Blog archives for the March, 2011.

March 8, 2011

Richard’s Rant MAR 2011

In the past few years there has been a difficult decision to make when writing these newsletters, as I try to walk the line between being positive and “keeping it real”.  But WATCH OUT… because it’s 2011, spring has sprung, and I am ready to have a BIG fricking RANT!

Vancouver Sun headlines say “Movies making region rock” and “Film industry ready to roll in 2011” and an industry reporter at the Province incorrectly reports that BC has matched the tax credits in Ontario and Quebec. So I call and yell but all I get is a not-too-interested “oops”, and am informed that his editor has instructed him they just want to print industry “good news” stories. Meanwhile, most BC based actors, directors and writers are going, “gee if the industry is going so well why am I missing out?”

Well here are the quick-and-dirty reasons in my humble and pissed-off opinion:
-The vast majority of recent production has been big-budget feature films that come to BC because we have the studios, experienced crews, and effects folks to rival anyone and anywhere…BUT…these productions (examples include RISE OF THE (PLANET OF THE) APES…the TWILIGHT SAGAS…MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 4) tie up facilities and crews for months and provide very little employment opportunities for us.

-Reports scream, “BC builds on last years momentum” but look closer… Production of Canadian content productions has decreased from 400 million in 2007 to 100 million for 2010…that is down 75% on the kind of projects that have previously been your bread-and-butter!

The dollar…the dollar…the dollar…same old story I am afraid but the fact is the Canadian dollar has been worth MORE that the US dollar on most days so far in 2011 and as I write this it has closed at a 3 year high of $1.03…you know the rest of the story. Most analysts do not expect significant change anytime soon, but the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch’s educated guess is that it should fall back to about 95 cents this summer.

The tax credits…again, same old story but the fact remains that BC tax credits continue to NOT put us a level playing field with Ontario’s more favourable incentives.

-Despite the best efforts of our casting directors, the fact remains that American productions are bringing in many more actors for roles that would NOT have been “permitted” a few years ago. Your union used to work closely with Immigration to monitor/control this and we are informed that this Immigration position simply does not exist anymore…the result being that, for example, I get a lovely call from a casting director telling me that a client is up for a fricking actor role in a US feature and the one other choice is an American from LA…would NOT have happened a few years ago. And with respect to the union, I must point out that when this happens, the union still receives your dues for the year PLUS they get to charge the US resident big fat weekly non-resident fees, so their revenues are NOT affected like yours are!

Why aren’t casting directors seeing me?
Don’t want to mention specific names, because I know casting folks read these blogs…BUT know that some top casting folks have left the business and other “players” did not even have one project last year. There has also been a fair amount of “agency-roulette” and downsizing, including a top BC agent who has been in business for 25 years who recently closed up shop, put the staff of three out of work and is presently working remotely from an out-of-town home with a few top clients.

Vancouver shot series report:
Cancelled are STARGATE UNIVERSE…SHATTERED…LIFE UNEXPECTED …Renewed…we hear EUREKA and HAUNTING HOUR have new orders …still shooting at present are… MR.YOUNG(with a probable pick-up)…HELLCATS…CHAOS…FRINGE… SMALLVILLE… SUPERNATURAL…THE KILLING…

Ontario:
Film and TV was $964.3 million in 2010, a level they have not seen since 2002… the catch-22 here is that even though we are aggressively submitting you for Toronto projects, producers often demand to see ONLY actors that will tax-qualify legally as an Ontario resident. Lucky Toronto…they have seen a huge growth in foreign TV series which were $118.9 million in 2010, compared to only 58 million in ’09. That’s a 105.1% increase.

What is being done?
-I have been told on good authority that the UBCP has hired a lobbyist to try and work with Canadian Immigration to stop the flood of American actors coming in for smaller roles that never would have been permitted in past years.

-The CMPA states that we must continue to ensure that tax credits are competitive, crews and actors are highly trained and production facilities are state of the art. Even with the high dollar it is hoped that attention to those three facts will help stabilize and grow foreign location and service production in BC. The HST is helpful to keep attracting the big budget US films. Estimates are that on a $100 million dollar movie, a producer saves approx $3 million.

What can I do?
Some clients did have a good year last year, but I can’t think of anyone who would not say there is tons of room for improvement in 2011!

Go to your union meetings and participate. And be there to support THEM when the staff and executive are in difficult situations; for example the 2011 battle with a big bully studio that is trying to erode your rates on the US web-series MORTAL COMBAT.

Keep healthy, keep busy, don’t isolate…everything goes up and goes down…including the damn film and television industry…go to the gym, get together with friends and read scripts, volunteer to be on a LEO jury, maybe get a part time flexible job if you have cash-flow challenges…we have clients who clean houses…clients who have gone back to school. If things are slow for you, it means things are slow at the office, so with Eric and Rebecca there full time I am taking the opportunity to listen to my own advice on this topic. I am thrilled to be writing a major paper on Moliere’s The Misanthrope for the Department of Theatre and Film at UBC, to finish off my MFA Directing degree. Rest assured, if Spielberg calls with that three-picture deal for you I shall DROP everything and return to the twentieth century.