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Key the real target of Hobbit producers’ game

Written By: - Date published: 2:01 pm, October 24th, 2010 - 70 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, film, john key, tax - Tags:

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.

70 comments on “Key the real target of Hobbit producers’ game”

  1. Herodotus 1

    Helen Kelly associated Warners with Machiavelli in their actions. As H.K. was aware of this why then did see just weapon Warners up with more ammo and leave us the tax payer now cornered and no govt would not now been seen to be placing any stumbling blocks in place. For me thanks to the CTU (in part)and associates we are now in a bargining war for this film that the govt can not been seen to lose. Costsing us millions in subsidies to match or out bid other contenders.
    CTU forgot the end game here NO FILM they were busy engaging in a wee minor skirmish.

    • IrishBill 1.1

      The CTU didn’t give Warners more ammo. Helen Kelly came in and helped settle the dispute within a couple of weeks. Then Jackson blew it up a full week after the MoU was signed and a full four days after the ban was lifted. Despite the fact he knew the ban was off.

      Now would you like to explain how this is the CTU’s fault?

      • Herodotus 1.1.1

        Because the way it has been played out the CTU are seen as with AE the forces behind the movie moving location. The ability to place facts, emails timing is over the battle HAS been fought & lost. We are in catchup mode save the movie and film it here- NZs motive that to achieve will cost in tax subsidies.
        Now we see the CTU/AE now attempting to put new info out there. 1st impressions have been made, unless there is an adminision from PJ that he played the unions/country nothing will change impressions. Warners/Hollywood play with one plan, max $$$$. We know their rules and expected outcomes and they play for keeps. The fast city guy outplayed us the basic country kid. I still think PJ had only 1 aim-Make the movie, outside of that let those in suits make it happen. I maybe wrong.
        IB I did not saythat the CTU were to blame in isolation, but have attributed to the situation

        • IrishBill 1.1.1.1

          So you’re saying they’re to blame because they allowed themselves to be framed by Jackson’s act of bad faith. Righto, thanks for clearing that up.

          • Herodotus 1.1.1.1.1

            IB do you realy think PJ is Machiavellian as well as Warners?
            That he spends his time in such matters. I think as said before he just wants to make a film, and lets Warners and co work out the details. But as an observer I am not sure of what a producer and other functions really perform except accept their oscar with humality.
            IP- so the framework that was set up regarding LOTR was not substainable and that each new govt has to reinvent the wheel? If so thanks to Lab for adding to an already depleated legacy from your time in govt. Michael Culen was right – We (Labour) have left you nothing !!!. No wonder this country is sinking, instead of building on what we already have in place we have to keep reinventing what has gone before us.- So thanks IP for pointing this out to me, and I thought politicians were working for whats best for the country how wrong I have been 😉
            And now HK has given more ammo for the media regarding the name calling. This just drifts further away from the real story and the left is helping in the drift. The war is over and lost, with JK given yet another opportunity to look great, sponsored in part by the CTU and AE

            • the sprout 1.1.1.1.1.1

              PJ is Machiavellian as well as Warners?

              bet your gullible arse he is

              • Herodotus

                Then I cannot wait for his next movie perhaps “The Prince”, and to make the message poignant this would be totally CGI with unkown actors from Eastern Europe. But totally made on location in NZ. 😉

            • Colonial Viper 1.1.1.1.1.2

              I think as said before he just wants to make a film, and lets Warners and co work out the details.

              No, no way. Jackson is not just creative talent, he is a business man, entrepreneur, and corporate agent. Plus, he is fully aware that the Studios are more than willing to screw even someone like him given a chance.

              He will be watching them like hawks and there is no way he is going to ‘let Warner and co. work out the details’.

              • Kevin Welsh

                No, no way. Jackson is not just creative talent, he is a business man, entrepreneur, and corporate agent. Plus, he is fully aware that the Studios are more than willing to screw even someone like him given a chance.

                And they did. New Line tried to bilk Jackson out of tens (if not hundreds) of millions as his cut was based on a percentage of the gross for LOTR.

