The Australian technicians’ union is at loggerheads with the producers of Gods of Egypt, Alex Proyas’ fantasy adventure starring Gerard Butler, Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Geoffrey Rush and Brenton Thwaites.
The union accuses the producers of trying to drive down wages and conditions that were negotiated for Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner and The Great Gatsby.
The producers are seeking the same conditions as for Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken which, the union alleges, entail significant cuts to overtime, night loadings and travel time. Their offer was put to a vote by 27 crew members that have been employed in pre-production on the film which is due to start shooting on March 24 in Sydney or Melbourne.
Mal Tulloch, director of the Entertainment Crew and Sport section of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, tells IF that 20 voted in favour with seven against.
He says the union will oppose the agreement when the producers seek to register it with the Fair Work Commission because the conditions will apply to all crew employed on the film, which qualifies for the 40% producer offset. “The majority of the people who work on the film will have no say in their conditions,” he says.
The producers are Summit Entertainment, Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road Pictures and Proyas' Mystery Clock. They contend the overall offer is fair and they needed to strike a deal now to give certainty to investors and to meet the production timetable.
Butler is cast as Set, a god who kills and mutilates his brother Osiris. Coster-Waldau is Horus, the son of Osiris, who seeks to avenge his father’s death. Rush will play the sun god Ra, father of Set and Osiris who is Set’s ultimate target. Thwaites is Bek, a human thief who cares little for the affairs of gods. The script is by Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama, the team behind Universal’s upcoming Dracula.
The MEAA says the budget is $100 million-plus. It says the producers increased their original offer so the standard week will be 5 days in 6 (Mon-Sat), instead of 5 days in 7 (Mon-Sun) and Saturday overtime will be time-and-a-half for 5 hours before double-time kicks in, rather than 10 hours.
But the union says there was no improvement in daily overtime after 12 hours, or night loadings. “The agreement winds back penalty rates which prevent people from working long hours,” Tulloch says. ”We think it is a retrograde step.”
The MEAA believes the producers are seeking to set new, lower standards for big-budget Australian films and it is not appropriate to import offshore conditions to productions that are receiving a 40% tax incentive to shoot in Australia.
Its national screen committee, which represents crew in all States, voted to oppose the agreement in the Fair Work Commission.
On another front, the union is not happy with a deal being negotiated with reps of the Walt Disney Studios for the Australian crew to be engaged on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Caption Nemo.
The previous Labor government agreed to pay Disney $21.6 million to ensure the remake shoots here. Production has been delayed due to cast and director availability.
The terms of the offer do not meet the Fair Work 'better off overall test' according to Tulloch, who adds, “A lot of work needs to be done before we are in a position to sign off on that agreement.”