29 Sep 2010

Actors to shun work on Hobbit movie

8:35 pm on 29 September 2010

Hundreds of New Zealand actors say they will not consider working on the film of The Hobbit until they have a meeting with Sir Peter Jackson.

Australian-based union Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance is calling for a worldwide boycott of the film until the producers enter a collective bargaining agreement with the union.

Sir Peter has said New Zealand law does not allow for a collective agreement, and has threatened to move filming of The Hobbit to Eastern Europe.

About 200 performers met in Auckland on Tuesday night to decide their next move in a stand-off with producers.

Actor's Equity president Jennifer Ward-Lealand said after the meeting that their members insist on a meeting with The Hobbit's producers.

She recommends that actors wait until the parties reach an agreement before accepting any work.

Ms Ward-Lealand does not think the move will push the film overseas, but the American studio financing The Hobbit says it is exploring other locations.

However, a movie critic in the United States does not think threats to shift the shooting overseas will eventuate.

New York Magazine movie editor Kyle Buchanan says he thinks that it is just a ploy and any such move would be a major blow to the confidence Hollywood has in the movie if filming was relocated.

Mr Buchanan said that even if the producers moved the production, the unions are so united in opposition that there would still be big problems trying to cast the movie.

Collective agreement expensive - lawyer

An employment lawyer says it would be far more expensive for Sir Peter Jackson to offer actors hired for The Hobbit a collective agreement.

Peter Cullen says contractors such as actors do not have collective agreements, but employed workers do.

Mr Cullen told Checkpoint employing actors would be more costly because they have to be paid for statutory holidays, annual leave and sick leave.

The company would also have to pay out for more people to deal with employment matters, he says.