Hobbit 'threat' rejected by producers

New Line Cinema rejected the suggestion it was threatening to take The Hobbit films offshore, but it wanted the government to consider similar incentives to what the New South Wales government was offering to take the films there, official documents show.

The government on Tuesday released a series of emails, including between ministerial office staff, film studios and Sir Peter Jackson, after the Ombudsman ordered their release.

Most of the documents focus on the film-makers' concerns about the employment status of film workers, and their worry that union Actors Equity was trying to leverage itself into bargaining on contracts for the films.

The government passed an urgent amendment clarifying that film industry workers are "contractors", not "employees", on October 28, 2010.

It maintained the threat of a union boycott nearly drove the films offshore, and there was a threat that could still happen if the law wasn't changed.

However, on October 12, New Line's senior vice-president of business affairs, Carolyn Blackwood, emailed the office of former economic development minister Gerry Brownlee, saying there was no such threat.

She was concerned Mr Brownlee had given Sir Peter and his wife, producer Fran Walsh, "a very different impression" about a conversation they had had.

"When you asked me if the decision had been made to move the films offshore, I told you that that decision had not yet been made. And it hasn't," Ms Blackwood wrote.

"As I have said to you on every occasion that we have spoken, we are committed to NZ ... and are not making any decisions to move this production lightly."

However, the producers had received an offer of "a very attractive incentive" from the NSW government, she said, adding that Mr Brownlee had sounded "amenable" to considering a similar offer.

"I hope that you did not take my request as a demand of any sort - it was (and is) truly a request to help us explore any and all options for relief to our set of issues."

Yet the same day, Screen Production and Development Association chief executive Penelope Borland told Mr Brownlee's office "urgent resolution of The Hobbit situation" was needed.

"Things are not looking good," she wrote.

Six days later, Sir Peter told Mr Brownlee's office "there is no connection between the [union] blacklist ... and the choice of production base for The Hobbit. What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment."

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