In what can only be described as a good news/bad news situation, the slowly grinding wheel that is the Screen Actors Guild’s action against The Hobbit has turned, and the acting unions have lifted their recommendation that their members not work on the film. That’s the good bit. But the bad news, at least for New Zealand? It looks like the bad blood that was generated may yet see the movies shifting away from the country.
After the New Zealand government got involved with the dispute, the parties – producers and the acting representatives – agreed to find some new working practices that would suit everyone’s needs, announcing that they’ve "entered into an agreement to commence good faith negotiations for a new set of conditions which will govern the way in which performers are engaged in the local screen industry," according to the LA Times.
But then came an angry statement from Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, who responded by saying that the issue may force the production to move elsewhere anyway. “The lifting of the blacklist on The Hobbit does nothing to help the films stay in New Zealand. Next week Warners are coming down to NZ to make arrangements to move the production offshore. It appears we now cannot make films in our own country – even when substantial financing is available. The spectacle of NZ Actors’ Equity 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. They don’t appear to care about the repercussions of their actions on others, nor are they prepared to take responsibility for decisions made in their name. NZ Equity constantly refer to ‘good faith’ discussions but they have never acted in good faith towards our film.” Ouch. There’s more if you want to read it, but essentially: they’re not pleased.
Still, given that New Zealand is what most people think of when they consider the geography of Jackson’s LOTR universe and that so much work has already been done there on the Hobbit project (not to mention so much money poured in to it), it would seem likely that the writer/producer/ director and his team will stick around. Still, you can bet that the likes of Ireland and Canada will be stepping up their campaigns to win the chance to host Bilbo’s journey…