Monday, January 29, 2007

Why fight to work?

"Let's Call The Whole Thing Off"

Let's just say, for the sake of arguement, that ACTRA and the CFTPA work it all out over the next week. Maybe they call each other at the same time, you know, and have one of those awkward chuckles and say at the same time, "Oh, I was just about to call, you go first", and they both agree to resolve their differences and the memberships of both associations are reasonably satisfied with a new collective agreement with the new media issue going to a joint committee for the next year. Highly improbable, but let's just....say.

Where's The Work?

I don't know about you, but the strike hasn't really changed my life as an actor. I'm getting about the same amount of auditions and therefore the same amount of work (read: zero. Granted, I no longer live in Toronto, but I do live in Halifax. Anecdotal evidence tells me that my fellow ACTRA members are having a similar experience to mine).

To be clear, I support ACTRA and the decision to strike against Producers who continue to believe that they are the employers and we are their employees. As mentioned in previous posts, the entire industry is being renegotiated from the top down, so why shouldn't ACTRA be guarding our wage minimums? (note: where there are new channels of distribution; there are new channels of revenue...capiche?) AND, I certainly don't hold ACTRA responsible for the "drought" of production in Canada. BUT...

Seriously, where's the work?

The strike shows no signs of ending in the near future, what with the CFTPA taking ACTRA to court and challenging, not only the legality of the strike, but ACTRA's legality as a trade union.

How long can it last? Who knows? There aren't any press releases or bulletins being released saying "there's a light at the end of the tunnel". Some producers who feel "extorted" by ACTRA have stock-piled work in anticipation of the strike (which would somewhat undermine the "extortion theory" since they stock-piled in advance under the old rules, knowing full-well what was "blowing in the wind"...). Others could begin outsourcing the work to circumnavigate ACTRA's jurisdiction. So, while we have producers storing their proverbial "nuts" for this "winter of our discontent," having assured their own productivity - and therefore - cash flow; ACTRA members may find themselves in the future with a new collective agreement in an industry that looks wildly different than the one that was covered by the last IPA.

The "new" industry looks a whole lot different than the old one.

The topic of "the new industry" will be the focus of this entire blog site. But, it begs the question; how do we know what the 'new' industry will look like? Answer: by looking at what the producers and broadcasters are fighting for.

What are they fighting for? Well...they don't really fight per se, as it's "unbecoming" of a CEO to "pitch a fit" in public, but don't kid yourself; when Jim Shaw or Karl Peladeau pull tens of millions of dollars out of something like the Canadian Television Fund, they know exactly what kind of statement they're making. Sure, they "say" that they'll be pouring the money back into Canadian productions, but what does that mean exactly?

While a Videotron or a Shaw may pay lip service to investing in Canadian production, they may only mean; productions that are considered "Canadian" under the CanCon rules which are laid out by the CRTC, which is currently becoming even more "market friendly" and receiving an extreme makeover. (note: Jim Shaw is "fine" with the appointment of the new CRTC chief...does this mean that Shaw feels that the head of the CRTC will be "on his side" when they start negotiating the pull-out of funds with Heritage Minister Bev Oda?)

Where are they spending their money right now?

In order to understand what the industry will look like "post-strike", we need to understand that what is happening in "real-time" (read: while we're looking the other way - and by this I mean, the membership, not the executive of ACTRA), is that the industry is undergoing another phase of deregulation. It comes in phases. They can't deregulate an entire industry at once, this is but a "phase", albeit a massive phase which will definately go down in the history books.

The broadcasters are dumping their money into investment in telecom and broadband infrastructure. (meaning: high-speed internet) Why? Because broadcasters, by and large, are also telecommunications companies, or "wholly-owned" subsidiaries of telecom companies or about to become wholly-owned subsidiaries of telecom companies.

What does high-speed internet mean to an ACTRA member?

It means that distribution - and therefore advertising revenue - possibilities have been blown wide open. ACTRA is a union that stands in the way of producers, distributors and broadcasters who are finding new and exciting ways to get their projects into previously difficult territories. Corporations hate unions. Upset union-leaders in turn, upset shareholder confidence.

It means that phone companies are going on-line (i.e. - VoiP). It means that the companies that will be contracting actors are ultimately producing content for subsidiaries of parent companies who will be exploiting that content far beyond the "Tuesday night at 8pm" timeslot.

It means...

Video on Demand is the "new industry".

ACTRA is doing the right thing by drawing a line in the sand when it comes to new media. However, we'd better start figuring out what the entire landscape looks like before we draw all of our "borders". Presumably, that's why ACTRA wants to put the issue to a joint committee to see "how it pans out."

As one ACTRA member to another, let me suggest that this discussion should not be left solely to the boys in the boardroom. Supporting our union with a mandate is of course crucial.

Supporting them with our informed opinions will be critical in the coming year.

"Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss"

No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites