Rally to press for end to six-week ACTRA strike
Published Friday, February 16, 2007 1:11PM EST
TORONTO - Paul Bronfman's company, Comweb Group, is a leading supplier of film services and equipment in Canada and abroad.
But he says the ongoing strike between ACTRA and the country's producers means his livelihood, along with the entire Canadian film industry, is now in serious jeopardy.
"I can see both sides in this dispute, but the overall point is that they've got to get a deal done now,'' Bronfman said Friday. "I appreciate the arguments from both sides, but come on guys, get it together, because wages and compensation aren't going to matter if it goes on much longer because there won't be any work. I'll go back to being a roadie for April Wine.''
Bronfman -- who was, in fact, a roadie for the group 30 years ago -- is helping to organize a rally this Tuesday in downtown Toronto to push for an end to the six-week strike, which has already devastated the country's once-thriving film industry.
Bronfman says he's been told by Hollywood power brokers that Canada is no longer a place where they're looking to make movies. The strike has cost the city of Toronto at least two feature movies and as much as $400 million in lost production, while film revenues so far this year over last year are significantly lower.
"I was recently in Los Angeles meeting with the various heads of production of the majors and the independents (studios), and basically they're telling me that until you guys get your acts together in terms of your labour strife, we're not booking Canada for anything,'' Bronfman said.
"And by the way, the competition from New Mexico, Louisiana, New York state, Pennsylvania, et cetera, in terms of the incentives that those states are offering -- Canada is becoming much less competitive than it used to be.''
ACTRA, which represents 21,000 actors across the country, went on strike Jan. 8 over wages and Internet compensation. Its members can only work with producers who sign a special continuation letter agreeing to ACTRA's terms on wages, benefits and electronic rights.
There was word earlier this week that the two sides might be inching closer to a deal that could end the strike as early as next week.
ACTRA chief negotiator Steve Waddell suggested a deal could be in the offing as representatives hashed things out via cellphone and e-mail, although John Barrack -- chief negotiator for the Canadian Film and Television Production Association -- called that "optimistic'' and said there was still a lot of ground to cover.
The country's film industry has already been struggling in the aftermath of 9-11, SARS, the surging Canada loonie against the U.S. dollar and growing international competition.
"It was absolutely already starting to happen in the past couple of years, so the timing of this strike couldn't have been worse,'' Bronfman says. "It's almost like the final nail in the coffin. I don't blame either side -- what I blame them both for is not getting a deal done and holding our industry hostage. If they don't get their act together now, we're going to have a major disaster on our hands.''
The point of the rally, Bronfman says, is to raise awareness of that looming disaster.
"There was a group of us that met a few days ago -- producers, production managers, production service companies and the unions, except for ACTRA -- that thought it would be helpful to have a rally, really just to get the word out that we are all hurting very badly.''
The rally is open to union members and producers alike, Bronfman said -- anyone who wants the dispute to be settled quickly.