                Good to see they are all mates again, though…

                • Colonial Viper

                  Its a world where loyalties and allegiances are bought – literally. Be friendly, but remember that you have no friends.

      • SHG 1.1.2

        Irish, the ban was lifted THREE DAYS ago.

        • Colonial Viper 1.1.2.1

          Agreement to lift the ban was reached several days before that, at a meeting that Gerry Brownlee facilitated.

          • SHG 1.1.2.1.1

            So what? The fact remains that the ban was in place until Thursday 21 Oct NZ time. It doesn’t matter what was agreed, or who was there, who what was signed, or what was understood. The ONLY thing that matters from the producers’ POV is that a union called a global boycott as its first move, and then couldn’t seem to get the boycott lifted.

            Every second that the ban was in place cost Warner Bros money, and every dollar Warner Bros lost was one more reason to move production to a more reliable environment.

            • IrishBill 1.1.2.1.1.1

              The ban was officially lifted on Sunday. SAG were told it was off Monday. Jackson knew the deal was done the Thursday before he launched his attack. That’s called bad faith.

              • SHG

                The ban was officially lifted on Sunday

                No, Irish, it wasn’t. Because the most powerful actors union in the world was still ordering its members and affiliates not to work on The Hobbit until Thurs 21 Oct, only three days ago.

                • IrishBill

                  I know you really want the union to be the bad guys in this but they’re not. Your loyalty to Warners is very touching though.

                • I do not know how you argue with RWNJs on this. The evidence is clear but they are still arguing vehemently that black is indeed white.

                  So how do you explain Warner’s request to hold the press release back, even after the deal was done?

                  • Carol

                    Agreed, Micky. Ditto over at Red Alert this evening. And I’ve been requested to (demanded to) answer a list of questions around the actors unions that I could end up spending all night on, I tried to answer a couple of questions and my post went into moderation.

                    I could end up spending all night answering the accusations/questions, and still they wouldn’t look at the substantive and relevant evidence.

                    Why are some people so wound up over criticisms of Jackson and or support of unions? Why are the avoiding the main evidence?

            • Draco T Bastard 1.1.2.1.1.2

              Ah, no, it wasn’t.

              It doesn’t matter what was agreed, or who was there, who what was signed, or what was understood.

              Yes it does. An agreement, after all, is a contract to achieve something. In this case, it was an agreement that allowed for the movie to go ahead without further industrial action. Rather poignant considering that the next industrial action was initiated and paid for by the bosses who had just agreed to no further industrial action.

              Breaking that agreement was a breaking of contract and of trust.

    • Anthony C 1.2

      This would be true if the CTU was involved before the dispute blew up, but they came in to mediate in good faith and if anything resolved the ‘boycott’. They’ve been played false – no wonder Helen Kelly is pissed.

    • lprent 1.3

      Ummm so what you’re saying is that the CTU should do the governments job for it? Presumably because this government wasn’t doing its job and taking care of issues before they all blew up?

      I’d say that the NACT government didn’t seem to be particularly interested in heading off the issue. After all this has only been building up for a few years and you’d expect that whatever minister is in charge of economic development to be right on top of an incoming investment of this size. Perhaps you should have a talk to Brownlee to find out why this popped out of the blue.

      I’m sure that if the Minister of Economic Development had asked how the project was going then this would have popped up as being an issue a couple of years ago from both wingnut and the AE . It could have easily been ironed out by an interested third party interested in getting such a large project here. Of course that would have required the Minister to be interested in the project then rather than after the shit hit the fan.

      But no. I can’t say that I’d like a union to start acting as if it was the government of the country and start doing the economic development for the country. We elect governments to do that. I do expect unions to look after the interests of their members and negotiate agreements. But of course that requires two parties to sit down and negotiate doesn’t it?

      Was that a polite way of saying your position is idiotic?

  2. Wyndham 2

    A really sad outcome of all this posturing and arguing is that the right have now got a weapon with which to trash ‘unions’ and the Labour Party from here to the next election. Did you see the knives really and truly out on Q+A this morning? Holmes was almost frothing at the mouth in his incredibly rude shouting down of Helen Kelly – – – she was barely allowed to get a complete sentence in reply. Then of course Phil O’Reilly (of Business NZ) was able to introduce his belief that the whole affair bodes badly for Phil Goff.

