The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) called off their boycott of The Hobbit films today, saying their members can work for the production now. New Line/Warner Bros. and MGM could still move the production out of New Zealand, however.
First up, here’s the statement from SAG:
Screen Actors Guild today released the following statement regarding the feature film production The Hobbit:
“Today, our sister union New Zealand Actors Equity issued a statement recommending all international performer unions rescind their member advisories on the feature film production The Hobbit. In light of this recommendation, Screen Actors Guild will be alerting its members that they are now free to accept engagements, under Screen Actors Guild contract terms and conditions, on The Hobbit.”
And here is what AFTRA said:
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO AFTRA MEMBERS
AFTRA Members May Now Accept Work on The Hobbit
NZ Actors Equity today recommended that the international performer unions of FIA withdraw their respective member advisories prohibiting members from accepting employment on the theatrical motion picture The Hobbit.
In light of this advisory and the recommendation from NZ Actors Equity, AFTRA hereby notifies all members that they may now accept employment on The Hobbit, under Screen Actors Guild contract terms and conditions.
We thank you for your show of solidarity with our international brothers and sisters.
Peter Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh released the following statement before the unions came to this decision:
The lifting of the blacklist on The Hobbit does nothing to help the films stay in New Zealand. The damage inflicted on our film industry by NZ Equity/MEAA is long since done.
Next week Warners are coming down to NZ to make arrangements to move the production off-shore. It appears we now cannot make films in our own country – even when substantial financing is available.
The spectacle of NZ Actors’ Equity suddenly cancelling their Wellington meeting, because film workers wanted to express to them their concern at losing The Hobbit, exemplifies the pure gutlessness of this small, self-centred group. They don’t appear to care about the repercussions of their actions on others, nor are they prepared to take responsibility for decisions made in their name. NZ Equity constantly refer to ‘good faith discussions but they have never acted in good faith towards our film.
Four weeks ago NZ Equity, represented by the Australian trade union, the MEAA, urged several international actor’s unions to gang up on our production in an attempt to bully us into illegal collective bargaining. MEAA’s representative, Simon Whipp, admitted in a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, that it was his intention to use The Hobbit as a way to ‘unionize other productions’ in the New Zealand film industry – presumably whether we want it or not. This unilateral decision, made by an off shore union, we assume with Equity’s blessing, is the reason why our film industry is now in dire jeopardy.
NZ Equity’s unjustified industrial action against The Hobbit has undermined Warner Bro’s confidence in New Zealand as a stable employment environment, and they are now, quite rightly, very concerned about the security of their $500m investment. Unfortunately lifting the blacklist does nothing to help the situation. This will be the start of a domino effect, as word of NZ’s unstable employment environment, registers with film investors and studios, world-wide.
Nobody denies Equity’s right to represent their group of actors, but incredibly, this industrial action was taken without consultation with their own membership. These clumsy, heavy-handed tactics have put at risk the livelihoods of thousands of workers and jeopardized a potential investment of a billion plus dollars into the NZ economy.
Seemingly overnight, NZ Actors Equity shredded the reputation of a burgeoning industry, which has been over forty years in the making.
Remarks on television by Helen Kelly of the CTU, demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the film industry. Nothing she had to say about The Hobbit and film financing was remotely factual. Why she has suddenly become the NZ Equity spokesperson is unclear, it appears to be a case of the blind being lead by the even-more-blind.
We will continue the fight to keep the film in NZ, but ultimately this decision belongs to Warner Bros. We are however, hugely heartened by the incredible show of support from Wellington actors, technicians and crew. It is a reflection of the terrific pride NZ film workers have in their industry and their very real fear of losing their jobs.
We’ll have to wait and see what decision the studios will make regarding the location they will film now.