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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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Sep 25 2010, 7:50pm

Post #1 of 330 (14056 views)
From Variety: Unions to thesps:" Don't work on The Hobbit" Can't Post

Posted: Sat., Sep. 25, 2010, 12:15pm PT
Move comes as films' producers refuse to ink deal with N.Z. performers By DAVE MCNARY
The seven major actors unions have told members not to work on "The Hobbit" due to the refusal of producers to sign a deal with local New Zealand performers.
The unions issued the admonishment Friday, noting that "The Hobbit" producers have indicated they intend to make "imminent" offers to performers.
"The makers of feature film 'The Hobbit' – to be shot in New Zealand next year – have refused to engage
performers on union-negotiated agreements," the member alert said. "Members of Canadian Actors Equity, US Actors Equity, the Screen Actors Guild, UK Actors Equity, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (Australia) and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists are advised not to accept work on this non-union production. If you are contacted to be engaged on 'The Hobbit' please notify your union immediately."
The move has been coordinated through Intl. Federation of Actors, of which the unions world are members, to support the New Zealand performers. "All unions remain hopeful that this situation can be resolved with goodwill on all sides," the group said.
Move by the unions adds more uncertainty to the fate of the back-to-back "Hobbit" films, which have still not been greenlit by co-financers New Line and MGM. A New Line spokesperson said the studio had no comment and reps for Peter Jackson -- who's exec producing and may direct -- were not immediately available.,
Guillermo del Toro departed the project in late May as director and Jackson had been in subsequent talks to take over as helmer, according to sources close to the situation. Additionally, MGM's debtholders remain in the midst of sorting out the future of the studio, hobbled by debts of $3.7 billion, with Spyglass toppers Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum having recently signed a non-binding letter of intent to operate MGM once it completes a restructuring that's expected to include a pre-packaged bankruptcy.
"The Hobbit" films are based on the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, who obtains the ring that was the centerpiece of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy of books and films. Del Toro, who committed to direct "The Hobbit" pics in 2008, said in May that sets, wardrobe, animatics and planned battles sequences had all been fully prepared.
The admonition by the unions to their members doesn't prevent actors from working on "The Hobbit" but puts them on notice that they could be punished.
SAG, for example, enacted a Global Rule One initiative in 2002 that urged its 100,000 members not to violate a key provision of its constitution that bars members from working for producers not signatory to its agreements. Violators face suspension, fines and expulsion -- although SAG's never disclosed whether it's disciplined any members for Rule One violations.
The Intl. Federation of Actors -- known as FIA -- said that New Zealand initiative dates back to 2006, when performers contacted the Australian actors union (the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance). It asserted that the New Zealand performers have been working under contracts providing no minimum guarantees of wages or working conditions, no residual payments and no cancellation payments.
The announcement said that the New Zealand branch of the Alliance has sought since 2006 to negotiate with both individual producers and with the producers' association but to no avail. "At a recent meeting FIA decided that the situation had persisted long enough and that it was time for action to be taken," it said.
continuing on (i dont have subspriction)

What does this mean exactly?

Tol Eressea

Sep 25 2010, 8:34pm

Post #2 of 330 (8716 views)
My amatuer opinion is [In reply to] Can't Post

any unions that may be involved definitely want to be involved (in The Hobbit) and are willing to do a little strong-arming to have their way.

Personally, I'm tired of unions. They seem to muck up everything they're involved in. I'm sure there are worthwhile ones out there but these days they seem to cause more problems than they're worth. Here in the States I speak of their impact on our teachers, our automobile industry, and my direct experience I've had with them in the exposition industry. I don't really have a problem with the idea of collective bargaining but there's got to be a better way to implement it.

*jumps off soap box and dodges veggies thrown*

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 25 2010, 8:41pm)


Sep 25 2010, 8:40pm

Post #3 of 330 (8551 views)
" "The Hobbit" producers have indicated they intend to make "imminent" offers to performers" [In reply to] Can't Post

That line is encouraging. As for the rest, I have no comment, as I don't have enough information one way or the other.

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



Sep 25 2010, 9:17pm

Post #4 of 330 (8415 views)
It's an attempt at a boycott of sorts [In reply to] Can't Post

The FIA obviously sees this as a 'last best shot' at getting movie producers in New Zealand to accept unionized New Zealand actors.

