Disney has joined the boycott of studio film production in Manhattan. Even though it is not a signatory member studio of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers – which fled the city in November when IATSE contracts expired – Disney has asked New Yorker Alan J. Pakula to do his new film in another city.
A Disney spokesman said that while the studio isn’t a member of AMPTP, it supports the efforts of other studios in bringing down overtime costs charged by New York unions. Pakula, who likes to shoot here, was advised by the studio to choose another city for his Touchstone film “Significant Other,” starring Tom Hanks and Debra Winger. Shooting begins in the spring.
Meanwhile, Fox also has pulled another project that would have been shot in Gotham – “Prelude To A Kiss,” starring Alec Baldwin.
Fox is one of the studios involved in the negotiations with Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 644 (cinematographers) and Local 52 (studio mechanics), along with Warner Bros., Paramount, Orion and MGM. Universal, which also makes its own deals with unions, is shooting the tv show “Law And Order” in Manhattan, but has no current New York feature plans.
The Hollywood-based studio negotiators and Gotham unions remained on opposite coasts last week, and seemed equally distant on the sticky issue of overtime. The studios want 52 and 644 to work any five days for regular pay, as is the practice elsewhere in the country, including Los Angeles. The unions want to offset the loss of overtime with film residuals, which the L.A. unions enjoy. A deal appeared do-able between studio negotiators and 644 last month, but both parties stalked angrily away from the conference table.
Paramount’s Steve Koppekin, who is acting as chief studio negotiator in the 644 fray, said that even though 644 reps rejected the proposal offered by studios in December, members will vote on it Jan. 15. He was hopeful the 1,500 union members will vote to ratify the new deal over the objections of union leadership.
“This is simple,” said Koppekin. “You have a room with furniture. They can move the furniture around, but they’re not getting any more furniture. We are putting them on the same footing with what 644 gets in Buffalo, or even White Plains.”
Louis D’Agostino, 644′s business rep, doubted 644′s members would vote for the proposal. “The prognosis is an overwhelming objection. We’re ready to sit down, but the studios have to be willing to engage in collective bargaining,” he said.
If the members reject the proposal and a new deal isn’t made before February, things could go from bad to worse very quickly. The studios have declared they might impose a contract giving them the same benefits as nonsignatories Disney and Universal – the right to use camera crews from other cities outside of Manhattan, but within other east coast locations that fall under 644′s jurisdiction. The union feels such a move would be illegal and would be viewed as confrontational.
The lack of lensing is troubling the Mayor’s Office for Film, Theater and Broadcasting. Commissioner Jaynne Keyes said she was especially concerned because studios aren’t applying for scouting permits – a routine preliminary step taken before a studio commits to film in Manhattan.
Last January, permits were issued for “The Bonfire Of The Vanities,” “The Fisher King,” “The Godfather Part III,” “Green Card,” “The Hard Way,” “Mortal Thoughts,” “New York Times” (changed to “Funny About Love”), “Scenes From A Mall” and “State Of Grace.” Those formed the bulk of last summer’s location business.
“If this goes to the latter part of February, my spring’s lost,” said Keyes. Summer also would be in peril. There is one permit from Disney, and, interestingly, one from Jaffe-Lansing Prods., which has a deal with Paramount. Par’s Koppekin said they wouldn’t film in Manhattan unless a new deal was made.
All parties said they welcome presence of state and city mediators at the next session, which has not yet been skedded.
Meanwhile, 644 members continue to lobby theatergoers. Last Thursday, union reps staked out the lines at Cinema 1 on Third Avenue at 60th Street and at the Loews 84th Street 6 on Broadway. They quizzed moviegoers on facts about Gotham-lensed films. Correct answers got cassettes of New York-based movies like “Big.” Theatergoers also were asked to sign postcards to studio reps urging a return to the bargaining table.
Though the union says the studios have received a swarm of postcards from this effort, it apparently hasn’t delivered the desired effect on the studio negotiators.
“Our position is we feel we need these concessions, and they need these concessions to be able to induce producers to come there,” said Dean Ferris, Fox’ rep at the table. “So when we get letters asking us to bring production back to the city, we think that’s what we’re trying to do. In a way, it’s more of an inducement for us to say we are doing what’s in the best interests of New York City.”