US Studios Leverage New Zealand Again

A few months ago I wrote how Warner Bros. threatened to take filming of The Hobbit elsewhere unless the New Zealand government provided the US studio with more taxpayer money. This was already on top of the huge amount NZ offers them in the form of government film subsidies.

Well it turns out the leveraging didn’t stop there:

The government of New Zealand is sneaking in its controversial “3-strikes” Internet disconnection law tonight as part of its emergency legislation dealing with the Christchurch earthquake.

Bill 92A was passed once before and then rescinded after massive popular demonstrations, letter writing campaigns and outrage.

It provided for the disconnection of entire families from the Internet after being accused — without proof or due process — of copyright infringement.

You know when the Christchurch earthquake occurred I cynically thought what if the US studios had the balls to exploit the tragedy for their own gain. Boy was I wrong to think they had an ounce of shame :

NZFACT welcomes the enactment of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill following its second and third reading in Parliament last night. The bill will now go into effect on September 1, 2011.

NZFACT members include: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, New Zealand; Paramount Pictures Corporation; Sony Pictures Releasing International Corporation; Twentieth Century Fox International Corporation; Universal International Films, Inc.; and Warner Bros. Pictures International, a division of Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.

NZFACT works in association with the Motion Picture Association, which represents the interests of the film industry across the world.

Regardless of how you feel about piracy laws, it’s pretty sleazy and cynical that this bill had to be ramrodded through the legislature exploiting an emergency bill for earthquake relief.

The Hobbit Fiasco

The point I was making with my posts on The Hobbit was that the government of NZ was setting a huge precedent.  So it’s no surprise to see that the entertainment conglomerates are at it again. 

If you remember, Peter Jackson and WB wanted to film The Hobbit but the economic realities were drastically different than when the Rings films were originally made:

The NZ dollar was at a record high, the NZ film subsidy was considerably lower, and other countries were offering more generous subsidies for the movie to be made elsewhere.

At the same time there was a international labor dispute between the actors union and Peter Jackson. WB and Peter Jackson blamed the dispute as a threat to take the film elsewhere, but at the same time, internal emails between Jackson and the NZ government showed that was not the case.

Soon there were protests to keep The Hobbit in NZ. A dog and pony show begins where WB flies into NZ to negotiate a deal with the Prime Minister. The negotiations ended with WB getting a big payoff in extra subsidies. Peter Jackson got a national labor law changed that previously caused Weta to lose a lawsuit to a former employee. Of course the people of NZ got to keep The Hobbit but at a huge price. Everything is great right?

Not for me. I was outraged by the ability of a US corporation to use another country’s sovereignty as a doormat for their own gain. New Zealand VFX blogger Morgan Loomis disagreed:

I really hope the Hobbit stays here, for a lot of reasons, but especially if it will warm the jaded hearts of those of us who are obsessed with money and have come to believe that that’s why we all do what we do.

Sorry but this isn’t care bear land. This is hardball. The US corporations are in New Zealand for one reason: To take advantage of a government that will let them do what they want when they want. We in the states are at the mercy of unprecedented corporate power and are quite familiar with the ruse.

The New Zealand Precedent

However it looks like some Kiwis are becoming quite aware of this ruse:

A controversial high-level deal between the Government and US film studio Warner Bros to ensure The Hobbit movie is made in New Zealand has earned both parties this year’s Roger Award.

“It was an overt display of bullying that humiliated every New Zealander,” they said, adding that such interference in New Zealand politics “sets a precedent for all future negotiations between the New Zealand Government and transnational corporations”.

The ball is still in your court New Zealand.

Soldier On.

15 Responses to US Studios Leverage New Zealand Again

  1. L says:

    Yet again your grasp on the facts is tenuous at best. I’ve noticed that If it serves your agenda you’ll spin and twist the truth as much as is necessary. For example the youtube video you linked is from 2009 (well before the Hobbit fiasco). There was a backlash back then as isps were to have judicial authority to disconnect users without due process. This is not the case now. http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2011/04/an_own_goal-2.html here is an explanation of the new law and how it went down. I’m still not a fan of this new law but I’m not convinced that it’s some big interconnected conspiracy perpetrated by Hollywood studios, you’re as bad as Glenn Beck.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      I’m sorry you thought I posted the video from 2009 to pretend it was from 2011. I thought the quote about NZ citizens being against the law back then would have been suffice.

      Regardless, as you admit many people in NZ are still against it. If not then why was it attached to the emergency earthquake bill?

      and if it isn’t the US studios then who is trying to get this bill passed?

      • L says:

        The way you’ve structured your post is very misleading. You explain the bill that was rescinded, then say that now it has passed without clarifying the changes and linking to a video from 2009 instead of finding something current. tying it to events surrounding the hobbit is ridiculous.

        I think the bill was passed due to ignorance. MP John Young compared the internet to Skynet in the terminator movies. It’s embarrassing yes but it this actually happened. So in a way I guess the US film industry is to blame….or James Cameron is for writing the terminator movies.

  2. anon says:

    IT IS another example of studio intimidation – after all if studios don’t intimidate governments and ISPs, tilt markets using parent deals and ‘hollywood accounting’ the film industry might end up like the music industry.
    Studios must dictate what films we should watch and what actors we should like or else people will start making up their own minds and I can gurantee it won’t be the dross being pumped out of hollywood E channels…
    http://www.google.com/insights/search/#cat=184&q=&geo=&date=today 3-m&gprop=&cmpt=q
    iTunes;
    “…The problem — from the industry’s perspective — is that people aren’t being told what music to buy, and obediently trundling off to buy it because nothing else is out there, or they have no clear idea of what else is out there other than the Billboard top 100.
    People are finding out what they might like not from a PR department but from their friendslists; and all iTunes is doing is facilitating the movement of the data, and not which data is doing the moving. Since so much of the middle-man-like industry is devoted to PR and marketing, iTunes isn’t only doing an end run around them but obviating them…”
    Games;
    “…publishers who believe in the curation model believe that they are the only thing standing between consumers and a tide of content effluent. They are the arbiters of taste and value, and their judgment is paramount. I believe that they are frequently wrong. In his seminal Adventures in the Screen Trade, William Goldman said, of the movie business: “Nobody knows anything”
    …distributors and publishers have another key role; financing. In the established business model of high-end content production, publishers and distributors usually commission content from creators based on their understanding of what consumers want. They take on much of the risk of the venture by prefinancing the content’s creation and they retain much of the upside should their bets prove successful. Hits driven businesses are going to make a loss/break-even on many projects in the hope of creating the next uber franchise that will actually generate the profits require to compensate previous losses. The more expensive the projects, the more you have to spend on diversification. There are only a few companies that can afford to take these risks which means that the consumer is going to have to put up with curated titles for a while…”

    Hence, if studios can’t continue to control distribution then they can’t monopolize, no monopoly = no massive profits that make up for hollywood flops, so the house of cards collapses taking big VFX studios with them.

  3. […] US Studios Leverage New Zealand Again В« VFX Soldier Apr 17, 2011 … NZFACT members include: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, New Zealand; Paramount Pictures … […]

  4. […] isn’t unique to the US. Look at what the studios were able to do in New Zealand. Look at what a conglomerate like News Corp are able to do to the UK government and Scotland […]

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    US Studios Leverage New Zealand Again | VFX Soldier

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