news digest


Canadian actors union calls for strike

TORONTO — Canada's actors union began mailing ballots Wednesday for a national strike mandate to support their talks with North American producers on a new labor deal. Stephen Waddell, chief negotiator for ACTRA, which represents 21,000 domestic performers, said the mandate is designed to give producers a wake-up call. ACTRA, American producers, the CFTPA and Quebec producers affiliated with the Association de producteurs de films et de television du Quebec are now girding themselves for crunch talks in mid-December to avert a strike or lockout once the Independent Production Agreement expires Dec. 31. The sides met Tuesday in Toronto but made little apparent progress.

Lynch sets 'Empire' release date

David Lynch has unveiled plans to debut his psychodrama "Inland Empire" himself though his distribution company Absurda and 518 Media in December. The film, starring Laura Dern, will open in Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Pasadena next month, and Lynch will embark on a 10-city tour in January to promote the film. Lynch also has signed a service deal with Rhino Entertainment to release the DVD — with planned bonus footage alongside the three-hour feature — in the summer.

Young hired to produce 'Martha'

Former "Rosie O'Donnell Show" executive producer Bernie Young has been named co-executive producer of "Martha Stewart." Young will take the helm of the syndicated daytime strip from Rob Dauber, who has left the show. Young is a former NYPD detective-turned-talent manager who steered O'Donnell's career and more recently headed her production banner.

Cinema Libre teaming with nonprofits

Indie distributor Cinema Libre Studio is set to partner with nonprofit groups and other private organizations to produce two to five features a year focused on humanitarian, environmental and social issues. Upcoming projects include the docu "Progress vs. Poverty," produced with the Robert Shalkenbach Foundation, which examines the politics of impoverished nations. Cinema Libre already has co-financed the Sierra Leone civil war docu "The Empire in Africa" with the aid group Action Against Hunger. The film won best documentary at this year's Slamdance Film Festival and Hollywood Film Festival.

EU member seeks video game warnings

BRUSSELS — The European Commission has called for parental warnings and age restrictions on the sale of "obscene and perverse" video and computer games. European Union justice commissioner Franco Frattini has written to EU justice and home affairs ministers urging "common sense" regarding games he blames for violent or bullying behavior among children. When the ministers meet next month in Brussels, Frattini will call for measures to deal with the games that, he says, "glorify violence, sometimes extreme violence." In his letter, Frattini cited "The Rule of Rose," a game for Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 2 console, which involves psychological and physical violence inflicted on a girl.

Music Nation video contest begins today

Artist development company Music Nation is set to launch today its online music video competition, which invites musicians and bands to submit videos for the chance to win a recording contract with Epic Records. Music in the categories of rock, pop and other urban genres can be entered at, with submissions requiring a $25 fee beginning Jan. 1. Participants must be age 13 or older.