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Union boycotts Jackson

Written By: - Date published: 7:51 am, September 27th, 2010 - 99 comments
Categories: Unions, workers' rights - Tags:

The film-workers’ union is finally having a go at getting some decent terms and conditions from Peter Jackson.

Good. The film industry in New Zealand has been exploiting Kiwi workers for too long.

I’ve known quite a few film workers over the years, workers who were happy to work long hours for bugger all money when the industry was in its infancy simply because there wasn’t much money about and they were getting valuable experience.

But nowadays the industry has established itself, there’s clearly enough money for Jackson to have his own private jet and international stars are here shooting on a regular basis.

The thing is the terms and conditions haven’t changed – film workers are still being paid peanuts, being treated as independent contractors to avoid employment law, missing out on royalties and being blacklisted if they dare to complain.

But it looks like the boycott is working with big stars Sir Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving supporting it.

Jackson’s response would be funny if it wasn’t so nasty:

I can’t see beyond the ugly spectre of an Australian bully-boy using what he perceives as his weak Kiwi cousins to gain a foothold in this country’s film industry. They want greater membership, since they get to increase their bank balance.

I feel growing anger at the way this tiny minority is endangering a project that hundreds of people have worked on over the last two years, and the thousands about to be employed for the next four years, [and] the hundreds of millions of Warner Brothers dollars that is about to be spent in our economy.

You got that? The man with the $68m private jet and the castle and the millions of dollars of vintage aeroplanes and the knighthood says the union is greedy because it wants a fair deal for its members. And it’s not a matter of him keeping sub-standard work conditions, it’s a matter of national importance!

Jackson’s workers have been getting a rough ride for years and there’s been some good talent lost from the industry over the years as film-workers leave to go to higher paying and more secure jobs like waiting tables in cafes.

It’s about time someone spoke out. Good on the union and good on the big stars for backing these workers.

99 comments on “Union boycotts Jackson ”

  1. Tigger 1

    The irony is that Jackson has benefitted massively from deals done by the big powerful American unions he will have to be a member of, including the Directors and Writers’ Guild’s of America. Another case of someone wanting the ladder pulled up after him. All the overseas workers he engages get to work under the conditions of their home country – so a Kiwi actor will be on a totally different deal from, let’s say, a UK actor simply by virtue of nationality. Fair?

    There were actors in LOTR who were unable to profit properly from their use in the film (for money made from licensing products bearing their image) because there are no effective collective agreeements here. Overseas these things are the key to a healthy film industry. Here people like Jackson, supported by SPADA (the producer’s organisation) and complicitly supported by placed by New Zealand On Air and the networks, these collectives have been blocked for years.

    By the way, there are at least two film workers’ unions – Actor’s Equity and the New Zealand Writers Guild so to call Actor’s Equity ‘the’ film workers union isn’t technically correct.

  2. I agree that Jackson’s comments are ridiculous and you have to wonder how wealthy he wants to be. It is not as if most film crew are well paid.

    Expect John Key and co to come out in support.

  3. smhead 3

    This union isn’t even a registered union in New Zealand. It is illegal for Jackson to negotiate a collective agreement with them because they’re not a registered union. These ocker bully boys have stuffed up big time. If I were teh CTU I’d be running a mile from their thuggishness.

    • Tigger 3.1

      smhead, or is it ‘smearhead’ you clearly have no understanding of the relationship between Actor’s Equity and the MEAA. There is no thuggishness going on here – just actors wanting something resembling the deal their overseas co-workers get.

      Try getting your facts right before posting this type of knee-jerk crap.

      • Joe Bloggs 3.1.1

        Tigger (or is it ‘tugger’) – best to check your own slender grasp of the facts before ranting off into the sunset.

        Since 2006 NZ Actors’ Equity has been an ‘autonomous’ branch of the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance and has been an affiliate member of the Council of Trade Unions under its MEAA name. It was struck off the Ministry of Economic Development’s Register of Incorporated Societies last week under its registered name of Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

        It is therefore an unregistered union under the Employment Relations Act and is therefore legally unable to negotiate a collective agreement for its members. It’s also illegal for Peter Jackson to enter into negotiations with them for the same reason.

        So what we have is an Australian union attempting to subvert NZ workers through a process that can’t be legally resolved.

        What’s more we have an Australian union attempting to subvert NZ workers because a collective agreement hasn’t been signed, not because of worker pay rates.

        The MEAA has successfully killed off the Aussie film industry – now they’re leveling their sights at the NZ industry. Workers unite and throw off the shackles of the Aussie oppressors before our film industry is destroyed as well!

        • prism 3.1.1.1

          Joe Bloggs – Could you give us some detail about how this Oz union “The MEAA has successfully killed off the Aussie film industry”? I would like to know more about this. Have you got a link to a news piece?

          • prism 3.1.1.1.1

            Still interested Joe Bloggs in what you know about the MEAA. It’s being lauded as a noble force for good further on in this thread. I am sure others would be interested too if you could give a link.

            • The Voice of Reason 3.1.1.1.1.1

              I suspect you are going to be waiting a while, prism. Screen Australia’s most recent data makes it clear the Oz film industry is doing fine. Not a bad result at all in the middle of a recession. So if a unionised industry is doing well there, why would that be a problem here? None, unless you’re getting rich off the savings, I suppose.

              BTW, didn’t Key recently appoint Sri Peter to duff up the NZ Film commission?

              “For productions shot in Australia (excluding foreign PDV-only titles), the value of production activity totalled $668 million, marginally up on last year’s $665 million and above the five-year average of $576 million.”

              http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/nps/npskey.html

  4. Bruce 4

    But, but according to him he’s not anti-union. A weird comment when you are reading an anti union article.

