No Bidding War For Hobbit. But, It’s ‘ALL About The Dollars’

NZ Prime Minister, John Key, has today told the press that he won’t (ed. can’t?) be getting into a bidding war to keep The Hobbit production in New Zealand just because other countries have been rumoured to be offering the film’s backers more in tax incentives:

“I’ve made it quite clear that if it comes to a bidding war New Zealand is out. I don’t think that’s the right way to run this. They’ve got a long history here, have successfully made movies here and we don’t want to be renegotiating with every single production company that moves here.” source

Notably, he hinted that there were problems other than the recently settled dust-up with the unions over collective bargaining on contracts, saying that the present high exchange rate for the NZ dollar could be an issue. Two years ago when the Americans had first considered making the film in New Zealand it had stood at 55c to the US dollar, it is now 75c.

We mentioned yesterday that, according to an article in Variety, it will inevitably come down to the dollars and Jackson has previously lost parts of his shoots overseas.

Variety also mentioned Jackson and Peter Court’s highly critical review of the NZ Film Commission (something that we blogged about in the past) Emphasis ours:

“Peter Jackson is on record in support of larger subsidies. In his review of the New Zealand Film Commission, he concluded that they’re crucial to films being made there. He has personal experience to back that up. His own film “The Lovely Bones” lost part of its shoot to the U.S. The country also lost its exclusive claim on Narnia when large parts of “Prince Caspian” decamped for Eastern Europe.

At the time, Jackson said  that people thought New Zealand had “some magical quality” that attracted movies, “but it’s going to come down to the dollars.” Variety

NZ Film Commission review meetings ‘postponed’

The New Zealand Film Commission was due to hold meetings with all interested film makers to discuss  the review on the 28 October, but those have been postponed for “a couple of weeks.”

The meetings will be held with  NZFC Chair Patsy Reddy and CEO Graeme Mason and they will discuss the Jackson/Court Review and its influence on the direction of the NZFC.

THE NZFC have been strangely quiet whilst the battle for Middle Earth is being waged, other than a statement released on 28 September we know of little involvement in the present proceedings,  and on the face of it, the NZFC seem not be participating in the present talks in NZ between New Line/Warner and government reps.

(A later edition of today’s online NZ Herald said that up to 10 studio executives were joining the  Prime Minister/Minister for Tourism John Key, Attorney-General/Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage  Chris Finlayson, and fellow ministers Gerry Brownlee (Economic Development) and Steven Joyce (Minister of Transport and Minister for Communications and Information Technology). The paper also said the ‘Warner Brothers delegation’ is being led by Toby Emmerich, President and CEO of production company New Line.

It is thought that other people in the delegation comprise the chief legal counsel of New Line and a senior executive from Warner Bros head office who Mr Key said he knew “quite well”.

The NZDF said in a September press release

Film Commission worried about hobbit fight

Tuesday, 28 September 2010, 2:48 pm
Press Release: New Zealand Film CommissionNew Zealand Film Commission CEO, Graeme Mason, today expressed concerned about the impact the current industry dispute involving The Hobbit will have on the New Zealand film industry community.

“New Zealand crew, actors and filmmaking facilities currently enjoy a high international profile and reputation. This is due in no small way to the production in New Zealand of films such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong, Avatar, Wolverine, and TinTin. These international productions provide employment, training opportunities, production experience and international exposure for New Zealanders and New Zealand” said Graeme Mason. “New Zealand filmmakers making their films here have benefited from the skills and experience gained on these international productions.”

“NZFC staff regularly attend film markets and part of what we do there is promote New Zealand to the international film making industry, and the calibre and quality of our film industry has always preceded us.”

Mr Mason said the NZFC is committed to international filmmaking driven creatively from New Zealand as the economic and cultural benefits to New Zealand are enormous. “The hospitality, tourism, entertainment, retail and transport industries will all benefit from The Hobbit films being made here. It’s critical this issue be resolved before it damages the film industry and the wider economic environment we operate within.”

Which seems rather bland, hands-off approach for an organisation that is supposed  be crucial to film making in New Zealand.

Also, note the commitment to ” international filmaking driven creatively from New Zealand” rather than ‘filmed in New Zealand.’

If, as Jackson said, it’s not New Zealand’s ‘magical quality that attracted movies’ but the dollars, are the NZFC content to see the shoot move offshore to another country, rather than offer the incentives for it to be shot in NZ?

Our prediction is that major parts of the shoot will be moved offshore and that technical, special effects, editing etc. will remain in New Zealand.
Previous blogs about the review of the NZFC and government funding:

NZ Film Industry Needs Government Funding, Less Interference 1 July 2010

…We’ve had a look at the report. (get a copy from the Box widget in the sidebar) which contains vast swathes of criticism and talked about an “Us and Them” attitude and a streak of vindictiveness in the culture with one producer saying that

They were taking such an adversarial role. You might expect that from a commercial partner but it wasn’t them, it was the Film Commission putting all the barriers in the way.’ ‘There’s almost an us and them attitude. It’s death to creativity.’ ‘There’s an us-and-them situation. They don’t see the realities or potential of the industry.’

People described an organization out of sync with the industry it serves. Several film makers said they were made to feel ‘as though we were in the way’, or even ‘as though in some way we were trying to cheat the Commission’. The toughness they encountered was beyond what they expected in their business dealings:

‘Hollywood can be very tough but they don’t treat you with the level of contempt that the Film Commission does.’…

Jackson Accused of Setting up Unions to Take the Fall for Hobbit 22 Oct 2010