Weta Digital could lose all Hobbit work, fans told

It is a “50/50 call” whether The Hobbit stays in NZ, according to prime minister John Key.Mr Key is due to meet with Warner Bros executives today. On the agenda: labour stability and possibly, a tax break beyond the 15% already on the table.The Hollywood brass arrived yesterday, amid a series of “Keep the Hobbit Film Shoot in NZ” rallies in Auckland, Matamata, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown, which collectively attracted thousands of fans.

It is a “50/50 call” whether The Hobbit stays in NZ, according to prime minister John Key.

Mr Key is due to meet with Warner Bros executives today. On the agenda: labour stability and possibly, a tax break beyond the 15% already on the table.

The Hollywood brass arrived yesterday, amid a series of “Keep the Hobbit Film Shoot in NZ” rallies in Auckland, Matamata, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown, which collectively attracted thousands of fans.

A Facebook page dedicated to the rallies drew more than 11,000 fans.

In Hamilton, protestors were told by a Weta Digital staffer that the company could lose its special effects contract if the production is taken off shore, co-organisor Grant Smith told NBR.

The Wellington rally – the largest, with around 2000 present – was told a similar story by Sir Richard Taylor, who said Weta Digital and Weta Workshop were in danger of losing post-production work - or even get cut out of the picture altogether.

Was there a danger that the pro-Hobbit protests may have backfired, giving the Warner execs an impression of general unrest?

“I'm so over people trying to put a negative spin on this. It was awesome event. Full Credit to [actor and national organisor] Mark Harrison,” Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith is also encouraging people on Twitter to chance their Twitter profile picture to a “Please keep The Hobbit in NZ” image, and to leave positive messages of support on Warners’ offical Facebook page

ABOVE: Fans gather in Hamilton in one of five rallies timed to coincide with the arrival of Warner Bros executives from the US. Photo courtesy Grant Smith. The main organiser of the Waikato rally was Paul Barlow (chairman of the Film Waikato Charitable Trust and Hamilton manager of the V 48 Hours film making competition).

RAW DATA: Sir Peter’s letter to fans

Below is the message from Peter Jackson that was read to protestors at “Keep the Hobbit Film Shoot in NZ” rallies yesterday:

I have always seen the New Zealand film industry as a large, noisy, growing family. And I have always known the debt of gratitude I owe to the talented people who make up that family: from the grips to the gaffers, drivers to set builders, costume makers to camera operators, model makers, sound recordists, editors, digital effects artists, and of course – the many wonderful kiwi actors who help to bring our films to life.

All these people care deeply about our industry; they love their work, they love making films and being part of a creative community. That love ends up on screen, and I truly believe it sets our films apart from those made in any other country. You cannot buy passion and commitment - it is a precious energy, freely given, and it is the life blood of our industry.

I believe the Kiwi way of doing things should be protected and celebrated. Turning us into another State of Australia, under the sway of a destructive organisation, carries the very real risk of destroying the great big heart that beats inside our films.

As an industry we are perfectly well equipped, through our various guilds, to provide excellent terms and conditions for all our film workers. If there are problems, it is up to us to use our guilds to resolve them - that is what they are there for. We don't open the door to an Australian trade union, who will never put the interests of Kiwis first, and invest that union with the power to destroy everything we have built.

On behalf of all those involved in trying to get The Hobbit off the ground , I would like to thank the many people who have taken the time to contact us. Every card, every letter, every email reminds us just how much people care. It has been incredibly heartening to read your messages of support. And a special thank you to the fans, whose enthusiasm for these films has never wavered, even in the darkest hours.

Lastly, I want to thank each and every person who has come here today. This is your rally, it is your moment to let your voice be heard, and I know your message to the studio will not go un-noticed.

You have said loudly and cleary New Zealand is where The Hobbit films should be made; their creative DNA is here.

This is where Middle-earth was born and this is where it should stay.

Peter Jackson,

BELOW: Ross McLeod steps out in wrought iron at the Hamilton rally:

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