  5. lprent 5

    I couldn’t agree more with the post. Quite simply I have absolutely no idea why anyone would want to get involved with the film industry. Waiting on tables is almost certainly going to be more lucrative for most of the people I’ve seen around the industry.

    Part of ‘building’ a company (I have done a few) or an industry is making sure that the benefits and security flow out amongst the skilled people you need to run it. It looks like Jackson doesn’t understand that.

    • smhead 5.1

      That’s right lynn, the lot of a struggling actor is pretty grim everywhere. It’s the promise of making it big someday that makes them stick at it.

      • lprent 5.1.1

        The same issue applies to the crew – who pretty much have no chance of “making it big”. The tales I’ve heard (privately) over the last 30 years since I started running across people in the film industry. You get the impression that there is some pretty significant blacklisting goes on inside the industry. The only real way of fighting that is to do it collectively.

        In this case, even if you make it ‘big’, the current contracts don’t provide for the continuing income from your work. The ‘residuals’ are incredibly important for actors.

        Umm…

        *Background:*
        *For some years performers in New Zealand have struggled on non-union
        contracts. These contracts provide no minimum guarantees of wages or working
        conditions, no residual payments and no cancellation payments in the event
        the performer’s contract is cancelled.*
        *In 2006, at the request of New Zealand performers, the Australian union,
        the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (Alliance) opened an office in New
        Zealand.*
        *Since that time the New Zealand branch of the Alliance has sought to
        negotiate with both individual producers and with the producers’ association
        but to no avail.*
        *The International Federation of Actors (FIA), of which the vast majority
        of performer unions around the world are members, resolved that the time had
        come for performers around the world to support their colleagues in New
        Zealand and seek a union contract for all performers on The Hobbit.*

        Personally I’d never go near the film industry… I tend to view those that do as being hopeless romantics.

        Mind you, I’d have to say that Lyn is a romantic (quite a contrast to my nature I can tell you). But who else could make documentaries. There isn’t even a realistic prospect of “making big” out of those.

        • pollywog 5.1.1.1

          The same issue applies to the crew – who pretty much have no chance of “making it big”.

          I believe if you’re good enough, you can make it anywhere.

          Its like Kiwis have an overinflated sense of their own value but are too chickenshit to ask for what they’re worth.

          • lprent 5.1.1.1.1

            In the NZ film industry?

            Maybe if they bugger off to aussie, US or UK – where the industries are diverse enough to sustain regular work. People in the local industry are forever having to drop out of it for financial reasons (or leave for offshore) when the work drops away. Usually they don’t come back. Each one costs the local industries some skills that have to be rebuilt next film. It is akin to IT contracting except that People in the local film industry aren’t paid enough to allow them to ride over the downtimes.

            • pollywog 5.1.1.1.1.1

              mexicans with cell phones.

              it’s the versatility of being able to cover a multitude of jobs that sees NZers in high demand for the creative industries overseas.

              but here in NZ, that versatility that means we never specialize and consequently never get enough for what we’re worth here as we usually aren’t qualified to overseas standards.

              no way should i have even been allowed to do half the shit i’ve done 🙂

        • Gosman 5.1.1.2

          ” But who else could make documentaries. There isn’t even a realistic prospect of “making big” out of those.”

          Michael Moore and Al Gore would disagree with you I suspect….

          • bbfloyd 5.1.1.2.1

            At it again gos… did you know that al gore used to be the VICE PRESIDENT OF THE USA?

            he certainly needed to make it big… and micheal moore made a film that he, and the majority of us thought really needed to be made.

            i know it’s difficult, but understand one thing. people do things because they are driven to share their vision. most of the time, financial success is not the number one priority. producing a tangible legacy IS!!!!

      • bbfloyd 5.1.2

        Sm… not every actor is in it just for the money. most of them just really like doing it. if every actor or musician was only in it on the offchance of being rich, then the arts would be irrelevant to human society.

        shallow generalisations don’t add an iota to this discussion. i’m a published musician, so i feel i have some knowledge of this area, and the people involved in it. are you involved with the arts? do you have a basis for your opinions?

  6. Nick K 6

    Micky, what’s “well paid”?

    Jackson’s response is entirely on the button.

    Why should a grip receive royalties? Or a gaffer for that matter?

    The NZ “branch” of the union was so successful it was de-registered!

    • pollywog 6.1

      From what i gather it’s just the actors who are up in arms…

      fair enough if you’re a marquee drawcard whose name and box office pulling power is integral to the marketing strategy, then you should probably get points, royalties and expect residual income

      but if you’re just some no name looking for more $$$ when all you did was put on a costume and prance about in the background with maybe a line to spit out on cue…then STFU !!!

      and if you’re so bloody intent on martyring yourself for a better deal for you and your acting comrades then organise a NZ based union and tell them ozzys, yeah, nah…

      …yeah i appreciate your support in solidarity, but nah fuck off and mind your own shit in your own backyard. If we need you to hold our hands and watch our backs then don’t call us we’ll call you.

      • Tigger 6.1.1

        So those prancers shouldn’t get the same amount as someone from overseas who is prancing beside them? Cause that’s all this is about. Movies here often contain Kiwi actors and overseas actors doing the same exact job for different rates – Kiwi’s on a meagre scale, the overseas actor making a mint.

        Over twenty years working in and around the film and TV industries here pw so get your facts right or STFU yourself!

        • pollywog 6.1.1.1

          It’s a given that Kiwis doing the same job here get wayyy less no matter what the industry.

          Welcome to the NZ reality show.

