Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What Gives With Peter Jackson's Anti Australian Rhetoric?

According to Radio New Zealand:

at a rally in Wellington on Monday Sir Peter Jackson delivered another strong blast against an Australian trade union that has been advising New Zealand union Actors' Equity and was behind the international boycott [threat]. He warned against turning New Zealand into another state of Australia under the sway of a "destructive" organisation.

Last week Sir Peter accused the Australians of being "bullies who want to impose their will on New Zealand," and on Wednesday he said that what made him "really angry" was the involvement of the Australian union.

What gives? Well, the issue behind all this is quite simple. New Zealand does not have a collective bargaining agreement for actors. NZ Equity wants collective bargaining so its members dont get ripped off, as apparently they did with Lord of the Rings. (And although Sir Peter called LOTR a wonderful New Zealand home movie, remember that he personally made over 100 million dollars from that fun family project.) NZ Equity are being supported by Australian Equity (hence the bizarre "Australian bully boy" remarks). Sir Peter claims collective bargaining is bad because it means that actors will get paid more and the cost of making The Hobbit will go up and become uneconomic. (Anyone who has read nineteenth century labour history will recognise this doleful argument). Sir Peter insists that the actors stance has put the whole film in jeopardy and Warner Brothers might move production to Eastern Europe, the UK or Ireland. I doubt that. Ireland is out of the question because of the strong Euro, Eastern Europe is utterly impractical and the UK is also too expensive. I think Sir Peter is trying to pull the, er, wool over the eyes of the people of NZ. If you are going to start production in February 2011 you would need to have booked studio space at least a year in advance, the only studio space that has been secured has been in Wellington. Whether the actors get a few more dollars an hour or not will not determine if The Hobbit gets filmed in NZ or not. (Tax breaks and a change to the labour laws banning strikes and residuals might). You have to admire the Sir Peter's cojones, though, casting Australia as the enemy not Warner Brothers or indeed himself. The Aussie villain always plays well in chippy New Zealand which sees itself as the little brother who doesn't really get the attention it deserves from mummy and daddy. The bluff has worked. A terrified and brow beaten NZ Equity has now withdrawn all boycott threats and the Screen Actors Guild has said that its union members are free to appear in The Hobbit.
You'd think from the news coverage that all New Zealanders are behind Sir Peter over this, but that is definitely not the case. Brian Rudman has a good piece in the NZ Herald, here.
The clip of course is from Flight of the Conchords. Brett, incidentally, was in Lord of the Rings where he played an elf. (This is off topic and I may be wrong about this, but after watching a lot of Australian TV over the last two years it seems that New Zealanders are quite a bit funnier than Aussies whose humour seems a little broad and slapsticky for my taste.)