    It seems that the success of the Labour Party Conference last week has to be attacked irrespective of the truth of the matter. Labour should be prepared for lots more bared teeth.

    • marsman 2.1

      Phil O’Reilly another Hollow Man who seems,like Roger Kerr,to be given every opportunity to spout neoliberal mantras from all of the main-stream media.

  3. lprent 3

    Hey MartyG – you mean will cost us an extra NZD 15-30 million. From what I understand there is already about NZD 60 million allocated to supporting these two films through existing taxbreaks and incentives.

  4. factchecker 4

    [deleted]

    [lprent: and banned for two weeks. Speculating on pseudonyms isn’t allowed. Besides you never have any ‘facts’, you’re just a ignorant troll.

    Ummm bearing in mind the comment you put in response, i think i was too charitable. Adding you to the spammers for a permanent ban. ]

  5. gobsmacked 5

    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.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the various voices on the Right respond to Key’s largesse with our money.

    A choice between principled consistency (tighten the purse strings, don’t “pick winners”, keep gov’t’s nose out) or chucking all that out the window, cheerleading for Saint John, the Saviour of the Hobbit.

    Michael Cullen can be forgiven a hearty chuckle at National’s sudden desire to splash the cash. Must be an election looming.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      It’ll be interesting to see how the various voices on the Right respond to Key’s largesse with our money.

      They’ll be out buying shares in Warner Bros. hoping to make a killing on the share price spike in their usual money for nothing gamble that, of course, costs us big time.

  6. anonomis 6

    So – Outrageous Fortune, starring Robber Malcolm, cost taxpayers $48 m – almost all of the production costs were publicy funded The OR concept was sold overseas to the BBC and ABC, but both spinoffs failed miserably (the US adaptation was aptly called Scoundrels) . OR was neither a triumph of art or commerce – and seems to be a nursery for ingrates and carpetbaggers like Malcolm who bite the taxpayers’ hands who feed them. Malcolm had a role in the LOTR, so clearly her principles are a movable feast.

    The financial incentives to make, first, the LOTR’s and now The Hobbit in NZ were introduced by a past Labour Govt. I’m guessing that Phil Goof, The Invisible Man, will duly disown them as part of the New / Old Economic Policy.

    If the Govt. has to offer a little more in incentives, that will be handsomely repaid in national economic benefits – direct employment; downstream jobs (eg, in the tourism sector); increased tax revenues; and exports. I look forward to the CTU economists crunching the numbers to arrive at the same conclusion.

    We must always remember that a purpose of socialism and trade unionism is redistribution and levelling up – to raise suffering and poverty to a higher level and to redistribute both from the few to the many. To paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, it is is easier to rob a bank than build a bank; or, much wants more and loses all.

    Scoundrels: please do not kill the golden goose.

    • lprent 6.1

      The financial incentives to make, first, the LOTR’s and now The Hobbit in NZ were introduced by a past Labour Govt. I’m guessing that Phil Goof, The Invisible Man, will duly disown them as part of the New / Old Economic Policy.

      Unlikely, and only someone that hasn’t looked at any Labour policy (or an idiot) would think so. I’d suggest that you should have a look at Gordon Campbell’s excellent piece at scoop to get an idea how the left tend look at such ventures.

      But that is on a par with the rest of your moronic rant which appears to be so full of slogans that it indicates that your brain function was disabled long ago. Which was it of the favorite drugs of the RWNJ? Booze, P or fundamentalism?