          But yeah…If you’re on a par, film credits /work history wise, with the same prancers from overseas then yeah, you should get your manager to sort your shit out for a better deal.

          and if you haven’t got a manager or a local union to sort your shit out, then don’t sign up for nothing and if you do, don’t bitch about it after the fact or you can fuck off overseas to work where you can be on the same wicket as the other prancers.

          So if you want an ozzy union to rep you, then prance off to Oz. Dont be bringin that shit here and lookin to start a ruckus cos it seems no one from NZ is bitching about it.

          and yeah, i been 20 years hanging about backstage at theatres and rock n roll gigs with some TV/film stuff thrown in as well. Even used to run a record label.

          You want to talk about shit pay ?… Try being a roadie/loader or a theatre tech and compare that with the high flying glamourpusses in the film industry.

          Perhaps roadies or theatre techs should get a percentage of the door take, album price and merchandising from the band too…yeah ?

          nuthin’ personal Tigger. That’s more a general rant directed at actors 🙂

          • George 6.1.1.1.1

            There are lots of people bitching about it. They just do so quietly for fear of being cut out of the industry.

            • pollywog 6.1.1.1.1.1

              Quietly bitching about in fear ?

              Either get up, stand up…stand up for you rights or go cry in your beer and quit wasting everyones time with ya sob stories cos i’m all cried out

              Got no time for those fuckers eh !!!

              • George

                Standing up for their rights is exactly what these union members are doing. You appear to be the one crying about it.

                • pollywog

                  They, the individual actors, have the right to not sign any agreement put to them if they think its unfair.

                  They, the ozzy based union, do not have the right force NZ actors to submit to their demands.

                  These NZ union members should be leading the charge for their comrades in acting not hiding under the Ozzy unions skirt.

                  Whats Cliff Curtis, Sam Neill and Karl Urban got to say ?..they’re about the only ones with enough star power to bargain for residual income.

                  I expect they’ll be full of no comment…

                  • Carol

                    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Karl Urban’s letter to OnFilm in the past, supporting union initiatives for Kiwi actors in contrast to overseas actors. So I’d be interested to see what he has to say about this.

                  • George

                    So they can stand strong as individuals but not as a group? Because that might upset your little prejudices? You really are a wee crybaby wanker. Waa waa.

                    • pollywog

                      C’mon George, now you know you wouldn’t say that to my face so why bother ?

                      It’s like these NZ actors. They can do whatever they like but if they fronted up and said things as themselves then sweet…I’m all ears

                      …but for all we know, they, whoever they are, are probably a handful of already well paid actors shit stirring behind the scenes for more dosh and prepared to sacrifice the whole industry and martyr their comrades for the sake of an Ozzy union that has no right sticking it’s beak in our affairs.

                      and for all that, the these well to do A listers could fuck off overseas and get what they want with all the perks anyway.

                      so yeah…grow up, fuck off and spare me your petty insults but know that is something i wouldn’t have a problem telling to your face all the while laughing at you….pussyclaat

                    • George

                      Whatever little man.

                    • pollywog

                      Chur big fulla 😛

  7. Craig Glen Eden 7

    I have also spoken to a number of people who have worked with Jackson, he pays poorly compared to others people tell me and the people I have spoke to would rather work for anyone else when at all possible.
    Director genius he might be workers friend he definitely is not.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      It does **** me off when some multi multi millionaire won’t add $75,000 to a production’s pay budget for hourly workers to take it from stingy and mediocre to pretty decent. You see what he is like when a big studio tries to gip HIM out of money.

      Mind you he has his fantasy mansion land in the Wairarapa so what does he care about us bleating.

  8. fair enough if it was the actual film workers boycotting…but actors ?

    you could grow them in a petrie dish for all the real world skills they possess and they multiply almost as fast too.

    y’all know they’re just standing in front of a camera pretending to be someone else eh ?

    OZZY OZZY OZZY OI OI OI….Farrrrrrrrk off maaaaaaaate !!!

  9. Jackson is a hypocritical prick of the first order.
    He has no problem with sucking up taxpayer funded corporate welfare when it means it’ll make him even richer than he already is, but can’t handle the thought of anyone else getting paid enough to live even a modest life if it runs the risk of reducing his own personal fortune.
    He sounds like an ACT voter.

  10. prism 10

    Peter Jackson lives in the real hard world of film making and their financing. He has made a great success of the Rings against great odds andonly with huge effort and capabilities which is beyond the experience of most of us who write here with ideas of what should happen in an ideal world.

    We shouldn’t forget that he has made a successful business in New Zealand, which is not farming, or land speculation. Talk about tall poppy syndrome, he is a rare achiever to the heights he has reached and should receive the same adulation as Ed Hillary in New Zealand,

    When I worked at a fish factory and our union took us out on strike to get higher pay for the cutting line, the bosses said they couldn’t change pay conditions for the season as they had contracts for supply and had made their budgets for the year. Jackson’s backers have made their budgets too. He can’t give every worker a share of the profits for a start, which is one of the demands. The backers of films can sculpt the financial form of a movie so there aren’t any profits, they can probably turn a successful film into a loss-making vehicle with the expertise of sharp accountants.

    Fair dos for the workers is one thing, but this Australian-based union (whose NZ part is a deregistered legal entity) would happily destroy our film making opportunities which would increase opportunities for themselves in their own country. They’re giving us the finger while they pretend to care about a minority of NZs who are lost in fantasies of high pay and conditions that don’t fit with NZ employment legislation and the budget for the film.

    By the way another large revenue earner, tourism, isn’t a big payer either. Just because an industry looks interesting and exciting and is international it doesn’t mean big money flows to all involved. But its work, and we need tourism and a range of industries like the film industry. We have to try for fair and reasonable working conditions and pay. But this union comes along after years of negotiation to get finance for making the film is finally successful, and is prepared to destroy the film on spurious grounds – they actually just want to give us an Ozzie kick in the rear.

