The Hobbit ‘crisis’ is all about money. It’s about the producers of this long-troubled production, who are in financial difficulty, wanting to minimise their up-front costs. The mark in the con is the only one with cash to offer on the scale they need – the Prime Minister. He’s the one with the most to lose and the most ability to pay.
Tracy Watkins put this argument very well in her piece on the Dom yesterday (which, frustratingly, isn’t online). She pointed out that the Hobbit dwarfs Key’s cycleway and tinkering with the Resource Management Act. Nothing the do nothing PM has done comes close to the Hobbit in terms of its economic impact on the economy.
The firestorm in the last week has put extraordinary pressure on Key. He can’t be the man who fails to ‘save the Hobbit’ – the direct political cost and the economic cost will be too great. So he will go to extraordinary lengths to keep it in New Zealand. The producers of the Hobbit have him over a barrel. I’m sure Key knows their threats are hollow but he can’t take that risk, and so he’ll open up the taxpayers’ cheque book.
Bill English gets it. He’s smart enough to pull con-jobs of his own and he’s smart enough to see when one is being pulled on him. According to Watkins, English describes this affair as nothing more than the producers trying to twist the government’s arm.
The actors’ union issue is really a sideshow to this bigger game. The settled dispute gives the producers a casus belli for their posturing and it gives the government a whipping boy for the extra money it will dole out but the real game is the producers trying to get more money out of the government.
Now, some people have trouble believing this. Their logic seems to be that because Jackson’s works have done a lot of good for the country in the past, whatever he does must be in the country’s interest. It’s the sainthood fallacy.
Obviously the movies that Jackson has made in New Zealand have brought a lot of money into the economy. Some of them are even pretty good. But that doesn’t mean you should worship the man.
Everyone says he’s a good guy and I’m sure he is. But he is not infallible, he doesn’t shit gold bricks, and he certainly isn’t above acting in his self-interest any more than you or I or any human being.
Take away the assumption that Jackson can’t be acting in a self-interested manner and the rest falls into place. This is nothing more than the same old story of Hollywood movie producers trying to screw more tax incentives out of governments.
I think people are quickly waking up to this. The way we initially fell for the producers’ scare-tactics completely made us look terribly provincial but now level-headed thinking is taking over.
Would Warners and Jackson really walk away from the $100 million that Watkins reports they have already invested in this project in New Zealand? Would that much of the spending actually take place overseas anyway given that the expensive stuff – the special effects – will be done by Weta Digital here in NZ?
I note that the Ipredict stock on the Hobbit going overseas has already fallen from a 90% chance to 15% today as people take a cold look at the situation.
The Hobbit isn’t going anywhere but the mere threat will still be enough for the producers to get more taxpayer cash out of Key. I’m picking it will cost us $15-$30 million.