      • Adrian 6.1.1

        It was the Nats and specificly Bill Birch and/or English who in 1999 a few months before the election decided to scrap the film funding non-recourse loan schemes in place and it was Jackson again who with the able assistance of an “honourable” US studio, probably one he ended up sueing, held a gun to the head of the Gummit that time threatening to take it offshore if the scams weren’t put back in place. It was around May or June when I was working on the turgid melodrama Vertical Limit and daily we had crew turning up looking for a job after walking out on Jackson et al because of shit wages not being paid for weeks. Spot a pattern here! A very late night (2 or 3am ?) arm twisting-blood on the floor session at the Beehive saw LOTR get it’s way. Is it Jackson or is it the barracudas who he employs to run this nasty high stakes game that create this brinksmanship, personally I don’t think he has the time for it or the skills, as it is a very complicated game and all he wants to do is make movies. BILL ENGLISH HAS BEEN BEATEN ONCE BEFORE BY THESE RAPACIOUS BASTARDS AND HE DOESN’T WANT IT TO HAPPEN AGAIN. The tension between him and Key is going to be the most interesting thing this week. Watch for English distancing himself.

        • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.1

          Fascinating re: English. I’ll keep an eye on that.

        • Jim Nald 6.1.1.2

          Nahhh, Blinglish will declare a walkover. Or rather, be walked over. Again.

          But really, it will very likely go to show that if the Nat Govt wants to throw money at something, they will find it from the public coffers to do it. (If they don’t wanna, they’ll come up with whatever excuses they can reach for.)

  7. Colonial Viper 7

    We must always remember that a purpose of socialism and trade unionism is redistribution and levelling up – to raise suffering and poverty to a higher level and to redistribute both from the few to the many.

    Time to restudy your political philosophy I think. Redistribution of wealth in NZ has been happening subtly and not too subtly over the last 26 years. From the poor and the middle class to the top 5-10% in society.

    Don’t complain too hard when the trend reverses to favour the many, and not the few, OK? Play the Politics of Envy and Greed as much as you like, but the tide is turning.

    If the Govt. has to offer a little more in incentives

    Warners and Jackson are rubbing their hands with glee, an extra $20-30M will certainly help them meet their responsibility to foreign shareholders.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.1

      Redistribution of wealth in NZ has been happening subtly and not too subtly over the last 26 years. From the poor and the middle class to the top 5-10% in society.
      And there’s a nice, easy to understand film on how it was done. Most of the wealth is going to the top .01% though.

  8. Carol 8

    Gordon Campbell said a while back, that the NACT government had been somewhat lax in providing incentives for movie/TV making, so that NZ had fallen beind in international comeptitiveness. It looks to me that this is another issue that came within Gerry Brownlee’s area of responsibility, that has been handled badly (“And another fine mess you have gotten us into”).

    Mallard, on Red Alert, said the Hobbit issue is “not simple”. But he was appeared to be agreeing with Campbell that it was about money. Mallard said when he had the portfolio that Brownlee now has, he used to make regular visits to talk with Warners. He seemed to suggest that Warners needs to be nurtured, so maybe it is worth keeping in touch with how companies like Warners sees things. He also seemed to be suggesting that Brownlee may not have been engaging with Warners enough in the long term.

    I do think the main agenda for Team Jackson and Warners is money. But I also think both Warners and Key will be happy to use the issue to take a swipe at the unions, as they would like them to be kept “in their place”.

  9. Rharn 9

    The plot was lost when the actors, CTU and all associates forgot their lines. “COLLECTIVE CONTRACT.” Once Key, Warner Bros. and Jackson realized this it was going to cost the taxpayer big time. The down side here is not only the ‘extra’ dosh that we are all going to fork out for Key’s political benefit, our Unions look like colonial dignbats strumpeting about on the world
    stage. No winners here but the Holywood ‘Orks’.

  10. Tanz 10

    So you expect Key to now invest his personal fortune on this as well? You must be kidding, right.

    • Marty G 10.1

      If this was the national standard in literacy, Tanz, you would have just failed.

      We’re talking taxpayer cash here, not Key’s personal wealth.

  11. tsmithfield 11

    So, putting aside the rights, wrongs, speculation, and blame, should the government offer more money to keep this film in New Zealand?

    • Tanz 11.1

      No, they should put the Union in their place and the uppity actors in their places, do a Maggie Thatcher and be staunch.

