The Dim-Post

October 21, 2010

This is bad for Helen Kelly

Filed under: general news,movies — danylmc @ 10:06 am

Via Stuff:

Actors’ Equity committee member Robyn Malcolm told Morning Report this morning she could not believe a request for a discussion around conditions like overtime, penalty rates and transport was enough to derail a multi-million dollar movie project.

I don’t think it was asking for a coffee break that was the problem, I think it was that global boycott of the film you called that got everybody nervous.

If the Hobbit does go offshore then this is a PR disaster for the union movement – whatever the reality, its going to look to the public as if they’ve bought about the destruction of a multi-billion dollar industry that was the source of great national pride, and although the instigator was an Australian union they were facilitated by the president of the CTU who went out of her way to insert herself into the dispute.

Update: Russell Brown has a good overview of Actor’s Equity and their ‘first we’ll boycott the film, then we’ll figure out what our conditions are’ version of good faith bargaining.

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54 Comments »

  1. And this is a union whose members overwhelmingly live off taxpayer subsidies of their industry. Remind me again, why should we keep subsidizing these people’s wages? Was it because they brought benefits to New Zealand?

    Comment by Vibenna — October 21, 2010 @ 10:14 am

  2. And this is a union whose members overwhelmingly live off taxpayer subsidies of their industry.

    I assume you’re talking about the actors and the film industry. Apart from everything else that’s wrong about that: overwhelmingly? Get schooled at http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1010/S00119/gordon-campbell-on-the-hobbit-countdown-to-d-day.htm

    As for the CTU, I don’t know how it look to the general public, but I’d assumed they’d got involved because the dispute might benefit from the presence of a party with the faintest idea how to do industrial negotiations in NZ.

    Comment by lyndon — October 21, 2010 @ 10:22 am

  3. Lyndon – I’m talking about http://www.actorsequity.org.nz/home. I hope these people will enjoy being booed when they appear in public.

    What they need to do is throw out Simon Whipp, and get some immediate professional advice on how to manage their PR and negotiations. I think they have about 24 hours to work out how to give a credible assurance to Warners that they will provide a stable industrial environment. At the moment they are still in denial about the effects of their global boycott.

    They need to accept they have made an enormous cock-up, and get some professional help to get themselves out of it pronto.

    Comment by Vibenna — October 21, 2010 @ 10:28 am

  4. “but I’d assumed they’d got involved because the dispute might benefit from the presence of a party with the faintest idea how to do industrial negotiations in NZ.”

    Well, 1970s type negotiations anyway.

    JC

    Comment by JC — October 21, 2010 @ 10:29 am

  5. “As for the CTU, I don’t know how it look to the general public, but I’d assumed they’d got involved because the dispute might benefit from the presence of a party with the faintest idea how to do industrial negotiations in NZ.”

    that was my impression too. Helen Kelly’s been one of the few people not over-dramatising the whole thing from what I’ve read/heard about it.

    But I think despite that, AE have really gone about this abysmally and it’s pretty much gonna tar the entire union movement. The government are going to be happy to do whatever they can to help slop that tar around because of teh obviouz reazonz…

    Comment by nommopilot — October 21, 2010 @ 10:30 am

  6. Less than 24 hours. If this isn’t nailed down by tomorrow’s morning news cycle, AE’s name is permanently mud. And deservedly so. They overplayed their hand, big-noting without a strong mandate.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 21, 2010 @ 10:31 am

  7. It does seen that the AE/MEAA has been operating in less than ‘good faith’ mode – why not announce the apparent boycott lifting until today?

    Comment by The Double Standard — October 21, 2010 @ 10:32 am

  8. I disagree that it will affect the whole union movement, though. Most unions have the crowd with the torches and pitchforks following them, not chasing after them. As long as they remain aware of the importance of this reasonably straightforward distinction, there’s no problem.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 21, 2010 @ 10:33 am

  9. I see that CTU just put out a media release:

    MEDIA RELEASE

    21 October 2010

    Facts on Hobbit

    Helen Kelly, CTU President, said today that it is important that some facts about the union stance on the Hobbit are placed before the public.

