September 27, 2010

Dear Actors, 
We have been Casting Directors in NZ for 22 years and are shocked and dismayed at the tactics being used by Australian Equity (MEAA) to jeopardize the production of The Hobbit. The idea that they are doing this for the benefit of actors is ignorant – this will only hurt NZ actors, the NZ film community and the NZ economy.
This production has been under enormous pressure with studio complications and now with this situation added it could undo all the work done and money spent, to ensure these films are made. What would then be achieved? Absolutely nothing, because this will impact on every studio in the world and send the message that NZ is ‘production un-friendly’.
This is a lose/lose situation – actors lose the opportunity to work on an international film of merit, crew and small businesses lose long term income, and the public loses the opportunity to see The Hobbit made in the only place and by the only people that can truly do justice to Tolkien’s vision.
Do NZ actors really want to be the main cause of this production collapsing?
This situation has been created by the Australian union because it’s the most anticipated film being made at present – and they have timed their campaign to a crucial time in pre-production where huge amounts of money have already been invested.
Peter Jackson very clearly outlined the situation in his recent article –
What is interesting is that a share in the profits is being offered to local actors – this is huge progress and very positive. We find it strange that this has not been publicly embraced by NZ Equity and MEAA. 
Simon Whipp claims that the residual offer falls short of what Australian actors get, which is a carbon copy of the SAG residuals. It’s true that this residual offer is less than SAG, but it is very comparable to similar schemes in Canada and Europe.  The SAG residuals will always be higher than those offered to non-SAG members that is just the simple reality of an industry hundreds of years ahead of ours, and in a country massively bigger than ours.
What is clearly not understood by actors is that MEAA are demanding that producers break NZ law. It is our understanding that it is illegal in this country to enter into negotiations with NZ Equity because it is neither a Union, or an Incorporated Society.
Therefore we understand it is also illegal for producers to negotiate NZ employment contracts with an Australian Union – therefore MEAA are making demands which cannot be met legally.
For obvious reasons they are not explaining this to their members clearly as it doesn’t look good.
NZ equity will not publicly discuss how many actors they represent and so speculation has it that there is between 200 – 400 signed members. The pool of professional actors is roughly 2000 – this ratio makes a tiny number of people the voice for many.
What many actors will not know is that on Sept 16th, 2010 NZ Actors Equity was struck off the Incorporated Society list in NZ. Nobody knows why they were struck off – but one reason could be failing to declare membership numbers. Why is this such a big secret? They can only enter into collective bargaining with producers if they are a Union. Collective Bargaining means having authority to negotiate on behalf of all actors. However, one of the thresholds that NZ Equity needs to become a recognised legal NZ union, is that they must already be an Incorporated Society.  Now, they are not.
We have to wonder if all NZ actors fully understand the long-term ramifications of the actions of this minority group?
NZ Equity/MEAA claims to have the majority interest at heart but how can that be so if it jeopardizes the biggest working opportunity for NZ actors in the present recession.
We personally would like to see these films made in NZ with NZ crews and NZ actors!
This is our personal opinion.
Liz Mullane
Miranda Rivers
NZ Casting Directors – The Hobbit 
– – – – – – – – – – –
[See the Roy Billing-initiated Forum: Mullane/Rivers letter to actors.] 
Share on social