As if MGM being $4 billion in debt weren’t enough of a problem for The Hobbit to overcome, as of a few weeks ago, a coalition of actors unions tried to pick a fight. While I can think of few things more boring than a labor dispute, especially one involving Peter Jackson’s already super-boring hobbit movies, this seems to be a big story, so I’ll try to break it down for you.
A coalition of actors Unions protested on behalf of New Zealand actor’s equity, the crux of their argument being that The Hobbit producers were offering less residuals than comparable SAG contracts. They urged a boycott of the film. Because SAG are said to be standing in solidarity with the smaller union, this would make it really hard for the producers to keep the production in New Zealand.
Peter Jackson, meanwhile, says the residual deal was fair, and that the NZ Actor’s Equity, which he says is not recognized as a legal union and only represents 10% of New Zealand’s actors, is being used as political tool by other unions.
“The normal situation is that if an actor is not a member of SAG, they do not share in the profit pot. This has always struck us as unfair, since most Kiwi actors are not lucky enough to be SAG 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.”
He made reference to the possibility of moving the production to eastern Europe, but it seemed like more of a worst-case scenario than anything that would actually happen. That was all before the Hobbit got a greenlight, and people sort of assumed things would get worked out. But as of today, Peter Jackson is still writing angry letters:
[...]The lifting of the blacklist on The Hobbit does nothing to help the films stay in New Zealand. The damage inflicted on our film industry by NZ Equity/MEAA is long since done. [...]
NZ Equity’s unjustified industrial action against The Hobbit has undermined Warner Bro’s confidence in New Zealand as a stable employment environment, and they are now, quite rightly, very concerned about the security of their $500m investment. Unfortunately lifting the blacklist does nothing to help the situation. This will be the start of a domino effect, as word of NZ’s unstable employment environment, registers with film investors and studios, world-wide. [...]
We will continue the fight to keep the film in NZ, but ultimately this decision belongs to Warner Bro’s. [...]
He seems a little alarmist, but the gist is, The Hobbit might not film in New Zealand. So there you have it, a movie I don’t care about might not shoot in a country no one cares about. Christ, this was a boring story. If I had a SAG card, I’d staple it to your mom’s titties.