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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

HOBBIT STRIKES

"My personal opinion is that this is a grab for power."

Strange doings continue on the Hobbit scene. Efforts to get the film started are still having problems as now the Screen Actors Guild is pressuring New Zealand actors to join the local actors group NZ Actors Equity. Josh Dickey at The Wrap reports:
Members were advised in an alert sent over the weekend "not to accept work on this non-union production" of the MGM blockbuster-to-be, which is still awaiting the official greenlight from financially troubled MGM before shooting -- tentatively scheduled for next year -- can begin.

Guilds involved include SAG, AFTRA and several international unions. The New Zealand unit of an Australian union had made attempts to organize the film, according to the alert.
Basically SAG wants to shut down The Hobbit until everyone joins their club (or at least the NZ equivalent). Peter Jackson, the producer, is understandably dismayed at this effort, but its interesting to watch this pro-union guy start to figure out the problem here. Here's a few excerpts from his response:
Behind the claims of exploiting actors who are cast in the “non-Union” Hobbitproduction, and claims that various high-profile stars will refuse to take part in the films, there are clear agendas at work. As usual with these agendas, they are based on money and power.
...
Personally speaking, I’m not anti-Union in the slightest. I’m a very proud and loyal member of three Hollywood Unions – the Directors Guild, the Producers Guild and the Writers Guild. I support the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).
...
For the Hobbit, Warner Brothers have agreed to create a separate pot of profit participation, which will be divided up amongst non-SAG actors who are cast in the film.
...
There will always be differing opinions when it comes down to work and conditions, but I have always attempted to treat my actors and crew with fairness and respect. We have created a very favourable profit sharing pool for the non-Union actors on The Hobbit — and now the Union is targeting us, despite the fact that we have always respected SAG conditions and residuals.
...
But it sure feels like we are being attacked simply because we are a big fat juicy target – not for any wrong doing. We haven’t even been greenlit yet! It feels as if we have a large Aussie cousin kicking sand in our eyes … or to put it another way, opportunists exploiting our film for their own political gain.
Basically he's noticing that the union isn't particularly interested in the actors or their situation at all, just that they are after the power and money that having members brings.

Now, Jackson tries to spin this all as some vast Australian power play (?) in order to avoid blaming unions for anything, but the story is pretty easy to read between the lines. Variety is now reporting that New Line, Warner Brothers, and MGM are hitting back at SAG's power play here. Dave McNary reports:
The studios issued the statement Monday night, a day after "Hobbit" exec producer Peter Jackson blasted the unions over the boycott.

And they also said that they were considering moving the production from New Zealand to avoid a potential disruption.
Personally, I'm a bit uncomfortable with the entire Hobbit project to begin with. The Lord of the Rings was visually stunning but was very uneven from a fan's perspective and the idea of making two Hobbit movies with the second being almost totally invented out of Peter Jackson's imagination based on stuff that was said to have happened between the movies is a matter of some concern, to say the least.

This movie has been delayed by one thing after another and its costing millions without even having a script or shot a single frame of film yet.

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