    • George 10.1

      My mate worked for Jackson years ago. Jackson made his way on the good will, low wages and hard work of a whole lot of people and then turned his back on them.

      I can’t see why Jackson can’t put half of his, no doubt huge, director fees into better pay and conditions for the people who got him to the top and keep him there.

      • pollywog 10.1.1

        I’ve got mates who Jackson calls up each and every time he’s got something on. They’ve not got a bad word to say about him and are grateful for the opportunities he’s provided for the country, for Welli and for them personally.

        Like Graeme Hart, Jackson’s made some big moves and you need big balls to do that. I don’t have a problem with him being mega rich because of it.

        Theres not enough kiwis with big balls who are prepared to put em on the line for big money and a grand idea. Hell, theres not enough visionaries in NZ who think grand thoughts. It’s almost like that gets stifled by the low budget cost cutting number 8 wire mentality.

        That’s a great thing in itself but you’re never going to be in position to help the most people if you don’t help yourself first.

        • Colonial Viper 10.1.1.1

          That’s a great thing in itself but you’re never going to be in position to help the most people if you don’t help yourself first.

          Well Jackson has clearly made it to that place in life where he is now in a position to help those starting at the bottom. Should he wish to.

      • SHG 10.1.2

        My mate worked for Jackson years ago and won’t hear a bad word said about him. Jackson made sure he was looked after in every sense.

        Sure you’re not thinking of a different mate? Or maybe your cousin’s hairdresser’s brother’s mate? Or maybe YOU HERD IT ON TEH INTERWEBS?

        • pollywog 10.1.2.1

          Nah..these are chippies, lighting riggers, soundies, people i’ve worked with and i’ve no doubt if i’d wanted to settle in Welli i could have made it in the film industry and leveraged that into making it big overseas as well.

          You have no idea how ridonculously talented, yet unambitious i am.. and modest too

    • Bored 10.2

      Gee Prism, I too cut up fish for a while years back, a noble and underpaid skill.

      Taking you up on a few points, I agree that Jackson has done bloody well from a commercial viewpoint and deserves huge credit for building a local film industry. He is a good example of picking a winner, using tax dollars and getting a good result. What I think is underplayed in this however is that without the tax dollars one man would not have become as wealthy. There is a debt (moral as opposed to real) owed to all of us by his companies, and as a result I would hope Jackson would respect the rights of NZ workers whose taxes helped build the industry.

      I dont know the details of the dispute, it would be illuminating to get to the minutae of what the Unions and Jackson are claiming. I can say however if it is about conditions a well paid fat cat sitting on millions will have a hard job convincing me of his position. However like you it would worry me if self interest from Australia was behind this.

      One thing about the finance: when I work out our companies budgets annually I always make contingency allowances for variations to the wage bill etc. When organising the finance for the movie I would hope that the wage component was not explicitly spealt out to the financiers to squeeze. I doubt it was but from a business viewpoint any failure to plan for contingencies and consequent liabilities and then to pass costs on to the workers is bad business, and to my mind a form of extortion from the people who actually do the work.

    • the sprout 10.3

      Regardless of his talents and tenacity, Jackson seems like someone who pulls the ladder up behind him once he’s climbed to where he wants to be.

      Too bad for all the underpaid kiwi talent that helped him get there.

  11. How are we going to achieve pay parity with Australia when our best and brightest rebel so violently against the notion that ordinary workers’ minimum conditions should match those paid in Australia?

  12. Jackson on Stuff: “He always honoured actors’ union conditions if they were union members…”

    In other words, if workers in the film industry want to be covered by a union, they have to trouble themselves to join a union. How the fact that they haven’t could be Jackson’s fault isn’t made clear in the news articles or the post above – notwithstanding the fact that he has lots of money and is therefore clearly guilty of… er, something.

    • George 12.1

      From the MEAA:

      The producers have advised they do not intend to negotiate with the union. Consequently the usual provisions of the New Zealand contract would apply. These include a provision which permit the producer to terminate the contract at any time without obligation to pay out the performer’s contract.

      It would pay for you to read the whole thing rather than just rely on Jackson’s rant:

      http://www.scriptflags.com/2010/09/7-major-unions-tell-their-actors-to-not.html

      • Psycho Milt 12.1.1

        Well, mug for signing the contract. Workers who want union representation really need to join a damn union – it’s not rocket science.

        • George 12.1.1.1

          Join the union the producers (ie Jackson) refuse to negotiate with? Are you starting to see how this power-relationship thing works?

          • pollywog 12.1.1.1.1

            Why should kiwi actors pay ozzy union fees to work in NZ ?

            Get our A listers to form a local union with grass roots support, affiliated to the major overseas one and get an agreement beforehand that the producers (Jackson )will negotiate with the newly formed union ?

            How hard is that ?

          • SHG 12.1.1.1.2

            The MEAA is not a registered union in NZ and thus the producers cannot legally negotiate with it.

            • The Baron 12.1.1.1.2.1

              CASE CLOSED – there is no NZ union to negotiate with, let alone any local voice for all of these apparently critical issues.

              So what’s the issue here? And how is it resolved to ensure that films are made here, and jobs are kept here – instead of all of this bleating on about how much of a prick the different sides are?

              I have no patience for all this ideological blahing on when there are real jobs and real industries at risk. Sounds to me like the Unions are more interested in making a statement than actually benefiting those that they supposedly represent.

              • Maynard J

                I think I’m in agreement with you! If they can’t legally negotiate with this union, what possible resolution is there?

                Is there no NZ union they could join, in order to negotiate a fair contract?

