FIA 2012: New Zealand's 'The Hobbit' Drama Could End With Local Actors-Producers Deal

Kiwi performers are negotiating a possible first-time agreement in the wake of their 2010 clash over Peter Jackson's upcoming J.R. Tolkien adaptations.

TORONTO – New Zealand’s The Hobbit drama could yet be resolved with a first-time collective agreement between the country’s actor union and producers.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand, president of Actors Equity New Zealand, was not available for comment Friday as she attended the 20th World Congress of the International Federation of Actors in Toronto.

But Ward-Lealand has briefed FIA delegates this week on ongoing negotiations between the Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA), representing New Zealand producers, and Actors Equity NZ on replacing the existing unenforceable “Pink Book” guidelines with possible rigid codes for actor fees and a share in residuals, among other compensation issues.

Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, Canada’s performers union, said his organization backed Actors Equity NZ as it negotiates a possible first-time labor deal with producers.

“We’re happy to support New Zealand Equity in those negotiations. They have been meeting and they’re making some progress,” Waddell said.

Actors Equity NZ and SPADA clashed in 2010 over production of Peter Jackson’s upcoming The Hobbit films that were shot in New Zealand.

Progress also appears at hand in a separate performers' rights dispute over the 10-part Irish-Canadian mini-series Vikings, from the Camelot and The Tudors duo Michael Hirst and Morgan O’Sullivan.

Padraig Murray, president of the actors union Irish Equity, said the actors union was in on-going negotiations with O’Sullivan’s World 2000 Entertainment for a local agreement on Vikings, a drama about Scandinavian warriors that MGM will distribute worldwide.

And talks continue between Irish craft unions and the Screen Producers Ireland to conclude a possible overall industry agreement.

“We’re trying to resolve a (Vikings) agreement and an agreement in general for the Irish industry,” Murray explained.

Performers on Vikings have been offered full buy-out agreements, which is unacceptable to Irish Equity as it seeks a share in residuals for its members.

“Morgan O’Sullivan understands the industry and he knows himself that the only way forward in the industry in the 21st century is with that type of an agreement that we’re looking to achieve,” Murray said.