WGA strike ripples north to ACTRA


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OTTAWA -- The U.S. writers strike has left Canadian actors in a quandary.

Members of ACTRA, the country's actors union, on Monday took to the streets in Ottawa to protest the high number of U.S. network series that dominate primetime schedules here.

At the same time, the WGA strike also has given Canadian actors pause to consider a possible drop in work later this year and next if fewer U.S. TV series shoot north of the border.

"You can't rent a camera now in Toronto. We currently have a glut of work that will stop with a prolonged American writers strike," Karl Pruner, president of ACTRA's Toronto branch, said as he led a march outside the annual convention of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters in Ottawa.

The domestic performers called on Canada's broadcast regulator to force Canadian private broadcasters to commission and air more homegrown TV dramas.

At the same time, Pruner said a prolonged U.S. writers strike will be a "bad thing" because fewer Hollywood productions shooting in Canada potentially meant less work for his members.

ACTRA called its members out on strike in early 2007 after talks with North American producers on a new Canadian labor deal also stumbled on the thorny issue of new-media residuals.

Pruner noted that part the new contract Canadian actors eventually inked for U.S. shoots in Canada will be revisited once the U.S.-based unions and guilds, including the WGA, eventually settle.

Glenn O'Farrell, president and CEO of the CAB, which represents private Canadian broadcasters, expressed doubts that a slowdown in the production of U.S. programming would cause Canadian broadcasters to commission more home-grown work.

"We don't have an official position as an organization on the strike, but you'd have to look at the binding contracts that our broadcasters have with the U.S. networks. They may be tied down and have to broadcast reruns of the U.S. shows they've bought if new episodes are unavailable," he said.