  13. Tiger Mountain 13

    This has the potential for a major union beat up due to the ‘patriotism’ associated in the public mind with all things Weta and Jackson. At the end of the day it is about driving production costs down, not some faux national pride that motivates the film industry.

    Some of the commenters here really don’t know much about the world of unions. E.g. prism-“our union took us out on strike”-hello, workers are the union, and members should have a say, and particularly in the case of stoppage action, a vote. Sheeple do not make good unionists.
    And some do know a bit more ie Tigger.

    Actors Equity NZ morphed into an alliance with Aussie entertainment unions after struggling for years as an appendage to the NDU and SFWU that never worked that well. Equity members are under employed at best and the union could not have run at all without volunteer support. They spend a lot of time looking at permits for overseas actors etc. and trying to maintain some balance in the ratio of ‘stars’ to locals employed. Just watch Jackson ditch Sir Ian if he continues to support a union deal.

    • prism 13.1

      Oh ha ha Tiger Mountain – the workers have a say? The union made an emotional case for the poor cutters and despite some strong opposition from some feisty older workers, no doubt more knowledgable, most of us thought that it was worth the sacrifice to go on strike which we made in losing our real dollars, to get fairer conditions.

      We thought the union had a good idea of what they were doing. But nothing was achieved except we on strike all lost necessary money, not discretionary. This from a union delegate who wore dark glasses as he spoke to us which meant we couldn’t see the honesty, or not, in his eyes. The same union was putting our money into setting up a conference centre where union members would be offered discounts. To me that meant that locals would get cheap beer at my expense.

      Unions are not perfectly attuned to doing the right thing by workers. I support them like I support the police, both necessary civil services, but don’t be credulous about either.

      • Tiger Mountain 13.1.1

        Idiot. Cops are a necessary evil for their social mop up role, finding lost trampers, cleaning up gruesome car car crash sites etc. The evil bit is being part of the state forces that enforces exploitation and oppression of the majority. Unions are a positive necessity while a class society exists, to counter the power imbalance between workers and the employing class and state.

  14. Carol 14

    As far as I know there’s been debate for quite a while about the relative lack of unionisation of Kiwis working in the international film and TV industry in NZ (for crews as well as cast). It has been argued that one of the advantages is that things get done quicker because there’s less job demarcation, meaning the crew don’t need to wait for the person/s witht he allocated job title to get something done. But the disadvantage is insufficient protections for workers.

    It’s hard to tease out the relative merits of the issues based on the news reports. there’s a “He said, she said” element to it. But the way the Jackson issue has been reported, there seems to be a major issue of actors being employed on The Hobbit, without having a union contract:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/film/4169335/Jackson-fights-to-save-Hobbit

    MEAA national director Simon Whipp said “all performers” were concerned about the lack of standard union contracts for the US$150 million (NZ$204m) two-part Hobbit films.

    “Members of British Equity have certainly spoken to Ian McKellen about it … In fact, we have spoken to all the performers who have been approached, or are rumoured to be involved in, the production and all have expressed strong support [for the boycott].”

    A lack of union contracts had led to concern about whether The Hobbit producers would pay fees contained in a standard union contract, such as payments from DVD sales and video rentals, Mr Whipp said.

    “Those are the things all of us are concerned about and differentiate New Zealand, from a performer’s perspective, from working almost anywhere else in the English-speaking world.”

    Then there’s the role of the Aussie union & it’s credibility:

    Meanwhile, South Pacific Pictures chief executive John Barnett says the Australian union’s claims were duplicitous and inaccurate and made by an organisation with no legal standing in New Zealand.

    “The MEAA has been struck off the register (of NZ incorporated societies) for failing to file any reports in the last three years, which is one reason that the production company can’t enter into any agreement with it.

    “The Australian union has absolutely no interest in what happens in New Zealand.”

    However, it seems that unions in countries other than Aussie are also concerned about the lack of union representation in NZ:

    But Sir Peter Jackson said The International Federation of Actors, which represents the world’s seven major actors unions and actors in 100 countries, has told members not to act in The Hobbit until they get a union contract.

  15. john 15

    I had some free time so i did some extra work on a film here from the usa about 8 months ago.
    Two days work at 12 hour days plus driving your car one hour each way,its 150 bucks a day,or after your agent and the tax man get a cut 70 bucks a day…then they said can you drive your car around in shot to about 15 of us for an extra 20 aday,this was on rocks so at the end i needed about 450 bucks for a new exhaust and a stuffed wheel.
    So never again as you get paid crap and they have a mind set that as Kiwis you should do it for free or the big films wont come here,also it can take 6 months to get paid.

    • pollywog 15.1

      Then they said can you drive your car around in shot to about 15 of us for an extra 20 aday,this was on rocks so at the end i needed about 450 bucks for a new exhaust and a stuffed wheel.

      Hah…ya daft c*nt. Ya shoulda said nah !!!

      I rented my sister’s car to a commercial shoot to rig for a hit and run stunt for 500 hundy a day for 2 days. I rented my van as part of my contract to a production house, got sideswiped doing an art dept run and got the company to help pay for repairs.

      You really should know what you’re letting yourself in for and if you think it’s not worth it, then don’t sign up.

      captcha : misuse

  16. TightyRighty 16

    hardly surprising to see this site come out in favour of a move that could quite literally shut down a huge earner and employer for the country, just to please 90 odd member. your idea of solidarity is quite skewed. you don’t really care about the common man if he isn’t union do you? all the strident rhetoric can now be more aptly described as bullshit.

