Decrying Northern overexposure

Group urges end to Canadian production subsidies

A group representing Hollywood below-the-line workers is planning to file a complaint today with the U.S. government, alleging that Canadian film and TV subsidies are unfairly attracting U.S. shoots northward.

Tim McHugh, the Los Angeles-based chairman of the Film and Television Action Committee — a grass-roots organization composed largely of IATSE members — said last week that his group will file a 301 petition against Canada with the U.S. Trade Representative.

In the complaint, the FTAC argues for an end to Canadian subsidies that it claims unfairly lure U.S. production across the border.

"We feel that film workers in the U.S. have been severely harmed by the practice of paying producers to bring their movies out of the country, in this case to Canada," McHugh said.

The FTAC plans to ask the USTR to first negotiate with the Canadian government to put an end to tax credits and other incentives it offers foreign producers. If those talks make no headway, the FTAC wants action initiated through the World Trade Organization.

Should the FTAC succeed in undermining the Canadian subsidies model through a favorable WTO ruling, McHugh ventured that it could turn its fire on other countries offering similar incentives for U.S. producers to shoot abroad.

The threatened FTAC action against Canada comes as levels of U.S. production in Canada have fallen sharply since the go-go 1990s.

Toronto, meanwhile, which insists that film and TV production levels today are at about 50% of 2000 levels, is set to unveil today a strategic plan to revive a local production sector it claims is in "crisis."

Peter Finestone, Toronto's acting film commissioner, will present the recovery plan to the city's executive committee, which includes Mayor David Miller.