Actors union threatens Brit pix prod’n

Equity, Producers Alliance year-long negotiations barren

LONDON — The heat has been turned up on the Blighty labor front.

The threat of a halt to British feature film production came one step closer to reality Tuesday when Brit actors union Equity instructed its 36,000 members to refuse all work on U.K. features beginning Dec. 1 — if an agreement is not reached.

Decision by Equity comes after a year of fruitless negotiations with the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT), which represents British film producers.

The two sides had been negotiating a new deal that would include residual payments for actors working under U.K. contracts. Currently, actors receive a one-off upfront payment, which includes a flat rate payment for future residuals.

The current agreement with PACT was due to expire Nov. 1, but Tuesday’s decision in effect extends the contract by one month.

“We do not want to take action,” Equity spokesman Martin Brown told Daily Variety. “Today’s decision in effect says, ‘Let’s keep talking,’ and it’s giving PACT more time to come up with an offer. But we are serious and we do want a cut from residuals.”

Prominent U.K. thesps such as Ewan McGregor, Julie Walters and Christopher Lee have come out in force to support Equity’s negotiations.

If a strike goes ahead, it would stall a raft of films set to lense here this fall.

These include the latest James Bond movie as well as “Johnny English,” a Bond spoof set to star Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”); the Winston Churchill pic “Lonely War”; and historical drama “Cromwell and Fairfax,” from Natural Nylon, the company run by McGregor and Jude Law.

Equity is in separate negotiations to reach an agreement on a Harry Potter sequel at Warner Bros.

Equity rejected the latest offer from PACT at the end of August on the grounds that it was too vague. PACT had issued two proposals for either a net participation plan that would see actors receive an overall percentage of net profits or a royalty system based on U.K. revenues only (for TV and video/DVD).

“The offer has been clarified substantially since August,” Brown said. “PACT has moved substantially toward an agreement in the course of the year, but there is still a long way to go. The distance is still very great between us. But we still believe an agreement is possible.”

In a statement, PACT said it believed it had made a reasonable offer to Equity but added that it would “consider carefully any counter-proposals made.”

A PACT rep told Daily Variety that the org wants to prevent a situation that makes the financing of British films more difficult or leads to a reduction in investment from overseas.

The Cinema Films Agreement (the agreement in question) does not affect actors’ work for television.

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