    • john 16.1

      you don’t really care about the common man

      tighty we all are common,at a shot they it at a nz lake i was told there was over 300 extras on the day
      so it cost them about 45 grand,sounds a lot but when the camera was rolling it was around 350 grand a minute and some people on set got over 50 grand a day,i think Kiwis should get paid the same as workers from the USA or where ever, dont you want kiwis to get paid well,or are you anti NZ

      • Gosman 16.1.1

        People should get paid what they are willing to work for and what the employer is willing to pay. If the employer wants to pay someone from America more for whatever reason that should be their right.

        • mickysavage 16.1.1.1

          What about paying someone’s grandmother in Burma as little as possible to work an 80 hour week. Is that ok?

          • pollywog 16.1.1.1.1

            So if this production goes to the Czech republic does anyone think the Ozzy union is gonna go in to bat for all them Slovak extras getting paid even less than ours do ?

          • prism 16.1.1.1.2

            What’s someone’s grandmother in Burma got to do with this? It’s about better conditions for film industry workers here in NZ isn’t it? One task at a time please.

            What can be done to improve the basic conditions? Are workers being paid well above the minimum and receiving allowances? How are these negotiated? Are there known rates which can be checked out like going to an internet site – with the different rates of pay and allowances stated, and if there is extra for overtime and what time that begins? Then people know what is on offer and can choose to accept or not.

            • mickysavage 16.1.1.1.2.1

              My comment was in response to Gosman saying People should get paid what they are willing to work for and what the employer is willing to pay.

              In response to your question on what can be done to improve basic conditions the best it appears that unionising the workforce is a damn good place to start. Australia’s workforce is much more heavily unionised that New Zealand’s and the Australian wage rates are the envy of many, including apparently John Key. There have been a number of posts here to the same effect.

      • prism 16.1.2

        John The reason they come here is that we are low budget. NZs for years saw themselves as being on a par with the United States, good incomes etc. Those years after the Second World War have gone now and we are getting to be on a par with the Falkland Islanders. They’re trying ideas like going organic to advance their economy and find a niche to advance trade and income to them.

        We need to work at it too, it won’t happen overnight or any time at all unless we stop relying on farming and get something going alongside tourism.
        But creating business from the ground up that isn’t just for the domestic market is an art and a science too possibly, so we shouldn’t diss the vitality of NZ entrepreneurship when it arises.

        Norway has done some drilling and has become a world oil player perhaps we can do that? But I think they put money aside for the future, perhaps we can do that too if NACT returns to regular inputs into pensions schemes etc.

        • Lanthanide 16.1.2.1

          “we are getting to be on a par with the Falkland Islanders”
          The Falkland Islands are currently ramping up drilling and industry thanks to some enormous oil fields that have been discovered there. It is shortly going to be flush with cash, and quite possibly spark another war.

        • lprent 16.1.2.2

          But I think they put money aside for the future, perhaps we can do that too if NACT returns to regular inputs into pensions schemes etc.

          NACT? Look into the future? You are a bleeding optimist.

          In the last 35 years that I’ve been observing politics, I’ll make the observations.

          The only thing that you can be positively sure about with National are short-term thinkers who will ignore any longer term issues that require funding, preferring instead to shore up short-term support. The two classics that National have NEVER dealt with are from the 1970’s.

          The superannuation blowout in 2030-2050 that has been obvious from the mid-70’s – which National are still avoiding dealing with. They have cut all savings by the government to deal with the issue. That will inevitably lead to ‘unplanned’ cuts in super.

          The transport system in Auckland that Muldoon terminated after he didn’t get enough votes from Auckland and which National are still avoiding dealing with (dropping the regional petrol tax was an act of extreme stupidity).

          ACT are just the raving optimists of the faith. Like all absolutist religious nutters they prefer to test their god by throwing their fate (well actually usually someone else – you never see them practicing what they preach) into the fire to see if it burns. When it shrivels to a crisp, they proclaim it was because their sacrifice didn’t have enough faith.

          I’m afraid that the reason that I vote and support Labour is because the F*wits on the right have an inherent inability to plan for the future.

  17. burt 17

    The reaction here is so predictable. We all loved Jackson when for the first time he put NZ on the international movie making map. Hell the Labour party even made special tax arrangements for him to encourage him to make more movies in NZ. Now of course Jackson has made a big bucket of cash so he’s suddenly the enemy of socialism. Policies of envy dim-bulbs didn’t care that he was being given a free ride before he purchased a private jet…. But he’s gone to far now hasn’t he…. He’s not mediocre joe blogs now he’s a rich prick and we hate rich pricks eh….

    So when he moves off shore to a tax haven and flies in every now and then to open a new building at a university and make secret donations to the spencer trust will he suddenly be back in favour ? Perhaps Goff will secretly offer him the role of minister of arts and entertainment if he makes a big secret donation to Labour.

    You lefties should have applied the principle that tax payers money is never used to prop up private business before Jackson made his money – but no… principles were quietly put in a box for a PM photo op with the cool guy when their was a tough election to win.

    You lefties have made your bed on this one, it’s time you realised you can’t have it both ways. Your own political party helped make him filthy rich through sheltering his business and making him a special friend – too late to cry about it now.

    • Tiger Mountain 17.1

      No tears from me Burt, I found the sycophancy towards Jackson rather nausea inducing first time round. It is obviously not too late to get a better deal for industry workers judging by PJ’s squeals. BTW isn’t it Natz policy to support wage parity with Australia? policy and action of course being different matters.

      • Gosman 17.1.1

        You can’t legislate wage parity without negative consequences.

        • the sprout 17.1.1.1

          you can’t not legislate parity without negative consequences.
          the question is who do you want to bear those consequences, the weak or the strong?

          • Gosman 17.1.1.1.1

            What grouping would you regard the people made unemployed as a result of legislating wage rates up belonging to?

