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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
From Variety: Unions to thesps:" Don't work on The Hobbit"
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entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 27 2010, 10:21pm

Post #126 of 330 (2273 views)
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NZ vs US Law [In reply to] Can't Post

The independent contractor rules in the US are based on the payroll withholding rules - employees have taxes withheld and independent contractors do not. Independent contractors are required to pay the full load of Social Security taxes, while employees only pay half - the employers pay the other half. Employees are covered in most states by unemployment, the taxes for which are paid by the employers. Independent contractors can not file for unemployment in most states in the US. NZ does not have the Social Security system that the US has, so the concept of paying FICA taxes will not be the same.

All those rules come from the US tax treatment of employees vs. independent contractors. NZ law is bound to be different, and is likely to be less advanced than US law. Outside the US, the chief source of income for governments is the VAT, not the income or employment taxes. The US government is primarily funded by the income tax, which includes employment taxes, so the laws on treatment of workers is very complex. The NZ tax system, if it is similar to many European systems, is complex in the VAT areas, but not so much in the income tax areas.

I'm going into all this detail to point out that actors and film crews in the US are subject to different rules and it's difficult to extrapolate those rules to NZ. I agree fully with your points about the transition that NZ must be experiencing, but it doesn't necessarily follow that the rule about independent contractors is primarily for the benefit of the film industry.

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Altaira
Superuser / Moderator


Sep 27 2010, 10:21pm

Post #127 of 330 (2272 views)
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Read Ataahua's posts [In reply to] Can't Post

She posted some good links yesterday that clarify. And, as I replied to her after reading some of them, it doesn' t matter what 'words' are used in a contract (contractor or employee). What matters is history, industry practice and the interpretation of the courts.

So, if actors are considered contractors, PJ cannot legally bargain with them, or with a union as their representative, collectively. He can offer individual contracts, which is the norm in the industry based on Iolite's comments above.


Koru: Maori symbol representing a fern frond as it opens. The koru reaches towards the light, striving for perfection, encouraging new, positive beginnings.



"Life can't be all work and no TORn" -- jflower

"I take a moment to fervently hope that the camaradarie and just plain old fun I found at TORn will never end" -- LOTR_nutcase



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Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 27 2010, 10:24pm

Post #128 of 330 (2327 views)
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Well thanks for being honest about your perspective :-) [In reply to] Can't Post

I would never expect any company to hire a non union actor and pay them a union salary, it's almost laughable.

I am by no means an expert so take this for what it's worth. I can immediately imagine a way that non union gets paid as much as union. If you consider union dues and figure in the difference just that alone can be a factor. This is all hypothetical so don't jump on my figures. Wink Say union dues are $700 a year. Union member makes $4000 for the year off the production. If no other productions figure in for the year (more likely in a big production) - that's actually $3300 take-home. So if PJ pays non-union peeps $3300 it's the same. PJ saves $700.


King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.


Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 27 2010, 10:28pm

Post #129 of 330 (2317 views)
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Thanks for your review entmaiden [In reply to] Can't Post

I haven't had a chance to see it yet (I don't think it's released here yet) but it has caught my attention.

King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.


Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 27 2010, 10:29pm

Post #130 of 330 (2276 views)
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I hope you're right and that this is "much ado about nothing". [In reply to] Can't Post

 

King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 27 2010, 10:31pm

Post #131 of 330 (2343 views)
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In the US, it's a facts and circumstances test [In reply to] Can't Post

and there are no specific professions that are defined as independent contractors. The determination depends on the degree of control exerted over the contractor/employee, the number of jobs held by the contractor/employee, the ownership of the work product, and the term of the agreement, among other factors.

It's possible that NZ has taken a different route and unilaterally declared certain professions or types of work as being performed by independent contractors. I think the more likely explanation is the articles were short-cutting the specifics by saying that actors are independent contractors by law. Most actors turn out to be independent contractors by applying a facts and circumstances test, so the statements are giving the usual custom the force of law.

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(This post was edited by entmaiden on Sep 27 2010, 10:37pm)


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 27 2010, 10:32pm

Post #132 of 330 (2352 views)
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I saw it at a film festival in the US, but [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think it's had wide release yet. I have a couple other objections to it, but don't want to give away a large part of the story, so I'll wait until you've seen it.

