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PM’s Presser: Actors Must Say What They Want

PM’s Presser: Actors Must Say What They Want From Hobbit

The union representing actors in Peter Jackson’s upcoming film The Hobbit needs to say what they actually want from their employer, Prime Minister John Key says.

Key told reporters Monday that the Government was facilitating negotiations between Jackson’s production company Three Foot Six, New Zealand’s Actors’ Equity and its Australian counterpart, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance – and progress appeared to have been made..

But it was still not clear what the actors’ unions wanted.

“If you take a step back, the unions are arguing that all they want is a discussion with Peter Jackson so it’s not exactly clear what terms and conditions they want to changed and to what.”

“We have to understand exactly what the demands of the union is and what implications they have for the film industry.

We don’t understand those yet.”

Key also flagged concerns over a perceived attempt by Equity to force a collective agreement: most actors are hired as independent contractors, meaning any collective bargain would technically constitute price-fixing under the Commerce Act.

Nor could Jackson speak on behalf of other employers: the Hobbit movie dispute was just a subset of an issue between the screen directors’ association and the actors’ union, Key said.

“His concerns are even if he agreed to something it doesn’t mean the rest of the film industry in New Zealand could support that view.“

Key said it was not the Government’s job to negotiate the deal but New Zealand had built an emerging film industry and he did not want to see it taken away.

Filmmaking was a highly competitive business and there was “no question” the films could be made in other parts of the world.

“This is an industry where subsidies play an important role and people do move around the making of movies for all sorts of reasons, so there’s a real risk there.”

“I would imagine Peter Jackson wants to make his movies in New Zealand; he’s got a lot of infrastructure here. This is a good place to make movies for a variety of different reasons: we have good people, we have flexibility in our labour markets as a general rule, we have good scenery and the like.

“The last thing we want to see is the Hobbit movies not made in New Zealand.”

But it was unlikely the Government would sweeten the pot with further tax breaks for such films.

New Zealand offers a 12.5 percent subsidy for international productions via its Big Budget Film Grant Scheme, but Key ruled out any changes to the scheme.

“I don’t think we would want to be responding to demands from a union by increasing the subsidy from the Government.”

“At the end of the day the parties need to try and resolve those issues themselves if they can,” he said.

ENDS

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