            • the sprout 17.1.1.1.1.1

              similar, but even worse off than those on an exploitative subsistence wage.
              and then there are those who really benefit from exploitative subsistence wages – the group you so valiantly defend. the group who might have to sacrifice upgrading their Bentleys for another 6 months as a result of pitiful wage increases.
              gosh, in the case of Jackson the results could be so dire that he can only afford to own two Sopwith Camels and one BE5 instead of an entire toy airforce. my heart bleeds for him and his kin.

            • Colonial Viper 17.1.1.1.1.2

              What grouping would you regard the people made unemployed due to corporate cost cutting and the offshoring of jobs carried out to satisfy shareholder demands for ever increasing growth in earnings?

              Frankly, the point of an economy is to benefit the people not the other way around. Or at least, it will be.

    • Vicky32 17.2

      “We all loved Jackson when for the first time he put NZ on the international movie making map”
      Speak for yourself! I know nothing about film making, so I won’t comment on that – but I heard years back, about the bad way he treated workers on the LotR films – particularly his horse riders/wranglers…
      Also, it bugged me majorly the way he altered the story, and took credit for things he hadn’t done – such as “turning Eowyn into a warrior woman” (which if you know the book, she always was..) Some grand feminist Jackson was! He cut female characters, and turned Arwen into a whiny teen, playing to the noted American dislike of strong women or women over 40…
      Deb

      • the sprout 17.2.1

        ‘Mexican with cellphones’ is what the Americans called the kiwis on the LotR set

        • Vicky32 17.2.1.1

          Ah, I did wonder… Sounds typically American! (Is there a single one of them who’s not racist?)
          Deb

  18. Puddleglum 18

    What this highlights is the general inequity in productions (of all kinds not just film or ‘artistic’ ones). No-one – no matter how big their ‘balls’ – is capable of acquiring the kind of fortune that Jackson and others have without the help of deliberately engineered economic mechanisms for such acquisition, plus some arbitrary element of luck.

    The notion that Jackson ‘risked’ something in making LOTR – as some have suggested or implied here – is part of the folk neo-liberal mythology that is usually trotted out to justify CEO salaries and needs to be thought through carefully.

    In financial terms, if LOTR had been the biggest flop in movie history I presume Jackson would still have come out millions ahead (I imagine his contract would have guaranteed that, as CEO contracts do). Plenty to retire on in comfort by most standards.

    Call that putting money and time at risk? Or perhaps what he put at risk was his self-esteem? (i.e., he would be ’embarrassed’ if it was a flop – there’s something in that, see below)? Or the chance that he’d be offered another big paying blockbuster? (but, as I said, if he made enough from one flop why would he need another film contract?)

    Well, I guess there’s risk and ‘risk’. Risk is certainly what the ‘prancers dressed up in costumes’ are taking, given the low probability of work of any kind and the pittance once the fleeting work is gained. There’s massive opportunity costs involved not to mention the health risks that come from stress, poor living conditions, etc..

    Jackson may have taken that kind of risk once (with the help and sacrifice of others according to other commentators here) but he’s not taking any risk like that now.

    There is one risk he’s taking that I’ll acknowledge. As the Spirit Level stuff summarises, we’re incredibly social beings and in a society that is highly unequal (to which Jackson’s income testifies) even those at the top level suffer from that, with the rather sad stress that comes from wanting to remain top of the heap. It’s a version of what’s called the social evaluative threat (see vid here by Kate Pickett), and we’re all susceptible to it. But he won’t be helped with that risk/threat by driving down the wages of the actors he works with – it would only make it worse.

    Jackson is no doubt an impressive film maker, but it takes more than that to be a ‘tall poppy’ in my book. The only way of being a tall poppy is to have a character that contains the ‘virtues’ – irrespective of socially rewarded and acknowledged success. If someone lacks that – and I’m not saying Jackson does (though this episode makes me suspicious) – then they can run 90 marathons non-stop in less time than it takes for me to run 100 metres, win every athletic competition everywhere, train endlessly, etc., etc. and I’m afraid I still won’t see them as a tall poppy – just a very good athlete. It was Ed Hillary’s character, not climbing a mountain, that resulted in the respect he justly gained.

    And speaking of prancers in costumes – if they’re so irrelevant and unnecessary to the success of a production why does Jackson want any in his films? And, if they are needed, why shouldn’t they have a chance to be rewarded disproportionately in relation to their efforts, time and skills, in the same way Jackson is (by leveraging the economic mechanisms that are available in our society)?

    Finally, anyone know the reason why the union’s returns hadn’t been filed for three years? Anything to do with the transience of work, lack of active union membership or structure that comes from such chaotic work conditions? Or was it just neglect?

  19. Prancers in costumes don’t have a stake in the movie. Producers do, it’s all their stake money.

    Prancers are employees who sign on to work for whatever they can get and they get more than enough compared to other work of equal effort. Sure, not as much as others in other countries but more than some others in other countries.

    At the top end of the scale i’d be surprised if kiwi actors aren’t on pay/perk parity with their foreign counterparts for the size and scale of a hobbit like production.

    So why aren’t all ozzy based unions calling for boycotts of NZ industries by NZers in NZ out of some deep sense of caring and camaraderie for our long suffering workers ? Why just the film industry ?

    Could it be that their industry is looking to take up the slack cos big productions aren’t going to Oz anymore as their unions priced their talent out of the market and by forcing the same here they’ll attract them back at our expense ?

    • indiana 19.1

      Your right Pollywog, they are still smarting from the fact that Kiwi’s got all the cool roles in the last 3 Star Wars films. I thought this industry was all about fixed term contracts…

      • pollywog 19.1.1

        Hah…no way is Tem Morrison Boba Fett’s dad. Not in a million parallel universi should that be even remotely possible.

        and Jay Lagaaia as Padme’s bodyguard ????..negro puhlease.

