An Open Letter To NZ Workers Of Weta

It is becoming increasingly clear that the government of New Zealand may not be able to afford offering larger subsidies to WB to prevent The Hobbit production from going to places that have much larger film subsidies like Canada or Ireland. The latest news:

John Key is meeting with Warner Brothers’ executives and says while it may come down to money, clarifying employment laws is the easier option

The Government looks more likely to change employment laws than cough up money to keep The Hobbit in New Zealand.

Prime Minister John Key is meeting with Warner Brothers’ executives on the issue today.

He says it’s likely to come down to money, but there’s a limit to what more the Government can offer.

“It’s not just the Hobbit movies, it’s the general structure of the way that we subsidies these things.

“And anyway we don’t make really a lot of money out of this at the moment because the subsidy pretty much reverses the tax that they pay.”

Mr Key says clarifying employment laws would be the easier option.

In other words, the only way to “save the NZ film industry” is to modify current employment law to attract WB to film there due to lower labor costs. Perhaps mandating that workers be paid overtime after 80 hours instead of 60 hours would be a good option? Given that many workers at Weta have rallied at protests to stop The Hobbit from going overseas, it would be prudent to offer taking a paycut to bring the production back to NZ.

Save the NZ film industry!


14 Responses to An Open Letter To NZ Workers Of Weta

  1. Rolling Red says:

    Not surprised. NZ film industry workers as we have seen, rose up and overwhelmingly showed the world that they enjoy being whipped.

  2. Stormin says:

    I’m afraid that your information (and that of other overseas organisations) is sadly wrong. Everyone at Weta (and 3Foot7, AFAIK) is hired under individual contracts.

    The government can not force Weta (or 3Foot7 for that matter) to stop paying overtime. Weta Digital has some of the best working conditions I’m aware of in the industry. Yes, it’s long hours. Yes, sometimes it’s STUPIDLY long hours. But I get paid for EVERY HOUR I work. That can’t be said about other places. And yes, we get overtime pay. There have been no indications that this will change.

    I’m afraid that from your position so far away, you and other blogs simply have it wrong.

    Mind you, we have to consider the possibility that we are being played. But from here in the middle, it just seems impossible. Plus knowing how PJ works and what so many people think about him, it is even more impossible.

    I REALLY hope that everyone decides that the Hobbit should be filmed here in New Zealand, and that in fact Warners REFUSES to accept any further incentives. That would make me quite happy because my hope that corporations don’t have to be the bad guy would be borne out. It has already warmed the cockles of my heart that Warners etc had agreed to residuals for NON-UNION actors in the first place. AFAIK, this was in place before this all blew up.

    For a pretty good summary of what’s been going on, and WHY the “meeting requests” with PJ would be illegal AND unethical, have a look here.,,,

    Hopefully these have sufficient information.

    I wish you the best, but this particular fight is not the correct one.

    • another pretty happy worker says:

      Can’t help but notice how Mr Big Tough VFXSoldier totally ignored this valid post. I guess he’s suffering from a severe case of confirmation bias.

      • vfxsoldier says:

        I’m glad you noticed. I purposely withheld my response in the hopes someone else would point out the obvious answer:

        Weta has the best working conditions in the industry! Yet they work the LONGEST hours. Many of them are paid OT after 60 hours instead of 40 and there is not OT law in New Zealand.

        The NZ government can easily lower the wages of workers there: By manipulating the currency. Currently 1 NZD will get you 75c USD. WB is in talks with NZ PM John Key and will do the project if 1 NZD = 55c USD. That’s a 33% pay cut.

        But I have to agree with the original post and hope that NZ holds their ground and not give any further incentives for WB. Is $65M of govt money not enough? How much more do they need to give? How many labor laws need to be changed?

        Is it the labor unions that are trying to shake NZ down or the movie studios? We’ll find out soon.

  3. HandH says:

    vfx solider- i’ve read your blog and often agree with what you have to say. i’m a bit shocked that you would suggest weta vfx artists take an overtime paycut simply because they are choosing to show solidarity with local film workers. especially considering you have blogged often about the problem of falling wages in vfx in general. whether your suggestion is simply sarcastic or you actually believe it’s a valid option, it’s really quite disappointing.

    i get that subsidies are part of this issue. but there is also the issue of a local economy and struggling filmmakers/artist at stake. while the latter may not figure in to the global machinations of multinational corporations, it is surely still relevant.

    • vfxsoldier says:

      I’m sorry if you’re dissapointed but I’m curious as to what cost the film workers of NZ are willing to pay given that the NZ govt has drawn the line.

      What I want to show you is that in this industry, leverage is everything. Right now the big WB studios are flying down and essentially saying “stick it up, and give me more money.” The outrage shouldn’t be at a union. The outrage should be at the audacity the producers have to squeeze the people of New Zealand for more money and then hang them out to dry.

      How much more are they willing to give? $65 million from the NZ govt isn’t enough? Right now WB has the leverage to simply move some of the production to Canada or Ireland if they don’t get what they want at the end of the day.

      To see protests about how nice New Zealand is and how big their hearts are is nice, but unfortunately, for the suits of WB, this isn’t charity, this is business.

  4. happy worker says:

    vfxsoldier why don’t you go work in an industry you enjoy and stop airing your ill informed agenda on your piss-ant little blog? Seriously you do nothing to raise the discourse or educate the populace – you are just a little whiny bitter washed up hack.

    • daz says:

      :said the whiny bitter washed up hack.

    • another pretty happy worker says:

      Totally agree with happy worker. VFXsoldier, I know you think you’re this big crusader and stuff, but a lot of people in the industry think you’re an idiot. And a bigot. If this is a march to the bottom, I’d have thought you’d have jumped out years ago. Quit bitching and go do something more productive, like improving your skills so you won’t feel so threatened by everyone else.

      • vfxsoldier says:

        If there are so many “happy workers” in the vfx industry then why are so many “happy workers” reading my blog?

        Call me an idiot, call me a bigot, call me a bitch but at the end of the day I will provide you with a forum to voice your opinion whether it’s just to call me names, or to present some level of substance.

        Do you get to do that at cgtalk? nope.

  5. Paul says:

    It’s so funny to see how many “Happy to be working for free” vfx workers read VFX Soldiers blog!

    It’s nice to come from countries where you don’t have to worry about your health care. Yes I’m from the US where all your jobs come from. I guess the majority bashing VFX Soldier must be new to this biz, have no families to take care of or don’t mind working for free “Because I love what I do and I don’t do it for the money” GIVE ME A BREAK!

    Someday you’ll discover after living out of your suitcase for the last 6 years that when the majority of your fellow co-workers don’t give a damn or are too frightened to speak up about there working conditions that it’s time to get out.

    Good luck to you all. I look forward to the day when VFX workers finally unite and your left outside in the rain working for free!

    “Because you love what you do and you don’t do it for the money”.


  6. gilddust says:

    What appears to being overlooked in most of these responses is the fact that a global corporation threatens to pick up and leave, and everyone bends over backwards begging them to stay. Divide and conquer oldest strategy in the book. This continues pitting jurisdiction against jurisdiction, resulting in escalating tax incentives/credits of which some are questionable in their benefits to their respective local economies. What the New Zealand prime minister is now proposing is “clarifying employment laws” code for amending labour standards to the benefit of corporations’ and their shareholders’ bottom line. This is not specific to vfx workers, this affects all workers in the entertainment industry and impacts overall the rights of workers worldwide. The race to the bottom just hit a new rung.

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