TORONTO — Canadian actors will be seeking increased “work opportunities” as negotiations for a new contract open today between the country’s largest actors union and U.S. and Canuck television and film producers.
“Non-Canadian performers play most of the leading roles in productions shot in Canada, and earn almost double the minimum wage that ACTRA performers earn,” said Thor Bishopric, president of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists. “We want to redress that imbalance.”
Production in Canada has enjoyed annual double-digit growth in recent years, a surge attributable to U.S. productions. Indigenous Canadian production has by comparison declined significantly.
“It’s going to be a contentious issue,” ACTRA national executive director Stephen Waddell told Daily Variety, “given that U.S. producers believe they have the right to bring in whoever they wish since they finance the production. They are coming into our country, they are taking advantage of the Canadian dollar, the crews and the tax credits, and we believe that as a matter of course they should be engaging more Canadian performers.”
Other issues include wages, production for the Internet and a minimum fee for extras.
SAG reps on hand
Attending the bargaining meeting will be reps from the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn., the Alliance of Motion Picture & TV Producers representing the U.S. studios, and the Assn. des producteurs de films et de television du Quebec. While the Screen Actors Guild is traditionally displeased about what it terms “runaway production,” representatives of ACTRA’s U.S. brethren also will be on hand. “In that respect, we still work on the level of international solidarity,” Waddell said.
ACTRA agreed two months ago to grant a “continuation understanding” provision allowing actors to continue working for companies whose production is expected to run over the Independent Production Agreement expiration date of Jan. 16, should a strike occur.
But Waddell said a strike is unlikely. “We’re optimistic as we enter into these negotiations that we’re going to be able to conclude an agreement,” he said.
ACTRA represents about 18,000 performers nationwide.