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Hollywood actors’ strike being felt in Montreal’s film industry – Montreal |

Los Angeles may be thousands of kilometres away from Montreal, but what happens in Hollywood doesn’t stay in Hollywood when it comes to the actors’ strike.

On July 14th, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
(SAG–AFTRA) hit the picket line over an ongoing labour dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

While it only recently started, the strike is already having an impact in the Montreal film industry.

Simon Peacock is the president of the Montreal chapter of The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), a union representing Canadian actors.

He says new productions which use SAG-AFTRA members scheduled to film in Montreal are being put on delay.

“It means we’re unlikely to get big American blockbusters coming in this summer because they’re not going to be able to bring their stars with them,” Peacock explained.

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Actors have now joined writers on the picket lines to demand better pay and regulations.

So far, the production of Ghosts, a CBS show, has paused in Montreal due to the writers’ strike.

Actors are not the only ones feeling the pain.

Technicians working behind the scenes are also losing work that was scheduled to happen soon.

“Because of the situation, they have to just forget about those opportunities,” says Christian Lemay, president of the Alliance québécoise des techniciens de l’image et du son (AQTIS).

Most of the union’s members are freelancers and Lemay says this adds to the precarity of their work.

The strike is also affecting actors’ appearances.

On Monday, it was announced that Nicolas Cage will no longer make an appearance in the Montreal-based Fantasia International Film Festival due to the Hollywood actors’ strike. Its rules prohibit members from promoting studio films.

Cage had been set to receive the career achievement award which celebrates genre cinema such as horror and science fiction.

Bill Brownstein, the Montreal Gazette‘s arts and culture columnist, says the strike is a big deal.

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“It’s going to be very, very grim for a long time,” Brownstein says. “So far it doesn’t look like anybody is negotiating. Unions think that they need an awful lot more — not just of money, but there is the whole aspect of residuals.”

Residuals are extra money actors get when their work is reused — for example, when a movie or a show goes on a streaming platform or on DVD.

But shows made by streaming companies such as Netflix don’t go on to make any residuals and it’s changing the game.

Without residuals, Brownstein says, actors like Jerry Seinfeld, for example, wouldn’t have the financial success they enjoy.

“He wouldn’t be owning a million Porsches as he is today,” Brownstein says of Seinfeld.

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is another sticking point.

So far, an actors’ image can be used many times over in different productions, having been paid only once.

Their voice can also be used in other projects with the help of AI.

Helen Rousse, a casting director with Total Casting in Montreal, says voice actors fear losing work.

“Everybody is afraid, [wondering], ‘OK, what’s the future, what’s next?’” Rousse says, adding that what comes out of negotiations in Hollywood will also have an impact on contracts in Quebec.

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Unions agree.

Peacock says Canadian actors are entering negotiations themselves next year.

“If they get a resolution, then we will be looking at getting those same terms brought into Canada. If they haven’t, then we will probably going to be in a very similar situation that they are,” Peacock warned.

That could end up costing a pretty penny.

Last year, the Quebec Film and Television Council (QFTC) recorded $997 million in spending from domestic productions and $526 million in spending from foreign productions.

As for viewers, Brownstein says they will likely have less options on T.V. this fall.

“All the late night talk shows, there is huge advertising money at stake. The Saturday Night Lives and all the rest… someone’s gonna have to settle sooner or later because they’re both going to lose financially.”

But that could take months.

— with files from The Canadian Press

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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