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IATSE redefines low-budget

Pact calls for cap to reach more than $9 mil in 2006

HOLLYWOOD — The Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees has negotiated a new three-year deal covering low-budget films, bumping the cap from $7 million to $8.5 million.

IATSE said the pact, which became effective Jan. 1, is the only IATSE motion picture agreement that covers production anywhere in the U.S.

The below-the-line union said several breakthroughs were achieved in the negotiations. IATSE said it had agreed to lift the cap in an effort to stimulate production by indie producers, who contended the $7 million figure was no longer realistic.

The pact also calls for an additional bump in the cap to more than $9 million at the start of 2006.

IATSE also said the pact permits additional budget flexibility by conforming budgets to current completion bonding requirements. The union noted the producers acknowledged crews willing to work on low-budget projects should have appropriate working conditions and agreed to improved rest periods and meal provisions.

IATSE said the pact also includes increases in wages and benefit contributions to keep wage rates in step with the cost of living and support the viability of the health benefit and retirement plans.

“I hope other segments of the industry will support the leadership of the IATSE in recognizing the important contribution made by independent producers to motion picture production and employment by expanding the number of motion pictures that can qualify for ‘low-budget’ treatment,” said IATSE prexy Thomas Short. “Our goal in this negotiation was to stimulate production and create jobs for our members that provide appropriate wage rates, benefits and working conditions.”

Production companies included Bob Yari Prods., Lions Gate Films and its newly merged affiliate Artisan Entertainment, Franchise Pictures, Intermedia Films, Lakeshore Entertainment, Miramax Pictures and New Line Pictures.

The IATSE negotiating team was led by VP Matthew Loeb; the producers’ negotiating committee was co-chaired by Howard Fabrick of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld and Richard Kopenhefer of McDermott, Will & Emery.

IATSE announced in May that its East Coast Council had raised the cap on its low-budget agreement from $6 million to $8 million. And the Writers Guild of America boosted its cap last year for its Low Budget Agreement from $750,000 to $1.2 million.

The Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild already offer similar low-budget agreements. The DGA reached a three-year deal with the Independent Producers Assn. in 2002 on a four-tier agreement: films produced for less than $1 million; greater than $1 million and less than $2.5 million; more than $2.5 million but less than $3.5 million; and for $3.5 million to $7 million, up from the previous cap of $6 million.

SAG’s agreements have five tiers for films up to $2 million, including an experimental agreement for films under $75,000.

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