The MEAA will mount a campaign to try to preserve its consultative role with federal government in determining which foreign actors and crew are permitted to work in Australian taxpayer-subsidised screen productions.

The union flagged its plans in response to this week’s announcement that the government is reviewing the regulations governing the importing of film and TV performers and production personnel.

In a discussion paper the government raised the options of no longer consulting with the MEAA, removing the requirement for certification from the Arts Minister or replacing that with the need to demonstrate the nominated activity will bring a net employment benefit to Australia or have no adverse effect on Australian employment and training opportunities

The MEAA will “campaign vigorously to protect opportunities for local actors and crew during the federal government’s review," the union told its members today. “According to its terms…  the purpose of the review is to 'support the whole of government deregulation agenda' within the arts industry.”

Actors’ Equity director Zoe Angus said: “We always welcome the opportunity to work with the government, producers, writers, directors and other industry stake holders to ensure screen production thrives in this country.

“However, any attempts to dismantle industry protections that have created an incredible pool of talent that includes the likes of Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Chris Hemsworth and Joel Edgerton will be fiercely resisted by MEAA and our members.”

At present producers must satisfy the Arts department that films subsidised by Australian taxpayers have at least 50% of lead roles and 75% of support roles filled by Australian performers and that reasonable efforts have been made to cast Australians for all roles. MEAA is consulted when an application to import foreign cast or crew is made.

The union claims the government is proposing to scrap these guidelines.

“MEAA is vigilant in ensuring our policies, guidelines and industrial agreements are updated to best serve our members and the industry at large. We are always open to reviewing and discussing our foreign import guidelines with the relevant stake holders,” said Angus.

“However, the government is proposing overseas performers and technicians have unfettered access to jobs within our taxpayer-subsidised arts industry. This does not happen in the US or the UK. The current guidelines serve thousands of workers well and foster local talent. They are an essential protection to ensure local talent and skills are developed.”

The union will consult members before making a submission to the review.

The Arts department said the intention is to enact any amendments flowing from the review, subject to the government’s views and priorities, this year.

Interested parties are invited to comment on key components and deregulation opportunities by February 23. Submissions should be sent to:

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  1. As usual, my union management is displaying it’s weary,myopic, old fashioned, selfish views. As any actors’ agent can tell you the way to Hollywood success for a local actor used to be to score a role in an Australian movie and hope that LA talent scouts would spot the performance. Nowadays actors are much more proactive and go direct to LA and audition with remarkable success. Aussie actors are acknowledged as being amongst the best in the world so there is no longer any need for outdated protectionism on the home front.

    Apart from MEAA almost everyone else in the industry acknowledges that being able to sometimes cast overseas “name” actors in local subsidised films would lead to an increase in private investment,thus more films, thus more work for everyone. The Equity Director claims “We always welcome the opportunity to work with Government, producers, writers, directors and other industry stakeholders to ensure screen production thrives in this country.”Hollow words. By it’s action the union shows it has no concern whatsoever about anyone else in the industry and has no interest in participating in a democratic decision-making process including all stakeholders.
    (I would also point out that the UK doesn’t have foreign import guidelines like we do and the US doesn’t have a government subsidised film industry.)

  2. By the way, as another example of how MEAA has no concerns about the Australian screen sector as a whole, let’s not forget their behaviour over the Government’s Online Copyright Infringement submissions and forum. As we all know copyright theft is one of the biggest threats to the sustainability of the global screen industry yet MEAA withdrew their paper on the issue and took no part in the ensuing discussions. Is that an example of how MEAA is helping to “ensure screen production thrives in this country?”

  3. Once again MEAA demonstrates its ignorance of the way film and television is financed. A “name” actor is usually required to trigger distributor and sales agent involvement – essential to financing – and hooray, a mature Australian industry means that many of our actors can be cast as the “name”. But sometimes it’s not possibe – availability, suitability to the role. If an an overseas actor is cast and the project financed, then hooray – dozens, even hundreds, of Australian cast and crew will have employment on the project. Further, MEAA does not seem to understand that there are substantial financial burdens when an overseas actor is cast – transport, accommodation, per diems. No producer is going to take on these costs unnecessarily.

  4. Good points Sandra. I really think that MEAA cares very little about the sustainability of our Aussie feature film industry. Perhaps nothing confirms that opinion more than this quote from then Equity President, Simon Burke, in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on Sep 7, 2014 when he was spruiking the TV show, DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND…”I don’t go to movies anymore, I just watch box sets of everything.”
    Let’s hope new acting Equity President, Geoff Morrell manages to get himself along to the cinema every now and then!

  5. Dear MEAA, I would like to invite you to reconsider your policy on bringing in Overseas cast for Australian based Feature Film projects, which are not inherently Australian stories, do not reference Australia in any way, or use any Australian accents. We intend to make Hollywood style high concept feature films with International or Neutral accents, and bring in cast of our own choosing for the leads. The inability to do this at the moment will likely result in relocation of the projects overseas, which would not benefit anyone here.

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