Home > Media, Social Issues > Peter Jackson’s “Precious”…

Peter Jackson’s “Precious”…

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Today was the premiere of the first movie in “The Hobbit” trilogy.

I was not about to comment on todays events. For me, the shine has long since corroded from the Ring Trilogy and the “Hobbit” that came after.

Events surrounding the industrial dispute; the mass hysteria that followed; the vilification of actors who stood with Actor’s Equity; the demonisation of trade unionists; the the carefully crafted manipulation of public hysteria by some very skilled creators of illusion; the actions of National in unilaterally changing employment law – all left a sour taste in my mouth.

Whilst I loved the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy; the talents of actors, technicians, director and producer, and all the other fantastically imaginative craftsmen and woman who contributed to one of the most epic movies of this century –  I can no longer share those same feelings with “The Hobbit”.

As with our fraudulent claim to be “100% Pure”, there is something about “The Hobbit” which is a sham.

Unlike the “Lord of the Rings”, “The Hobbit” is not the product of Kiwi ingenuity. It is the product of back-room deals; media manipulation; and political-corporate connivance.

Have a look at TV3’s report today into the tumultuous  background of  “The Hobbit”, when Hollywood Hell broke loose in our country,

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[click here to direct to TV3 Video]

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Note Peter Jackson’s comment @ 1:27,

We are now being given signs that they [Hollywood producers] are looking very seriously about shifting [the Hobbit].”

Source: Ibid

That was a lie.

We know it was a lie.

We know it was a lie because Peter Jackson admitted it in an email to National’s Economic Development Minister, Gerry Brownlee, on 18 October 2010,

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Sir Peter Jackson told the Government he did not believe an international actors’ boycott would force The Hobbit overseas, emails show.

The message, sent to the office of Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee on October 18, is in stark contrast to comments the film-maker made earlier in the month.

On October 1, he said: “The Hobbit is being punished with a boycott which is endangering thousands of New Zealand jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign income, for no good reason.”

Sir Peter dismissed the idea that movie production was moving overseas because it was cheaper to make films there.

“It’s completely absurd! Eastern Europe is only being considered because a minority group of the New Zealand acting community have invoked union action that has blacklisted our film, making it impossible to shoot in New Zealand.”

But on October 18, Sir Peter said the boycott had nothing to do with the movies potentially moving overseas.

“There is no connection between the blacklist (and it’s eventual retraction) and the choice of production base for The Hobbit,” he wrote.

“What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment and the ability to conduct its business in such as way that it feels its $500 million investment is as secure as possible.”

The October 18 email also suggests Sir Peter thought the boycott had been lifted, even though he said in television interviews three days later he was unsure if it had been officially ditched.

Sir Peter declined to comment through a spokesman yesterday.

See: Sir Peter: Actors no threat to Hobbit

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And Fairfax Media reported,

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The email showed Warner Bros wanted ”stability” to film the movies in New Zealand and was worried about ”grey areas” of employment law.

The Government secured the movies in October by an urgent amendment to the law which prevented independent contractors from claiming entitlements as employees, as well as an agreement to increase the tax concession for big screen productions.

The report said the email was signed ”Peter J” – apparently director Sir Peter Jackson – and was sent to the office of Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee who was involved in the negotiations with Warner Bros.
  
It said there was no connection between Actors’ Equity union action against The Hobbit movies and choice of location, which contradicted government statements at the time – which were that Warner Bros was concerned about strife caused by the blacklisting of the movies because of a row over collective pay conditions.

See: Union: Protest did not affect Hobbit decision

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It was all a giant con. And we, as a country, were the ones being conned.

Because three days later, on 21 October 2010, Jackson issued  a Press Release stating,

Next week Warners are coming down to New Zealand to make arrangements to move the production offshore. It appears we cannot make films in our own country even when substantial financing is available.”

See: Warner preparing to take Hobbit offshore – Sir Peter

Peter Jackson knew full it well was unlikely that  Warner Bros would move “The Hobbit”, for several practical, hard-nosed reasons.  Which Jackson duly shared with Gerry Brownlee.

Unfortunately, neither Brownlee nor Jackson shared that information with the rest of the country, and the mounting public hysteria gave John Key and National the ‘mandate’ they needed to act decisively.

The country panicked; and National used the opportunity to play “hero” by saving the day. It was like a Hollywood  scripted movie. (Though, for the life of me, I’m not sure that the “good guys” won.)

In 48 hours, National rammed through legislation amending the law covering all workers in the movie and television entertainment industry. The Bill was introduced on 28 October. It gained Royal Assent on 29 October. The fastest piece of legislation enacted since politicians voted themselves generous superannuation entitlements, late one night, in the 1980s.

