Written By: - Date published: 8:09 am, December 21st, 2010 - 129 comments
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The Herald has used the OIA to get hold of emails Peter Jackson sent Gerry Brownlee during the Hobbit shakedown. They show that the Actors’ Equity blacklisting was not a threat to the film staying here – yet Jackson and Brownlee told us it was to justify handing Warners $34 million and rushing through an anti-worker law.
I was never quite sure about Jackson’s role in the Hobbit shakedown.
I knew that Brownlee was exploiting the situation to attack Kiwi workers while Key saw a chance to play the hero, the tough negotiator, and the price tag in taxpayers’ dollars was small beer to them for that reward. I knew Warners was only ever after more money because they were never going to just walk away from the investment they had already made here.
But I wasn’t sure whether Jackson genuinely feared the movie would be moved overseas or if he was in cahoots with the others. Now we know he was playing us too:
“There is no connection between the blacklist (and it’s eventual retraction) and the choice of production base for The Hobbit,” he wrote.
“What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment and the ability to conduct its business in such as way that it feels its $500 million investment is as secure as possible.”
The October 18 email also suggests Sir Peter thought the boycott had been lifted, even though he said in television interviews three days later he was unsure if it had been officially ditched.
You’ll remember that October 21 interview where Jackson (sitting in one of the Hobbit sets, which we were to believe was going to be abandoned) said that he couldn’t sleep, that the union boycott was forcing the film overseas, and he had no idea what to tell Warners to convince them to stay. It seemed to me at the time Jackson was engaging in rather amateur dramatics, not speaking from the heart. Now we know for sure it was all an act from a rich man trying to screw more money out of us.
Sir Peter declined to comment through a spokesman yesterday.
Gee, and he was so willing to talk during the shakedown.
Warner Bros eventually agreed to make the films in NZ after the Government said it would change employment laws to ensure that film workers were independent contractors by default.
The agreement also included extra tax breaks worth up to $34 million, on top of the $50 million to $60 million Warner Bros would pocket under existing rules.
So, Key and Brownlee handed Jackson and Warners what they wanted – a weaker labour law specifically for them and a pile of extra money to the extent that the New Zealand taxpayer is now paying 20% of the production costs of two movies that are sure to make hundreds of millions in profits. The movie was never leaving, the subsidies (which Treasury thinks don’t bring any net benefit to the country anyway) were unnecessary. National quite happily rolled over and gave Warners what it wanted because it suited their anti-worker agenda and their Key-as-saviour propaganda.
The only losers in all of this were New Zealand’s taxpayers – me and you. The public/media was cynically worked into a hysteria by the Nats and Warners/Jackson to the point were most were quite happy to hand over the cash.
My challenge to Peter Jackson: remember who you were before you were a rent-seeking multi-millionaire capitalist. Give the people of New Zealand our money back. You could sell that private jet you just got to pay the bill.