Actors downed scripts for a one-day strike yesterday, saying they were fed
up with producers reaping most of the financial rewards from successful
Australian films and TV shows.
Almost 500 performers in Sydney and Melbourne walked off the job after eight
months of negotiations between their union and the Screen Producers Association
of Australia for better pay and conditions broke down last week.
The 24-hour stoppage affected several television shows, including Blue
Heelers, Neighbours, Stingers, All Saints and Home and Away, and the films
Lennie Kahill Shoots Through and Strange Bedfellows.
The deadlock centred on several issues the demand for a standby rate for
actors, more certainty on the duration of option contracts for subsequent TV
series, and a lifting of the cap on residuals, or royalties, for TV performers.
After an 11th-hour offer from producers, performers yesterday voted to lift
weekend work bans, but said further industrial action was likely if an agreement
was not reached by next Wednesday.
Simon Whipp , executive director of the Media, Entertainment and Arts
Alliance's Equity division, said that under the award, film actors were not
entitled to royalties.
In the case of internationally successful films such as Lantana, Strictly
Ballroom and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, ``all of them have gone into profit
and the performers don't get anything out of it". Actors in the Oscar-winning
Moulin Rouge ``will not see another cent in residuals, whether it sells to a US
network or not".
But Geoff Brown , executive director of the Screen Producers Association,
said this was untrue.
``If it is a US network sale of that film they get an extra payment of 100
per cent of their fee."
He said ``95 per cent of all performers" earned about $394 a day, not the
minimum award rate.
But Mitch Firth, 17, a cast member of Home and Away, said his royalties cut
out after an episode made more than $95,000. ``A single episode is sold to the
UK for over $100,000, so there are 48 other countries that we sell to that we
don't see any of the money from."
Georgie Parker, who stars in All Saints, said the conditions under which
most actors were employed were ``inexcusable".
``We haven't had a wage increase since 1994, when we also had to strike to
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