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Runaway Production

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#1 David Allen Grove SOC

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Posted 26 March 2004 - 01:49 PM

March 26, 2004

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ACTRA Lauds TV Funding Rise
Ontario Sees Runaway Production Decline

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) has applauded Prime Minister Paul Martin for keeping his promise to performers to restore $25 million in funding to the Canadian Television Fund in the new federal budget. Martin announced the new budget proposal on Tuesday.

Martin "has thrown our industry a lifeline by restoring funding to the CTF," Stephen Waddell, ACTRA's national executive director, said from the union's headquarters in Toronto. "Now it's time for private broadcasters to step up to the plate and reinvest some of their millions in profits back into funding Canadian TV drama."

Last year's $25 million cut to the CTF was a near lethal blow to an industry already suffering under the effects of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission's (CRTC) 1999 Television Policy, according to ACTRA. The policy removed spending requirements for Canadian broadcasters, allowing them to satisfy Canadian content requirements by filling their schedules with cheap reality and magazine-style programming. As a result, Canadian culture and programming has all but disappeared from the airwaves, the actors' union has complained. The number of dramatic series on the air declined from 12 in 1999 to a low of three in 2003.

ACTRA is calling for the CRTC to introduce a new mix of incentives and obligations for broadcasters, including the requirement to air a minimum number of hours of original Canadian drama during prime time.

"The government's reinstatement of the CTF monies doesn't let broadcasters off the hook," said Waddell. "We're demanding a long-term solution to this crisis that requires broadcasters to give something back to the Canadian public in return for the regulated system and public airwaves that made it possible for them to double their profits last year."

ACTRA is a national organization of professional performers working in the English-language recorded media in Canada. ACTRA represents the interests of 21,000 members across Canada -- the foundation of Canada's highly acclaimed professional performing community. ACTRA celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2003.

Runaways Grow Smaller

Meanwhile, in Ontario, foreign film and television production suffered a 36% ($204.6 million) decline in 2003. Hardest hit were the television movie and feature film production categories, which dropped 58% ($98.6 million) and 34% ($72.3 million) respectively. That's the word from Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) Chair Marcelle Lean.

"It was a difficult year for foreign film and television production in Ontario, with a major drop in production from April to September," noted Lean. What "foreign" production means to Lean in Toronto equals what "runaway production" means to the U.S. entertainment industry, particularly the unions who have been calling for state and federal tax breaks and a stronger commitment from U.S. producers to stay at home.

"We sincerely hope that the worst is behind us," Lean said. "Much work is being done by OMDC to promote the many advantages of shooting in Ontario including an excellent resource and talent pool, tax credit programs, and a wide range of locations."

The overall decrease would have been far more severe had domestic film and television production expenditures not picked up some of the slack, the OMDC said. Spending on Canadian domestic productions -- television movies, series, animation, and feature films -- increased by 23% or $94.1 million in 2003, although the actual number of projects declined 22%. The increase in production spending occurred because of a few projects that had higher production budgets.

Ontario Media Development Corporation, an agency of the Ministry of Culture, provides a wide range of initiatives to stimulate the growth of the province's book-publishing, music, interactive digital media, film, television, and magazine-publishing industries.

Lean and the OMDC's view should be a warning to U.S. entertainment unions and lawmakers that they need to take a harder look at tax incentives to keep productions within U.S. borders.

-- Roger Armbrust
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#2 JamieSilverstein


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Posted 28 March 2004 - 02:35 AM

thank you so much for posting this article. This underscores my original point concering Runaway, which is that its not just us, Americans that are affected by the concept, but any nation with a mature film industry. Once people demand a living wage, the producers of product run to the next cheapest venue.
It is truly amazing how civilized the are in Canada, with the government fighting to underwrite the industry, knowing how vital and important workers rights and right to a living wage under safe and civilized conditions are. If only our government shared an iota of that sentiment. November is only 7 months away..................
Thanks again David.
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#3 David Allen Grove SOC

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Posted 05 April 2004 - 01:02 PM

Article LinkPolitician Slams Runaway Production

By Peter Kiefer

In lieu of legislative support, Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., has asked MPAA chief Jack Valenti and his member companies to step in and thwart the trend of runaway film and television production to foreign locales. In a letter, Watson also singled out Universal's "Cinderella Man" -- scheduled to shoot in Canada -- as an especially troubling instance.

"While we applaud the effort by Universal Studios to tell the triumphant story of James J. Braddock in 'Cinderella Man,' one of our nation's greatest boxing heroes, we are deeply concerned by the outsourcing of its filming to Canada," Watson wrote. "We strongly urge you to call on Universal to reconsider."

In her letter, Watson also notes how runaway production has cost the U.S. economy tens of thousands of jobs and billions in lost revenue and how such recent all-American fare as "Chicago" and "Cold Mountain," both of which were shot abroad, are "stark examples of placing profits over American jobs."

She wrote: "While we continue to seek out a legislative solution to the issue, we hope your member studios will take into account the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs to foreign labor forces by refusing to participate in the further outsourcing."

In a statement, Universal said its decision to shoot in Canada was not solely based on economics "It is unfortunate that Congresswoman Watson singled out Cinderella Man as an example of what is an industry-wide concern," the statement said. Universal said Toronto's Maple Leaf Garden provides the most resemblance to Madison Square Garden in the 1930's, the period in which the film is set. "Universal isn't driven only by financial considerations when making choices of location for its productions. For example, our film "The Interpreter" is currently shooting entirely in New York City, despite significant negative cost impacts, because of the creative importance of the United Nations and other New York locations to that story."

The letter was co-signed by 27 House members.
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