3 Oct 2010

Actors should have gone to Hobbit producers - Gibson

8:07 am on 3 October 2010

A leading New Zealand film producer says the actors' unions have made a big mistake by targeting Sir Peter Jackson, rather than approaching the producers' union over The Hobbit film.

The actors' unions last week called for an international boycott of the film, demanding collective contracts outlining minimum standards.

But Dave Gibson of the Wellington film production company the Gibson Group says there is already a list of negotiated guidelines between producers and actors.

Mr Gibson says Warner Brothers has offered a great deal, including a percentage of The Hobbit's box office profit.

He says the New Zealand actors' union has refused to negotiate for the last few years, waiting instead for a film like The Hobbit to use as a bargaining point.

"The union tactic is to push people into a corner at a vulnerable time and try to nail them to the ground."

It appeared the actors wanted an industry-wide standard agreement that would cover anything from a short film to The Hobbit, which Mr Gibson says is unrealistic.

NZ actors offered residual payments - Wingnut

Sir Peter Jackson's production company Wingnut Films says the actors' unions jumped the gun by calling for a boycott without discussing what was up for offer.

It says that New Zealand actors outside the Screen Actors' Guild will share for the first time some of the proceeds from The Hobbit films.

Wingnut says if the actors had approached the company first, they would have discovered that Warner Brothers was offering residual payments.

Wingnut would not indicate the size of the percentage, but said it was very significant considering the films could earn as much as the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Screen Production and Development Association says Sir Peter has now explained the Warner Brothers offer to the unions, but they have not changed their stance.

The Actors Equity union did not return Radio New Zealand's calls on Saturday.

Filmmaker starts petition against boycott

Wellington filmmaker Chaz Harris says he started an online petition against the actors' boycott of The Hobbit because he is concerned about the damage that is being done to the country's reputation as film-friendly.

Wellington actor Greg Ellis was one of the first people to sign the petition, and says many actors believe the union is putting far more at risk than what it stands to gain.

The petition has more than 1000 signatures.

Wellington actor, Greg Ellis, says there's a real risk that the union's actions will force The Hobbit overseas, and discourage other productions from filming in New Zealand.

Actor Gareth Ruck says there's a lot of confusion about what Actors' Equity is asking for, and not all actors support the union action.