The ‘Wellywood’ sign: people power gets things done

That was a very interesting 30 hours. I found out about the ‘Wellywood’ sign yesterday afternoon, through Twitter, and Tweeted to say I hated it. Little did I know then that there was a huge Facebook group—6,000 strong at the time of writing—where Wellingtonians were making their voices known.
   And when I got there to Facebook, I was inspired.
   While my opponents were still talking hot air, I decided to act for the good of the city. I was inspired by one comment on the larger anti-sign Facebook group, which asked: surely someone holds the copyright?
   First stop: the Hollywood Sign Trust. If anyone knew who owned the sign, it would be them.
   I received a very nice reply from Betsy Isroelit of the Trust at what must have been very early hours in California, to say that she had referred it to the correct parties.
   By the time I got up today, I had an email waiting from Global Icons, LLC, which, with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, owns the original Hollywood sign’s intellectual property. Global Icons, from what I understand, looks after this side of things for the Chamber. And would I please send them the artist’s impression of what the sign would look like?
   And that kicked it off. I mentioned this to Rachel Morton at TV3 news before I was interviewed, and she took the initiative by contacting the CEO of the Chamber for comment immediately. It turns out that he did not know that the matter was already brewing in California, but he does now. Rachel tells me that he then put the Chamber’s lawyers on to the case. That’s two for us, nil for Mayor Prendergast and the airport.
   All it took was the creativity of Wellingtonians to show something I have said from day one.
   You know, creativity? The thing that this sign does not represent, and makes fun of?
   And all it took were everyday Wellingtonians collaborating. I was inspired by the person on the Facebook group. And if I hadn’t approached the Trust and Global Icons, I wouldn’t have mentioned it to Rachel. And if Rachel hadn’t called the CEO, Global Icons would probably be going it alone. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, because the credit is, really, everyone’s. The result should hopefully be that this horrible sign does not go up because people were prepared to act—whether by making their voice known on Facebook, or making some phone calls.
   People power, not corporates, not élites, gets things done. And that includes this year’s mayoral election.

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5 thoughts on “The ‘Wellywood’ sign: people power gets things done

  1. Erm… that’s not creative, or people power.

    What you’ve done is grassed up the sign-makers to the American copyright police… you know. A corporate. An elite.

    That’s about as far away from people-power or creativity as you can possibly get.

  2. Nick, good call. True, I considered this and what it meant to the campaign—especially with my opposition last year on s. 92A and s. 92C which, as we know, was the result of American copyright lobbyists. And yes, I considered that I would piss some people off.
       My defence is that I thought: if someone was ripping Wellington off, would I want a chance to defend it? And if I were defending it, would I get lawyers on it? Sad to say, but the answer to both is yes.
       The first thing I thought of was this: if we hate this Wellywood sign, then I am going to use what tools I have at my disposal to say do our bidding, which is exactly what you’d expect someone to do for your own causes.
       Because all the other avenues—e.g. fighting based on resource consents—were unlikely, in my judgement, to do much at all. I also weighed up many of the threats, albeit many made in jest, about vandalism and arson toward this sign.
       This isn’t really the ‘American copyright police’, as no such thing exists, but you already knew that. At the end of the day the joint owner of the Hollywood sign is a local chamber of commerce that reps mostly everyday people who work there, not big corporates.
       The reality is that some letters will be written by the suits, the Airport might back down, I find myself done for excess baggage on every flight in retaliation for the next year, and this won’t even reach the courts. The sign-makers get their consultancy and design paid out, and we don’t waste time and resources on something that the majority of Wellingtonians object to.

  3. Okay, so I don’t like the idea of the Wellywood sign either but wow this is like it’s a competition for you. The triumph at which you proclaim your ‘victory’ over Kerry Prendergast and the airport is lame and, to be honest, really immature. I get it that if the cards were dealt the other way that we would get pissed off and want something to happen about it but you’re insulting the people who honestly thought this was a good idea. And it was, theoretically. Wellington has been informally called Wellywood for a while so the idea almost wrote itself it’s just that New Zealanders are passed being a ‘mini-America’ and want to be original. Fair enough. I totally agree that the Wellywood sign is a bad idea. Just the way you said things makes the motivation behind dobbing the idea in wasn’t in making people’s voices heard but commercial purposes for you which is low – not a quality I want for my future Mayor.

  4. Catherine, I don’t know where you got the “commercial” idea from, nor have I ever proclaimed any triumph. There will be one person proclaiming a triumph and that’s in the mayor’s office on October 6, after the election. Who that will be will be determined by a fair and democratic process.
       The issues are simple: if people wanted this sign, I would have kept my mouth shut. As the majority of people didn’t, I acted. Either your future mayor adds to the hot air or (s)he does something. People are quick to condemn this, yet offer no alternative.
       Read my post again: you have read in an allegedly selfish motivation all by yourself. It’s funny: I post a quick clarification—because I knew the story would suffer from rumour (the BBC story is, for example, quite far from the truth)—and people leap to their own conclusions anyway.
       Also, there is no “dobbing”, a mistake that Nick (and a good deal of the media) made, too. That would presume there are two kids in the playground and I told the teacher. No: I went to one kid to tell her another kid took her toy.
       Think about it: if I were a “politician” in the negative sense, I would want the sign to be erected so people like me could point at it and criticize Mayor Prendergast. If I were “commercial”, wouldn’t the successful erection of the sign be the best advertisement that my campaign could have?
       Those who thought this sign was a good idea deserve criticism (‘insult’ is your word, and I hardly think I ever approached that level), for not running this by the public democratically and transparently.
       I admire your candour and your thoughtful planning behind your comment (the smart quotes and en dash are nice touches), but less your reading of things that aren’t there. Every now and then, you will find people who act selflessly, and I am driven by my faith and beliefs on that. Sadly, politics is filled with many who are selfish, and I fully appreciate how that can colour our perceptions.

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