Getting other unionized actors around the world, some of whom have been in negotiations for parts in The Hobbit, to make noises that they may not accept their parts unless the move-makers cave in is a pretty cheeky ploy, IMHO, not only to put actual pressure on the producers, but to publicize the perceived plight of New Zealand actors. It also puts pressure on actors who are considering accepting parts to have second thoughts lest they're perceived as traitors by their fellow actors.

Not sure how well it will work though. Most, if not all, of the big name non-NZ actors on LOTR were members of unions while their NZ counterparts were not, and it didn't seem to be much of a big deal then. It sounds like they all got equally bad deals, lol. Laugh Plus, it could come back to bite them in the rear. I think one of the advantages of filming in NZ vs. other locations is that the actors aren't unionized. Becoming unionized may level the playing field, so to speak, making NZ locations a little less attractive than they are now, and actually decrease the amount of available acting work.

Still, a very interesting ploy, and very interesting timing on the unions' part.

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(This post was edited by Altaira on Sep 26 2010, 3:52am)


Sep 25 2010, 9:27pm

Post #5 of 330 (8372 views)
More info/links in here, too... [In reply to] Can't Post

Here is a link to the SAG Member Alert, a Hobbit FAQ regarding the problems and the letter sent by the FIA to 3 Foot 7 on August 18 urging them to negotiate.

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Kristin Thompson

Sep 25 2010, 9:46pm

Post #6 of 330 (8555 views)
I've got the rest of this story [In reply to] Can't Post

I've put the entire Variety story on my blog (apart from some background information that we all know already). Also the shorter but different Hollywood Reporter version here, again with a bit of familiar background elided.

I've also put up links to the official background history from the unions' points of view, as well as direct links to the three letters send to the producers (two to the 3 Foot 7 officials and one to Warner Bros. and MGM) here.

Sorry for so many posts on the same story, but this has been, as they say, a fast-developing situation. Probably more to come.

I don't know much about what all this implies. It would seem crucial to know just how much power these unions have over their members when it comes to issuing orders of this kind (i.e., do not take a job on one of the most exciting, highly anticipated film projects in the world). I shall watch the comments section of Nikki Finke's post on the union orders.


Sep 25 2010, 9:55pm

Post #7 of 330 (8316 views)
Does anyone else just want to scream at this point? [In reply to] Can't Post

... we are so overdue a crumb of good news - really good news - which doesn't come with a sting in the tail.


Sep 25 2010, 10:40pm

Post #8 of 330 (8227 views)
Like crawling over broken glass [In reply to] Can't Post

It can be read two ways - actual activity is prompting the union protest which may delay actual activity.

These things tend to get worked out eventually.....let us get a greenlight first then we can worry about production delays. The biggest concern would be if major role actors observed the union embargo.

Grey Havens

Sep 25 2010, 11:23pm

Post #9 of 330 (8145 views)
Jeez [In reply to] Can't Post

It's one thing after another with this project.


Sep 25 2010, 11:43pm

Post #10 of 330 (8247 views)
More hurdles ahead? [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting that at this stage Nikke Finke has Peter Jackson AS Director of the Hobbit movies -


....confronting Peter Jackson, the director and producer of the long planned and high profile back-to-back Hobbit movies ....
....The long delayed MGM/Warner Bros/New Line project consisting of 2 back-to-back films produced and directed by Peter Jackson ....

It is also interesting that the Unions are banding together now for this - and I'm assuming that the films must be very close to being Greenlit and that contracts are on the table to be signed, and they have been viewed by the Unions or members - otherwise, why has this come to light now?
It also makes me think that there may be delays during the Production of the films due to Union involvement.

Is this a comedy? Because their timing is impeccable.


Sep 25 2010, 11:49pm

Post #11 of 330 (8152 views)
who do they mean by "producers" [In reply to] Can't Post

they say the producers won't cut a deal with non-unionized actors....do they mean Peter???? Or the studios??? Did I miss something, because this is making me want to hurl......why does this project seemed plagued??? Does Hollywood fear New Zealand's industry?? What is behind this....I just want to see Smaug and Bilbo debate.....