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Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 27 2010, 10:36pm

Post #133 of 330 (2356 views)
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Oh I don't doubt squire's right [In reply to] Can't Post

I had just missed that point. Time to go back to those older posts and see what I missed.

King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Sep 27 2010, 10:41pm

Post #134 of 330 (2328 views)
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Implying/Non-binding [In reply to] Can't Post

Sorry, I was just going by what you said here:


Quote

We already have a framework in place called the "Pink Book" which has been successfully used for years to provide a non-binding set of best practices for actors contracts/work conditions and a similar one (called the "Blue Book") for crew members.



The problem is, it's either binding, that is to say legally enforceable, mutually agreed upon and satisfactory to both the company and the workers or it is not.

Companies have been offering these sort-of-contracts, bills of workers' rights (a company named Magna calles theirs the Magna Charter) and best practices thingies for a while now. These so-called contracts are often little better than work standards that already exist (but that few workers know about) and are not, by design, enforceable. Yes people can make noise and ask for better treatment but it remains at management's discretion whether to honour their side of the agreement. There is no recourse if management chooses to resort to "worst practices."

As for wages being the main carrot to attact film investment. Well yes this is a common strategy because it is easier for investors to see if the people doing the actual work are willing to take less, then it leaves more for them.

However, the experience in the Toronto film industry shows that even a willingness to work for less does not guarantee a sustainable industry, even less a healthy lifestyle for people working in it.

The funny thing is some Canadian entertainment unions agreed to a lower wage scale for new workers and certain classifications as well as relaxed on some prior tenents including allowing even lower paid non-unionized workers on union films. The results were: the work that came to town helped no one pay their bills for very long; a safety violation (on the set of Jumpers) got someone who was exhibiting that can-do spirit unions are supposed to be against killed; and the Canadian dollar rose to par with the US dollar chasing all but the most expensive, exclusive productions away anyway. Of those who chose Toronto over Vancouver or Montreal, there were few.

All this is to say it is great you have a shot at working on a big production. But agreeing to work for less just to keep productions coming to NZ is no guarantee that they will. This may be a case of needing to make hay while the sun shines.

All the best to youSmile



Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Sep 27 2010, 10:42pm

Post #135 of 330 (2391 views)
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Sadly, I'm not convinced that it is [In reply to] Can't Post

I have been an optimist about these films from the beginning, but I am more concerned about this issue and it's impact on the films than I have been about all of the past issues, including the Tolkien Estate lawsuit, MGM's financial problems, and GdT's departure.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

www.arda-reconstructed.com


Kangi Ska
Half-elven


Sep 27 2010, 10:43pm

Post #136 of 330 (2274 views)
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A team of international labor lawyers will straighten this out. [In reply to] Can't Post

And that should sideline the issue for years.

Kangi Ska

Make the Hobbit Happen Now!

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Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


Sep 27 2010, 10:50pm

Post #137 of 330 (2357 views)
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Karl Urban backs the union's stance [In reply to] Can't Post

"[The] NZ Actors Equity has my full support in their struggle to gain a higher standard of contract for New Zealand performers," Urban said.
"If he [Jackson] has the opportunity to help improve the working conditions for actors in New Zealand, to bring us more in line with our colleagues in Australia, the UK, and the US, I hope this is a dialogue which he would engage in, and an endeavour which he would support."

Full story here.

I hope the main players can soon leave the inflammatory language behind and start talking to each other. This is beginning to sound a bit schoolyard, with emotions heating up without progress being made.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 27 2010, 10:59pm

Post #138 of 330 (2341 views)
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Any particulars on this? [In reply to] Can't Post

Jackson, who has called the union an "Aussie bully", said actors were independent contractors, which made union representation illegal under New Zealand law.
MEAA disagrees, citing a 2005 landmark decision that ruled a Lord of the Rings model maker was an employee, not a contractor. The Supreme Court awarded the worker costs of $38,000.

Count me confused. Smile



King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.


Altaira
Superuser / Moderator


Sep 27 2010, 11:13pm

Post #139 of 330 (2255 views)
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See inside [In reply to] Can't Post

Link to one of my comments to Ataahua.

It seems there are 'landmark' decisions on both sides. Without knowing the exact details of each case, it's impossible to draw any further conclusions except, maybe that the FIA quoted the decision that seems to tilt things in their favor without mentioning others that seem to contradict their point.


Koru: Maori symbol representing a fern frond as it opens. The koru reaches towards the light, striving for perfection, encouraging new, positive beginnings.



