

    Thanks for the pointer to theatreview. The thread there is quite interesting (open to read, member to comment, like here) but remember to take your blood pressure pills ;-)

    http://www.theatreview.org.nz/forum/topic.php?id=899

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    Well, Simon Whipp (rather foolishly) said that to the Hollywood reporter. Unfortunately Robyn Malcolm repeated something similar. Maybe in their heads that was somehow a sound strategy once upon a time. I think they've backed away from that well and truly now.

    Have they -- and I'm not arguing with you here, Peter -- 'backed away from that' now ... in that officially (or even unofficially) they haven't said squat to anyone for days?

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Just an educated guess.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Duignan,

    I think it would be nice if Actors Equity recognised that the vast majority of film producers in New Zealand have to take a day job between projects, because producing films here doesn't actually pay enough to support them.

    Perhaps then they could see how galling it is for a foreign organisation with way more money and clout than Spada, to unilaterally dictate the terms by which they can employ people in their own country.

    But I agree with Simon Bennet: for the local Actors at least this isn't really about money. Personally I think that Actors in this country aren't respected enough; or frankly what they can bring to a production fully understood. We have, I think, a bit of a problem in recognising and integrating talent into our projects. When was the last time you heard of A NZ director / writer identifying an actor and writing a character around them? It happens all the time in other places. Tim Balme's Ballad of Jimmy Costello languished even though he is one of our most loved and lauded actors, and the stageplay was an international hit. I think it is encouraging to see more actors writing, producing and directing - Like Taika, but but also Tom Hern, Louis Sutherland and others.

    The truth of the matter is that the New Zealand film industry is so small that Actors, Directors, Producers and Crew need to work closer with each other. There needs to be free and open communication about how difficult it is to gain funding for a project, and how we build a sustainable growing industry in a tiny country thousands of kilometers away from the major entertainment markets. The idea of a large union characterising the actors as exploited labour under the heel of greedy capitalists is utter nonsense, and only the most demented and disconnected loudmouths could buy into that (Trotter I am looking at you).

    The MEAA hasn't help this at all, and the more I look at it, the more it looks like NZ actors are just pawns in a much larger game being played between SAG and it's proxies and the Studios, and any damage done to the local industry is merely the cost of doing business.

    Since Oct 2010 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    Terrific post, Michael.

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    People wanted the feelgood but ultimately toothless and pointless resolution to ask for negotiations about suggested/non-binding conditions

    If that's what NZAE want, then well, isn't that the Pink Book? Why haven't they negotiated that for 5 years? Why haven't they talked to Spada yet?

    Union organisers wouldn't tend to take leave in the middle of a large dispute like this. Either he's not really involved, or... who knows.

    ... or it's a ploy to avoid reaching agreement (i.e. MEAA want The Hobbit to leave NZ), or he's getting out of the way in favour of someone less problematic for the other side (i.e. a tacit admission that Whipp has made a mess of the situation). I hope it's not the second possibility, but...

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    FIA (Federation of International Actors) resolution, as issued by MEAA :

    MEAA "Factsheet"

    “Resolved, that the International Federation of Actors urges each of its affiliates to adopt instructions to their members that 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 providing for satisfactory terms and conditions for all performers employed on the productions.”


    Jennifer Ward-Lealand on The Nation (Sunday, October 3):

    "... the Commerce Act says you cannot collectively bargain, absolutely, and we've never asked for that."

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Okay, this is an interesting read in terms of the legal discussions that went down at the meetings, particularly the Wellington meeting, where the Simpons-Grierson guy turned up and stated his position.

    It's only one attendee's take on it, of course, but seeing as it's the only take I've seen, it's pretty interesting.

    http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=144590555584156&topic=228

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn,

    Michael - a very sane and measured comment, thank you.

    Has anyone else noticed that one of the Aussie MPs came out very strongly against MEAA? So Simon Whipp's disappearance may be to take the heat off himself....but what is Equity to do if they can't communicate with him? And how do we know he hasn't "disappeared" himself for the past few days? I think AE is between a rock and a hard place, but the worst aspect for me is remembering my agent's very strong advice at the time, that joining up with an Aussie union was not going to be in NZ actors' interests. How true that seems today.

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

  • Jacqui Dunn,

    Michael - a very sane and measured comment, thank you.

    Has anyone else noticed that one of the Aussie MPs came out very strongly against MEAA? So Simon Whipp's disappearance may be to take the heat off himself....but what is Equity to do if they can't communicate with him? And how do we know he hasn't "disappeared" himself for the past few days? I think AE is between a rock and a hard place, but the worst aspect for me is remembering my agent's very strong advice at the time, that joining up with an Aussie union was not going to be in NZ actors' interests. How true that seems today.

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

  • Jacqui Dunn,

    Ooops. Don't know what happened there - I say, I don't know what happened there. Somehow went back to previous screen.

    Sorry....

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

  • BenWilson,

    When was the last time you heard of A NZ director / writer identifying an actor and writing a character around them?

    Actually I can think of 2 examples from LOTR. Jackson seemed determined to give Craig Parker more of a role and added a very odd scene in which Elves from Lothlorien turn up at the battle of Helm's Deep. Considering the huge array of things that had to be left out of the story it was quite an odd one to add in (and made no sense at all). I can only presume it was Parker's very elven looks, and ability to deliver even awful lines with conviction, that sold it.

    Also, Lawrence Makaore was given several roles that utilized his huge physicality, even though they were nothing in the books at all. There was no Uruk Hai leader called Lurtz who singlehandedly killed Boromir, nor an Orc commander called Gothmog.

    Small parts, but in very big movies.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Here's something that was just pointed out to me:

    This battle is actually SAG vs the Studios.

    So we're probably going to see it solved and announced there before anything here changes, if what we do here even matters at all (not sure if that makes anyone feel better or not).

    Although whether that announcement means it stays in NZ or not is another matter altogether...

    Explains a lot, doesn't it...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 312 posts Report Reply

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