May 1, 2024

Hello ACTRA Manitoba members!

As spring is upon us and we prepare for the busy summer filming season, I hope that everyone has been preparing, training, and auditioning! Service production has been slower than expected in the aftermath of the SAG-AFTRA and writer’s strike, but we are seeing a gradual increase in production as we head into summer. I have confidence that the new Film Commissioner, Lynne Skromeda, and the hard-working folks at Manitoba Film & Music will do their best to attract new production to the city. This is bolstered by the established direct flights to LA, the new studio spaces, and the federal government’s plan to invest $100 million into Telefilm over the next two years; all positive signs that Manitoba is well-poised to support the audio-visual industry in the years to come.

That being said, we are facing unprecedented challenges from producers and associations that wish to drastically change the way content is made by leveraging AI and pushing for more exceptions in our agreements, eroding the progress that ACTRA and our sibling unions have made over the years to ensure fair working conditions for performers and other film industry professionals. Members of the Writers Guild of Canada recently voted in favour of authorizing strike action if there was no resolution to the ongoing talks with the Canadian Media Producers Association, and ACTRA will also be going into negotiations for our main collective agreement, the Independent Production Agreement, at the end of the year. This could lead to more turmoil in the industry as those negotiations are critical for productions to continue, and for the workers’ rights to be upheld.

This, as ACTRA has surpassed the two-year mark of unsuccessful negotiations with the ICA on our National Commercial Agreement, which has seen some impact here in Manitoba in lost revenues, but more so in larger jurisdictions, such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. While there have been some small victories in getting individual brands and agencies to sign back onto our agreements, the ICA is hell-bent on breaking the union by proposing outright disrespectful terms and wanting to slash performer rates 50-60%. Here in Manitoba, we are partnering with the smaller branches in a promotional initiative to try and gain more local and regional commercial work, which we hope will make up some of that lost work from National-level commercials. It is something that we have some control over and can do proactively to benefit our community.

Regarding the IPA negotiations in the fall (November-December 2024), Manitoba will get a seat at the table for the first time in ACTRA’s history. And we are fortunate to have someone as passionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated as Paul Essiembre to act as our representative on the bargaining team! I thank Paul for his service and rest assured, he will have our full support as he goes into these challenging negotiations with the rest of the team.

On a lighter note, the annual ACTRA Manitoba MIP screening will take place on Friday, May 24th at Prairie Theatre Exchange, and I look forward to seeing all of the wonderful short films made by our members, which are always entertaining! I’m happy to remind everyone that this year, there will be TWO awards presented: the Audience Choice Award, and the Golden Boy award, which has become a juried award. This will offer us the opportunity to recognize an additional film based on objective merits. We hope you will join us!

Looking ahead, the ACTRA Manitoba Annual General Meeting will take place at 7 PM on Tuesday, June 18th at the Radisson Hotel Downtown, and will be a good opportunity to hear about what your union has been busy with in the past year and how we are faring under the fantastic leadership of our new Branch Rep, Rea Kavanagh. It is also a great chance to catch up with friends, staff, and fellow members. As is tradition, at this year’s AGM, we will be awarding deserving members with Life Memberships and the Vic Cowie Award, presenting a gift to our ACTRA Manitoba Woman of the Year – Sharon Bajer – and a special presentation of the Carole Vivier Builder Award. As usual, it will be a wonderful evening and we hope to see you there!

In solidarity,
Alan Wong
President and National Councillor
ACTRA Manitoba