      • Vicky32 11.1.1

        Honestly, it sounds as if you’re in a time warp, Tanz, and further, as if you have not been paying attention!
        Deb

    • IrishBill 11.2

      I think they should. And they should’ve from the start. It’s a good business deal. I wouldn’t agree with doing so for other industries but then other industries don’t have so many tourism spin-offs. And tourism is one of our biggest industries.

      • gobsmacked 11.2.1

        I’d like the government to have had a plan worked out. That’s an economic plan, not a political plan (which is always the same under Key – just react to the latest headlines).

        The Hobbit has been talked about publicly for years. Especially in the last few months, after Jackson was named as Director. It didn’t suddenly become a movie worth making in NZ, a few days ago.

        What analysis has the Ministry for Economic Development been doing, and when did they start doing it? Last week?

    • RedLogix 11.3

      In the ideal world the film industry would be treated on equal terms with all others. But as mentioned before, in this game there is an enormous asymmetry of negotiating power here because there is no global framework setting the rules.

      In other words the studio can dictate whatever terms to the govt it likes. If you don’t like that, consider how employees feel when powerful, de-regulated employers do the same thing to them. (Hint: It’s almost the same but more pesonal.)

      • felix 11.3.1

        “In the ideal world the film industry would be treated on equal terms with all others.”

        I disagree. The film industry is one I’d far rather see subsidised than – for example – the dairy industry or the aluminium industry, for the simple reason that it utilises our natural resources in a mostly non-destructive and sustainable way.

        • tsmithfield 11.3.1.1

          In reply to my own question above, I think the government should do all it can to keep “the Hobbit”, including increasing tax breaks. Despite what many think about Key on this site, at least he has a background in negotiation in a commercial setting. So he probably is the best person in the country to be sorting this out. Hopefully he can do the best possible with the poor hand he has been dealt.

  12. Tanz 12

    Our Hobbit has just been hijacked, and the govt does nothing. My point was, we don’t have the strong leader that we saw in the likes of Muldoon or Clark, and this is the result. Time warp maybe, but at least Thatcher showed moral courage when needed. Why is the Left happy to see our film industry go down the gurgler, just so some stroppy, spoilt actors get their way? Many people would have worked on the Hobbit for nothing, it’s a privilege to be on screen, and to work in the film industry. So precious!

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      Many people would have worked on the Hobbit for nothing,

      Perhaps you’ve not noticed that “working for nothing” is a reality that a lot of New Zealanders have decided to leave behind, despite NAT pushing the entire economy in that direction.

  13. Carol 13

    Another substantial article from Gordon Campbell on this, posted on Friday. Lots of detail, including some figures on financial incentives. this is one of many relevant points made:

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1010/S00141/gordon-campbell-latest-stage-of-the-hobbit-drama.htm

    As things currently stand, Warners are coming down to New Zealand next week to talk about the prospects of moving the location shoot offshore. According to both Brownlee today (and Penelope Borland of SPADA used the same term yesterday on RNZ) the level of production subsidies available in New Zealand is a ‘red herring’ and allegedly of no interest to Warners. Interesting. Only two months ago, Jackson was writing in his review of the NZ Film Commission that these subsidies are crucial to films being made here. Now mysteriously, they’re an irrelevance.

    Quite some herring, though. If as rumoured, Ireland is now a prime contender for the location shoot, keep in mind that in July Peter Jackson wrote in his Film Commission review (page 68) that Ireland is offering ‘up to 28%’ rebates on local spend by major film productions as compared to the 15% available here. Back then, Jackson saw that as being a worry for New Zealand. As well he might.

  14. Billy Fish 14

    Estimate closer to $50m in subsidies – US ecomony is tanking fast – so anything to save money can and will be done esp if someone elses economy takes the impact

    • BLiP 15.1

      Man, I’m angry. Angry that a group of gullible actors have allowed themselves to be used by some bolshy, left-wing filth from Australia who may or may not simply want to get The Hobbit filmed over there.

      Abuse, innuendo, ill-informed, overly emotional bawwing like a baby . . . yep, that’s gonna make everything all better.

    • Colonial Viper 15.2

      I liked this one:

      As for Helen Kelly, well, she is a nice person but, as Jackson says, she is clueless in these matters.

