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Post: Why the Hollywood strike is already ‘a big deal’ for Canada’s film industry – National



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The strain of Hollywood’s actors’ and writers’ strikes is being felt in productions all around the world, and film industry insiders say Canada is far from exempt.

Due to long-established industry ties to American unions and networks, most film and television productions in Canada have come to a screeching halt. Alistair Hepburn, executive director of ACTRA Toronto, says productions began slowing down in spring when rumours of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike began.

“Some shows that were scheduled to come (to Canada) never even started. With this now, adding our siblings at SAG-AFTRA to the picket lines, we will absolutely see an impact,” Hepburn said to Global News in an interview, referring to the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

“There won’t be new shows recorded over the summer in time for a fall premiere.”

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Summer is typically the film industry’s most lucrative season across the board, he said, but this year will be “relatively slow.”

A lot of Canadian productions work with American studios and SAG-AFTRA actors, but just under half of the work done in provinces like Ontario is domestic, which includes shows like Murdoch Mysteries and Run the Burbs.

“It’s all of those shows that are filmed here using Canadian talent, Canadian writers, Canadian directors, Canadian crews to do the work. Those shows continue,” Hepburn explained.

Click to play video: 'Impact of Hollywood strike on Canada’s film industry'

Impact of Hollywood strike on Canada’s film industry

SAG-AFTRA is also working on an agreement where independent Canadian producers – not affiliated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) – will be able to engage the services of a SAG member through a waiver system for the duration of the strike.

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Independent Canadian producers will have access to actors who are dual card holders as well, meaning they have both a SAG-AFTRA and ACTRA membership.

“We’ve been in constant contact with our colleagues at SAG-AFTRA and they are assuring us that they’re not looking to do harm to our industry,” Hepburn said.

Hepburn says he doesn’t know how long the strikes will go on and doesn’t see a resolution coming soon.

“This is going to have an impact for months, absolutely months on not just performance, but the entire industry as a whole.”

Hepburn emphasized that it’s not just performers that will be affected by the production drought. Directors, technicians, caterers and Mom-and-Pop hardware stores will feel the strain too.

“In Ontario, it’s 35,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the film industry. The trickle-down effect is real,” Hepburn said.

Shane Boucher, who is the founder of an Ottawa-based studio called 1Development Entertainment Services, says this is the first July in the industry where he hasn’t worked.

“It’s really an industry-wide shutdown. It’s a big deal,” Boucher said in an interview with Global News.

1Development is a service company, meaning they service other parent companies or networks. Almost all of the TV movies the company works with are American.

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Click to play video: 'Implications of Hollywood strikes on Canadian Film Industry'

Implications of Hollywood strikes on Canadian Film Industry

Boucher says business started as usual at the start of the year with approximately 16 productions lined up. When rumours of the WGA strike started, Boucher found himself scrambling to finish as many films as possible by June. Now, he doesn’t have any projects in production.

Many productions gained buzz when it was announced they were set to film in Canada this summer, including the first season of Cruel Intentions, filmed in Toronto.

Stefan Steen, a producer on the show by Amazon, says production has stopped until the strike ends.

“It’s completely devastating to the local film industry. Everyone currently filming U.S. productions has had to stop and all local crews are immediately out of work. Most get one week’s additional pay but that’s it,” Steen said in an email to Global News.

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Click to play video: '‘We are the victims here’: SAG-AFTRA president says as Hollywood actors go on strike'

‘We are the victims here’: SAG-AFTRA president says as Hollywood actors go on strike

Creative B.C., a program in British Columbia that supports the provinces’ creative sector, said in a statement on their website that they are “watching the situation closely” and “respect the process and all parties.”

“In our role as the economic development organization for motion picture in B.C., together with our local industry partners, we are concerned for the workforce, companies, industry, and people,” the group said.

“The industry is evolving rapidly, business models have changed, and addressing these changes is part of a necessary industry business cycle.”

Hepburn says anyone who wants to support the strike can vote with their wallets.

“It’s time to cancel your streaming account. That’s ultimately what is going to force the hand here. It’s going to be about financial hardships on the AMPTP companies,” he said.

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“There needs to be action taken by the public.”

Hepburn also says he hopes other countries will show solidarity in what performers are fighting for.

“SAG’s fight is everybody’s fight,” he said. “It’s a righteous fight on behalf of performers worldwide.”

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

Lora Helmin

Lora Helmin

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