Kristin Thompson

Sep 26 2010, 12:29am

Post #12 of 330 (8259 views)
Peter directing? [In reply to] Can't Post

The Hollywood Reporter also says he's directing. There has been no official announcement. I suspect that the reporters, like us, think that PJ will probably direct, mainly because he was said to be in talks to do so--and we haven't heard any rumors at all about anyone else taking over. (Unless you count the two seconds when people thought maybe Neill Blomkamp would direct.) I don't think it's settled.

At this point I don't think we have any way of knowing whether the unions' demands and threats will have any real impact on The Hobbit. For over a decade now, New Zealand has been making films, including big, epic, franchise films, without unions. The unions have probably seen many contracts from past productions and know that there has been no change in the way the Kiwi film industry operates.

This, of course, is one reason why there is so much overseas production, to save on labor costs, and the unions become weaker as this trend continues. For years now there has been a demand that actors working on films shot abroad should have the same contract conditions that they would have if working in the US. Hollywood has lost many billions of dollars, and all the support companies in the Los Angeles area suffer as well, as does the tax base for the region, etc. So it's a real concern for sure, but as you say, why target this particular production? I suppose because if the unions win this one, it's a big, big triumph.

Tol Eressea

Sep 26 2010, 12:36am

Post #13 of 330 (8187 views)
Well if New Zealand caves to unions [In reply to] Can't Post

they have to know that will just mean film makers will look somewhere else to make their movies. Sooner or later the members of these unions are going to figure out that their "leadership" is just hurting their business. Stay non-union New Zealand - for your own sake. Smile

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

Pipe Dream

Sep 26 2010, 1:06am

Post #14 of 330 (8262 views)
Is this some kind of a joke??? [In reply to] Can't Post

It's like April Fool's Day but in some other country I don't know about, right? I guess I shouldn't still be surprised at this point. Unbelievable.


Pre-Pre-production goes ever on and on...

(This post was edited by Pipe Dream on Sep 26 2010, 1:11am)

Captain Salt
Tol Eressea

Sep 26 2010, 2:38am

Post #15 of 330 (8116 views)
Oh the humanity!!! [In reply to] Can't Post

It really does seem that God/the Valar/whatever higher powers there are don't want Peter Jackson to make these movies.

But why??!? If God/the Valar/whoever were going to stop a set of prequels from being made, why couldn't they have marooned George Lucas on a dessert island before made the new Star Wars trilogy?!

I really hope this isn't the nail in the coffin for TH. Jackson is only going to spend so much more time dedicated to this project before he pulls a GdT and moves on to something that isn't cursed.

Samuel L. Jackson for Bilbo, Woody Allen for Thorin, Lewis Black for Bard and Gilbert Gottfried for Smaug!



Sep 26 2010, 3:47am

Post #16 of 330 (8153 views)
The whole point ... [In reply to] Can't Post

... is to ensure that actors who do mot have a union are assured a decent wage for the work they do. Acting is a hard profession, and studios are notoroius for taking advantage of their actors - I've seen it happen time and time again. Jobs are often few and far between for most of them, and the unions not only provide a set sliding scale of pay that ensures at least something fair goes into the actors' coffers, but also ensures that an actor's rights are not impugned - something many of us take for granted. SAG, AFTRA and others also provide health cover and a number of other benefits in an industry in which it is very VERY difficult to make a decent living except for the chosen few.

ALL of these unions have a LOT of clout, and I have no doubt that many bigger names - who CAN'T act without having an Equity card and for whom SAG/AFTRA membership is essential, will probably follow the request and hold fire. C'mon, Studio Suits - sign the dratted agreements and get on with making the darned film. Stop penny-pinching and treat your actors properly!



Sep 26 2010, 4:06am

Post #17 of 330 (7973 views)
Well said. / [In reply to] Can't Post



Sep 26 2010, 4:27am

Post #18 of 330 (8127 views)
Yes [In reply to] Can't Post

I have heard a lot of outrage here in the past about how the Lord of the Rings actors - the "unknowns" - got shafted in their original contracts because they were unknowns. Gee, how could they pay those guys low money for a tough-to-finance film, but not commit to more later if the film is a big hit? If I remember, the LotR actors even went on a "mini-strike" about making post-release publicity appearances until the film studio coughed up something resembling the money these actors had earned for the studio. Kind as if the actors suddenly saw the point about needing unions in an industry that regards actors (except the .01% who are known names and can fight back) like it regards all of its highly skilled and dedicated labor force: as dirt. Why is the outrage once expressed here on behalf of poor old Billy Boyd and Viggo Mortensen not being carried forward to an understanding of why unions are trying to represent the low-level workers in a multi-billion dollar LotR sequel that is going to give every executive involved a second or third vacation home?

