FTAC going grass roots
The Hollywood Reporter
August 6, 2004
By Jesse Hiestand

With a fund-raiser in Hollywood today, the Film and Television Action Committee hopes to launch a new, more grass-roots approach to funding an investigation of Canada's film and television subsidies.

FTAC has spent six years railing against runaway production, but its proposed remedy, in the form of a federal 301(a) filing, has found little support from the industry. Just Saturday, SAG's national board rejected a request to back FTAC's efforts with a $50,000 contribution to its 301(a) fund. FTAC estimates that it still needs to raise most of the $250,000 needed to formally request an investigation by the U.S. Trade Representative.

The organization now hopes to draw funding and support from the very union members, vendors and smaller Hollywood businesses that are directly affected by the continued outflux of jobs. They also hope the 301(a) filing will fill the void left by the failure of several production-incentive programs in California.

The first step in the new direction will be a fund-raising luncheon at the Hollywood Heritage Museum. The announcement suggests that donations by vendors are a tax-deductible cost of doing business.

"People in this town are very afraid," said Tim McHugh, one of FTAC's three new executive directors. "The industry is shrinking, the need for workers is shrinking, they're scared and the unions have branded FTAC as crazies."

FTAC also is expected to announce that several city councils, most notably in New York and New Jersey, have recently passed resolutions supporting FTAC and that similar support is coming from other cities nationwide. FTAC recently reorganized its leadership after spending the past year focusing on research and strategy.

"The members of the guilds and unions are starting to recognize that the leadership may not always be thinking of the best interests of the individual members," McHugh said.

A few unions have announced support for FTAC, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Teamster Local 399 and IATSE Local 695. Until Saturday, SAG had not ruled out an endorsement of the FTAC coalition.

IATSE's top leadership has steadfastly opposed a 301(a) filing in part because its locals represent works in both the United States and Canada. At its convention in 2000, IATSE's delegates voted overwhelmingly against the support of any kind of countervailing tariffs. That is something that IATSE and others, including the DGA, fear could spark an unnecessary trade war.

A 301(a) filing is intended to remedy trade practices. If those practices were substantiated and Canada refused to rescind its subsidies, the U.S. Trade Representative could file with the World Trade Organization for dispute settlement, according to FTAC.

McHugh said FTAC is still pressing the fight even though Canada has suffered as producers seek alternative subsidies and incentives from such countries as Australia and Romania.

"The model they built was very successful, but it was for the short term, and unfortunately, they gave the blueprints to the world on how to take work away from Canada, and now they're suffering from it," McHugh said. "You need to file against a specific country, and Canada was the early leader, so (a 301(a) filing) would put the rest of the world on notice."

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