Over the weekend the International Federation of Actors (FIA), which represents unions in the US, Australia, the UK and Canada, told their members not to take roles in the The Hobbit movies because actors in New Zealand had “struggled on non-union contracts” for some years and those contracts “provide no minimum guarantees of wages or working conditions”.
They said the producers of The Hobbit had refused to negotiate a deal with them, and therefore they are urging actors not to work on the films. Naturally, potential director Peter Jackson isn’t happy about this, and has fired back.
Personally speaking, I’m not anti-Union in the slightest. I’m a very proud and loyal member of three Hollywood Unions – the Directors Guild, the Producers Guild and the Writers Guild. I support the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). All these organisations (I must confess I’m not entirely sure what the difference is between a “Guild” and a “Union”) do terrific work on behalf of their members.
For the Hobbit, Warner Brothers have agreed to create a separate pot of profit participation, which will be divided up amongst non-SAG actors who are cast in the film. This was not done because of any pressure from Guilds or Unions – it was actually Warners doing the decent thing, and New Zealand and Australian actors will be the principle beneficiaries.
We have done better in recent years, with attracting overseas movies — and the Australians would like a greater slice of the pie, which begins with them using The Hobbit to gain control of our film industry. There is a twisted logic to seeing NZ humiliated on the world stage, by losing the Hobbit to Eastern Europe. Warners would take a financial hit that would cause other studios to steer clear of New Zealand.
Seriously, if the Hobbit goes east (Eastern Europe in fact) — look forward to a long dry big budget movie drought in this country.
You can read Jackson’s full statement here.
New Zealand is a beautiful country and was the perfect setting for Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings. I would hate to see filming moved elsewhere, for continuity sake, and I just hope this situation and the MGM situation are resolved soon. The last thing we heard they were planning for a January shoot, preferably with the involvement of actors.