The Hobbit and handouts – would they really have gone to Scotland if we didn’t fill the trough?

Alf had agreed with The Boss about providing troughs for the snouts of movie moguls.

If we’ve got to pick winners, and then nourish the buggers with public funding, then let’s pick winners from a glamourous industry like movie-making.

The photo opportunities for The Boss and his team are apt to have much more appeal to voters when they are pictured with movie people than – for example – coal miners.

At least, that’s what Alf thought until he found the Grumbles weren’t on the invitation list for the premiere of The Hobbit.

He is now taking a more jaundiced view of things, and especially he is wondering why the Government doesn’t want to disclose information about their handouts and other help to The Hobbit makers.

He is finding this jaundiced view is shared by a few mates down at the Eketahuna Club.

His mates similarly tell him they are just a tad sceptical, when they hear Sir Peter Jackson say (as he did here) there was a very real danger the Hobbit movies would be made outside New Zealand.

In an interview with Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report programme Sir Peter said that if New Zealand wants to continue producing big budget films locally it has to keep up with incentives being offered by other countries.

Radio NZ explained that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first in the latest trilogy based on J R R Tolkien’s fantasy novels, which implies there will be two more movies.

That gives Alf some heart that he might be invited to one of the future premieres.

But for now, he has been reminded that –

Two years ago, his company Wingnut Films Productions and the New Zealand Actors’ Equity union were at loggerheads over a collective pay agreement.

Sir Peter said the dispute created the very real danger the films would have been made in the UK and the threat was not brinksmanship by Warner Bros, which sent proof it was looking elsewhere.

The worst time for him was when a huge box arrived at his office from the studio.

“They had sent a location scout around England and Scotland to take photos, and they literally had the script broken down into each scene.

“In each scene there were pictures of the Scottish Highlands and forests in England and this and that – and it was to convince us that we could easily just go over there and shoot the film.”

Frankly, if Warner Bros wanted to take The Hobbit to the Scottish Highlands, a region inhabited by big red-headed and hairy people wearing skirts, tossing cabers and speaking a language no-one but themselves understand, then so be it.

Mind you, let’s not forget where Scotch comes from.

Anyway, Sir Peter says he doesn’t know whether Warner Bros aimed to get more taxpayers’ money for the films when executives flew to New Zealand during the dispute.

But he says he knows there is no room for sentimentality when studios decide where big budget films will be made, and if New Zealand wants to be in the business of making films it has to be aware of what other countries and US states are offering up as tax incentives.

That is, we have to do everything that believers in a health free-enterprise economy says should not be done.

We have to come up with a generous dose of corporate welfare for Hollywood moguls who aren’t short of a bob.

And what do taxpayers get back for their investment?

A kick in the guts, in the case of Reg Turner (as you will learn here).

Reg owns a luxury lodge that overlooks some of the New Zealand locations used in The Hobbit movies.

But he says he is being prevented from advertising that the scenery is used in the film to attract customers.

Farewell Spit, Golden Bay, Mt Olympus and Mt Parapara, located at the top of the South Island, were used as the backdrop to Sir Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and have again been used for the upcoming Hobbit films.

Reg Turner, the owner of Song of the Tui lodge in Golden Bay, said he wanted to use the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to promote his accommodation in a local tourism guide.

“The little advert said, ‘my lovely lodge overlooks the stunning scenery as shown in the films Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit’,” the lodge owner said.

But the Hollywood heavies required him to delete details of The Hobbit from his listing, because of copyright issues.

While a hard-working Kiwi taxpayer was being heavied, The Boss was in Hollywood promoting New Zealand as a filming destination to movie companies.

He had no sympathy for a tax-paying citizen trying to make an honest buck without dipping into the public trough.

Key said there were strict copyright regulations as to what can be advertised.

“It’s not unusual for companies not to be able to trade on a particular reference.”

But Turner said because film companies were given tax breaks and incentives to film in New Zealand, local businesses should benefit from the films too.

Gotta agree with that.

Not only are the movie-makers a bunch of bludgers. They have exposed themselves as bullying bludgers, to boot.

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