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The dust settles on the Hobbit fiasco

Written By: - Date published: 9:54 am, October 31st, 2010 - 35 comments
Categories: business - Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Now the dust has settled on the Hobbit fiasco and it’s become clear the issue was tax breaks all along the media have done a very good job of post-fiasco analysis.

On Wednesday it was clear this was all about the money. Bryan Rudman went as far as to actually point out how embarrassing it was to be played like this.

By that evening the deal was almost done. Just a few minutes before it was announced Mark Sainsbury told CTU Secretary Peter Conway the union had been proven right. In fact he went as far as to ask why they weren’t crowing about it. There was no “told you so” moment from Conway. I suspect because they were more worried about the jobs at stake than in vindication.

On Thursday John Armstrong pointed out the real player in the game:

Money doesn’t just talk. In the case of outfits the size of Warner Bros, it yells.

Indeed. Those who screamed about big Aussie unions were very quiet about big American money.
The same day Vernon Small dug a little deeper:

While we are on the money, does anyone seriously believe that the studio had not even thought about the deals on offer elsewhere – that could cut costs by many tens of millions of dollars – till the union issue surfaced? Or that only then did it look around the world and spot subsidies it was already harvesting with five movies in Britain, including the special- effects-rich Harry Potter series?

The dispute was settled before the hoopla of the march and Jackson’s claim the Hobbit was going offshore. So why blow it up? Vernon Small again:

Had Warner Bros pulled the plug without that excuse, Sir Peter could have come under attack for abandoning his home country to direct “our” movie elsewhere. Warner would have looked greedy for asking for more to stay, or venal for leaving, and the Government would have looked weak and compliant if it had failed to retain the movie or bent to blackmail.

John Drinnan follows the money:

The Hobbit deal is not the first where New Zealand taxpayers have shelled out extra money to keep a Hollywood studio happy. And it won’t be the last.

From 2004 to last year taxpayers gave Sir Peter Jackson’s business interests and overseas production companies $230 million in subsidies from the Large Budget Screen Production Grant.

Fran O’Sullivan has also made it clear it was about the tax and John Key’s weak negotiating:

We can get all prissy about the fact that the Hollywood studios found Key’s inflexion point. Get over it. No one will remember any prime ministerial egg-on-face when the Hobbit omelette is finally cooked.

And today in the Sunday Star Times Finlay McDonald takes a swipe at John Key’s transparent “blame the actors” misdirection:

There’s a fair bit of collateral damage when that [Warners and/or a Peter Jackson starts throwing their weight around] happens, as the poor old actors have found out, but among the rubble is also the credibility and dignity of Key – forced to pretend he’s “saved” The Hobbit by promising exactly the kind of state subsidies he and his ideologically blinkered government don’t believe in.

I was tempted to joke that he should have included as part of the deal a walk-on cameo for himself in the eventual films. But I fear that performance, too, would be so unconvincing it would end up on the cutting-room floor.

As I said back while the unions were being crucified there was more to this story than first met the eye and I was confident that the real facts would come out. I was not so confident they would be picked up by journalists but I have to say our fourth estate has done a bloody good job of digging beneath the veneer of spin and reporting on the real issues.

35 comments on “The dust settles on the Hobbit fiasco”

  1. Pascal's bookie 1

    Tom Frewen also stood out like an island of sanity in the NBR this week.

  2. Fisiani 2

    You missed an excellent summary of the Hobbit saga . Wonder why? Oh that’s right . It does not accord with the rewriting of history rather than accept a monumental cockup by the unions as agreed by Andrew Little
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10684062

    • IrishBill 2.1

      I read that one but there are significant errors in the timeline and the remarks about what happened in the Warner/Key meeting could only have come from leader’s office insiders which makes them somewhat less than credible. If you want to believe it that’s up to you but anyone with even a modicum of critical capacity would be extremely sceptical about this account.

    • gobsmacked 2.2

      You do bring the funny, Fisi.

      A “summary” of the Hobbit saga by a political reporter, that doesn’t even mention the government tearing up the rule book and Parliament going into extreme urgency. That’s like writing a report on the AB’s game last night, without mentioning the result. To write from Parliament, and ignore Parliament – that’s classic!

      But Derek’s a smart guy. He’s seen Kevin and Paula and co move from the Herald to John Key’s office, and making the big bucks. That article is a job application.

