October 24, 2010

General musings for the week - 24th October 2010

The big news article in the film world this week is around the Hobbit. For those of you who don't now the background let me try and summarise it.

Peter Jackson - the single most successful film-maker in New Zealand's history, and single handed reviver of the New Zealand film industry - has been in pre-production on The Hobbit for 2 years now and worked with New Zealand based actors, supporting artist and technicians over a period of 5 years whilst doing 'The Lord Of The Rings' Trilogy. Since then he has also completed King Kong. During that time he has given work to many, many New Zealand natives who have helped him to get his vision onto the screen. Now with potentially a couple of months to go before filming finally starts, the the New Zealand actors' union Actors Equity issued members with a do-not-work order, preventing actors from working on The Hobbit without a union-negotiated contract. In other words the unions are ONLY NOW coming to the table to try and make sure their members are protected under a deal. Peter Jackson has - quite rightly - stated that unless the order is rescinded he would have to consider taking the production elsewhere. Leavesden Studios in London has been mentioned as a potential location especially as they will have finished the Harry Potter series at that time and the whole complex will be available for filming. I am aligned with giving the actors the best deal they should have under a contract - and if the unions are the people to deal with this then that's fine. However I think unions mandating a do-not-work order preventing their own members from obtaining gainful employment is shameful. In a recent interview Jackson has stated that even though the order has recently been rescinded the studio has no confidence that it will not be reinstated some point in the future thereby leaving the film high-and-dry. After all if you're a union militant enough to stop your members from applying for work on a legitimate film when they have not expressed an issue with the terms and conditions (The boycott has divided the local film industry. More than 1000 angry film technicians, concerned their livelihoods were at stake, protested in Wellington this week. The union cancelled a meeting in Auckland the following day fearing more tension.), would you have any compunction about taking your battle to the studios and causing them problems? I think not.

Personally I'm in two minds about this. One the one hand I think that studios should treat their actors and SA's well and pay them appropriately (As a side issue I was offered work on a major new film this week where the daily rate was £70 - that's atrocious for a film!), on the other hand the unions should try and work with their members rather than going down the 'Arthur Scargill' route of trying to inflict the maximum damage on 'the enemy' regardless of the cost to the industry as a whole. (For those too young to remember, Arthur Scargill lead the National Miners Union in the Uk in the 1980's. He battled furiously with Margaret Thatcher for supremacy, brought the miners out on strike constantly, and in the end killed the British mining industry with his intransigence). If the CTU and Actors Equity in New Zealand aren't careful, they will drive the New Zealand film industry overseas and ruin a multi-billion dollar cash cow.

In other news: A crocodile brought down a plane this week after it escaped into the cabin and caused the pilot to lose control. Apparantly the stewardess and passengers ran towards the cockpit upsetting the balance of the plane. Both the Belgian pilot and his British co-pilot were unable to recover. Ironically the crocodile escaped the crash but was macheted to death shortly after. This all happened in the Congo. Is it just me or would this have had more coverage in the press if it had happened in the Cotswolds? Why is that?

Video of the week is the new one by Mark Ronson. This has Boy George in it and purports to be made from old home-videos he shot in the 80's. Is it really? And if it isn't, who is playing Boy George?