Original article at if.com.au By Don Groves 26 September 2014
An Actors Equity national performers committee member has defended the union’s process of vetting imported actors in Australian taxpayer-funded film and TV productions.
Jonathan Mill argues the present policy enables actors to work with international performers while ensuring most lead roles go to Aussies.Kevin Harrington, a former NPC member, supported Mill, stating, “From my experience on the NPC the committee is more flexible on policy than any other any union in Australia. If we had stuck to policy, Red Dog would not have been made.”Actor Roy Billing reignited the debate on the issue in his op Ed piece for IF when he asked Equity to ease the restrictions on foreign actors. Subsequently he called for Equity and the NPC to be taken out of any of that decision-making.
Denise Roberts, CEO and principal director of Screenwise Film & TV School for Actors, together with many producers agreed with Billing’s argument that allowing more overseas actors to work here would generate more investment and help create films that attract international distribution.In response Mill said, “We take all these issues into consideration when confronted with the very small number of import applications that are not automatically approved (as most applications are).”
In a Facebook posting Mill, whose screen credits include Home and Away, All Saints and A Country Practice, continued, “Weighing up the pros and cons of each film affected is what NPC members spend hours doing. No staff member at Equity makes any of the decisions, they are all made by the 32 actors elected by Equity members to do so, amongst whom there are several AFI and Helpmann Award winners as well as just jobbing actors like myself.”Mill claimed that proposals by some producers and sales agents to remove restrictions are not workable, stating, “We need an Imported Artists Policy that allows us to work with international performers but also preserves good lead roles for us; the current policy does that.”Harrington added, “I am no longer on the committee for personal reasons. It is very accessible and if any actor does not personally know a member of the NPC they are very welcome to contact me and I will make sure their views are represented.”
Continuing the debate on Facebook, Roberts said: “The general consensus is that the foreign guidelines are hindering investment in film in this country. I believe that relaxing them would lead to more investment and more productions bringing more jobs for everyone including us as actors.“Relaxing doesn’t mean abolishing them completely. Obviously we need to keep some control, but we can’t afford to be trapped in a time warp. It’s 2014 Jonathan, not 1988 when these guidelines were formulated. The Aussie film and TV industry has moved on since then – and it’s time we did too.”Billing told IF earlier this week, “Obviously industry people are very unhappy with the current guidelines and I hope the momentum started by my article keeps up and that the various guilds, organisations and individuals start lobbying government to abolish or change these guidelines, making it easier to import foreign actors when finance is dependent on their casting.”