    • The union is seeking basic terms and conditions such as hours, breaks, overtime payments etc.
    • The union has always been prepared to agree those conditions as an industry standard rather than a collective agreement.
    • The union advised Warners on Sunday (their time) that they had asked the Screen Actors Guild to lift any “don’t work” orders in place. A statement has been prepared by Equity but Warners have asked to control the time of the release and have delayed several days. We understand Wingnut were aware of this when they met with Technicians last night but failed to pass on this information.
    • MEAA (Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance New Zealand Incorporated) is a registered union in New Zealand. They affiliate to the CTU in New Zealand and are a trans-Tasman organisation. We are used to having hundreds of Trans Tasman businesses in NZ and that appears to be perfectly acceptable. Many of our performers work in both countries so a Trans Tasman union makes sense.

    “These films can be made here”, said Helen Kelly. “Following a meeting last week, which included Hon Gerry Brownlee, good progress is being made on developing an industry standard through improving the content and form of the current “Pink Book”. Last night’s meeting was ironically to begin discussions with Equity members on that process. It will now have to be rescheduled.

    “Helen Kelly said NZ Performers want the movie made here as much as anyone, but let’s get all the facts on the table about taxes, subsidies, and other issues – rather than just blaming the union for asking to meet on basic terms and conditions”.

    Comment by taranaki — October 21, 2010 @ 10:36 am

  10. Can she explain how the union start with a global boycott? They could not possibly have been any more aggressive. In fact, can anybody tell me what conceivable move would have been more aggressive than that?

    Comment by Vibenna — October 21, 2010 @ 10:40 am

  11. “rather than just blaming the union for asking to meet on basic terms and conditions”

    the trouble for the unions is that this all being their fault is a better story – everyone involved is going to try and pass the blame and because, Actor’s Equity/MEAA, ended up with the pointy end, mostly because of a terrible PR strategy / negotiating strategy

    Comment by nommopilot — October 21, 2010 @ 10:44 am

  12. “MEAA (Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance New Zealand Incorporated) is a registered union in New Zealand”

    Yes, as of last Thursday. When did the boycott bomb go off? Lighting quick, those boys.

    Comment by KR — October 21, 2010 @ 10:47 am

  13. “can anybody tell me what conceivable move would have been more aggressive than that?”

    not really.

    especially when they’re now “developing an industry standard through improving the content and form of the current “Pink Book””, why did they have to boycott anything to start this – apparently quite satisfactory – process for resolving the issue.

    Comment by nommopilot — October 21, 2010 @ 10:48 am

  14. I don’t think it was asking for a coffee break that was the problem, I think it was that global boycott of the film you called that got everybody nervous.

    Quite

    Although to believe Chris Trotter, the SAG member alert — which banned all union actors in the world from working the film — was merely an expression of fraternal goodwill and absolutely not a boycott.

    Comment by Russell Brown — October 21, 2010 @ 10:48 am

  15. As noted above, AE have overplayed their hand with essentially no mandate or popular support.
    This whole thing will be remembered for ‘boycott’ rather than ‘conditions’.
    Way to own the narrative!

    Hopefully at least the VFX and post production work will remain in NZ.

    Comment by Gregor W — October 21, 2010 @ 10:48 am

  16. • The union has always been prepared to agree those conditions as an industry standard rather than a collective agreement.

    This is 100% false. For two years, Equity has refused approaches from Spada to renegotiate the Pink Book code of conduct — the industry standard — because it only wished to negotiate on a binding collective agreement (which would probably be illegal under NZ law).

    Even after the boycott was posted, they refused to respond to further requests from Spada for a meeting, because they thought they could negotiate a national agreement via Peter Jackson.

    And now they say “Hey! We were all about renegotiating the Pink Book!”?

    Fscking really?

    Comment by Russell Brown — October 21, 2010 @ 10:54 am

  17. “I disagree that it will affect the whole union movement, though”

    It will to an extent: the usual suspects will certainly be doing whatever they can to point the fan in that general direction and see where the brown stuff lands

    ie. the government is keeping as quiet as possible about subsidies – they certainly have the ability to sweeten the deal a bit for the studio to help bring the film here (sure it’s less tax the government will get but it’s a choice between a few million less and none at all) but they are much happier to see a union getting flayed and will now try and extrapolate this to other industrial disputes (however inappropriately) because that’s what Tories do…

    You’re right it may not influence those who are inclined to support unions but it certainly isn’t good PR for anyone on that general side of the political divide…

    Comment by nommopilot — October 21, 2010 @ 10:58 am

  18. Helen Kelly said NZ Performers want the movie made here as much as anyone, but let’s get all the facts on the table about taxes, subsidies, and other issues

    dear fucking lord. so first it was AE and the CTU asking Jackson to negotiate on behalf of all producers working conditions for actors, which he couldn’t do, and now they want to renegotiate the entire NZ film industry. I’m not surprised the studios are nervous.

    and god knows what “other issues” are.

