AFTRA pact brings hope in Toronto

But local producers worry productions will leave town

TORONTO -- News of a deal between AFTRA and the major studios has fed optimism here that Hollywood producers will once again be greenlighting projects for production in Canada.

"I think this is a very major move that clearly paints the way to SAG ending up with a deal that looks like the others that have been ratified," Toronto Film Studios president Ken Ferguson said Wednesday.

Canadian studios, burnt by a Canadian actors strike and the Hollywood writers strike earlier this year, have been unnerved by the ongoing brinkmanship in Los Angeles between SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

Peter Leitch, president of Mammoth and North Shore studios in Vancouver, agreed that the AFTRA deal has lifted a major cloud over the industry. "We hope there's a blueprint there to get the (SAG) deal done," he said.

Jim Mirkopoulos, vp facility management at Cinespace Film Studios, said the AFTRA deal means that U.S. TV series governed by the AFTRA contract that planned to shoot locally can do so.

These include NBC Universal's "Warehouse 13," which shot its pilot in Toronto and is expected to remain here for the series shoot.

But even with an eventual SAG deal, local studio operators worry that Hollywood producers may just as easily shoot stateside where lucrative tax credits are increasingly being offered.

"Right now, it's a very rough ride for everyone in the business," said Peter Lukas, president of Toronto soundstage operator Showline Ltd.