ICG rejects Canadian film fight

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A debate over whether to fund a fight against Canadian film subsidies as a means of stopping runaway production is rippling through Hollywood guilds, with cinematographers recently nixing such funding.

The International Cinematographers Guild, which is Local 600 of the IATSE, has rejected a proposal to help fund a so-called 301(a) petition under the 1974 Trade Act. Members attending a special meeting of the guild on Sunday heard arguments from both sides of the issue, which hinges on a proposed attack on the legal standing of Canadian film-production incentives, guild president Steven Poster said.

"Some members clearly believe that pursuing legal remedies against Canada is the best answer, while others believe that federal and state incentives are creating jobs within the United States and deserve continued support," Poster said.

Michael Punke, a former senior counsel at the Offices of the U.S. Trade Representative, said any such fight with Canada is likely to trigger an attack on U.S. state incentives, the ICG said. Alan Dunn, a member of the Stewart and Stewart law firm in Washington, D.C., also suggested a 301(a) petition would be costly, with estimated legal expenses totaling $500,000.

Dunn urged the ICG to join three other IATSE locals contributing funds to the fight. Dunn predicted a 75% chance of succeeding in the legal efforts, the guild said.

An ICG spokesman said no particular level of funding was proposed during the debate.

The SAG national board approved a $50,000 financial contribution to the 301(a) legal efforts on Oct. 22. That effectively reversed the position of a previous SAG administration, which had declined to back the fight.

Some have suggested the battle will be futile unless the powerful Motion Picture Association of America joined ranks with the unions. Thus far, the MPAA has declined to do so.

The strategic debate over the issue is further complicated by conflicting priorities at some guilds among various geographical factions.

Some Hollywood members dislike even film-production incentives offered by other states, and many have proposed boosting California's own incentives to regain competitive footing. They argue money spent fighting Canadian incentives would be better spent on lobbying the legislature in Sacramento, where a bill died in the last session for lack of support.
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