    Comment by NeilM — October 21, 2010 @ 10:59 am

  19. Vibenna, I was responding to what you actually said. Gordon’s numbers would suggest the subsidy is not ‘overwhelming’ and, if we consider it to be bringing in money that wouldn’t come otherwise, might even benefit the taxpayer.

    Comment by lyndon — October 21, 2010 @ 11:00 am

  20. Neil, well, yes — it will to an extent. But it’s easy to overstate this (& many are).

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 21, 2010 @ 11:02 am

  21. The government should at this point be weighing up which is better:

    film moves away: less jobs for NZers, less money into economy, less direct and indirect tax – or

    film stays: opposite of the above

    surely, even if option one is worse for the government’s enemies (to put this in middle-earthian terms) than it is for the government, option 2 is better for everyone and if the government are the ones riding to the rescue they get to take credit while the union still sucks up the blame for nearly causing a disaster?

    Comment by nommopilot — October 21, 2010 @ 11:04 am

  22. “might even benefit the taxpayer.”

    I think even if they paid no direct tax the entire economy would still benefit significantly in terms of less VFX technicians on the dole, tourism opportunities, income tax from those employed on the film and the money spent in our economy (not that I’m advocating movie productions be tax free) but I can’t see any upside to losing the Hobbit…

    Comment by nommopilot — October 21, 2010 @ 11:10 am

  23. Err, not Neil. Nommo. Sorry.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 21, 2010 @ 11:10 am

  24. Brownlee already looks to have ruled out increasing subsidies, and wants to make sure as much blame lands on the union as possible.

    “Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee said he would meet with Warners to see what the Government could do to keep the movies in New Zealand, but he rejected claims the producers were being enticed away by an offer of a 30 per cent tax break from another country.

    “I don’t believe financial incentives are the issue here. I think it would be wrong to allow people to suggest that it is the money issue that is behind all this. It is not. “

    Comment by JB — October 21, 2010 @ 11:14 am

  25. Brownlee already looks to have ruled out increasing subsidies..

    there might be a case for reassessing the subsudies but this is absolutely the wrong time. The studios were going to make the movie here under the current 15% regime. It was not an issue until a few idiots in NZ made it an issue.

    The reason why the studios are looking at moving the production is because of the union’s actions. Making this an issue about the broader structure of the industry as Kelly wants is just beyond stupid.

    Wrong time, wrong film.

    Comment by NeilM — October 21, 2010 @ 11:27 am

  26. Actually, can’t Gerry as Dictator demand the execution of the AE leadership on some trumped up sedition charge as a deal sweetener?

    What the point of having unlimited authority if you can’t abuse it.

    Comment by Gregor W — October 21, 2010 @ 11:29 am

  27. Russell, thanks for writing up the incompetencies of the NZAE so clearly and succinctly. If I were an actor and depended on my union’s backing, I’d be mightily pissed off at their blundering.

    Comment by Ataahua — October 21, 2010 @ 11:36 am

  28. Just reading Robin Malcolm comments on Stuff.

    “The difference is I’m a hobbit, you’re a hobbit, you come from America or England and you work on the same production, side by side, and we work under completely different terms and conditions. Is that fair?”

    What kind of crack is this woman smoking?

    Replace ‘hobbit’ with ‘IT contractor’ as this is often BAU in the real world.

    Comment by Gregor W — October 21, 2010 @ 11:40 am

  29. Brownlee: “I think it would be wrong to allow people to suggest that it is the money issue that is behind all this”

    I think Brownlee has no idea about the film industry if he thinks this. The union was stupid (I think there’s general agreement on that point) but we’re talking about the American major studio film industry. Of course it’s about money!

    Comment by nommopilot — October 21, 2010 @ 11:44 am

  30. I can’t really believe it’s entirely about the union. The Narnia films found plenty of reasons to move off-shore without the union getting involved, and no-one kicked up an almight stink then – why is the Hobbit moving all of a sudden “the death of our film industry”?

