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Co-Production Treaty Consultations: Guidelines for Canadian Performers

The Department of Canadian Heritage has launched consultations on Canada’s proposed new Canada’s Policy on Audiovisual Treaty Co-production.

Canadian performers have a critical stake in this consultation: changes are being proposed that would decrease the number of Canadians who are employed in key creative positions in order to qualify the project as a co-production. The proposed new rules will make it easier for ‘non-party’ (i.e. American) performers, writers and directors to take the leading roles.

This means less work for Canadian performers and creators.

ACTRA has made a submission to the consultations, you can read it here.

Please add your voice! Review the information below and make your voice heard: tell Minister James Moore that Canadian co-productions need Canadian stars.

How to participate:

Join the online discussion forum until March 24, 2011.

Most of the concerns expressed below would be best suited to the “Model treaty” area of the forum.

Make a formal submission before March 24, 2011.

Read the full consultation documents.

Facts on Treaty Co-productions:

  • Between 2000 and 2009, Canada participated in 795 treaty co-productions with total production budgets of approximately $5.5 billion (586 of these were with France or the UK).
  • A treaty co-production occurs when producers from two different countries combine resources to produce an audiovisual project – usually a film or TV show.
  • While co-productions can take place outside of the treaty framework, official treaty co-productions are considered to be domestic production and can qualify for important funding programs and tax credits.
  • The terms of the co-productions and the benefits available to the producers are defined in treaties
  • Canada has co-production agreements with 53 international partners
  • Treaty co-productions are considered Canadian under CRTC regulations and are eligible for support under programs such as the Canada Media Fund, the Canadian Feature Film Fund, and tax credits.
  • The average, treaty co-production has a budget of $7 million compared to $1.6 million for Canadian-only productions.

ACTRA’s Position:

Co-productions have the potential to benefit the Canadian film, television and digital media industry as a whole by attracting foreign investment, fostering cooperation with our industry partners worldwide, producing big-budget and high-quality projects that might not otherwise be produced.

For Canadian performers it is absolutely critical that our co-production guidelines lead to the employment and development of Canadian talent.

Unfortunately, the government’s proposed new co-production guidelines make it easier than ever to put American stars in leading roles. In fact, it would even be possible for a certified Canadian co-production to have NO Canadian performers in the top two leading roles.  We see many examples of TV series and films with no Canadians in the leading roles, such as the Tudors, Barney’s Version and Being Julia. The proposed guidelines would make this even more prevalent.

This is an insult to Canadian performers. Canada’s co-production treaties should be flexible and encourage new partnerships, but not at performers’ expense.

ACTRA believes that a Canadian co-production must have a Canadian in at least either the lead or second lead actor role.

Why are we worried?

Key Positions:

The government’s proposal identifies four key positions in a fiction production: director, screenwriter, lead actor, second lead actor. Under their proposal, Only ONE of these four ‘key positions’ has to be filled by a Canadian. In a big budget production, two out of these four key positions can be filled by third- or non-party nationals.  The previous guidelines allowed ‘non-nationals’ to fill performing roles but it was subject to storyline and acquiring special permission.

The result of this proposal is that a co-production has no obligation to cast ANY Canadian performers in the two leading roles – they can be from the partnering country, or in the case of a big-budget project, they could BOTH be American.

OUR RECOMMENDATION: A Canadian co-production must have a Canadian in at least either the lead or second lead actor role.

Financial Contribution by producers

Canadian producers’ financial contribution can now be as little as 15% – currently it is 20%.  If a third party’ is involved in the production, the Canadian and co-production partner can invest as little as 10% each.

This is too low as the amount spent on hiring Canadians is proportional to the amount the Canadian producer invests. For example if the contribution of the Canadian co-producer is 25% of the total budget, 25% of the creative and technical positions must be Canadians.

OUR RECOMMENDATION: Maintain the current 20% minimum contribution.

Location and Technical Services

The proposed treaty revisions allows that “administrative authorities may by mutual consent in writing, allow a work to be produced in the territory of a non-party for storyline and/or creative reasons”.

This could potentially take thousands of production jobs out of Canada.

OUR RECOMMENDATION: We would urge that this revision only be permitted in extraordinary circumstances where the storyline leaves no other option.

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