Throughout the Shire, the effects of the global financial crisis have been devastating. While the wealthy elite in Buckland – and at Brandy Hall – have managed to weather the storm, buoyed in part by the trade in ale and pipe weed, and come out with their finances and farms relatively intact, elsewhere the situation has been grim.
In the Westfarthing in general and around Hobbiton in particular, unemployment is endemic and hobbit hole foreclosures are at an all-time high…
Much of the blame in the media for the dire economic situation in and around Hobbiton is being placed on unions…
Earlier this year, New Zealand Actors’ Equity called for a blacklist on The Hobbit as part of a union dispute. They were backed in this by their sister union in Australia. The filmmakers behind The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, and many others in New Zealand and in the Lord of the Rings fan community, reacted with fury at this latest stumbling block in the path of bringing The Hobbit to the big (and small) screen.
In the wake of the union action, Warner Brothers, the studio that is now responsible for The Hobbit, threatened to pull out of New Zealand. But what is coming out now – sometimes between the lines of the coverage on fan sites and in the mainstream media – is that Warner Brothers’ threat seems to be part of a bargaining tactic to extort more subsidies for their production – or they’ll move it elsewhere. The fact that one of the places they are threatening to move to, Australia, was also involved in that union action shows how little this really has to do with New Zealand Actors’ Equity’s attempt to secure better working conditions for its members.
Two other factors seem much more relevant, both with a more powerful impact on the film’s costs – and the studio’s profits – than the union action: the steadily rising New Zealand dollar, which makes everything there more expensive from an overseas perspective; and the higher wages and costs that are, ironically, a consequence of the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Of course, no matter what the increased costs in New Zealand might be, the studio – and Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh – will certainly still profit handsomely if the film is made there, and the relative complexity and delays that would be involved in moving the production elsewhere make the whole threat to move seem bizarre and unlikely. But as a way of strong-arming some additional concessions from the New Zealand government…
One thing is clear from reading all the hoopla: in Middle Earth, as in California (cf, Meg Whitman) and elsewhere, union-bashing is flavor of the month.
New Zealand refuses to get into bidding war over The Hobbit: “New Zealand’s government warned today it would not be drawn into a bidding war to prevent Warner Brothers from moving production of the film The Hobbit to another country.
In the wake of a short-lived union boycott,studio executives said last week they would consider shooting Peter Jackson’s $500m (£318m) adaptation of the JRR Tolkien fantasy elsewhere…” (via guardian.co.uk.)
No end in sight for New Zealand’s Hobbit saga: Talks between New Zealand’s prime minister and Hollywood executives over the future of the Hobbit films ended in deadlock earlier today.
John Key met with 10 Warner Brothers officials at his Wellington official residence to try and persuade them to shoot in the country, where director Peter Jackson’s earlier Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed and where sets remain. (via guardian.co.uk.)
- Lord of the Rings Hobbiton Transformed Into Town for Sheep – Inhabitat
- New Zealand Actors’ Equity: Update On The Hobbit Situation
- Peter Jackson’s Deal for ‘The Hobbit’ Is Finalized – NYTimes.com
- Jackson’s shameful performance | Stuff.co.nz
- Actors’ Unions End Boycott of ‘The Hobbit’; Peter Jackson to Film in New Zealand After All? | /Film
- Shire (Middle-earth) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Encyclopedia of Arda: The Shire
- The Shire -The Thain’s Book: An Encyclopedia of Middle-earth and Numenor
Filming of The Hobbit is now definitely going to take place in New Zealand: