Actors’ strike could hurt Mass. movie biz

Donna Goodison
Boston Herald
June 20, 2008

After escaping fallout from the three-month writers’ strike that ended in February, Massachusetts’ growing motion picture economy faces another potential setback in a looming strike by the Screen Actors Guild.

Local industry insiders believe the state’s tax incentive-induced movie boom that’s generated $545 million in spending since 2006 wouldn’t be dramatically affected if SAG hits the picket lines for a short-lived strike. But not so if there’s a drawn-out impasse.

“It’ll be a disaster if it happens,” said Boston Casting’s Angela Peri, who’s seen a 40 percent bump in business under the expanded tax credits. “Boston SAG actors paid their dues for the last 25 years and got hardly any work because no movies ever shot here. They can finally make a living being an actor, and it could be taken away.”

As SAG nears the June 30 expiration of its contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, Hollywood studios are scurrying to wrap productions in progress. And while SAG could extend the contract and allow its members to continue working while negotiations proceed, studios also are holding off on future commitments.

Massachusetts has hosted seven movie productions since January, and two continue to shoot: Martin Scorsese’s “Ashecliffe” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and “The Surrogates” with Bruce Willis. No other major studio flicks are scheduled for the rest of the year.

“All of the pictures that were slated for this spring were scheduled so that principal photography could be finished before the end of the actors’ contract,” said Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. “We’ve got lots of folks who are circling the runway, but studio pictures are not making commitments until the actors’ contract is resolved.”

But two independent movies slated to shoot here this summer – an Italian TV film and Mel Gibson’s “Edge of Darkness” – would continue despite a strike, and the Gibson production likely will extend into fall, Paleologos said.

“I honestly believe that even if there is a (strike), that we’re still going to be in business this summer with at least two pictures,” he said. “And I don’t think anyone, even the most pessimistic people, feel that if the actors’ strike happens, that it’ll be for a long time.”

But Chris O’Donnell, business manager of Local 481 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts, is worried. “I’ve got a lot of members who make a living in the industry,” he said. “Any work stoppage or slowdown is going to affect their ability to do that.”

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