Written By: - Date published: 8:58 pm, October 23rd, 2010 - 103 comments
Categories: business - Tags: actors equity, bill english, gerry brownlee, helen kelly, john key, peter jackson, the hobbit, warners
With all of the shit flying around the hobbit dispute it I decided to ring a few contacts and find out what’s actually happening. And I’ve got to say it’s a bloody labyrinthine situation.
On October the 13th Actors Equity, SPADA, the CTU and Gerry Brownlee meet and negotiated a memorandum of understanding (apparently
the CTU SPADA drafted it). Part of the deal was that the advice not to sign would be called off. AE advised they’d meet with their executive to sign this MoU off but this was considered a formality. It was a done deal. So much of a done deal Gerry Brownlee felt compelled to release a statement hinting at it.
As a (very) interested party to the dispute Warners was informed of this straight away. As was Jackson. By Sunday (our time) AE had formally agreed and by Monday there was a joint media release in train. Warners said they wanted to hold this release back to make sure everything was lined up when it was released.
All this was in the emails the Herald and RNZ reported on but I’ve been told that, for legal reasons, they will never be officially released.
The night of Wednesday the 20th (our time) Richard Taylor led his crew on the protest in Wellington. It sounds like it is unlikely he was told about the deal before he led the march.
On the morning of the 21st Peter Jackson announced that Warners were considering taking the Hobbit offshore because of industrial uncertainty. At that time he knew that a deal had been done and the ban had been called off.
Jackson’s announcement was as much of a surprise to the government as it was to the union (and, I suspect, to SPADA). A point which goes a long way to explaining why Brownlee sounded so unsure of himself on Morning Report on Thursday and why he and Bill English, and John Key all had different stories about the situation throughout the next couple of days (there must have been panic on the 9th floor at the time).
It also explains why Kelly claimed the government was being bullied.
There’s still a bit to play out now but everyone I talked to said the smart money is on the Government increasing the tax breaks to keep the film here. Given Fran O’Sullivan was already softening the ground for this today, I’d tend to agree.
There’s no doubt this is a hell of a mess and I expect the government will try to land it at the feet of the union because if they don’t it’s going to look like they got their arm twisted by a big Hollywood studio. And to be fair, AE were pretty amateur hour on this one.
But they weren’t the only ones, the truth seems to be that New Zealand got taken by a well organised and very aggressive production studio. And all for a tax-break that probably should have been offered in the first place. It just goes to show there’s no business like show business.