SAG looks to law on runaway prod’n

Guild vote likely to heat up the issue

The Screen Actors Guild’s leaders have endorsed an investigation into the legality of foreign government film and TV subsidies designed to attract American productions.

At the recent plenary session, SAG’s national board voted unanimously to endorse such a move, along with contributing $10,000 to a report on runaway production by the Center for Entertainment Industry Data & Research.

Guild had no official comment Wednesday on the action. But the SAG vote — which represents an official endorsement by the guild’s 100,000 members — is likely to heat up the issue of how to deal effectively with runaway production.

The investigation has been the brainchild of the seven-year-old Film & Television Action Committee, an org of below-the-line workers. FTAC has spent most of its energy on prepping a North American Free Trade Agreement Section 301(a) petition asking the U.S. trade representative to initiate negotiations with Canada to remove its subsidies, backed by the threat of intervention of the World Trade Organization, as the most effective way of putting the brakes on productions fleeing to less-expensive locations outside the U.S.

Orgs such as the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the American Film Marketing Assn., Directors Guild of America, Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have long contended that such a strategy could backfire by leading to a trade war and further loss of jobs.

In 2001 SAG’s national board endorsed FTAC’s original strategy of pushing for countervailing tariffs against U.S. producers using foreign subsidies — much to the consternation of the Hollywood establishment. FTAC filed a petition seeking that remedy with the feds that year but later withdrew it in favor of the 301 (a) petition.

Earlier this month, FTAC convinced the West Hollywood City Council to endorse the campaign for the 301(a) petition. And in June, the Intl. Cinematographers Guild, which operates as IATSE Local 600, reversed its policy for the union after a slate headed by president Gary Dunham won several other offices and board seats upon campaigning on a platform of taking a more aggressive stance on runaway production.

The Center for Entertainment Industry Data and Research was formed several years ago by Mark A. Rosenthal, president of Raleigh Enterprises, and Academy Award winner Stephen Katz to track production data from around the world.

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