      Helen’s life is dedicated to taking money off those who know how to make it. Helen would no more understand the decisions of a great film studio than fly to the moon.

      Workers are taken for granted by Holmes, the economic wealth generated by their labour assumed to belong to those in the “know”, the belief that workers should be fairly rewarded minimised.

      Interestingly enough, I thought Holmes would have realised how unsafe an unequal society is for all children, not just those of the poor.

    • IrishBill 15.3

      I particularly like the way he throws in a boast about being on first name terms with Russell Crowe between claims working Kiwis should just STFU and remember they get jobs because they’re cheap.

  15. Annalivia prurabella 16

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/theticket/2010/1022/1224281709710.html
    The Irish Papers have a totally different twist on this story: and no mention of a location shift. The Govt and media have been so easily played by the studio n Jackson. Gormless.

  16. Adrian 17

    Its not going to Ireland or anywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere, its winter up there and it would be 8 months before they could film, thats even if they can find skies without huge vapour trails from horizon to horizon, and then try and get 2 consecutive days without rain in Ireland, which is why I’ve worked on heaps of exterior pick-ups down here for British and US productions. It is not going anywhere.

    • Colonial Viper 17.1

      You’re not saying that both the unions and the NZ Govt are being played like a sweet violin by Jackson and Warner Bros? 😯

      Adrian – you are obviously in the industry. What do NZ actors think of the union Equity at the moment? Do they feel that its tried to do something important and necessary for them (even if the execution has been less than desirable)?

      Or is the view of Equity much more negative.

  17. Adrian 18

    CV, I was in the industry, but I have done my sentence and got out. It was good for me as it used to pay bloody well, particularly on the set building side. Even then (80s-90s ) Brits and Yanks doing the same job got up to 3 times Kiwis did. It is relative, we got 5-10 times what Pacific Island locals got if we were up there, mostly because local mayors and leaders said that if they were paid like us it would be similar to a large portion of their populace winning lotto each week and would cause all sorts of social probs. I couldn’t disagree with the logic, but us Kiwis tried to look after them, shouting beers and “losing” lots of tools. I can’t speak for actors but I struggle to see how 1500 people think they work in the Wgtn industry, particularly considering only a month ago Dave Gibson said that the industry was moribund there, down to only him, Weta and a few tiny outfits clinging on by their fingernails. I still think last Thursday was Renta-mob, generated by RT’s casting email list, 80% of whom didn’t even get selected. The one thing that I’ve learned in 30 years of association with the film industry is that nothing, NOTHING, in the world comes close to being as big a bullshit generator. From most big movies being financed by the Mafia’s of the world washing money from drugs to gun-running to blood diamonds, or political corruption and tax scams that would make you weep with their audacity. It is amazing what you can learn over late night beers in some remote locations around the world, especially from Brits who have crewed offshore movies for over 80 years, the Americans on the other hand are relativly late comers to making movies outside the US. We went through all this 11 years ago ( May ’99,under a Nat Govt incidentally ) when Peter Jackson and Miramax or whoever held a gun to the then Finance minister’s ( English?) head with the same threats over LOTR, Bill E is seriously pissed off, he’s been stiched up once before by this industry. In the mid-2000s the NBR, Fran O’Sullivan, I think, (It might be worth digging up and checking out) did a really good breakdown of the LOTR trio and came to the conclusion that financially the country would have been better off without them because it attacked the tax base really badly .Watch the tension this week between English and Smile and Wave and Write-the-Cheque. P.s. Is Jackson’s anger because he found out that Warners don’t have the money and even he is being played like a broken violin by the barracudas? I think that is the most likely explanation for last week’s seriously strange events.

    • Carol 18.1

      Ah, thanks, Adrian. We were typing & posting pretty much simultaneously. You provide some very useful insights from your experiences. This is the sort of things we need to be debating far more widely.

  18. Carol 19

    Back when international productions began to be filmed in NZ on a fairly regular basis in the 1990s there was a strong debate within the industry as to the benefits or harms to the NZ industry of such productions. This was around the time when Xena and Hercules were being made here. Now, there doesn’t seem to be any such debate, and it is assumed there is nothing but benefits, and that we should be prepared to sell our culture’s, workers’, and tax payers’ souls to host such productions.

