Veteran actor quits Equity committee
Roy Billing has resigned from Actors Equity’s national performers committee in protest at the removal of Sue McCreadie as the director of Actors Equity.
The Kiwi-born actor, who has been a member of Equity in Australia and New Zealand for 36 years, tells IF he is “disturbed and disillusioned” with the way the union has treated McCreadie, who has been replaced as acting director by MEAA official Zoe Angus.
As IF reported on Wednesday, McCreadie has taken the new role of MEAA's director of policy and communications.
“Sue is much respected in the industry and did a really good job,” says Billing, whose recent credits include Jack Irish: Dead Point, Rake, Cliffy, Wonderland, Mystery Road and Robyn Malcolm’s TVNZ comedy Agent Anna. “She got some really good results for us, particularly in the live performance and screen sectors.”
Billing cited a number of McCreadie-negotiated deals including an agreement with the theatre companies in importing foreign artists, achieving SAG residuals for the cast of Alex Proyas’ Sydney-shot fantasy action- adventure Gods of Egypt, and the Pay the Dancers campaign.
“I believe there was a chance, under Sue's conciliatory and consultative style, for the union to change its culture from an aggressive, combative stance to become a more collaborative and conciliatory industry player," he says. "I worry that there will be a regression back to the style of old.”
Equity president Simon Burke rejects that suggestion as “preposterous,” while noting he was “shocked and disappointed” when Billing decided to resign from the NPC, whose members are elected in a secret ballot and represent performers on the issues affecting their industry.
Burke tells IF it is not appropriate for him to comment on internal staffing matters but he asserts there is no change in the union’s approach as it negotiates with Screen Producers Australia a new Motion Picture Production Agreement (MPPA), which covers film and TV crew, and a new Australian Television Repeats and Residuals Agreement (ATRRA).
The MEAA is also thrashing out the details of a new scheme for low budget features with SPA, the Australian Directors Guild and the Australian Writers Guild.
Burke points to the MEAA’s participation in an industry forum in Canberra last week with reps from SPA, Screen Australia, the DGA and other stakeholders, where some of those issues were addressed, as proof of the union’s positive, co-operative approach.
“The mood among all parties was most collegial, friendly, robust certainly, and open,” he says. “It was the most positive industry meeting I have attended in 10 years as Equity president. The most important thing in dealing with producers, governments and other stakeholders is mutual respect.”
As for Billing, he complains that he asked the union’s leadership why McCreadie was transferred from her post and says he has not been given a “clear, coherent reply.”
Paul Murphy, the MEAA’s acting federal secretary in the absence of Chris Warren, gave IF this statement, “MEAA is bolstering its capacity to run campaigns and contribute to major policy debates across all of our core areas: equity/media/crew.
“We are always matching our resources to our needs and that’s why changes have been made.”