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Thanks, Canada!

The six-week strike called by actors' union the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists may not have affected American actors much, but its outcome certainly will.

After months of tense negotiations and a contentious court battle with its North American producer-employers represented by the Canadian Film and Television Production Association and the Association des Producteurs de Films et de Télévision du Québec, ACTRA agreed Feb. 21 to a new Independent Production Agreement and ceased its strike.

The key issue ACTRA and the CFTPA fought tooth and nail over was a familiar one to actors, writers, directors, producers, and other artists around the world: How should talent be compensated for movies, TV shows, and other content broadcast on the Internet? Other than in a deal the Hollywood unions struck with Disney over a "mobisode" spinoff of Lost last year, producers do not have to pay artists residuals for content created for the Web or cell phones.

With the Screen Actors Guild, the Writers Guild of America, and the Directors Guild of America on the verge of renegotiating contracts that will perhaps ensure those residuals, union leaders and artists eagerly watched the drama unfold. The WGA is expected to begin talks in July on its film and TV contract, which expires Oct. 31. SAG is expected to negotiate its TV/Theatrical and Commercials contracts in October 2008.

ACTRA's deal may not have been a slam dunk -- though the union's representatives called it a "win-win" -- but it bodes well for union artists in the United States. If the contract is approved by ACTRA's membership, Canadian producers will begin paying performers 3.6 percent of revenue from productions that run on the Internet. The parties also agreed on how producers will compensate performers for appearing in productions specifically produced for the Web (exact dollar amounts were not released).

However, U.S.-based producers can opt out of the provision and negotiate terms on individual projects. Performers will also receive a 10 percent pay increase over the new Independent Production Agreement's three-year term. The revised pact also includes new terms regulating the production of reality shows.

So far, the Hollywood guilds are hesitant to comment on the IPA's terms. "We're not going to characterize whether it's a good deal right now, because we're still evaluating the ACTRA deal," said Pamm Fair, SAG's deputy national executive director for policy and strategic planning, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter Feb. 27. "We're not going to negotiate in the press what a good deal looks like or doesn't."

Karen Borell, SAG's national director of entertainment contracts, was more optimistic. "We're really happy that ACTRA made an agreement and that their members are going to be going back to work," she said. "We supported their journey to get to this agreement, and it was a hard-fought one that had to include a strike." An unnamed member of the labor community told The Hollywood Reporter that the IPA "doesn't suck, anyway."

As SAG -- with its new national executive director, Doug Allen -- gears up for the fall 2008 showdown, we think even the precedent of a new-media deal that "doesn't suck" is a good sign -- for now. And we applaud ACTRA's chief negotiator, Stephen Waddell, for sticking to his guns at the bargaining table with the CFTPA and in the Toronto Superior Court.

And thanks to the union's individual agreements with independent producers, the majority of its members didn't miss a day of work due to the strike. Canadian actors walked away with a groundbreaking residuals formula and a pay raise -- without disrupting their daily lives and careers. We hope SAG actors will be able to say the same thing in 19 months.

For more details on ACTRA's new Independent Production Agreement, visit www.actra.ca.

-- Back Stage Staff

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