Jackson's shameful performance

01:00, Oct 26 2010

What a shabby performance.

I've previously only seen him as an actor in his 1980s splatter movie Bad Taste. He was fabulous as a psychopathic alien in that great Kiwi classic film. (If you haven't seen it yet make sure you do.)

But it's been all downhill these past few weeks as Peter Jackson has variously played the parts of union-basher, paternalistic employer and self-absorbed celebrity.

It started with New Zealand actors wanting to negotiate some basic conditions of employment through their union Actors Equity. Like many famous employers before him, Jackson not only refused to negotiate but refused to even meet to discuss the issues. He thinks he's above any of that nonsense. He claims he treats his employees and contractors well and that was that. So the union called on actors to refuse to sign up to the film till the issues were resolved - an entirely reasonable position.

Jackson reacted with an incendiary media release attacking the unions and painting himself and the New Zealand industry as innocent victims of union thugs. It was all a pile of hyped rubbish but it did the job for him. News reporting was initially reasonable but quickly deteriorated as the media sided with Jackson against the unions. When it comes to union-bashing, New Zealand does it particularly well, especially with a wealthy celebrity calling the shots.

But after discussion between the actors and film producers the industrial action was withdrawn. Despite emails confirming the issues were resolved and that the wording of a media release to that effect was being prepared this was not good enough for Jackson or special effects guru Richard Taylor. Taylor called a march to demand the end of industrial action and Jackson lobbed in another combustible media release claiming the unions were wrecking the New Zealand film industry.

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Jackson is emotionally upset by the whole business but he scored an own goal at the outset when he refused to even discuss the issues with actors. Jackson is used to getting his own way and was affronted when our leading actors stood their ground. Good on them.

Politicians such as Gerry Brownlee predictably joined the chorus attacking the actors' efforts to organise to improve their basic work conditions and meetings of actors have been cancelled after threats from idiots in the film industry.

And so we reach Labour weekend and yesterday's rallies calling for the Hobbit movies to be made here.

I can't remember another time I've felt so embarrassed to be a New Zealander. Crowds of people fawning before Warner Brothers. Solidarity to these people means siding unreservedly with big business against workers. They seem to be unaware that Jackson and Taylor stand to make much more money from these movies than all the New Zealand actors and technicians put together.

If this dispute damages the New Zealand film industry or the careers of the actors who have been s*at on from a great height then Jackson and Taylor must carry the lion's share of the blame. If we could export these two across the ditch in exchange for just a bit of Australia's bolshy union attitude we could begin clawing back some of the 40 per cent wage advantage they have on us.

The actors who led the negotiations deserve to be applauded for their courage and tenacity in the face of bullying by Jackson, Taylor and other industry employers such as South Pacific Pictures chief executive John Barnett. Why is it such a crime to seek pay and conditions of employment similar to those enjoyed by actors elsewhere?

After some great performances early in his career it's been a shameful show from Jackson this time round.

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