Tag Archives: paul Bronfman

Strike nearly ‘nail in coffin’ for Canada’s entertainment industry say experts

TORONTO (CP) _ A bitter six-week labour dispute between Canadian actors and producers was nearly the "final nail in the coffin" for the country’s already battered film and television industry, which experts say now faces a long, hard, uphill climb along the road to recovery.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists went on strike Jan. 8 and later extended their protest to Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The dispute, which focused on wages and how actors should be compensated for work across new media platforms, lasted for more than six weeks before a tentative agreement was announced last week, to the collective relief of an industry that observers say has suffered a substantial blow.

"This labour dispute drove a lot of business away from here and it’s going to take time to bring it back," said John Barrack, the national executive vice-president for the Canadian Film and Television Production Association and chief negotiator during the strike.

"Productions are planned six months to a year in advance and the labour instability hurts, so it’s going to take some time for that work to come back."

But Paul Bronfman, chairman and CEO for The Comweb Group, said the strike was just the latest problem for an industry that was already reeling from a number of other factors.

"The strike certainly was almost the final nail in the coffin," said Bronfman, speaking from the CFTPA’s conference in Ottawa.

"That basically held everybody hostage . . . right now (the industry) is being taken off life support and it’s going to take us months to recover from this fiasco."

It’s unclear exactly how much money was lost due to the strike, though the experts agree a number of American productions took one look at the labour unrest and decided to film elsewhere. Toronto, the heart of Canada’s film industry, lost an estimated $400 million in production revenue.

Yet CFTPA figures suggest the industry has been in financial decline for several years. Film and television production dipped nine per cent in 2004-05, "an indicator that a downward trend is beginning," the association’s report says.

In that same time period, production generated 11 per cent fewer jobs than the previous year _ the third straight annual decrease.

Charlie Keil, the director of the University of Toronto’s cinema studies program, said the strike "added insult to injury" because a number of other factors are already working against the industry.

A number of "unforeseeable blights," including the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Toronto’s SARS outbreak in 2003, took a heavy toll that has yet to be recovered. A strong Canadian dollar relative to its U.S. counterpart has also made Canada less appealing to U.S. producers.

But what has really hurt the industry is the very thing that once gave it life, said Keil.

"Various incentives and tax breaks made Canada an appealing place to do business," he said. Then, "other municipalities (in the U.S.) figured out that they too could offer competitive tax incentives."

With jurisdictions outside Canada constantly upping the ante, Hollywood North has had a difficult time competing.

Still, there remains reason for optimism, said Stephen Waddell, the union’s national executive director and strike negotiator.

"Given that the (American) studios will be presumably beginning to stockpile productions looking forward to the potential for a Writers Guild of America or Screen Actors Guild strike in the U.S., I think we’ll see increased production in Ontario."

ACTRA strike causing devastating effect throughout Toronto’s production industry

By: Mike Zembowski

On Jan 8 members Canada’s actors union went on strike for the first time in 64 years and the direct impact to the Toronto production industry has been “Disastrous and Crippling,” says Don Carmody who has all future projects on hold. 

“ACTRA is not thinking about the industry as a whole, long term. They are being very selfish. This strike is driving US business elsewhere and can cripple the industry.”

While ACTRA holds up production several businesses are wondering how long they can hold out before having to lay off people or worse have close up for good. Peter Lukas owner of Showline Studios in Toronto admits,

“The direct impact to Showline Studios is a $150,000 loss. We had a US production called “Shoot Em Up,” reserve all production offices and our 14K studio. The US producer suggested waiting until Jan. 8th thinking there is no way the strike will last. With no end in site, they cancelled the whole shoot and changed to Hollywood. This cost Showline $150,000.00 and no telling how much more this will cost in the future. 

Rival studio owner Steve Mirkopoulos of Cinespace Film Studios says,

“The business is dead. Whatever productions that were shooting with continuation agreements are now wrapping. There are zero productions in the horizon. At the end of October there were 8 or 9 productions putting holds on our space and after speaking to producers recently they are not coming up here until after the strike.”

The strike comes at a time when the industry has steadily been declining over the last 5 years. Paul Bronfman Chairman/CEO of Comweb group explains,

“The cost to the industry is already over a hundred million and the direct impact to our company is easily a few hundred thousand of lost business.” 

Brian Dwight owner of Dwight Crane says, “This year was worse than SARS, the business right now is non existent. Estimated cost is easily $500,000.00 per month.  ACTRA’s methods are borderline extortion. If they all don’t smarten up there won’t be an industry.

The CFTPA is banking on winning an injunction in court and breaking the union’s strike through legal orders.  CFTPA is adamant that it will force the union to accept ‘internet-for-free’ proposals. The CFTPA has not budged from that position and won’t put a different offer on the table even with the assistance of a facilitator. 

Toronto once known for having the best crews in the world, are slowly loosing them to cities like Winnepeg and Vancouver that are seeing more productions.

There are currently no Feature Films shooting in Toronto and 5 television shows according to the latest production list from Toronto Film and TV office. 

Will this problem come to an end relies only on how well negotiations go this week for both sides. We can only hope both sides see the seriousness of finding an answer quickly.