A call for greater regulation of the roughly €100 million in Government support provided to the Irish film industry each year has been backed by actors including Cillian Murphy, Ruth Negga and Colin Farrell.
In all, some 3,700 actors, some of them based in the UK and US, signed an Equity organised petition that calls for the funding provided to productions to be linked to improved employment conditions.
The union says the changes it wants to see were largely contained in the 14 recommendations of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight’s ‘Report on Section 481 – Film Tax Credit’, which was published in May.
The recommendations included a number favourable to producers including the raising of the cap on expenditure qualifying for relief from €70 million and an extension of the added incentives provided to productions undertaken outside of the Dublin region.
The committee also, however, sought a stakeholder forum to allow for a debate on outstanding issues in the sector, assurances Irish actors would not be subject to inferior conditions than their overseas counterparts when working on S481 supported projects and improved regulation of the conditions and training provided to all workers in those productions.
Equity says it wants all of the recommendations to be implemented.
“We have to have agreements that fully comply with legislation and what we are doing today is reminding legislators that that is an issue to be dealt with,” said Irish equity president Gerry O’Brien on Tuesday.
“The intention is that actors’ contracts will be something addressed through the industrial relations process and we have tentatively started that process in talks with Screen Producers Ireland. We will be sitting down at the table with them again but we want to ensure that any improvements achieved by our colleagues in the US or UK are reflected in any deal reached here.
“But I would have to say that Equity also supports the other recommendations of the committee and this is somewhere that we would be on kind of the same page as our colleagues in SPI. Section 481 is vitally important to the industry and to employment and we would like to see the cap lifted and an extension of the uplift (regional supports).”
Committee member Richard Boyd Barrett TD has raised the issue of the report’s implementation a number of times in the Dáil since its publicatiuon and said he believes it is overdue.
“I think it’s absolutely right that equity would bring this petition forward to try and force the Government to give a meaningful response and ensure that our actors and writers and performers and directors are treated properly and on a par with their European counterparts. “There’s a huge amount of public money going into the Irish film industry and it’s long past time that the government actually did right by the actors, writers, directors and crew.”
Ged Nash TD said the Labour Party will table amendments to the Finance Act after the budget that reflect the committee’s recommendations and Equity’s demands.
“I think the report shows very clearly what needs to be done to ensure that workers and performers are treated more fairly,” he said.
“And in cases like this, when there are significant resources being applied to an industry in this country, there needs to be a positive outcome for workers. I think it’s good public policy to do that.”