April 4, 2010

Kiwi’s first … but obviously not for Kiwi performers

Editor    posted 26 Mar 2010, 08:40 AM / edited 28 Mar 2010, 06:40 PM

[NZ Equity release]

New Zealand performers have today expressed their shock and disappointment over the decision to allow a US performer to enter the country and take work away from a New Zealander.

Under New Zealand’s immigration laws, every film or television production wishing to import a performer needs to meet strict guidelines that are designed to ensure New Zealand performers are provided with opportunities to work on all productions. Yesterday the Government took the unprecedented step to allow the relatively unknown US actor Vincent Gallo to enter the country and work on a Steinlager Pure television commercial for New Zealand audiences being shot in Queenstown this week.

“This is an incredibly disappointing decision by the Government to allow Mr Gallo to enter the country and take a job away from a New Zealand performer,” said NZ Equity President Jennifer Ward-Lealand. “Obviously when the government talks about “Kiwis First” it applies to everyone except performers.”

The production claimed that the actor Vincent Gallo was of international distinction and merit since he had worked with Johnny Depp and Martin Scorsese.

“International distinction relies on a performer’s personal stature and work, not on the stature of those with whom he’s worked,” said Ms Ward-Lealand.

Every production seeking to import a performer must also undertake a casting exercise under immigration regulations.

“The casting process undertaken by the production company was ridiculous and designed to ensure no New Zealand performers would get the job. Agents were provided with misleading casting briefs seeking a UK accented actor (not a US accented actor as they have ultimately cast) and were told that no New Zealanders with any screen experience in the last three years need apply. There was no genuine intention to seek a New Zealander for the role.

“This decision is slap in the face for all New Zealander performers and frankly shows contempt for all New Zealanders. Kiwi performers are Kiwi workers too.”

Also see Article in Stuff 

Dane Giraud       posted 26 Mar 2010, 09:54 AM / edited 26 Mar 2010, 09:56 AM

It might only be a commercial but I don’t think anyone can assume the right to dictate casting, especially concerning a private enterprise.

John Smythe      posted 26 Mar 2010, 09:59 AM

Oh yeah? So what’s all that about Green Cards in the USA then, Dane?

Dane Giraud       posted 26 Mar 2010, 10:32 AM

Obviously if I make the statement that no organisation has the right to dictate casting then surely I would hold the same contempt for any restrictions applicable in the U.S. to us! Niave of me maybe, as this is an employment question for most, an artistic question for some. Ideally I would want to cast whoever I saw fit. Casting is a very personal process and the wrong choice can destory a work. Once again, only a beer commercial but still…

I got to say, very ungenerous comments about poor Vincent. He is an extremely high profile writer/ actor/ director.

martyn roberts posted 28 Mar 2010, 04:40 PM

So now he will be famous in NZ for not being famous enough – ‘look, there’s the ad with the not famous guy!’. Some strange mash-up between Oscar Wilde and Andy Warhol is happening here…

Adam Goodall    posted 1 Apr 2010, 10:09 AM

Gallo seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel (the last high-profile thing he did was The Brown Bunny, if I’m not mistaken, and THAT didn’t go down well), but it seems perfectly in line with Steinlager Pure’s past advertising, using weathered American actors to sell their product in a way to universalise it and appeal to a sense of achievement here at home (OMG FAMOUS AMERICANS LUV IT). Furthermore, while I’ve no doubt NZ Equity are acting with the best of intentions, this seems a bit disingenuous – Steinlager Pure are a commercial enterprise, and it’s their money to do what they want with it. Besides, it’s not like foreign actors haven’t “taken” roles from New Zealanders in the past, but where it was an “honour” for Sir Anthony Hopkins to play Burt Munro, here it’s a travesty. I agree with Dane here – it seems silly for any organisation not involved in a production to dictate its casting (US Green Cards included). We place such a primacy on the artistic process and the supposed sanctity of it, and while it’s “only a beer commercial”, the same thing still applies. It’s who’s right for the position that ultimately matters – and Steinlager Pure sees Gallo as right. Good for them.

Adam Goodall    posted 1 Apr 2010, 10:11 AM

By Steinlager Pure, I mean Lion Nathan. Silly mistake.

Grant Buist         posted 2 Apr 2010, 01:08 AM

Dafoe and Keitel I can understand, but if I saw Gallo hawking booze I’d have to think for a second before going “Of course! The BJ guy from Brown Bunny!”

I presume they were looking for an edgy, intense, brooding Hollywood star, but Viggo Mortensen was busy.

Aaron Alexander              posted 4 Apr 2010, 05:52 PM

 I thought he might be doing the ad for Steinlager Edge… a sort of mid-strength version of Dafoe & Keitel.

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