"Life can't be all work and no TORn" -- jflower

"I take a moment to fervently hope that the camaradarie and just plain old fun I found at TORn will never end" -- LOTR_nutcase



TORn Calendar


Elladan
Rivendell

Sep 27 2010, 11:17pm

Post #140 of 330 (2262 views)
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Totally different [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Jackson, who has called the union an "Aussie bully", said actors were independent contractors, which made union representation illegal under New Zealand law.
MEAA disagrees, citing a 2005 landmark decision that ruled a Lord of the Rings model maker was an employee, not a contractor. The Supreme Court awarded the worker costs of $38,000.

Count me confused. Smile




Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 27 2010, 11:20pm

Post #141 of 330 (2267 views)
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Thank you thank you Altaira [In reply to] Can't Post

Indeed I was thinking about the details - the devil Himself resides in them. I agree it would seem on the surface there are conflicting legal precedents. I would like to see each actor that throws down on one side or another comment on this particular bit - it seems a rather important bit. WinkTongueLaugh No point in calling on PJ to weigh in, Mr. Urban, if he legally can't. Crazy

King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.

(This post was edited by Tim on Sep 27 2010, 11:21pm)


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 27 2010, 11:22pm

Post #142 of 330 (2288 views)
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One might also need to consider the jurisdiction of the court that decided the case. [In reply to] Can't Post

In the US, different courts have wider jurisdiction and can trump the results of other courts, and we have the Supreme Court, which trumps all courts. NZ might have a similar system, so the findings of one court might override the findings of another court. Of course, the timing of the decisions could have an impact - a more recent decision would carry more weight.

Finally, we would have to review the facts of each case to see if they are on point. Some cases are very narrowly decided and it's difficult to apply them to broader situations.

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Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 27 2010, 11:27pm

Post #143 of 330 (2267 views)
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That's cool [In reply to] Can't Post

How is it totally different? Smile

King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.


Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 27 2010, 11:29pm

Post #144 of 330 (2216 views)
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Indeed our land is a Lawyer's Paradise. [In reply to] Can't Post

Cool

But good points and all true and all going back to the details, details.

King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.


squire
Half-elven


Sep 27 2010, 11:43pm

Post #145 of 330 (2346 views)
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A model maker is not an actor [In reply to] Can't Post

Since Jackson's statement refers to actors, and one case we have seen cited is about an actor losing a claim because of being a contractor, and the MEAA is citing a case about a model-maker winning a claim to be an employee, and none of us really knows what NZ law says about independent contractors in the film industry,

we're kind of speculating here.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
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Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 27 2010, 11:49pm

Post #146 of 330 (2234 views)
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I require an expert NZ lawyer panel post haste! [In reply to] Can't Post

Compensation of course will be in Twinkies, copies of Mad Magazine, and all the Gatorade they can drink.

King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.


Iolite
The Shire

Sep 28 2010, 12:13am

Post #147 of 330 (2325 views)
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Recommended guidelines only... [In reply to] Can't Post

Sorry, I may not have explained myself very clearly? I should make it clear that I'm certainly no expert in this area having only worked in the industry on a handful of jobs so far and only as a crew member, not as an actor. Blush

The Pink Book is the Code of Practice for the Engagement of Cast in the NZ Screen Production Industry. The latest edition was from 2005 and was ratified and jointly agreed on by SPADA (Screen Production and Development Association, who represent production companies and producers interests), New Zealand Actors’ Agents' Guild, Actors’ Agents’ Association of New Zealand and New Zealand Actors’ Equity.

The Blue Book is the Code of Practice for the Engagement of Crew in the NZ Screen Production Industry. The latest edition was from 2004 and has been produced by SPADA and the NZ Film & Video Technicians’ guild to provide a reference document of best-practice processes for the engagement of crew in the New Zealand screen production industry.

