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Hollywood unions file Canada petition

September 05, 2007|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

A coalition of entertainment industry workers is asking the U.S. government to put the brakes on Hollywood production in Canada.

The Screen Actors Guild of America, Teamsters and several unions representing Hollywood's technical workers Tuesday filed a petition with the U.S. trade representative alleging that Canadian film and TV subsidies have led to U.S. job losses.

The complaint alleges that Canadian government subsidies that target U.S. film and TV productions constitute unfair trade practices and violate Canada's obligations under the World Trade Organization.

"We are committed to exploring every method we can to bring film and television production back to the United States," said Gretchen Koerner, who chairs the national legislative committee of the Screen Actors Guild. "For decades we have watched as American producers head north to produce movies, television series and commercials."

Although cross-border trade disputes are common, they typically involve such commodities as corn and softwood lumber, not movies and TV shows.

The petition marks the first of its kind backed by entertainment industry unions, highlighting a long-standing hot-button issue in Southern California, which in the last decade has lost thousands of film and TV jobs as production has migrated to cheaper locales offering tax credits and other sweeteners.

Since 1997, Canada has hosted more than 1,000 U.S. film and TV productions, including "Brokeback Mountain," "Chicago" and "The Rudy Giuliani Story."

The outflow, however, has slowed in recent years as some U.S. states began offering Canadian-style tax credits and as the U.S. dollar weakened, making filming abroad more expensive.

Nonetheless, backers of the petition contend that Canada is still unfairly harming U.S. workers by offering American companies a federal tax credit equal to 16% of their labor expenditures in Canada, in addition to provincial tax credits.

"Canada still has by far the highest percentage of shows that leave the U.S., and its model is being used by 22 nations," said Tim McHugh, an executive director of the Film and Television Action Committee. The nonprofit organization coordinated the petition, which also was backed by the cities of Glendale, Santa Monica and Burbank.

The U.S. trade representative has 45 days to decide whether to pursue the matter with Canada.

Officials at the Canadian Consulate General in Los Angeles said they could not comment because they had not seen a copy of the petition.

richard.verrier@latimes.com

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