When I ran an Art Department I realized that union-mandated overtime after 8 or 10 hours was the only thing that even began to protect my crew. I was under the gun to get as much done for as little money as possible. Knowing that any mistake of mine in scheduling or estimating would lead to massive overtime bills, it became my (and my superiors, the Producers') responsibility to think ahead and manage efficiently, rather than make constant last-minute and thoughtless changes that could be offloaded onto the crew's not unlimited reserves of energy and enthusiasm. These guys and gals weren't sitting around eating donuts. They were Union professionals who were working their butts off to make a film. Being told you have to work an extra six hours on top of the 10 you just did, because "I want to try a new shot I just thought of" or "oh, we forgot that trees wouldn't be green in November", is something you get used to, and you do it - of course you do it. You want to make the film just like everyone else. But getting paid double for those six hours by contract is the only proof you have that someone realizes that a 16-hour workday is actually a very bad thing and represents bad producing - not art for art's sake.

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N.E. Brigand

Sep 26 2010, 4:33am

Post #19 of 330 (8091 views)
Absolutely. [In reply to] Can't Post

Speaking as someone whose job sometimes involves frustrating interaction with an actors' union, I nonetheless agree entirely with your post.

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Sep 26 2010, 4:44am

Post #20 of 330 (7956 views)
Also well said [In reply to] Can't Post

while it may look a tad opportunistic -- especially targeting a production outside of North America -- it does pay to be proactive in this case given the ample evidence that things were handled poorly the last time around. In fact it's kind of refreshing to see organizations popularly held to be anachronistic learning from past mistakes and adjusting their strategies accordingly.


Sep 26 2010, 4:47am

Post #21 of 330 (8092 views)
thumbs up to this (and Hellmistress's) // [In reply to] Can't Post


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Sep 26 2010, 5:31am

Post #22 of 330 (8068 views)
union [In reply to] Can't Post

as a fellow thespian whom recieved these same letters - i can understand entirely where the union stands etc - am I getting involved??? Hell no,

Bard's case to Thorin


Sep 26 2010, 6:31am

Post #23 of 330 (8216 views)
Sorry Kristin ... [In reply to] Can't Post

I meant to mention that Peter Directing was an assumption I was questioning as well - it is my hope that he will, and it is my hope that in doing so these films will go ahead soon (as they seem to be proceeding) it doesn't surprise me if he may be Directing, but I know nothing is official as yet - lets hope.
But if I remember rightly, the Unions were stalking the LOTR over the same subject - though I must say that even without the Union being involved, the actors, extras and other film members, were able to renogotiate and get more money, and for some, get paid.

Isn't PJ, Fran and Philippa a member of SAG?

and I meant to mention to both you at Altaira 'thank-you for the links' as well Wink


Sep 26 2010, 9:37am

Post #24 of 330 (8000 views)
well said [In reply to] Can't Post

To you dear squire - well put! Exactly the point of unions

Bard's case to Thorin


Sep 26 2010, 3:11pm

Post #25 of 330 (8055 views)
the more I think about this... [In reply to] Can't Post

... the more ironic it seems, that the people who stand to lose financially by these films (that's us*!) are the ones shouting "make them" while those who will gain some form of payment, from a pittance to a fortune, seem determined to put bricks in the path...

Or maybe I've been thinking too much.... Crazy

Of course every actor (and technician and artist and everyone else involved, from the top down to the ones who fetch and carry) should be paid properly and treated fairly, with or without a union. But is that what this is really about or is someone just muscle-flexing, having spotted a big and highly anticipated production which seems to be about to move forward (and will attract a lot of publicity). Several sites are reporting that the production side say that can't sign a union agreement because it's not allowed under New Zealand competition laws - if that's true, then it's the New Zealand government the unions should be talking to.... Don't know, don't pretend to understand who's right or wrong... I just wish.....

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