It really is a perfect storm for the NZ film / TV industry right now. On the one hand the high NZ dollar and uncompetitive tax rebates. And on the other we have collapsing TV ratings and local funding mechanisms (both NZFC and NZOA) which are looking out of date with how content is being consumed. In the case of New Zealand On Air, we are reaching the point where we only have one viable TV network (Tv3 teeters on the edge) and it refuses to commission any significant drama because it just doesn't rate any more. Will NZOA stand on the sidelines as local writers / actors / directors / crew disappear? I personally think that increasing tax rebates would only work for a year or two, but Steven Joyce talking about "owning IP" is meaningless unless their is significant reform of funding for local content - most importantly by developing incentives to create truly high quality, niche content for the international market.
This is Simon Whipp quoted both through TVNZ, and Stuff today:
"Unlike the domestic industry in New Zealand, the domestic industry in Australia, at this point, is burgeoning and I'd hope that we can work towards a situation where the domestic industry in New Zealand can be sustainable, and burgeoning, and be a vibrant film industry for the future."
I don't have hard numbers on this but I do know that BOY made more money at the NZ box office than all Australian films made at the OZ box office in 2009 COMBINED. One film perhaps, but thats not too bad if you ask me....
Secondly NZ is a country of 4 million people - the idea of a self sustaining domestic industry is mathematically impossible; the local audience just isn't big enough to pay for the millions of dollars that are put at risk every time a film is made.
The film industry has to be underpinned by international money; there is no other way to have the skills and resources we have now without it.
My question is this: Is the MEAA's position to discourage international production here (and Australia) in favour of a some kind of closed shop domestic market? If so do they realise that it would leave us with barely 40 million dollars for serious drama - the kind you need actors for - all of which comes from the government?) North Korea has a film industry too, do they see this as the kind of model they would like to adopt?
Nothing that MEAA has done seems to be constructive or encouraging of foreign productions shooting here (or Australia); including it's blanket objection to bringing in actors from overseas.
I think that is something Actors need to think very seriously about. Questions of residuals and conditions are valid, but the big picture is whether you think its a good idea to have international productions shot in NZ? If so, are you sure the MEAA share this view?
I can't figure this one out. Why would Simon Whipp care if Oz actors have to speak in an American accent? I mean he is literally working to get the film NOT made in Australia; to reduce the amount of work for Australian actors. Thats not irresponsible; it seems like acting directly against the interests of the unions members to me.
The only way that action makes any sense is it MEAA is so completely in the pocket of SAG that it is doing its bidding within Australia. Am I missing something there? Does anybody have another explanation?
Just got back from an interesting conversation with an union official mate of mine, now living in Australia, who offered another, depressing, angle to consider.
Just as the NZAE action seems to have opened a door for Warners to move offshore (or at least get a better deal from the IRD). It also seems to have created a crisis that might allow the National govt to undermine contractor's rights to negotiate across the board, and not just in the film industry.
There are people who are contractors now, who, unlike actors and film technicians, don't really have a choice in the matter: ie people who just want a job, any job; the economically vulnerable, such as cleaners, service workers and the like.
There are literally tens of thousands of working poor in New Zealand and they need a strong and legitimate union movement if they are to improve their lot. Obviously this is not NZAE's concern, but I'm just not sure how the CTU wading into the complex, rarified, and comparatively very privileged world of screen acting is helping those people...
When did the CTU decide it would be a good idea to be the very visible front person for a chaotic industrial campaign with murky objectives which pits one group of working people against another, larger group of working people?
It's bad enough that the whole thing has been counter productive for actors, but it seems a travesty that other far less glamourous and visible people in this country might also suffer from the backlash.
Yup, I'd have to say he's hit this one fair on the head....
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.
Right stick - wrong end:
The writer seems to be making out that residuals were a NZ innovation, rather than standard everywhere else. But he does make the glaringly obvious observation about conflict of interest in a foreign union negotiating on behalf of NZ workers.
Basically, the only way they could do this is for the MEAA to go back and tell the SAG and other member affiliates of the FIA that they might not have fully represented the complexity of the NZ legal system to them.
Which I'm not sure the MEAA is that keen to charge out and do.
I guess thats what I meant - you're just way more erudite and nuanced about it than me....
Australian politicians wading into this now:
EDIT: interesting thing about the above article is that it doesn't even bother to refer to NZ actors equity. This is an Australian union calling an international boycott of a film shot in NZ. NZ actors are just along for the ride on this one I suspect.
I think the only person who can call off the boycott is Simon Whipp, not Equity's Frances Walsh, or JWL...
Does anyone know if anyone has talked to SPADA yet? Or are we still all getting the silent treatment?
PJ is saying - the film is not non-union; ie they are honoring SAG contracts for SAG actors. The MEAA want them to sign a collective contract with them, which they won't do, because they legally can't.
If they went to Oz, it would probably be because of some other factors as well (tax breaks etc), but they would sign the MEAA contract. MEAA has an agreement with SAG waiving the requirement to have everyone on their contract if one person does.
So if they go elsewhere they would still be a "union" shoot (for SAG members)