My understanding is that the Blue and Pink books provide a recommended set of guidelines that producers can choose to incorporate (or not) in the contracts that they present to the cast or crew member. The guidelines in the Pink and Blue Books are totally non-binding and unenforceable as far as I am aware, because in actual fact neither the producer nor the contractor is signing a copy of the Blue or Pink Book, nor have the Blue and Pink Books been passed as any sort of law. It is purely to help the producers know what the industry representative associations/guilds recommend should be included in the contracts they create and to help the contractor know what is the recommended industry practice, so that they can determine if the contract is in line with industry recommendations (but not binding laws). Actual contracts between producers and contractors could vary considerably from the recommendations oulined in the Blue and Pink Books. It is ultimately upto the producer and contractor to negotiate the terms of the work contract and decide whether or not they are happy to work under the conditions of the contract. There is no industry standard contract for every production. Each production company creates new contracts when they offer the jobs to cast or crew and the cast or crew have the choice to sign them or not. I would assume that if something that is written in the contract between the production company and the contractor is breached by either party, then the same legal avenues that apply to contractors in any NZ industry would apply. In other words a contractor could take the production company to court and vice versa if they felt there was a breach of contract.

However I believe most production companies do try to stick as closely as possible to the guidelines set forth in the Pink and Blue Books as a gesture of goodwill and respect towards the cast and crew. In return they expect cast and crew to do the best job that they can in the timeframe of the production and this is usually what happens. The New Zealand film industry is small, which means (as least for crew) your reputation is key. If you don't work hard you won't be employed again by that person. It is very much about who you know and whether or not they have worked with you before. If they remember you as someone who didn't do the work to their required standard or slacked off at every opportunity, then they won't give you anymore work. I can't be sure, but I assume it is much the same with actors. If they don't do the work or act like divas and are very difficult to work with, producers/directors/casting agents just won't employ them again. Rumours and gossip are rife on sets - even in my short time in the industry I have heard about a number of crew and actors who have a reputation for being hard to work with, constantly 'partying it up', or just plain lazy - these people don't get the work as a result. They are last on everyone's contact lists. Unions are not necessary to ensure that cast and crew work hard - the competition for work is currently enough to do that. Cast and crew also talk about producers and companies that might have ripped them off or been nasty to work for, such that those producers/companies gain a reputation and may find it hard to get the same quality of workers or work that other more favourably viewed producers/companies can. It works both ways and to some extent the industry is self-regulating. This is not to say that the industry couldn't benefit from unionisation or special laws - as stated in my earlier posts I just don't think now is a good time to be doing it. We need the Hobbit films and we need them ASAP. Wait until after they have been made to try to restructure the industry.




grammaboodawg
Immortal


Sep 28 2010, 12:25am

Post #148 of 330 (2260 views)
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And aside on the aside: NBC News [In reply to] Can't Post

(both morning & evening shows) are focusing intensely on that film and has changed their plaza into a forum/info center for "Education Nation" that's addressing the problems and successes of US education. We're rated 21 in global education. Gone from 1 to 21. NBC is really trying to open awareness and give this topic a forum. It should still be there when we go to NYC.

We will now return to our regularly scheduled program :)

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I really need these new films to take me back to, and not re-introduce me to, that magical world.



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grammaboodawg
Immortal


Sep 28 2010, 12:34am

Post #149 of 330 (2372 views)
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I'm always [In reply to] Can't Post

in awe of those of you who are independent. So much satisfaction and flexibility mixed with a bit of terror (at times). *bows to both and all who follow their nose*

sample sample

I really need these new films to take me back to, and not re-introduce me to, that magical world.



TORn's Observations Lists
Unused Scenes



Altaira
Superuser / Moderator


Sep 28 2010, 1:13am

Post #150 of 330 (2395 views)
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** Update from the Home Page: Cate Blanchett and Sir Ian McKellen may decline Hobbit roles in pay row [In reply to] Can't Post

Editorial Comment: I think this is basically a re-hash of other stories. Nothing specific here, like quotes from either actors. -- Altaira



Seven global actors’ unions have instructed their members to walk away from roles in the two big-budget Lord of the Rings prequels because producers have allegedly refused to negotiate a deal guaranteeing wages and working conditions for performers in New Zealand. Unions in the US, Australia, the UK and Canada, acting under the umbrella of the International Federation of Actors (FIA), said Kiwi performers had “struggled on non-union contracts” for some years during filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They said the contracts “provide no minimum guarantees of wages or working conditions”, no payment for future broadcasts and no cancellation payments. More..


Koru: Maori symbol representing a fern frond as it opens. The koru reaches towards the light, striving for perfection, encouraging new, positive beginnings.



"Life can't be all work and no TORn" -- jflower

"I take a moment to fervently hope that the camaradarie and just plain old fun I found at TORn will never end" -- LOTR_nutcase



TORn Calendar

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