    Generally, at the turn of the century, it was felt there were pros and cons. It was often seen that the people who benefitted most were the techies. Many directors & writers felt there were more disadvantages eg, they couldn’t offer anywhere near the same pay rates on NZ productions, especially like one-off docs and movies. US screenwriters have a lotm of power and resist having NZ writers for their productions (though Boyens & Walsh have had a lot of success in that). For actors, I think there may be pros and cons – great for the ones who get overseas exposure and star status.

    Some felt that it would make it harder to carry out NZ productions if in competition with wealthier and more powerful overseas companie. However, I think that sometimes, having the regular work from international productions, mean there are more skilled workers and local resources available for local productions.

    Also there was a significant debate about the impact on NZ culture. There were strong concerns about NZ stories & culture being undermined by participating in overseas/US productions.

    But now, all the discussion seems to assume that there are all benefits from NZ hosting the filming of international productions, and there is no debate about what we have learned about the pros and cons. For instance, what’s the comparative benefits of putting the same amount of taxpayer money into totally NZ productions, compared with putting it into productions by major overseas-based corporations? And how does that compare with co-productions between companies of equal power and wealth, that are each based in a different country? There was some Aussie research a decade or so back that concluded that co-productions produced the most benefits for Aussies.

    Why are we not having these debates anymore?

    antispam: IMPACTS…. that’s what we need more light thrown on.

  19. just 20

    I want to make a Labour Day plea to the left’s various leaders (if any happen by this thread).

    Please don’t cave into pressure to politically compromise the fledgling labour movement in the roasting heat of the Hobbit backlash. Please, no wink/nudge whistles to the bigots in public comments, no “softening” industrial policy to appease apparent public hostility. This kind of approach has been a proven failure anyway, it doesn’t win over those already opposed or the “middle” ground.

    It plays into the hands of the right and it’s exactly what Crosby Textor want you to do. Remember:

    How the right kill social democracy

    I’m not talking about taking the ‘hard union-man’s’ man’ road. Those days are well past thankfully, but solidarity is essential.

    Please hold Solid.

  20. Annalivia prurabella 21

    Because History is inconvenient and incomprehensible to an administration lead by a Foreign Exchange dealer. They know that most of the cheap journos have no concept of History. Yes, more of this informed debate. Leave out the dates: they will confuse the poor journos.

  21. Colonial Viper 22

    It seems clear that Jackson and the Studio are after more tax payers dollars. I also submitted these two associated hypothetical scenarios at Red Alert:

    – The studio told Jackson that they could not provide him with the full US$500M budget initially agreed upon, and that he had to deal with a 5-10% budget cut. Jackson was forced to find a way to seek more money from somewhere, and picked the NZ tax payer as his target.

    – Jackson mismanaged the industrial relations situation with Equity from the start. He didn’t believe that they would be willing or able to invoke a global boycott, but they did. Angry studio execs got on his case asking him why he had let things get out of control, and to get on top of it ASAP. To save face, he went on the offensive against the unions to create a clear media narrative that the union was completely at fault, not himself.

    And remember who the professionals are at creating fictional narratives for the screen: clue NOT Helen Kelly or Robyn Malcom.

    Also I’ve seen some new media spin in the NZ Herald: “Unions fed frontwomen to mob, says TV producer” i.e. the cynical unions incompetently sacrificed and hid behind a bumbling but largely well meaning Malcolm and Ward-Lealand for their own agendas.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10682887

  22. Adrian 23

    Take the 500 million with a grain of salt, all studio budgets include the promotion monies usually 40% of the total, mostly either pre-paid or promised by the exhibitors who have to compete or tender to get the biggies. The budget for The Hobbit is probably only 300 million and 1/3 of that is probably bullshit. One thing guanteed is that Warners will almost certianly not be putting up any money themselves, they are only an agent or conduit if you like, they are only involved because they are less broke than all the other studios.

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