Actors ask for cut of first-dollar revenues

07 October, 2015 by Don Groves

The MEAA is pressing producers to pay actors in Australian TV dramas residuals from the first dollar of revenues.

The union is also seeking a separate loading for its members for shows that are streamed and to incorporate minimum wages in agreements for local programs commissioned by Netflix and other SVOD services.


In addition, webisodes and other online content would for the first time be covered by industrial agreement.

These proposals are set out in a report to members by Equity director Zoe Angus, who is negotiating with Screen Producers Australia a new Australian Television Repeats and Residuals Agreement (ATRRA).

That agreement was signed in 2004 when fees were based on the traditional broadcast model or on the catch-all ancillary category.

“This model is straining and cracking and productions tumble over into unregulated territory,” Angus said in the report.

“Web productions are not covered by any industry agreement. Streaming is fast becoming the primary viewing method, yet it remains ‘ancillary’ and does not attract usage fees. Networks want catch-up, online previews, series- stacking, ‘play’ conversion, streaming only.

"Every day at Equity we scramble to fit these usages into the existing model and negotiate individualised arrangements so that at least some protections apply.

“It is time that the model fit the circumstance. Performers should get usage fees for streaming. Residuals should apply to all sales.”

Equity wants to overhaul the residuals formula so it operates from the “first dollar” of revenue and is seeking greater consistency between free-to-air and subscription TV rights.

The report reveals the union is close to finalising an agreement with the producers of Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, which satisfies the ‘significant Australian content’ test and is big budget, which would provide full SAG- AFTRA residuals for its members.

Equity successfully argued that The Weinstein Company’s purchase of distribution rights for Lion met the test for a film principally funded by a US studio.

The producers, See-Saw Films, argued that the ownership of distribution rights did not constitute ‘funding’ because the rights were bought after funding was approved and the money is paid on delivery rather than being invested in production, according to the union.

Equity negotiated SAG-AFTRA residuals in the North American markets after two years, reportedly the first time higher residuals were paid on a ‘non-big budget’ film which was not directly funded by a US studio.