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NZ Actors Equity union blacklist divides film industry

NZ Actors Equity crisis

The backlash over the NZ Actors Equity Union’s ‘blacklisting’ of the ‘Hobbit’ film has been become a sore point for the film industry.

The NZ Actors Equity Union and Australian based Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance have called for a worldwide boycott of the Hobbit film because Producers have refused to enter into a union-negotiated settlement. The action has caused a backlash, dividing film industry productions and unions. The NZ Actors Equity Union asked to have face to face talks with Peter Jackson about the Hobbit film, but he has so far refused.

Despite the good intentions of the NZ Actors Equity Union to negotiate better rates for New Zealand actors who will work on the Hobbit production, the spat has forced movie studio Warner Bros to consider other options, as the situation turns political, and people start taking sides.

Peter Jackson earlier defended the rates paid to actors hired by his company Wingnut Films as they exceeded the American actors union minimum (SAG).

Peter Jackson, New Zealand’s most successful and loved filmmaker, was critical of the union for undermining the local film industry, and that the production could be moved elsewhere costing millions in lost revenue for local actors.

The unfortunate incident has also been inflamed by some magazines who have taken sides, bashing Peter Jackson and the unions, creating a tense environment for discussions between both parties and other film producers working on The Hobbit.

Peter Jackson in a statement said that he was a firm supporter of unions but when a tiny minority is empowered to endanger the livelihoods of so many people, something is very wrong.

The NZ Actors Equity Union told the AFP in response to criticism against it that it had “No desire to jeopardize the production, create instability, or see it move offshore.”

Actors wanting to participate in The Hobbit film may feel they have to join the boycott, but as the film industry relies heavily on freelance workers, it is very hard to unite a large group of people behind one voice and one set of rules when so many are prepared to work for low rates.

As global economies recover from the recession, an offer to work on a film production is surely a great opportunity for some part time work, and film unions now have the opportunity to create a mutually understanding arrangement with producers without the need of a boycott, or an international ‘blacklist’.

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