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Canadian Bakin’

H'wood, Canuck actors reach no-strike deal

MONTREAL — Canada’s actors guild, embroiled in negotiations with Hollywood and Canadian producers, has promised not to walk off the sets of any film or TV project begun before its Jan. 16 strike deadline in hopes of averting the loss of millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs.

U.S. majors had said they would boycott filming in Canada as a result of the strike threat. In return for the commitment from the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, producers on both sides of the border agreed to pay ACTRA performers retroactively for work after Jan. 16, the first day that the actors can legally strike, based on whatever the new rates are in the upcoming collective agreement.

Several pricey studio pics set to shoot in Montreal were threatened by the labor woes. Those included “Dreamcatcher,” the adaptation of the Stephen King bestseller to be directed by Lawrence Kasdan and produced by Castle Rock and Warner Bros.; “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” to be directed by and star George Clooney; and Warner Bros. pic “The In-Laws.”

Initially, ACTRA had proposed offering no-strike waivers to U.S. producers on a pic-by-pic basis, but reps from the Canadian Film & Television Production Assn. argued that such a policy would discriminate unfairly against Canadian producers.

ACTRA has been under intense pressure for the past few weeks from both the studios and the Canadian production industry, which feared the loss of millions of dollars in American shooting.

“It is unprecedented for us, but it is a useful process to ensure that productions will feel confident about coming to Canada and it allows the negotiations to proceed on schedule,” said Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA.

“We don’t believe it will weaken our bargaining position. We’ll be entering negotiations with intent to reach an equitable agreement, and we hope the parties will come to the negotiating table on Oct. 16 and present reasonable proposals to each other.”

Waiver worries

During its contract negotiations in May and June, the Screen Actors Guild granted extension waivers to a few producers of low-budget films, allowing them to continue production with guild members past the June 30 contract expiration. But SAG leaders never moved to implement a blanket waiver for all producers as ACTRA now has. Hardliners within the guild contended that making such a move would reduce SAG’s bargaining clout by removing the possibility of a total shutdown of the business.

The threat of a Canuck labor dispute already has cost Montreal the $60 million 20th Century Fox/New Regency pic “Daredevil,” which nixed plans to shoot there two weeks ago after negotiations for a waiver broke down with ACTRA. Fox and producer Bernie Williams decided to move “Daredevil” to Vancouver.

The Union of B.C. Performers, the actors guild in British Columbia, has a separate collective agreement, which expires March 31.

SAG attack

ACTRA’s move came on the heels of the Canadian union blasting the Screen Actors Guild over SAG’s support for countervailing tariffs, with Waddell describing the move as “isolationism at its worst.”

Countervailing tariffs are designed to put the brakes on runaway production to cheaper locations. They would require U.S. producers who obtain subsidies from foreign governments to pay a tariff of the same amount in order to be allowed to distribute their product in the U.S.

(Dave McNary in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

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