        He musta mugged the real one while he was delivering the fried chicken to set and you know how we all look the same…

        captcha : convincing

        • Tiger Mountain 19.1.1.1

          It’s a race to the bottom ’Wog. The corporates whether it’s animation or manufacture, head to the latest low wage heaven. Tax breaks and patriotic fervour for LOTR meant that was us for a while. Even Weta’s tech advantage has now evaporated and competes on price. A small tier of producers and actors still get a reasonable payday. For the rest of the film industry brown nosing is still at the top of the skill set for those wanting semi regular employement if they are lucky.

          It is pointless snarking at actors as film is a collaborative process. Some not consumed by fear and loathing realise this and try and show some solidarity. Workers internationalism means that workers in different countries support each other, even “ozzys”. Ooh scary, no more films will be made in Aotearoa because of the nasty unions. If you believe that you’ll believe anything.

          • pollywog 19.1.1.1.1

            I hear ya TM. i just don’t like ozzy’s trying to tell us what to do.

            and i suck at brown nosing and lying so i don’t bother. every now and then i’ll give it another go just to see if i’ve improved…

            …but no 🙁

            as for ‘the hobbit’, i lost interest when Guillermo del Toro bailed. Hope they still use his production designs though. Dude’s genius make PJ looks like a rank amateur.

            • Tiger Mountain 19.1.1.1.1.1

              Hear ya too PW. Half the country worked on LOTR and the other half knew them. I am just concerned that a few headlines is as deep as most kiwis are going to delve into this one.

              I worked unpaid on a couple of films late 70s early 80s for the buzz so I know how people get to do it, luckily it was at night and I had a full time day job. NZ film history would not exist without well meaning amateurs and underpaid crew. RIP Merata Mita, Barry Barclay and the rest.

              The west Auckland TV scene bought a few more paydays in. I hear Power Rangers is on again, but even that is subject to the offshore actors issues etc.

              As for the lovely Gozz, I do know but… commercially sensitive!

            • The Voice of Reason 19.1.1.1.1.2

              It’s not Aussies telling us what to do at all Pollywog. The MEAA is the union for actors and similar workers in Australia, who have had a formal alliance with our version here for some time. They act on behalf of our actors at their request, not by way of an imposition. And it’s going to become more common. I’d say the day when the EPMU, PSA or NDU amalagamates with their trans Tasman counterparts is not far away, because it makes sense for workers to stick together in what is effectively a single economy.

              If we are to close the gap with Australia in wages and conditions, no point waiting for the boss, because he has no incentive to do it all. Just the opposite, in fact. Best we do it ourselves, by organising with our mates over the ditch.

          • Gosman 19.1.1.1.2

            Do you know what the market price for a animation tech head is in N.Z. or are you just spewing stuff out of your better side as per normal?

            • burt 19.1.1.1.2.1

              The price is as much as the tax payer can afford to give Helen a photo op with the cool guy.

  20. darien 20

    These actors are employed as independent contractors, which means they have no collective bargaining rights, no rights to holidays, minimum wages etc. It\’s a great way to avoid employment obligations and the reason why Jackson can claim that NZ law doesn\’t allow them to collectively negotiate. Of course, there’s a way around it : they could be employed as employees and then there wouldn\’t be any argument about their right to negotiate.

  21. Re : film extras

    and based on personal experieince

    You’re barely employed for long enough in any shoot to qualify for holiday pay. You get a hell of a lot more than minimum wage plus a free lunch and working conditions usually consist of standing round the unit truck drinking smackloads of good coffee and talking shit, nice work if you can get it.

    What’s at issue here is the right to residual income from things like dvd sales and merchandising for using one’s likeness. Like if Karl Urban wants to get a bit more for being made into a lil plastic dummy then sweet, but it’s got fuck all to do with bitty extras and support players who are expected to fall in behind the picket line just so the A listers can gouge more from the producers without having a stake in whether the film is a hit or not.

    I can’t see any one giving their pay back if the film tanked at the box office and i don’t know why actors would think to have long term rights to characters after playing them for only the briefest of time.

    And if in this case the unions are acting on request of NZ actors, then these actors should step up to the mic and tell us how hard done by they are just so’s i can have a really deep belly laugh.

    So what are union fees running at these days ? if one had to join to benefit from their collective bargaining prowess what’s it gonna cost me vs what do i get out of it ?

    • burt 21.1

      OMG – Are you telling us that people wanting to be actors and relying on other people to invest capital and take risks are not paying them shit loads of money because they are cool people… Wow, who would have guessed eh, the only option you have to protest is to stop watching movies….

      How terrible that people wanting to get into one of the worlds most competitive and most lucrative careers need to take the shit before they strike the gold – it’s not fair we should all be allowed to be highly paid actors in the great socialist dream of everyone being equal.

      • pollywog 21.1.1

        5th coffee for the day and topped up with a few red bulls eh burt ?

        you’ll blow your foo foo valve if you’re not careful.

      • Colonial Viper 21.1.2

        How terrible that people wanting to get into one of the worlds most competitive and most lucrative careers need to take the shit before they strike the gold

        Yeah, continue the Right Wing story that workers should expect to be crushed in the meat grinder while chasing the all elusive carrot dangled in front of them.

        need to take the shit before they strike the gold

        Don’t know why they need to feed on shit since you are quite right, that is what workers are being served.

  22. Tiger Mountain 22

    Some people here one would hope, in vain obviously, might be aware of the old axiom:
    “it is never a good idea to eat shit sandwhiches, ’cause if you eat enough of them you might get to like the taste”

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