Union exec: IA losing TV pic biz

Noting that fewer than 10% of TV movies are filmed under union contract, one union official within the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees is warning members that now is the time to take a different tack.

“The message we need to send to the producers is that we want to get the work under contract and to that end we will ‘accommodate their needs and deal with any obstacles,’ ” said George Spiro Dibie, president of IA Camera Local 659. “If we do this, we will not only maintain our health plan but we’ll be giving our members the kind of representation they deserve. In other words, face facts and move ahead.”

Dibie’s comments, made in the Guild’s newsletter, said that various locals’ continuing refusal to compromise has worked to the detriment of below-the-line members, making it “more difficult to convince movie-of-the-week, cable and syndicated producers to shoot under a Hollywood IATSE contract.”

He noted that of the 158 telefilms made for network television last year, only eight were made under a modified basic agreement.

And of the current lot, 11 TV movies are being shot in Vancouver.

“Indeed, three years after ‘Tales from the Crypt’ began shooting in Los Angeles, some West Coast studio locals are still arguing about whether or not they have enough information to sign an agreement with this producer,” Dibie said.

Filming in Canada

Canada, on the other hand, is luring more and more work away because, in part , of the “flexibility of its unions,” Dibie said, adding that last year, 27 TV series filmed in Toronto including “Class of ’96” (Fox), “Kung Fu” (Warner Bros.) and “Top Cops” (CBS).

“In Hollywood, unfortunately, some locals look at the Basic Agreement and tell the producer to ‘pay drive-to money or forget it,’ ” Dibie said. “And whether we like it or not, the producers have a host of alternatives to shooting in Los Angeles or under the Basic Agreement.”

In order to turn this around, Dibie said the West Coast locals have the advantage of not only representing the finest collection of craftspeople in the world, but also of being located in Los Angeles next to the major studios.

“If given the choice, most producers would prefer to shoot (here),” he said.

“It’s time that we use these strengths to keep production in Los Angeles. Put simply, the fact that the Basic Agreement may be one of the best collective bargaining agreements in the industry doesn’t impress our unemployed members.

“Meeting the competition does not mean sacrificing everything West Coast studio locals have fought for,” he said.

“On the contrary, it means fighting to increase our members’ job opportunities. It means eliminating rather than creating obstacles for producers.”

The IA’s current contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers was recently extended for four months, through Dec. 3 (Daily Variety, April 2).

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