Hobbit debate moving into the realms of fantasy

In the spirit of the film itself, the Hobbit debate is moving into the realms of fantasy.

Last night around 100 people, organised by the Jackson camp, walked by my parliamentary office calling for an end to the international actors’ boycott of the Hobbit.

Today the union claim that protest leader, Sir Richard Taylor, already knew

that boycott had been lifted


A few weeks ago we heard Peter Jackson say it was impossible and illegal for Actors Equity to meet with him to discuss actors’ conditions and remuneration. Now we hear there have been discussions with his camp, and the producers industry body SPADA.

Has Peter Jackson now recognised that actors, like all other New Zealand workers, are entitled to collectively bargain with an employer, and not just talk to a broader industry body like SPADA?

The idea that this cannot happen because some of them are ‘contractors’ is a bit of a red herring, and Peter Jackson has

already lost a court case on this matter

.   While some actors might be ‘contractors’ for tax purposes, because of the short term and irregular nature of their employment, they are generally employees in other respects, including having to obey instructions from a  film director. Whatever the legal fight over definitions, actors’ representatives are allowed to discuss standards with particular employers – as has apparently been happening.

It is hard to see that this furore is mainly about the actors’ claim. Even if they got all they wanted it would hardly make much of a dent on the huge Hobbit budget. The bigger financial issues are around the

Large Budget Screen Production Grants Scheme


Are the actors being used as a scapegoat as the heads of the major film studios count the beans and crunch the numbers to see if another country can give them a sweeter deal?