Producers try to halt individual ACTRA deals


TORONTO -- Canada's producers association on Tuesday sought a judge's order to end the use of so-called continuation letters by individual film and TV producers to keep their shoots afloat during the actors' strike here.

The Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. went to the Ontario Superior Court in Toronto in a bid to have declared unlawful individual deals that producers are signing with ACTRA to spare their shoots labor disruption or stoppages.

John Barrack, the CFTPA's chief negotiator, was not available for comment Tuesday. But a day earlier, Barrack told reporters that he had filed a motion arguing that ACTRA was acting illegally by exempting individual productions from labor action through continuation letters. He said the practice broke longstanding protocols contained in the Independent Production Agreement, which governs wages and workplace conditions for actors here.

Barrack is hoping for a quick decision from the Ontario Superior Court.

ACTRA has instructed its members not to show up for work on film or TV shoots during the strike unless producers sign the continuation letters and grant actors an immediate 7% wage increase.

"There should be no cherry-picking. It's an unlawful strike," Barrack told reporters.

The Ontario Superior Court judge has imposed a media ban on the proceedings, so ACTRA chief negotiator Stephen Waddell remains tight-lipped about the legal proceedings. But he did says his members will continue to offer and collect continuation letters from individual producers aligned with the CFTPA and Quebec producers with the Association de producteurs de films et de television du Quebec.

"Nothing has been impacted whatsoever by today's meeting," Waddell said.

ACTRA called its members out on strike Monday after crunch talks with North American producers on a new IPA broke down over the question of digital media compensation.

But the actors union has yet to set up picket lines, thanks to the continuation letters.

On Tuesday, ACTRA unveiled a list of about 40 film and TV productions in Quebec that have signed deals with ACTRA ahead of the actors strike moving into the province today (Wednesday).

Among the Quebec film and TV projects inking the short-term pacts are teen comedy "Prom Wars," Scott Thompson starrer "Who Is KK Downey?" and France-based kids series "Monster Buster Club" for French broadcaster TF1.

ACTRA has yet to disrupt film and TV shoots in Toronto due to the widespread use of continuation letters and expected that pattern to hold Wednesday in Montreal, where no picket lines are planned.

The CFTPA's Barrack insists his members are signing individual deals with ACTRA because the actors' union is "holding a gun to their heads."

Producers report they have too much invested in their companies, and either have to deliver promised TV episodes to broadcasters or cannot afford the cost of tearing down sets on movie shoots to shift production elsewhere.

The performers strike does not apply in British Columbia, where local actors work under separate labor agreements. But the ACTRA dispute will spread elsewhere in the country throughout January as provincial labor laws enable legal strike action.

No further talks between the Canadian actors and North American producers are scheduled, as ACTRA continues to demand compensation from producers for performances utilized on the Internet, cell phones or other new digital platforms.