Hobbit gets greenlighted
Film industry labour issues between actors and producers were among the elements that triggered a month long crisis in Peter Jackson’s production of The Hobbit, solved only by the intervention of the Government which agreed to change an employment law clause and pay additional incentives to US studios to keep the filming in New Zealand and not move it to Eastern Europe, which had been threatened. The Australian-backed New Zealand Actors Equity had sought the same remuneration as their overseas counterparts on the production, and the producer’s refusal to meet with the union based on the alleged illegality of such discussions lead to a worldwide call by actors’ unions for their members not to accept work on the film until issues were resolved. This brought a sustained and furious response from the Hobbit producers, US studios and technical film workers which resulted in the actors’ union withdrawing their claims and actions. A delegation of senior managers from Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema came to New Zealand for last minute negotiations with Government on a range of matters not directly associated with the actors’ action. A soaring NZ dollar was reportedly a key factor in budget worries for the US studios, along with ambiguity over the legal distinctions between contractors and employees. The long series of delays in commencing production of The Hobbit included drawn-out issues over film rights held by MGM which was facing bankruptcy, and the withdrawal of director Guillermo del Toro. PM John Key led negotiations with the US studios, which resulted in the films staying in New Zealand in exchange for an employment law change and $25M in additional subsidies including a $1M contribution towards marketing costs that will promote New Zealand as a film and tourist destination. The issue was punctuated by media appearances by Peter Jackson and colleagues expressing their anger, film workers staging marches and rallies, and even a fire at a Hobbit studio. The issue ended with Peter Jackson expressing his gratitude to the government and film industry supporters, and the actors’ union meeting with the film producers’ association to progress discussions on their issues and claims.