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<a href="In the paper today Sir Peter Jackson takes a shot at the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. (MEAA)

Essentially the MEAA is concerned that there are no compulsory union contracts for The Hobbit, and they are pushing a boycott of the film production until contracts are provided. Arguably, these contracts will benefit the cast and crew, ensuring their rights a protected and that they get their due royalties for any money made from the films.

Sir Peter is arguing that it is more about an Australian business bullying their way into NZ’s film industry.

Now, as with so many union based issues, it is never a cut and dry case. I remember when I was a young aspiring actor, I was told matter of factly by my agent at the time that joining the actors union was not a choice. If you didn’t belong, don’t expect to be cast in anything.

This is what really pisses me off about the entertainment industry’s unions. While the idea of a union is a good thing – providing security and bargaining power for actors and crew – the reality is often that the actors and crew are exchanging one abuser for another.

My brief dealings with the union left me feeling that they didn’t care less if I got work or not, as long as they got their fees. And that is the real rub. The entertainment industry, which should be full of creative and excited people keen to produce quality product is instead a brutal industry that can be prone to people who resort to bullying tactics behind the scenes.

Don’t get me wrong, not every actors union or guild is a nasty scumbag – the NZ Writer’s Guild, for example, works hard to help writers protect their work and find people to get their works out into the Market.

But I am inclined to side with Sir Peter on this one. The MEAA seems more interested in forcing memberships than ensuring that the cast and crew of The Hobbit are getting a fair deal. The tactic of spreading negative comments to other guilds and unions, and timing it just as casting calls begin – this seems to me to be more about the MEAA than about it’s members.

There is an anti-competitive streak to this all. I would be interested to know if Boy had met the same criteria that the MEAA are touting. Secondhand Wedding?

I suspect not because neither of those films had the international attention or, to be blunt, money to be worth the fuss. I feel that this is a political stunt to gain cachet and a stronger foothold in NZ’s burgeoning industry.

It is a shame that this is happening, rather than people putting more attention towards actually making films.


September 2010

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