    The claim that the studio was always going to film it here is a little bunk, given that prior to last weekend the film wasn’t even green-lit, so it wasn’t going to be filmed anywhere.

    Comment by JB — October 21, 2010 @ 11:49 am

  31. Totally agree with what nommopilot just said – the union has made a pig’s ear of this, especially considering the good work by other unions in past weeks (three big strikes yesterday alone). But you can’t pretend that money has nothing to do with it – after all, the money problems at MGM were holding this up for so many months. Then there is the case of the subsidies, then the lower wages potentially in Eastern Europe. Also, the NZ exchange rate isn’t exactly favourable at the moment, whilst the Euro and the US are both taking their dollars downwards. I’m not an accountant, but I could see the benefits of a greater subsidy and a better exchange rate reducing the cost by a significant proportion of that $500 million – and if MGM are about to go bankrupt, they aren’t going to turn that down.

    Comment by Ed Muzik — October 21, 2010 @ 11:50 am

  32. Risk is money. The Unions are increasing risk. That is very costly.

    Comment by Vibenna — October 21, 2010 @ 12:16 pm

  33. I think one major reason the studios were going to do it here was because Jackson made that case. It’s about money sure, but the film industry is also about trust and stability. keeping a $500m behemoth on course is one hell of a task.

    Comment by NeilM — October 21, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

  34. Unsurprisingly, Irish Bill at The Standard is backing the union, and accusing Sir Peter Jackson of bad faith bargaining.

    It’s a disaster for Phil Goff as well; Labour having hitched its wagon to the union carthorse.

    Comment by Inventory2 — October 21, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

  35. Would said person do the honorable thing and leave for Australia

    Comment by Minto58 — October 21, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

  36. Boyens and Walsh made the point (on NatRad) that there already has been significant investment in set/soundstage building in Wellington, and the Hobbiton thing of course, even though the official green light had not been given until recently. Much of this work is not transferrable, and would need to be redone if production is moved elsewhere.

    It seems relatively clear that the studio was prepared to film in NZ until the actors union shat all over the production.

    Comment by The Double Standard — October 21, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

  37. The claim that the studio was always going to film it here is a little bunk, given that prior to last weekend the film wasn’t even green-lit, so it wasn’t going to be filmed anywhere.

    Actually, pre-production — including the refurbishment of Hobbiton, which is basically done — was already underway.

    Comment by Russell Brown — October 21, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

  38. Robyn Malcolm said “The difference is I’m a hobbit, you’re a hobbit, you come from America or England and you work on the same production, side by side, and we work under completely different terms and conditions. Is that fair?”

    sounds stupid. Do the production companies respond to this by hiring all their hobbits from whichever country provides the cheapest hobbits?

    Comment by kahikatea — October 21, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

  39. why don’t we just set up a fight between John Key, representing the government, and Cheryl / Robyn Malcolm, representing the unions / NZ hobbits. I, for one, would pay to see that.

    Comment by Ed Muzik — October 21, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

  40. It seems relatively clear that the studio was prepared to film in NZ until the actors union shat all over the production.

    I suspect that the studio wanted to film somewhere cheap, Jackson wanted to film in Wellington, for a whole bunch of obvious reasons, Jackson won the argument and then Actors Equity suddenly jumped up and announced their boycott thus Jackson’s frustration.

    Comment by danylmc — October 21, 2010 @ 1:49 pm

  41. “I suspect that the studio wanted to film somewhere cheap, Jackson wanted to film in Wellington, for a whole bunch of obvious reasons, Jackson won the argument and then Actors Equity suddenly jumped up and announced their boycott thus Jackson’s frustration.”

    That is what I suspect too.

    Comment by nommopilot — October 21, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

  42. Anyone who knows the industry knows that Actors Equity has a very small membership base. The production company could have come in, set their conditions, and anyone who didn’t want them would miss out on work. There would still have been plenty of actors to choose from.
    What I’m saying is that this did not need to be a big deal for the Hobbit producers. There were a million ways to get round this, mainly because the actors’ union is too small and too weak to do any real damage. To me this reeks of excuse.

    Some are saying that this will destroy the NZ film industry. That is rubbish, of course. Noone films in NZ because of the cheap actors. Some are saying that local film-makers won’t be able to afford to make films. Again, this is absurd. NZ actors work for much lower rates, and often for nothing on NZ productions. That won’t change. What might change if this had been successful would be residuals getting written into the contract in case a film goes big. No harm there.