See: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – Legislative history

At the stroke of a pen – similar to a Decree issued by a lone despot in some authoritarian regime – National unilaterally changed workers from being employees to sub-contractors.

The resulting change was stark;

  • Employees can negotiate collectively for a collective agreement
  • Sub-contractors cannot
  • Employees had minimum wage; sick pay; holiday pay; appropriate employment/termination protections; etc.
  • Sub-contractors do not.

National got what it wanted; public support through a bit of Union bashing, and preliminary legislative attacks on de-unionisation of the workforce. (See: New industrial relations laws rewrite labour rules)

Warner Bros got what they wanted; more money (courtesy of the taxpayer) and de-unionisation of “The Hobbit” workforce.

Peter Jackson got what he wanted; an irritation out of his life.

In a way, I don’t blame Peter Jackson – despite his masterful manipulation of public opinion and reaffirming (if re-affirmation was ever required) that we can be a nation of sheep.

Peter Jackson is a talented, imaginative artist who can create the most visually stunning images on a screen. He is, in most likelihood, a genius.

Unfortunately, geniuses are often so focused; so obssessed; and so fixated on their work, that they will disregard all others around them. A genius is all-consumed with his work, to the detriment of others.

In this case, Peter Jackson identifies utterly with his projects; immersing himself in childhood fantasies that he now has the power to bring to life – albeit a two-dimensional “life” on the big screen.

In doing so, he swats aside any irritation that might distract him from his work.

Actors Equity was such a distraction, and Jackson used his masterful skills at perception-manipulation  to rid himself of that irritation. He had the power – so he used it.

He’s not evil or tyrannical or nasty.

He’s simply a boy who never quite grew up and realised that he could fulfill all his childhood fantasies.

Unfortunately, in doing so, and like many other obessively-dedicated geniuses before him – he has hurt many people in the process.

Will I go to see “The Hobbit”? I really don’t know.

But if I do, it won’t be the same as “Lord of the Rings”.

The illusion will be broken –  the suspension of disbelief (film makers and writers  will understand what I’m referring to).

Because all the while, there will be the spirit of a little boy who never quite grew up; holding on to his childhood fantasies; and murmuring ‘my precious‘, as he never lets go.

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Additional

Fairfax: Union: NZ actors suffer after dispute

Gordon Campbell: On The Hobbit finale

Fairfax: To save regular earth, kill Hobbit subsidies

Fairfax: Hobbit ‘better deal than Lord of the Rings’ – Key

Previous Related blogposts

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law”

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  1. Susan
    28 November 2012 at 11:04 pm

    you know, as we get swept up in the mania, I am so pleased you voiced something that has been jiggling at the back of my mind. the union debacle, vested interests and dodgy back room deals. short memories eh.

    • 28 November 2012 at 11:05 pm

      Indeed, Susan…

      • Susan
        28 November 2012 at 11:07 pm

        oops. Niggling. Not jiggling. But maybe it was.

  2. 28 November 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Susan :

    oops. Niggling. Not jiggling. But maybe it was.

    I know the feeling… when there’s a memory struggling to rise to the surface, past all the modern trivia and banalities of life…

  3. Matthew Hatton
    28 November 2012 at 11:11 pm

    I think I’ll wait until in comes out on piratebay

    • 28 November 2012 at 11:14 pm

      Matthew… I cannot offer an opinion on that. ;-)

  4. Glenn C
    28 November 2012 at 11:19 pm

    I couldn’t get into the book.
    I guess people overseas won’t have that sort of baggage about the movie as NZers may feel…

    • 28 November 2012 at 11:24 pm

      Me neither, Glenn. The first few sentences of THE HOBBIT didn’t make much sense to me… my mind is too literal, probably. I was more a Clarke/Niven/Asimov/Farmer fan…

      As for the “baggage” that we have about THE HOBBIT – on this issue I think this is our private matter. Unlike the fraud being perpetrated regarding out less than 100% “Pure” environment, THE HOBBIT is more like a private family feud… (With nasty neighbours at Warner Bros stirring the pot, for good measure).

  5. DD
    28 November 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Thanks Frank

  6. JN
    28 November 2012 at 11:24 pm

    I think I will pass on the movie, books are always so much better anyways.

  7. Jim
    28 November 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Great article. The manipulation of public opinion via the media to serve a specific agenda is tried and true..

  8. 28 November 2012 at 11:31 pm

    I share a very similar view Frank.

    • 28 November 2012 at 11:40 pm

      @ Jim – Thanks, Jim!

      @ Penny -Interesting… it would be fascinating to learn how many oother New Zealanders share similar feelings? I wonder if other folk still remember the Warner Bros/Hobbit/Key fiasco.

