It takes a long time to build a reputation and just one moment to destroy it. Sir Peter Jackson may think he won his battle with his hobbits, but his halo of sainthood has disappeared and won't return.
Many of us remember Jackson as that tubby, geeky guy in baggy shorts and big glasses who endeared himself as a self-effacing movie buff who became an international household name because of his talent. We revelled in his fame and even gave him a knighthood.
Making his home and work base in New Zealand, he provided jobs for Kiwis and that placed him alongside Sir Edmund Hillary as an iconic New Zealander we looked up to. Everything the glossies print about him is gushing and reinforces our warm fuzzies.
But this month the illusion was shattered.
Our man morphed into a slimmed-down, suited-up media mogul with a metal fist that he was unafraid to use to squash those who annoyed him.
Now launching a personal attack on Sir Peter Jackson is one thing; telling porkies is another, and we thought that Matt McCarten was a bit more honourable than that - he continues:
The NZ Actors' Equity has been trying forever to reach agreement on basic conditions for actors from New Zealand film producers. Jackson point blank has refused to even meet.
To get Jackson's attention, the union wrote to their counterparts around the world asking for support, up to and including a possible boycott of Jackson's next film.
That certainly got his attention. All hell broke loose. Jackson threatened to take his toys offshore and disingenuously insisted the whole thing had been concocted by some Australian union thug against us poor defenceless Kiwis.
Oh dear; that's the first time we've heard anyone suggest that the boycott of The Hobbit was only "possible", not that it was the real deal. I guess McCarten believes it though, and he also believes that if he and others on the left repeat the half-truth often enough, others will believe it as well.
Now just to set the matter straight, this is what the actors resolved; this is taken directly from the August 17th letter, which can be read here:
“Resolved, that the International Federation of Actors urges each of its affiliates to adopt instructions to their members that no member of any FIA affiliate will agree to act in the theatrical feature film “The Hobbit” until such time as the producer has entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance for production in New Zealand providing for satisfactory terms and conditions for all performers employed on the production”.
Does that sound like a "possible boycott" to you? If we were to receive a letter which said "adopt instructions to their members that no member of any FIA affiliate will agree to act", we would not regard that as a mere shot across the bows. This was a black-listing, plain and simple.
It would appear that The Hobbit is going to loom large during the Mana by-election campaign, as McCarten closes with this cryptic comment:
It's not appropriate for me to write about that campaign from now on, except to say I want to make a stand against how we have allowed ourselves to become grovelling serfs in our country at the behest of international money.
But here's some good news. NZ screen producers have agreed to meet Equity to negotiate standard terms and conditions for actors.
In the meantime, they will use the internationally union-approved Pink Book as the minimum basis for performers' contracts.
This is a huge victory for Equity.
Go the hobbits.
Quite how Matt McCarten can claim this week as a "huge victory" for Equity when the government has passed urgent legislation to redefine contractors in the film industry is bemusing. Even Chris Trotter has had the good grace to admit that the labour movement failed in spectacular fashion. We have no doubt that McCarten believes what he has written, but we'd venture to suggest that few others outside the left-wing cabal he inhabits would share his view.
We wish him well in Mana though; if he cannibilises Labour's vote (we won't say Kris Faafoi; the woman on TV who said she'd vote Labour even though she had no idea who the candidate was said it all!), the hard-working Hekia Parata might just sneak through.