Monday, February 12, 2007

Producers have "rights" too...don't they?

It Pays To Belong

The heart of any issue comes down to "rights"; who has them and at what price can they be paid/sold for.

For the musician it's "copyright" to the song that he/she has written. For the actor it's the "right" to have their work be compensated in the form of a base wage and a "royalty" for it's commercial exploitation in various "markets". For the auto-worker it's the "right" to be paid a fair wage for his/her time in the creation of each vehicle valued against the "market price" and overall "profitability" of the product. For the producer it's the responsibility to secure the "rights" of everyone involved in the project and be able to provide documentation that a) the "rights" have been secured and, b) the "rights" have been paid for.

It's a real f%@*in' headache!

But a lucrative headache if you know what you're doing.

The CFTPA has its own "rights" collecting body: the Canadian Retransmission Collective.

A hundred million dollars… and counting! Film and television producers increasingly recognize just how valuable – and essential –retransmission royalties really are.”
- Guy Mayson, President & CEO, Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA)

Producers collect these very lucrative royalties as the "rights holder" to a project. That means that they have paid everyone out in advance. Organizations such as SOCAN for the rights to a particular song to create a mood. Or the DGC for hiring a director whose vision gave the piece it's shape. Or the WGC for the writer that provided the script. They're even protected against an over-zealous caterer who may feel that they gave the producer some "advice" on set that ended up in the final cut through "E&O insurance". The point is: everyone gets paid the wage that they agree to work for. If a producer feels that the license fee offered by the broadcaster isn't worth the cost of doing business, the producer is within their "rights" not to sell.


Dean Ferris, Fox Entertainment Group exec. VP, labor relations (meaning: he's the one that negotiates labour disputes with unions on behalf of Fox - on behalf of Rupert Murdoch, no less), has said on behalf of the CFTPA's American counterpart:
"We're up here in an effort to create employment, and we refuse to fight ACTRA on these proposals. If they don't want us to bring work to Canada, we'll go home. No fight, no problem."
If it's "no problem", then how can we be devastating the industry? If the American producers are up here to "create employment", then how does the responsibility for a faltering industry fall upon those actors who do not create work?


There are Actor/Producers aplenty (think: George Clooney, Drew Barrymore, Paul Gross, Don McKellar), but how many Producer/Actors are there? Point being; do you think there's any correlation at all between actors desiring to produce and producers *not* desiring to act? It may be that the economics of producing hold a better return on investment with more creative control in the long run.

Perhaps it's a bit flippant to speculate at this early date, but suffice it to say, Canadian actors should look at this round of negotiation as an introduction to the costs of doing business from a production standpoint since they may be producing their own projects in the near future. This isn't necessarily a negative outcome, but an outcome that is entirely possible given the radical shift in the industry from "subsidized" production to "market friendly" production.

There are worse things than artist-driven projects, and producer-driven projects will always leave us sitting in the backseat. Maybe this year will bring about a real change for the acting world in Canada and who knows....maybe we'll be able to get a piece of the "hundred million dollars and counting" when we start creating our "Syriana's".

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