      Especially when death threats were made against some actors and unionists. The village mob mentality…

  9. 28 November 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Feel similary here Frank as the Hobbit hype hopefully recedes already & we can all re-focus on the Mordor TPPA about to descend on us in Orcland. Unlike you though I still do not view Jackson’s actions nearly as benignly or forgivingly as you do..

    A liar is a liar whether he has a Sir in front of his name or not..
    Where I come from Sir denotes an honorable inference..
    Genuises also can move to the dark side..
    Money, power and ego..

    In his case manipulating a whole country with a fake ‘script’ insinuating that we may lose the ‘precious’, costing all of us money that could have well been spent lifting children out of poverty or a myriad other worthy causes, which went to Warner Brothers; but worst of all causing the kind of backlash against people like Robyn Malcolm and Helen Kelly that were both venemous & witch-hunt ish went well beyond little boyish! Additionally totally demolishing employees now contractors earnings and conditions was unforgiveable..
    He is now one of Sauron’s mob. Perhaps he will be directing Political propaganda movies next?

  10. Sara
    28 November 2012 at 11:50 pm

    PM was signing autographs on the red carpet. Lol and sigh…

    • 29 November 2012 at 12:02 am

      Ye gods, Sara, he would’ve been in his element… smiling and waving… *facepalm*

  11. 28 November 2012 at 11:58 pm

    Posted by Penny Bright at 12:18 pm on October 26, 2010 (On the NBR! )

    Seeking TRUTH from FACTS – what Actors Equity wanted

    What was so unreasonable about Actors Equity wanting to discuss the requirements for minimum terms and conditions for the engagement of performers on The Hobbit.?

    Here is – word for word – the resolution passed at the meeting of Actors Equity on 29 September 2010:

    http://www.alliance.org.au/

    Wednesday 29 September 2010

    “The Hobbit

    Four hundred actors attended a meeting in Auckland last night to discuss the requirements for minimum terms and conditions for the engagement of performers on The Hobbit. At the close of that meeting, the following statement was made by Jennifer Ward-Lealand, president of NZ Actors’ Equity.

    “As a result of tonight’s meeting New Zealand Actors’ Equity members have overwhelmingly resolved that its delegation continue to seek a meeting with the producers of The Hobbit, and to hold negotiations in good faith on the terms and conditions for performers working on the production.

    We have no desire to jeopardise the production or create instability in any way. Our members are simply seeking fair and equitable employment terms and conditions for New Zealand actors – the same terms that their colleagues elsewhere in the world enjoy.

    We believe a solution can be found by sitting down together with the producers, and talking through the issues. We all have the same goal in mind – to get The Hobbit made, here in New Zealand.

    Until we reach a fair and equitable solution, we recommend that all performers wait before accepting any engagement on The Hobbit.”

    Wednesday, 29 September 2010

    The Hobbit: Australian actors support NZ actors’ strong stance

    Four hundred New Zealand performers have passed a resolution calling on The Hobbit’s producers to hold negotiations in good faith on their terms and conditions of employment and recommending all performers wait until this occurs before accepting any engagement on The Hobbit.

    Simon Whipp, Assistant Federal Secretary of Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance said:

    “The resolution made by New Zealand performers last night has the full support of Australia’s acting community. What they are asking the producers to do – sit down and discuss the employment conditions of New Zealand performers – is a reasonable, and lawful, request.”

    For further updates, including recent letters of support from the international acting community, the resolution of last night’s meeting in full and a video of Jennifer making a statement to the media after the meeting, See actorsequity.org.nz ”

    How SCARY should that request have been to a reasonable ‘employer’?

    Penny Bright

    Posted by Penny Bright at 12:18 pm on October 26, 2010

    • Priss
      23 December 2012 at 3:09 pm

      A balanced response, Penny. Well wrote.

  12. Alan Benton
    29 November 2012 at 5:38 am

    Yeah, I mean … “Have you read the book PM?” “Oh only a bit of it…I got it for Christmas …”

    Riiiiight. So:

    You didn’t even read the thing, and yet … you were certainly interested in the concept enough to bend over for Warners and bend a few rules around, and then weirdly your appearance caused just as much of a flurry of autograph seekers as any of the big names down there today. Probably the Young Nats no doubt…

  13. 29 November 2012 at 5:58 am

    I wouldn’t cross the road to watch the Hobbit

  14. Sue
    29 November 2012 at 8:23 am

    Thanks Frank – you have summed up exactly what I also am feeling. As a family we have taken our kids to all the Ring films, as well as Harry Potter etc…but the Hobbit feels tainted for me……….the feeling that if I watch it, I won’t be able to enjoy the fantasy, the illusion…….all I could think about yesterday was that on 20.10.2010 we had had a fantastic turnout of workers all around the country for the day of action, and 5 hours later there was a manufactured mob protesting up Willis St………..very mixed emotions for me – Great Post Frank.

    • 29 November 2012 at 4:39 pm

      Thanks, Sue.

      Whilst I wasn’t a member of Actors Equity, there was something about that “protest” which did indeed feel “manufactured”. It didn’t feel right, and the whole subtext seemed to be one of outrage based on… fear? Misinformation? Manipulation?

  15. Jo
    29 November 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Okay this is where we don’t agree. The Hobbit brought hundreds of jobs to NZ (especially Wellington). How many actors were in agreement with the Union? How many extras? Acting is a tough business, stage actors are out there sometimes 8 times a week they don’t normally get sick leave, holiday pay etc. Ever heard the phrase the show must go on? I will watch and probably enjoy it to honour the work the actors, Weta and Pete Jackson did.

    • Citizen Gee
      30 November 2012 at 5:53 pm

      yo, Jo!

      So it ok to sell our laws to corporations for a few jobs? And don’t forget that the Hobbit jobs are only TEMPORARY.

      Why not sell other bits of laws to get corporations to set up shop here? Maybe we shouldn’t have employment laws at all, and just take whatever transnationals throw at us? That works in Pakistan and other Third World countries real well.

      Yeah, acting is a tough job. So is mining. Or forestry work. And all those miners and forestry workers have employment protection. So remind me why actors should be exempt from the same civilised protections that you and I enjoy? I assume you enjoy holiday pay, sick leave, etc?

  16. 29 November 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Interesting points, Jo…

    Re your remark,

    I will watch and probably enjoy it to honour the work the actors, Weta and Pete Jackson did.

    Have you considered that your enjoyment of the movie may be at the expense of ;

    (a) taxpayers who have subsidised the movie – though most other businesses don’t get similar subsidies?

    (b) the actors and technicians who had their terms of employment unilaterally changed by National when they passed the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 on 29 October 2010?

    In effect, workers sacrificed their employment rights (being changed from employees to “sub contractors”) so we may “enjoy” the movie.

    Who else has made such sacrifices so that the rest of us can enjoy an entertainment activity?

    I look forward to your perspective on this matter.

    • Alan Benton
      29 November 2012 at 6:09 am

      They were all there discussing the monetary benefits naturally. Extension of the trickle down theory… those benefits are wholly compromised by the deal done with the devil…

      The next 2 installments will bring more compromise and ass hattery … let us just hope that the TPPA is not in full force otherwise that compromise will be way worse than it already has been I feel …

  17. Peter B
    30 November 2012 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve got about 20 million reasons not to watch it.

  18. KSJ
    1 December 2012 at 10:47 pm

    I agree Frank it lost its gloss for me with allowing corporate interference in our labour legislation …. I guess the 100% pure is fitting for The Hobbit though – pure fantasy!

  19. The Roadie
    2 December 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Its interesting too, as a lot of the crew employed on this production since the law changes are American crew. Not members of the technician unions in the US but effectively “Scabs” who were black listed by the unions in the US. So the law was changed for Warners to bring scabs in to do the work on NZ workers. Disgusting!

    • 13 December 2012 at 4:52 pm

      I’d be interested in more info and details, if you have it, “roadie”?

  20. Jeremy B
    13 December 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks Frank, I agree completely. At the time I made a decision to boycott any and all products of and by “Sir” Peter Jackson for the rest of my life.

    • 13 December 2012 at 4:53 pm

      Indeed, Jeremy. In fact, with each passing day I’m less inclined to go see it….

  21. Mike
    4 January 2013 at 10:15 pm

    All a great fuss about nothing……..Its time to enjoy the Hobbit the book and the movie. After all its a children’s tale and for those few who reading all sorts of issues like ’48 frames’ or horses neglected or deals with government and manipulation of Taxes who cares? The film was brought to the screen and we will all be the richer. The Viewers will have their say and our children will have had the chance to seer brought to life something deep and meaningful in a superficial world of people grandstanding for attention who forget to weight the benefits
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  22. 5 January 2013 at 10:29 am

    “… horses neglected or deals with government and manipulation of Taxes who cares?”

    Many do care, Mike. There’s more to life than simply enjoying something for one’s own gratification…

    As for “weighing the benefits” – that’s a more valid point. The issue boils down to own, simple question; do we change our laws for promised benefits from powerful, wealthy interests?

    Do we sell our legislation and rights to the highest bidder?

    And how does it differ from political/economic prostitution?

    Perhaps a few matters to consider whilst you enjoy the movie…

  23. Dave
    26 February 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Seems to me it comes down to sovereignty?Key and Jackson’s craven behavior shows who’s in charge in NZ. Everything is for sale, workers are cattle.

  1. 26 February 2013 at 10:20 am

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