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Jackson goes on Hobbit offensive

Published: 7:10PM Thursday October 21, 2010 Source: ONE News

Sir Peter Jackson says the New Zealand film industry could be "stuffed" as a result of the dispute over pay and conditions for actors in The Hobbit.

Jackson, who was last week confirmed as the director of the two films, said in a statement released overnight that producers Warner Brothers were flying to New Zealand next week to arrange for the production to move overseas following the standoff.

In his first television interview on the crisis, Jackson told TV ONE's Close Up the New Zealand film industry was on its way to "possibly being stuffed".

While the New Zealand Actors' Equity said it has rescinded its advisory to members not to accept work on the two-part adaptation of the JRR Tolkien novel, Jackson said the lifting of that blacklist is not the issue anymore.

"It's a question of confidence in our industrial relations and the damage was done within a week of the blacklist going on," he said.

"There are risks involved in movies, they have to be good films, they have to earn a profit and [studios] need the insurance factor that money is going into a stable industrial climate."

Jackson said the issues around The Hobbit have been the result of the actions of a few actors.

"And I do believe that the majority of those few actors do not actually understand the real repercussions and the situation.

"It's so easy to be caught up in the rhetoric and the big industrial giant versus the small person. It's an emotive thing and very easy to get caught up in that.

"Up until a month ago, no one had even thought in a million years that this movie was going to leave the country. And then this blacklist was bought on, and the studio said 'What the hell is going on?' and we tried to figure out what the hell was going on.

"At that point confidence in our country as a stable base to make movies started to erode."

Saying he is a paid-up member of four unions, Jackson denied he is anti-union.

However he again attacked Council of Trade Unions (CTU) president, Helen Kelly, who has been involved in union talks.

Earlier today Kelly said if The Hobbit movie is taken offshore it is not the actors' fault, because the dispute could easily have been resolved.

"If this movie moves offshore, it will be because it can make more money overseas, through different economic levers like tax and incentives," she told TV ONE's Breakfast. "We know that some countries are offering double what the New Zealand government is offering.

"I also notice that Peter Jackson isn't saying it will move, he is saying it could stay, and if it stays, he will be the one that saves it," she said.

"There is either a big set-up going on here making him the big hero, or him covering his backside if the movie does move."

However, tonight, Jackson said Kelly was "behaving like someone who thinks she knows about filmmaking and who hasn't got a goddam clue".

"We have a policy of including our members, unlike the actors, who called the blacklist without consulting their membership at all.

"We called our crew together and they were so upset at the way that this had been mismanaged by the actors and equity people, that they decided to march," he said, referring to a march in Wellington last night.

"I was heartened, but saddened, at these people having to fight for their jobs.

"But Helen Kelly comes on and disses them and calls them a lynch mob. And I'm thinking 'Helen, you represent the CTU and there are 1000 workers there that want your help, and yet you're siding with an Australian union. How dare you ... You are choosing an Australian union over the workers of our country.'"

Kelly, also speaking on Close Up tonight, repeated her claim that The Hobbit would not be lost to New Zealand because of the dispute.

"We've found a way through and we're prepared to work with the production company to make sure it gets made on time and within the budget," she said.

Jackson said he still does not know if The Hobbit will stay in New Zealand.

"Warners are coming down next week and we've got to fight like hell," he said.

Earlier today Prime Minister John Key said he is also prepared to meet with Warner Brothers, and Jackson agreed he should get involved.

"This is where I'm out of my depth. I can talk my way around the movie, but to tell the studio why investing $500 million in our country is a good idea when they've just seen the disgusting frivolous action that's just happened, I don't know what to say.

"The Prime Minister should say something because I certainly don't know what to say," Jackson said.

"No industrial action"

Meanwhile NZ Actors' Equity member Robyn Malcolm told ONE News the lifting of the blacklist against The Hobbit was not a backdown.

"We have moved forward really positively with the local producers here. And it became clear to us that the production of The Hobbit was not going to change its stance. And we only have a mandate from the actors here to seek a meeting, so we sought a meeting and advised performers not to continue the no-work.

"We can give an absolute clarification and affirmation that there will be no industrial action taken against The Hobbit in New Zealand."

Malcolm said the union was not targetting Jackson personally.

"Peter Jackson is a good employer, I've worked for the man. We're not in any way looking to demonise the man. He treats actors really well," she said.

"It was never our intention that it came to this. It was a respectful letter requesting negotiation and it blew up and we feel really bad about it.

"There is so much misconception around unions now, but it's about the actors and we're about trying to do what's best for New Zealand actors.

"The last thing we want to see happen is to see The Hobbit move off shore."

What do you think about this situation? Who's to blame and what should happen now? Have your say on our messageboard below.

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  • kiwi666 said on 2010-10-23 @ 08:46 NZDT: Report abusive post

    What are you on hospitals schools the old need 60.000000 not some movie

  • drummer47 said on 2010-10-22 @ 23:33 NZDT: Report abusive post

    This now looks a if John Key is the white Knight on his charger saving the NZ film industry when really it's National gaining tons of votes!! A really good PR exercise for the Govt. You have to wonder if there is

  • drrobert said on 2010-10-22 @ 20:27 NZDT: Report abusive post

    There is too much invective in the comments here. This is simple game theory: Actors Equity (with MEAA and CTU support) seriously overplayed their hand. They thought that they held sufficient leverage to improve conditions, but the truth is that film financing is 'hot money', and move overseas without hesitation. Now they have learnt this lesson, they must apologise, disassociate from the MEAA, and get on with supporting NZ actors as best they can.

  • slumbergod said on 2010-10-22 @ 10:43 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Anyone who says this movie is not important for NZ is in denial. This is a huge issue given the state of our economy at the moment. Its repercussions will affect us for many years to come. Way to go greedy actors and their arrogant unions.

  • mwadsworth said on 2010-10-22 @ 10:00 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Dont go hobbit middle earth is right here cmon Warner do the movie justice.