Hobbit laws now hurting: Actors' union

  • 14/11/2013

A high New Zealand dollar and stiff competition from UK and South African incentives mean the local film and television industry is facing its worst downturn in maybe two decades, the actors' union says.

The so-called "Hobbit laws" also mean local actors are losing out to overseas actors, Equity New Zealand vice president Jeff Szusterman has told the Screen Industry Summit.

The high dollar and better incentives offered by countries like South Africa and the UK are forcing major foreign productions like Avatar elsewhere, he said.

"These are the key reasons that performers, crew, technicians and other film workers find themselves out of work and many of us are having to reconsider the careers we have chosen."

The problem began when successive governments relied too much on foreign productions to create an industrial base, rather than developing a truly local production industry, he said.

The New Zealand screen industry was now reliant on the financial whims of US studios and the inherently unstable and highly competitive runaway production market, he said.

"These fair weather friends have only ever had the bottom line in mind when choosing to come to the country.

"So now we have a very poorly structured incentive scheme which is failing to attract offshore productions, and an underfunded local industry. The result is the current jobs crisis in the screen industry."

Equity wanted to see the government offer better incentives to attract overseas productions, but changes needed to be made so the benefits trickled down.

Mr Szusterman said the labour laws introduced in 2010, which forced workers in the film and television industry to be contractors who could not collectively bargain, were a major blow to workers.

New immigration laws which meant producers could import as many overseas artists as they want - replacing New Zealand performers.

"No checks, no balances, no local market testing at all - producers are no longer obliged to audition New Zealand performers."

NZN

source: newshub archive