Film workers’ rights to be restored as New Zealand announces repeal of controversial “Hobbit Law”

Film workers’ rights to be restored as New Zealand announces repeal of controversial “Hobbit Law”

Has New Zealand been too friendly towards Hollywood, at the expense of its own workforce? New Zealand’s incoming Labour Government promises to restore certain employment protections for film cast and crew, by repealling the controversial “Hobbit Law” within the next 100 days.

New Zealand is famous for being film-friendly. Gorgeous landscapes provide dramatic settings not far from the city comforts, and generous financial incentives are available in the form of government grants. Since the 1990s in particular, the country’s film and television industry has participated in many large, complex international productions: such films include The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings franchises, The Chronicles of Narnia, the 2005 King Kong remake, Avatar, District 9, The Lovely Bones, and – a personal favourite of mine – The Piano (pictured above). 

Earlier this year, Statistics NZ announced that the country’s screen industry revenue had increased to $3.3 billion in 2016, with film production revenue doubling to more than $1 billion. In addition to direct revenues, film and television content also promotes and enhances New Zealand’s “national brand,” with many tourists visiting the country specifically because of what they’ve seen on screen.

But has New Zealand been too friendly towards Hollywood, at the expense of its own workforce? New Zealand’s so-called “Hobbit Law” came into force in 2010 as a direct result of actors on Peter Jackson’s film The Hobbit threatening industrial action. Warner Brothers’ Studio suggested it would retaliate by relocating the US $500m production elsewhere, with Jackson mentioning the possibility of filming in Eastern Europe instead. To keep The Hobbit in New Zealand, Parliament passed the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill 2010 to limit screen industry workers’ rights.

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Gunpowder on Primetime: were torture and execution scenes too violent?

Gunpowder on Primetime: were torture and execution scenes too violent?

The BBC’s new show has been criticised for being “unnecessarily gruesome and brutal,” with some viewers saying they became physically ill due to the graphic torture and execution scenes. Is portraying such violence necessary to better understand the historical context of 17th century England, or simply too much for Saturday night primetime television?

Tonight is Bonfire Night! The “Gunpowder Treason Plot” of 1605 was a failed mass assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland and the House of Lords. A group of English Catholics planned to blow up the Palace of Westminster, following which the Protestant King James would be replaced by a Catholic monarch. When Guy Fawkes was discovered guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder beneath the palace, the plot was foiled and the conspirators were subsequently executed.

Londoners celebrated King James’s survival by lighting bonfires around the city, as a “public day of thanksgiving.” Although it’s no longer an official holiday, there are still bonfires and fireworks around the country to remember remember the fifth of November.

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The Copyright Between Oceans?

The Copyright Between Oceans?

Imagine you’re an author trying to get your screenplay made into a film, but despite giving Miramax Studios and Working Title copies of your script, you have no luck. Ten years later, you discover the theatrical trailer for an upcoming movie starring Michael Fassbinder, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weiss. Your heart sinks as you realise that your story has been stolen. What do you do? If you’re Joseph Nobile, you call a lawyer and sue Hollywood for copyright infringement.

In 2012, Margot Watts (writing as M.L. Stedman) published The Light Between Oceans, a novel about a lighthouse keeper and his wife, and their desperate longing for a child. Set primarily in 1920s Australia, Tom and Isabel find an infant washed ashore in a lifeboat after a storm, together with the corpse of the baby’s father. The novel explores the psychological and moral consequences of the couple’s choice to raise the baby as their own.

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GDPR Spotlight on media platforms

GDPR Spotlight on media platforms

Personal Data has been Hollywood’s rising star over the last few years. But will the introduction of Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulations steal the spotlight?

I had a bit of a migraine this weekend, so I spent the better part of the last two days on the couch watching Narcos and a few period costume dramas on Netflix. As I scrolled through the recommendations deciding what to watch, I smiled to myself thinking of how confusing my behaviours must appear to the algorithms used by Netflix. My tastes vary from watching FBI agents in 1970s Columbia, to Miss Elinor Dashwood in rural Georgian England.

Me Before You is apparently a 95% match to my preferences, despite being a film I have no desire to see. On the other hand, Blackfish, the whale documentary I’ve seen three times, is only a 54% match. Of course, Netflix only knows what my online behaviour reflects. And while it may not be perfect, when my behaviour is combined with my personal data, Netflix recommendations are fairly accurate most of the time. The advancement in behavioural analytics is big business in the world of media consumption – and it’s only getting bigger.

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Lawyers with a sense of humour: Strange?

Lawyers with a sense of humour: Strange?

I don’t usually come across phrases such as “total wastoid” and “please don’t make us call your mom” in letters written by lawyers…

Earlier this summer, Chicago-based Danny and Doug Marks of the Emporium Arcade Bar organised a popup bar inspired by Netflix’s original series, Stranger Things. Named after the show’s spooky alternate reality, the “Upside Down” became extremely popular, as people would regularly queue out the door to sip themed cocktails while surrounded by TV-studio quality props. Although the popup was initially planned to stay open for only six weeks, the success of the venture led its organisers to consider extending its run.

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