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What’s so special about a movie?

October 21, 2010

New Zealand's Greatest Cultural/Capitalist Heroes?

How come John Key is offering to sort out a business deal? I suppose it’s because it’s ‘our’ Peter Jackson and it’s claimed to have some sort of cultural value. Otherwise the giant film companies making use of New Zealand’s subsidies and relatively low wages are no different from Apple exploiting cheap Chinese labour rather than New Zealand labour because New Zealanders don’t want to work 72 hour weeks. And I don’t see John Key trying to woo Apple…

Just seems weird that a proponent of global capital and the free market is trying to mess with the rational decisions of giant film companies looking for the best place to ensure “the security of their US$500 million ($669.32m) investment”.

Due to basically one giant movie franchise and the expertise of Weta Digital there is some conventional wisdom that New Zealand is a special place for making movies and this is one of our ‘competitive advantages’ or whatever. But in reality there’s nothing except some scenery (which it’s not like there isn’t good scenery in other places), a couple of big names, and Weta that are actually unique to NZ. Given that Weta can send digital renderings to anywhere and Peter Jackson can be flown to any location for a paltry sum this doesn’t seem that compelling a reason to stay in New Zealand. And aside from the scenery and the nationality of some of the people involved in say Lord of the Rings or Avatar there’s nothing essentially “New Zealand” about these films in a cultural sense (compare to, say, “Boy”).

This is New Zealand's unique contribution to culture, guys.

When our exchange rate was more advantageous the big studios found our subsidies a good deal. But there’s not really anything we can do to get corporations to spend money here other than pay them more in subsidies. Fundamentally there’s no more reason to shed tears about The Hobbit than our lack of electronics manufacturing or car factories, especially for these huge projects where the vast majority of the funds go on technical stuff rather than paying creative scriptwriters/great actors etc. Unless the government basically gives money to the film companies in the form of subsidies or more relaxed regulations on wages/hours/working conditions the companies will always go where things are cheaper. Maybe catering to film companies requires less of a sacrifice than catering to semiconductor factories but does it really matter where these massive films are made?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. poms permalink
    October 21, 2010 10:00 pm

    respected peter jackson so much more when he was fat, he sold out.

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