November 23, 2017

Blog: The Hobbit saga is about money not unions

Effervescent Warners Executives arrive for talks with the New Zealand government. They are here to perform their stand-up comedy routine - Screw NZ for everything we can get.

The saga of the making of The Hobbit movies has dragged on longer than it takes to read the book.

Now we have Prime Minister John Key emerging from crisis talks with Warner Brothers executives over the filming of The Hobbit, saying the jury is still out. He couldn’t resist having a dig at the unions. Here are three quotes from the New Zealand Prime Minister in quick succession;

“They were very open and honest,” said Mr Key, but the big issue centred “unquestionably” around uncertainty in industrial relations.

“They[the executives] have a lot of goodwill towards New Zealand, but there’s no question that the industrial action caused concern on their side.

“If it wasn’t for the industrial action, they [Warner Bros] were good to go,” he said.

Bollocks.

Here are some facts which we are sadly in need of because the relentless government campaign to undermine trade unions of any variety has gone way beyond rational thinking.

1. The unions firing a shot across the film makers bows about minimum contracts for actors and the over the top response from St. Peter and the government is the equivalent of lighting a fire cracker only to see the whole city go up.

2. The REAL issue is money. It is always money. The New Zealand dollar is very strong against the greenback at the moment. That is going to add a few digits to the production budget. We are not as good looking financially for Warner Bros as we were a few months ago.

3. In the past the attraction of New Zealand aside from brilliant scenery and skilled film makers has been getting a supporting cast and crew for third world wages while still being in the comfort of a first world country that speaks english.

4. If The Hobbit is filmed overseas the sun will still rise in New Zealand tomorrow.

5. If union unrest were the major factor in a big budget production there would be no movies made in the United States of America or Australia where there is a much more militant union movement in the movie industry than little old New Zealand.

Quite simply if Warner Bros don’t want to make The Hobbit in
New Zealand then piss off and make it somewhere else. Please spare us the theatrical saga of – will we won’t we?

Coming down here and having meetings with the government. Why? With the money already invested in New Zealand, Jackson being based here and a possible backlash from Lord of the Rings fans if it is moved it is unlikely that Warners have any intention of doing anything other than screwing a fantastic deal out of the New Zealand government.

John Key is running around like a star struck virgin and dropping his knickers on the first date because he wants desperately to be seen as the saviour of The Hobbit.

John Key can’t lose on this one. If The Hobbit is made here he will be painted as a hero for cutting the deal with Warner Bros. If it goes elsewhere he will tell everyone that the unions are the only ones to blame. Not just Actors Equity but any union.

Mr Key assures us that Warner Brothers didn’t have much faith in assurances made by the Council of Trade Unions (CTU), which has guaranteed there would be no further industrial action taken. With nice Mr. Key advising them it is hardly surprising that they are suspicious of the unions.

Not since the days of Robert Muldoon has a political party gone to such lengths to denegrate the union movement. If they had a rational argument then we could debate it, but all we are getting is hatred and half truth that is being peddled as fact.