Prime Minister John Key says he is prepared to meet Warner Brothers in a bid to keep The Hobbit in New Zealand.
In a joint statement released early today, Sir Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, his wife and filmmaking partner, said representatives from Warner Bros' were flying to New Zealand next week to arrange moving the production overseas following a standoff with unions.
Mr Key said he was keen to meet them next week.
"I think we have a strong position, but the industrial action from the unions ... have substantially undermined the confidence that Warner Brothers has in New Zealand," he told Radio New Zealand.
"The Government will have to sit down and talk to them and see what we can do to restore that confidence."
Sir Peter last week secured his role as the film's director, but the row with the union still threatens production in New Zealand.
New Zealand Actors' Equity had advised its members not to accept work on the two-part adaptation of the JRR Tolkien novel after the filmmakers refused to enter into a union-negotiated agreement.
Sir Peter said the union's actions had undermined Warner Bros' confidence in industry and "they are now, quite rightly, very concerned about the security of their $US500 million ($NZ669.32m) investment".
"Unfortunately lifting the blacklist does nothing to help the situation" as the damage inflicted on the industry was long since done.
Ms Walsh said today Warner Bros had people in the United Kingdom, eyeing a huge studio Harry Potter has vacated.
"They are saying they need stability and certainty, neither of which are here. Our film industry used to have that. It used to be a place where people would look to New Zealand and say we can make a film there. Now they do not think that," she told Radio New Zealand.
"That's how much we've fallen in the eyes of the rest of the world. It's an absolute tragedy."
Council of Trade Unions (CTU) president Helen Kelly, who has been involved in union talks, told NZPA today the industrial issues were on their way to being resolved and the blacklist was lifted last Sunday.
Other countries had offered a deal that was double New Zealand's 15 percent tax rebate for films, and the studio was bullying the Government to match conditions, she said.
"What's simply has happened here is that performers have asked to bargain ... and they've used that to say there is industrial instability. Well there will only be industrial instability if they refused to bargain. In the end, they will go where they can go the most money."
NZ Actors' Equity member Robyn Malcolm said she wondered how asking for better conditions could have derailed a multi-million dollar movie in New Zealand.
"If it does go offshore it will have nothing to do with Actors Equity."
Ms Walsh said the boycott had not been lifted on Sunday, and even though the New Zealand Government can't offer anything like overseas incentives, that was not the deciding factor.
Screen Production and Development Association (Spada) chief executive Penelope Borland told NZPA CTU's claim was nonsense -- "it is absolute rubbish."
"These people put an international boycott for a month just when it was about to go into pre-production, so of course the studios had to look all around the world for alternative locations.
"The Hobbit was 100 percent on track in New Zealand until the actors' union boycott happened. And the longer that boycott was on the film, the more other countries approached the studio," she said.
"It has nothing to do with approaching the Government for more incentives. It's all about the industrial relations environment and it's irresponsible for [the union] to plead naïvety and say we have nothing to do with this to go offshore."
After the producers' announcement, Actor's Equity industrial organiser Frances Walsh said following positive discussion with Spada, and in an effort to re-establish stability in the New Zealand industry, it had asked overseas unions to rescind any forms of advise members to boycott the film.
Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee today refused to confirm whether the Government would offer higher incentives.
It was "utterly appalling" that Sir Peter and Ms Walsh had been treated badly, he told TVNZ's Breakfast programme.
Hundreds of film technicians last night marched through Wellington calling for status quo in the industry. The technicians had intended to protest outside an Actors' Equity meeting but that meeting was called off.
"The spectacle of [the union] 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," Sir Peter said.
The union had put at risk the livelihoods of thousands of workers and jeopardised a potential investment of billions of dollars into the New Zealand economy, he said.
NZPA and NBR staff
Thu, 21 Oct 2010