So it turns out that last Friday the government changed the law to make it impossible for film industry groups to stop overseas workers from being brought in to do Kiwi film jobs if those jobs last two weeks or less.
That means that any short-term filmwork, be it acting, directing, tech-work, art-running, whatever can be done in New Zealand by anyone from anywhere. No questions asked (or askable). As I understand it a lot of film work in New Zealand is short-term stuff like commercials.
And that means there’s nothing, for example, to stop a company shooting an advertisement to bring in a full crew from Eastern Europe to shoot that advertisement at half the price of a Kiwi crew. And thanks to the Government (at the request of Peter Jackson and Warner Brothers) taking the right to challenge contractor status from film workers last year, the price of that Eastern European crew wouldn’t even be subject to minimum wage.
Of course the film industry is crying foul on this – they can see how this risks decimating their incomes. To quote from stuff:
The Screen Directors Guild of New Zealand (SDGNZ) said the new process “opens up opportunities for significant exploitation” and was potentially damaging to the local film industry…
“In an industry where most television commercials are shot within a 14-day timeframe, and productions of television episodes and one-off dramas could also potentially fall within this timeframe, the new law changes effectively mean an open door policy.”
New Zealand Actors’ Guild secretary Greg Ellis said the changes could see local talent overlooked. “New Zealand may become merely a filming location and the creativity and innovation currently present in our creative sector could be lost.”
The funny thing is Greg Ellis got stuck into Actor’s Equity last year when they tried to get a fair deal from Jackson and WB. Here’s what Ellis had to say about Actor’s Equity’s efforts to get a fair deal:
“They allowed themselves to become part of a bigger agenda and they were used as a tool, really, to try and make some changes and get some leverage on things.”
Among those standing to gain was the MEAA, Ellis says. “The MEAA wants to unionise the New Zealand film and television industry because that suits them.”
And here’s what he had to say after the dispute:
The NZ Actors’ Guild believes that it is churlish and argumentative to call into question the whole casting process that has already benefited New Zealand performers and will continue to give countless opportunities to actors outside the speaking roles.
Funnily enough Peter Jackson made it pretty clear at the time what he thought about the union having a say in casting:
Over the last 10 years our relationship with NZ Equity has been rocky — whenever we cast an “overseas actor”, we get a letter telling us why such and such Kiwi actor would be so much better in the role. In most cases we have already auditioned the actor in question, and formed our own opinions
I wonder if all those in the industry who were so quick to stick the boot into actors during the Hobbit dispute and to suck up to Jackson and Warners might be wishing they’d been more careful what they’d wished for?