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Quiet on set: Major Alberta film productions come to halt amid Hollywood strike


Some major film productions in Calgary are getting put on hold, impacting thousands of film and television workers following an actors' union strike in Hollywood.

Actors in the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) went on strike Friday, joining 11,000 already striking film and television writers on the picket line.

The failed negotiation with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) now marks the first tandem strike in the film industry since 1960.

The actors say they're fighting for higher wages and protections in the streaming era -- including residual pay, which is critical to keep their health care.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) is supportive of the strike.

ACTRA Alberta represents almost 1,100 members.

President Blair Young notes one of the biggest issues comes over concerns regarding the regulation of artificial intelligence.

Young says one of the asks of AMPTP was to record backgrounds and put them in a library for future use without consent or any further payment.

"I don't think anybody thinks that it's inherently fair to say, OK, we're going to ask you to come to the studio for one day, pay you for one day, take your picture, do a motion capture of your entire body, maybe even record your voice and then use that without your permission without any further payment for all eternity," he said.

"We have to figure out some way that yes, of course, these are innovations that the producers want to use, but we do have to figure out a way to pay the actors fairly for doing that work."

Young says a very small percentage of actors are making six-figure salaries and reduced residual pay isn't going to help the industry long-term.

"It's hard to know how popular anything is because (streaming companies) don't want to give us numbers," he said.

"We're always fighting for increased benefits for our workers. Since COVID, auditioning has completely changed and most of it is done at our homes or at our own expense."

During the strike, actors will not be permitted to promote past projects through conventions, interviews or panels.

It also means current productions in southern Alberta, including Season 2 of Billy The Kid, will now come to a halt.

The strike also puts into question the upcoming shooting schedule for television shows filmed in the Calgary area, including Netflix's The Abandons.

Luke Azevedo, vice-president of creative industries, operations and film commissioner with Calgary Economic Development, says shows employing only Canadian workers, such as Heartland, will be able to continue production.

However, the loss of other major projects is a big hit to the Alberta film industry.

"This will have a major ripple effect across not only the industry but the peripheral aspects of the industry," he said.

"Hotels, rental cars, restaurants, all of the things that count in many jurisdictions throughout the world on film and TV to be part of that revenue generation."

Azevedo adds Alberta will stay top of mind globally and continue to attract productions but he's hoping for a quick and equitable solution to the strike.

He worries the strike could last longer than expected and hopes it's not a repeat of the 100-day writers' strike back in 2007. Top Stories

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