      Extra nice bottle of PM vintage wine for you this year, Derek.

    • bbfloyd 2.3

      you doing the silly stuff again fisi? i’ve come to the conclusion that you havn’t the intellect to make rational judgements… perfect national fodder… nice doggie..

  3. Tiger Mountain 3

    Some of the blogosphere was part of the problem unfortunately. Anyone notice the following from SPADA web site?

    “29 October 2010
    MEDIA RELEASE
    FANTASTIC LINE-UP OF SPEAKERS AT SPADA CONFERENCE 20:10
    This year’s SPADA conference kicks off with a hiss and a roar with the key plenary session on The Hobbit – What Really Happened. Chaired by Russell Brown, the panel will include Philippa Boyens (co-writer The Hobbit), SPADA’s CEO Penelope Borland and Executive Member Richard Fletcher.”

    Conflict of interest possibly, at the very least confirmation of the reality of the general ideological position of PAS.

  4. nilats 4

    These are opinions not facts.
    Still blind to the fact the actors stuffed this up and gave WB a big stick to beat out more concessions they were not iriginally after. It is always about the money but risk/rerward is also a factor. When the actors stuffed up risk increased hence WB wanted more reward.

    Most people say in their opionion that Key did a good deal for NZ considering the situation.

    You need to get out into the real world more and see what people are saying, not rely on left wing bloggers and a few columnists. Blogging under the hammer & sickle flag is not real world.

    • gobsmacked 4.1

      Fair enough, Nilats. Let’s switch off our computers and see what’s happenng in that Real World:

      a) How many Real people joined the Rally for Fairness at Work?

      b) How many Real people joined the Rally for Warner Bros?

      Real World numbers: 5 to 1 in favour of a).

      When you want to “see what people are saying”, where do you go?

    • Colonial Viper 4.2

      Amusing how the Right depracates the arguments of the Left by saying they are just opinions and not facts.

      And then lays into spouting a list of their own Right Wing opinions as being important. For instance

      Still blind to the OPINION the actors stuffed this up and gave WB a big stick to beat out more concessions they were not iriginally after [OPINION 2]. It is always about the money but risk/rerward is also a factor. When the actors stuffed up risk increased hence WB wanted more reward [OPINION 3].

      Most people say in their OPINION that Key did a good deal for NZ considering the situation.

      You need to get out into the real world more and see what people are saying [IE OPINION 4 : FIND MORE OPINIONS]

      So yeah fixed that all up for ya

      • nilats 4.2.1

        All bullshit CV. Still in dillusion and la la land over this issue.
        Hairy palms tonight my pal.
        You union defending idiots cannot see the wood for the trees.

    • George.com 4.3

      Many people, in their opinion, are saying Key mishandled the affair, talked up Warners position for some union bashing publicity and then couldn’t backtrack so he had to cough up some more tax payers money.

  5. Logie97 5

    Sadly, Joe Blo doesn’t:
    – read the editorials of papers
    – columnists in papers
    – listen to RadioNZ National (never could understand the name change)
    – watch Q+A
    – watch parliament

    to read/hear what was actually said or decided.

    Joe Blo hears the 8 second sound bite on Junk Radio or TV news. They see and hear the headlines only. And on this one, Key/Jackson smashed the unions. They probably think Warners are some charitable benevolent society.

    • Craig Glen Eden 5.1

      Agreed Logie97 the only thing I would add is just perhaps some of the Journos might stop repeating what Key says as fact and realize that he is full of it.

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    forced to pretend he’s “saved” The Hobbit by promising exactly the kind of state subsidies he and his ideologically blinkered government don’t believe in.

    Wrong, they’re exactly the type of subsidies that National believe in – giving the nations wealth to rich people for no gain.

    I was not so confident they would be picked up by journalists but I have to say our fourth estate has done a bloody good job of digging beneath the veneer of spin and reporting on the real issues.

    It was just a pity that they waited until after the Warner/NACT deal.

    • IrishBill 6.1

      To be fair Rudman and Sainsbury made the call (just) before the deal and whoever were spinning for Jackson et al did a very good job of dominating the discourse.

  7. ghostwhowalksnz 7

    If Cheng thinks writing sentences like this can be construed as a ‘timeline’ then he has a career in PR ahead of him, its about as far away from political journalism as you can get.