    The actors’ union has a big call to make now. Do they have the guts to accept all the public hate and still stand strong? Will they stand up to SPP and the other local production houses? Will they stand up to other films that come over? If yes, then this debacle with the Hobbit is worth it. The actors can decide that this is the time to take a stand, and make the push. If not, if they instead wilt under the pressure and go away, then the actors union will be broken and conditions for actors will degenerate further.

    Comment by DanielMa — October 21, 2010 @ 4:15 pm

  43. @Ed

    Cheryl fights dirrrty.

    National Party leaders don’t raise their fists, or voices, to women.

    Comment by Phil — October 21, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

  44. What I’m saying is that this did not need to be a big deal for the Hobbit producers. There were a million ways to get round this, mainly because the actors’ union is too small and too weak to do any real damage. To me this reeks of excuse.

    They did invoke a global union boycott of the movie. That’s a pretty huge deal and also pretty hard to ‘get around’.

    Comment by danylmc — October 21, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

  45. “Actually, pre-production — including the refurbishment of Hobbiton, which is basically done — was already underway.”

    And that work was being done while MGM was still nominally in charge. I wouldn’t be surprised if Warners had already run the numbers on filming in NZ vs Eastern Europe and made their decision before they stepped in with the funding – and the latter would undoubtedly have been cheaper, regardless of what happened with the actors’ pay here. C’mon, these guys operate in Hollywood, do you really think they could be scared off by a union?

    Comment by Miguel Sanchez — October 21, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

  46. I’m waiting to see whether Labour will have a quiet word in Helen Kelly’s ear or whether they will instead take Gordon Campbell’s unsubstantiated musings as fact.

    I’m pretty sure the former if done right might be better for indutrial relations and the credibilty of the CTU.

    Comment by NeilM — October 21, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

  47. Malcolm and Kelly you fucking losers.

    Comment by blackspy — October 21, 2010 @ 6:59 pm

  48. to be fair, Labour have had their time cut out supporting Hubbard and some Mongrel Mob associates so expecting them to spend time engaging constructively on issues of industrial relations would be a bit much.

    Comment by NeilM — October 21, 2010 @ 7:57 pm

  49. Helen was always going to lose this one.

    She had to get involved, her CTU position gave her very little wiggle room.

    The actors (MEEAA) stupidity of international boycott was always a losing stance.

    You are right.

    This is bad for Helen Kelly.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — October 21, 2010 @ 8:40 pm

  50. A large production like this might well be compared to an oil tanker, difficult to change course quickly, difficult to take off shore given the work already put into the sets etc.. However the Hollywood money-men are and always have been far more nimble, quick to the tiller. I guess AE saw some opportunity to leverage for something essentially honourable and beneficial for their members and muffed it, not having the nous to table that point of view effectively. How i’m reading this is that the studio must then have seen the opportunity for a greater advantage in this stuff up. What other reason would they have for setting up a meeting with the PM given that AE have already lifted their idiotic boycott order? Brownlee certainly did not ‘rule out increasing subsidies’ in fact he avoided saying anything about ‘the money side of things’ at all. Don’t be very surprised if there isn’t some greater rebate for the studio to come out of this. Something the studio can now pitch for and if they succeed in getting it the government and the studio alike have the convenient oil slick pissed out by a union exiting stage left for the public to sop up.

    Comment by matthew — October 21, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

  51. Oh god it is exactly a union led loss that the Govt and the country will have to fund – fuck off CTU and fuck off Labour you losers.

    Comment by blackspy — October 21, 2010 @ 9:44 pm

  52. my impression is that the CTU operate under a one size fits all policy. Any issue, it’s class warfare. Jackson, he’s just a capitalist stooge for foreigners.

    At the moment Labour and the unions are running a marching in the streets anti Tory campaign and every issue has to be crow-barred into that perspective. Irrespective of whether or not that’s true.

    It’s all very blunt and I doubt it will dent the Nats and I hope it wont bring such people into government.

    Comment by NeilM — October 21, 2010 @ 10:08 pm

  53. How come the guys who run the 48hr film festival don’t get the same kicking from the Unions?

    Comment by J Mex — October 22, 2010 @ 9:01 am

  54. The VIDEO of what happened outside matterhorn is online now

    Robyn’s been caught out lying

    Comment by James — October 22, 2010 @ 2:19 pm


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