Musicians Union Slams Lionsgate Over 'Draft Day' Offshoring

Linda A. Rapka

The AFM is pressing the case that U.S. films and television programs should be scored domestically, not overseas, especially when they receive U.S. production tax credits.

To chants of "Listen Up, Lionsgate!" officials of the American Federation of Musicians and other organizations denounced Lionsgate at a rally on Thursday in Los Angeles, targeting the company for a history of scoring films overseas, including this weekend's Draft Day.

The event kicks off a campaign called Listen Up! -- an effort to bring film scoring back to the U.S. and reverse a trend that has seen film and TV musicians' jobs increasingly offshored.

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"If you want to look like an industry leader, Lionsgate, act like one," AFM international president Ray Hair said to the crowd of about 60 union officials, members and others. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter after the rally, he cast the issue in more personal terms. Addressing himself rhetorically to company CEO Jon Feltheimer, he said:  "You made $12 to $13 million last year, a 100 percent increase year to year. How much more do you have to take home before you start treating musicians with dignity?"

The issue isn't new. In recent years, the union has protested such films as Marvel's Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Lionsgate's Hunger Games for scoring overseas. The union says it's particularly egregious that films can collect U.S. tax credits and rebates to defray production costs, then do their music work elsewhere. The union said that Lionsgate received $5 million in tax incentives from the state of Ohio to film there, then offshored the scoring to Macedonia.

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"People who love the movies know that music is the heart and soul of a film. They also know that musicians are vital to the motion picture and TV film industry," said Hair in a statement prior to the rally. "Our work must be afforded the same dignity and respect that other cast and crew members enjoy. We will engage industry leaders on these issues until there is positive change for musicians."

Hair told THR that Marvel and Lionsgate were the two largest companies that score overseas. The major studios, in contrast, are signatories to the AFM collective bargaining agreements. (Marvel is a unit of Disney.) According to the AFM, Lionsgate has signed broad agreements with other entertainment unions, but with the AFM it has only been willing to sign union contracts for specific shows such as Mad Men and Nashville. From 2011 to 2013, the union said, only two of Lionsgate's more than 20 films "were scored to industry standards set by the AFM," while nearly all other work on the films was done under contracts with SAG-AFTRA, WGA, DGA and IATSE.

Lionsgate did not respond to a request for comment.

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The union said that the loss of union work also affects AFM members who don't do film and television scoring, but who rely on union pension and health benefits, because the loss of work translates into a reduction in contributions to the union benefit plans.

AFM Local 47 (Los Angeles) president Vince Trombetta, who called Lionsgate's offshoring a "travesty," later told THR, "Greed is dangerous. It spreads like a cancer. We may be too late."

Also speaking at the rally were L.A. City Councilor Paul Koretz; Trombetta; Local 47 vp John Acosta; Glen Arnodo of the L.A. County Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO); Roxana Tynan, executive director, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE); Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE-LA); and AFM member Rafael Rishik, a violinist.

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