Oz film funder delays action on thesp pay

FFC will monitor the results of several pics

SYDNEY — U.S. and Oz thesps who star in films funded by the Australian government can breathe easy: The prospect of a cap being imposed on salaries has receded.

The Australian Screen Directors Assn. and some producers had called on funding body the Film Finance Corp. Australia to set a limit amid concerns that fees of A$1 million ($750,000) or more paid to marquee talent would make production budgets uncompetitive vs. U.S. indie films.

The FFC decided last week to take no action on thesp salaries for at least a year while it monitors the results of several films, including the Cate Blanchett starrer “Little Fish,” which wrapped in December, and “Candy,” which toplines Heath Ledger and is due to roll in March.

The notion of any ceiling was fiercely opposed by the actors’ guild, the Media, Arts & Entertainment Alliance and some agents and producers.

“After consultations, we know the film community was divided on the issue,” said FFC chief exec Brian Rosen. “We want to see whether films with marquee talent perform better (at the local B.O. and in offshore sales) than they would have without that talent.

“If they don’t increase audiences, we would question the size of fees and look at whether actors should get the same fee but defer some of it so they take risks along with the investors,” he continued.

The FFC board did agree to disclose the names of the panel of consultants it’s using to assess scripts after the producers, directors and writers guilds objected to the use of anonymous assessors.

“We’re happy that our concerns have been raised and taken seriously,” said ASDA exec director Richard Harris.

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