Oz producers, thesps to meet on pay issue

Shutdown of film prod'n looms

SYDNEY — Reps of the producers’ and actors’ bodies will meet in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission June 2 to try to resolve the pay dispute that threatens to shut down film production.

But both sides seem far apart, as producers accused the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance of being “irresponsible” in demanding a share of net profits for thesps when the local industry is shrinking.

In turn, Simon Whipp, the alliance’s equity director, described the producers’ position as “hypocritical and laughable.”

Whipp noted the new investment guidelines issued Monday by the government’s Film Finance Corp. give producers a share of the agency’s profits from the first dollar, whereas his guild is seeking a cut of profits after recoupment.

Since last July, the alliance has been insisting that 8.33% of net profits be put into a pot for thesps to share. The producers have offered 5% from the 50% cut that they receive. The other 50% is returned to investors, who are unwilling to give up any of their profits.

A virtual shutdown of Australian film production looms as the producers have vowed not to sign any profit-sharing deals with actors until the dispute is resolved.

Producer-director Robert Connolly said he and his producing partner John Maynard gave up the upside on their latest pic, “Three Dollars,” which has just wrapped, due to the alliance’s demands. “We had to give up more in net profits than we had (available),” Connolly said.

The producers raised A$1.65 million ($1.2 million) from private Oz investors, together with coin from the FFC, feevee channel Showtime and sales agent Fandango.

Connolly said he won’t be able to use that financing structure again if the alliance succeeds in its claims because investors won’t forgo any of their profits.

Last week the Screen Producers Assn. of Australia and Independent Producers Initiative asked the commission to mediate (Daily Variety, May 21). The MEAA initially rejected that option. and although Whipp indicated he will attend the hearing, he said, “We do not see it as a forum where the dispute can be resolved.”