Lensers nix legal probe

Guild board votes against filing petition

Leaders of the Intl. Cinematographers Guild have decided against backing an effort to investigate the legality of foreign government film and TV subsidies designed to attract American productions.

Guild’s national executive board voted 32-28 on Sunday against filing a North American Free Trade Agreement Section 301(a) petition against Canadian film production incentives as a way to curb runaway production. The ICG has 5,700 members and operates as IATSE Local 600.

The investigation has been the brainchild of the 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.

The vote followed presentations by attorneys who specialize in such filings. Alan Dunn, a partner at Stewart and Stewart, who represents the interests of several other IATSE locals that have endorsed taking such action, estimated the filing had a 75% chances of success.

But Michael Punke, a former senior counsel at the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, estimated the chances of success at less than 5% due to a lack of industrywide support from leading organizations such as the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

The vote by the Local 600 leaders was the latest in a series of battles over runaway production dating back to Gary Dunham’s election as president in 2004. Dunham was ousted earlier this year in the culmination of a series of disagreements with IATSE national prexy Tom Short.

SAG recently donated $50,000 in support of the 301(a) filing.

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