The Herald is reporting that Warner brothers and SAG had settled the Hobbit dispute on Monday (US time):
…a series of emails between Warner Bros and the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG), sighted by NZPA, showed the two parties were discussing the wording of a press release announcing the settlement of the dispute from as early as Monday, US time.
That’s two days before Peter Jackson launched a broadside attack on the union.
I figure this means one of two things:
Either the communication between Jackson and Warners is really poor (like communicating by courier pigeon poor).
Or the attack on the union was a straight up act of bad faith.
If it’s the former we have to ask how urgent the situation really is if the big players are taking days to talk to each other but if it’s the latter then we have to ask why the hell was a settled dispute reignited so aggressively by Jackson?
I think it’s the latter but, given the claims that the issue endangering the Hobbit is supposed to be stable industrial relations it seems counter-intuitive that the producers would deliberately destabilise a done deal.
Which leads me to think that the claim this whole new blow-up is about pressuring the government is quite plausible (interestingly Finance Minister Bill English is certainly not discounting this theory).
I also note that, faced with this proof, Jackson claimed that the action wasn’t lifted early enough but that begs the further question of what were Warners doing at the negotiating table and preparing a media statement if it was too late? We’re they doing it just for kicks? I don’t think so.
This isn’t a story that’s going away and I get the feeling that we’ll see a more detail come out over time. I also get the feeling that the actors’ action will turn out to be peripheral to the real story behind this fiasco.
Update: just seen on TVNZ that “Key is taking advice on New Zealand labour laws to see if they can be softened to accommodate the studio. And the government is even looking at whether there is any room to move the tax rebate for film companies from 15% to try to sweeten the deal.”
If it’s workforce instability and not tax breaks that are at issue (as Jackson claims) then the result of this advice will make that clear. My money is on a small temporary change to employment law to save face and a tax break to actually do the business.
Update 2: Fran O’Sullivan is predicting tax breaks will be the answer:
Key will try to pull off a solution. It will inevitably be a commercial one that could result in New Zealand taxpayers giving Warner Bros an even better tax break to keep The Hobbit here.
The actors would get to stay in work and New Zealand would forgo some tax revenue. Not the brightest of results, really. But Key and co can’t afford to keep on giving in to Malcolm and her fairweather friends.
Fran’s generally got the inside running on the Nat’s spin so it looks like they’ll try to pass the tax-breaks off as a solution to the (settled) dispute. I’ll be very interested to see how they try to link the two and whether the media buy it.