The Canadian actors’ strike was heading into its fourth week at press time. It’s not only messing with production skeds, but if it continues much longer, it may also have an impact on the country’s role as a major international player in the animation biz.
With last-ditch negotiations abandoned and the two sides heading to court, the ACTRA strike against the Canadian Film & Television Production Association has forced some of the country’s producers to re-evaluate their production plans. The strike immediately halted live-action filming. And while animated projects have a little more leeway since dummy voices can be inserted during primary animation, time is running out.
Jim Corston, executive VP of production for Toronto’s CCI Entertainment, says that if the strike lasts much longer, the company will have to alter delivery schedules for its toons, including the second season of Erky Perky, airing on YTV in Canada and Seven Network and ABC in Australia.
Perhaps more troubling is the probability of lost contracts and the prevention of future Canuck co-pros. With no agreement on wages, setting up budgets for prospective projects in the pitch stage would be near impossible.
Vince Commisso, president and CEO of Toronto’s 9 Story Entertainment, says the strike has stopped production of Best Ed, a 52 x 11-minute digitally animated series that airs on Teletoon in Canada and internationally on Cartoon Network. Commisso adds that although there are workarounds from a production standpoint, these are sometimes pricey and could ultimately damage the end-product.
Canuck producers, who are already feeling the pinch from a robust Canadian dollar, are hoping for a resolution to the conflict with a negotiated settlement on the wage increase question. However, actor remuneration for projected and theoretical web-based revenues seems to be the stickiest issue, and one that might have a detrimental effect on producers’ bottom lines.
‘When we are dealing with international co-producers, they aren’t throwing money at us for the website,’ says Corston, adding that if a fee for digital rights is agreed upon, it will come right out of the production budget.
International eyes are watching the digital rights conflict closely, as performers’ unions around the globe grapple with the same issue. State-side, the advertising industry’s Joint Policy Committee has been joined by the Screen Actor’s Guild and AFTRA to develop a working digital rights model. However, preliminary pay structures aren’t expected to be released until at least the fall.