    He’s leaving for Vietnam early in the morning. He is friendly, but firm. He puts an offer on the table, as far as he’ll budge.
    Followed by sound of arse being kissed!

  8. trademark 8

    On Good Morning, Jane Clifton (political commentator) said that this was just the way business operates. She suggested that if one of NZ’s giants like Fonterra were in a similar situation overseas, we’d expect them to do the same.

    I think she had globalised capitalism down to a t. It’s all about trying to make sure that others don’t screw you over as much as you screw them (wherever ‘they’ may be).

    New Zealand companies would supposedly be no different to Warners since they operate on the same principles.

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      Yes, well this is just one of the issues that I think ‘global capitalism’ is answerable for. And given all this back and forth ‘screwing’ which occurs it seems that only a very few people at the top are getting a fair share of the pleasure.

    • Vicky32 8.2

      Jane Clifton is solidly NACT… anyone know if she is still in a “relationship in the nature of marriage” (WINZ jargon) with McCully?
      Deb

  9. deemac 9

    phew, glad we found out what “sort of subsidies National believes in” – ie for rich companies like WB that made $2billion profit last year. Plenty of Kiwi firms are looking for investment to protect real permanent jobs, they can whistle for it apparently.

  10. What’s the dipton dipshits take on all this ?

    I reckon he must be off quietly seething in a corner somewhere. Shut out of ‘negotiations’, forced to open a cheque book for something he doesn’t believe in and having to revise his opinion on re writing labour laws for such a petty argument.

    if i was ‘smile and wave’ i’d have joyce and brownlie watching my back whenever that fork tongued devil is around.

  11. M 11

    Yes, an over-enunciated soundbite has been conspicuously absent from Bling – how he remains in the party after being publicly trounced is beyond me.

    Where Key is concerned, Bling is very much a friend with benefits, but can’t wait to chew his own arm off the next morning.

  12. ianmac 12

    Excellent summary Irish. I still marvel that in the House Brownlie said Warners did not ask for a change to the employment Act. But Key said that he had to do that because of the Actors actions. Huh?

  13. freedom 13

    personally i found your voice of sanity during the fiasco was an absolute lifeboat Irishbill

    My question reflects on your statement “but I have to say our fourth estate has done a bloody good job of digging beneath the veneer of spin and reporting on the real issues.” and the question is to all journalists.

    Where the hell was the journalism before and during the shitfight? There were a couple of flickering candles showing where the story was, but the political drizzle and reactionary fog made it hard to see for most. The toxic partyline prose that got dumped onto the masses was as insulting as it was impossible to swim through and only helped to weigh down the drowning integrity of our MSM

    If any sort of boycott should come from this event then my suggestion is a boycott of all MSM

    • IrishBill 13.1

      Cheers. I think it’s hard for the media when one party, in this case Jackson and co, have a well prepared media campaign and launch it on an unwitting foe. By attacking the union when the union thought the whole affair was over Jackson’s PR people gave themselves a terrific headstart. It didn’t help that the that union weren’t that good with their media in the first place.

      It’s notable it took a couple of days for the government to get its lines straight as well. Although they clearly picked the wrong path – a better move for them would have been to be the voice of reason and fact on the sidelines rather than lumping themselves in with the producers – the same producers who had just blindsided them. I think they (with the notable exception of Bill English) probably decided to side with money over workers because that’s what comes naturally to them but like they say, you play with fire you’re gonna get burned. And Key has clearly been burned by this.

  14. Draco T Bastard 14

    And Winston steps up to the plate…

  15. Gazza 15

    It seems to me that the jurno’s,Bloggers & commentators are dropping the ball on this subject, as people working in the movie industry would pertain to about 1% of the employment population it seems strange that “WE must protect the rights of the worker” catch cry is so important to the unions.
    Up until recently the acting/movie industry did not require any need for union interference until a couple of near has-beens decided that if they couldn’t break into the big productions scene the would stir some shit.
    My understanding of unions is that they are there to protect workers rights when needed, so in actual fact by joining you retain their services just like you would do with legal services (no pay no play)so if Malcolm and co have a gripe go join a union.
    Would it not be reasonable to think that maybe the unions think that by controlling all industries they control the Govt and the country?………

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