Mummy moves back to Montreal

MONTREAL — The new deal between Quebec’s two feuding technician’s unions is a ‘win-win agreement’ for the local industry, according to the province’s film commissioner, and is already drawing Hollywood dollars back to the under-used territory.

After bypassing la belle province because of its labor woes, the producers of the US$100-million Universal feature The Mummy 3 have changed their minds, and are now set to shoot the horror/adventure sequel in Montreal, says Hans Fraikin, head of the Quebec Film and Television Council.

This follows the ‘deal in principal’ reached on Friday that stands to end the lengthy and costly dispute between the AQTIS and IATSE technicians unions.

‘This deal has been a long time in coming, and it’s good that it comes when it does or we could have lost 2007,’ Fraikin tells Playback Daily, on the phone from Los Angeles, where he’s trying to convince the producers of five other big-budget American films to take a second look at Montreal. ‘I’m here to reassure the studios that Montreal’s back in business.’

‘That Mummy 3 is back is wonderful for the industry. It’s great that the government reacted so quickly to resolve this dispute,’ says Michel Trudel of the Cité du Cinéma studio, where the big-budget American flick is set to shoot, though a start date has not been confirmed.

The IA/AQ deal was hammered out Friday by provincial negotiator Gilles Charland, who was appointed by the provincial Liberals to end the dispute last week. The details of the agreement won’t be released until after the two unions ratify it at their general assemblies this week, says Fraikin.

The union conflict has roadblocked Hollywood business from Montreal for some time, including big-budget flicks featuring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz.

Fraikin estimates that the dispute and the recent ACTRA strike together has cost the local film business about $260 million in lost productions this year, down from a target of $400 million. ‘The timing of this deal couldn’t be better, because this is the time of year when producers lock in their productions,’ he says.

AQTIS represents around 2,900 artists and technicians in Quebec and has long represented workers on foreign service productions, while IATSE operates in every other province in the country. Last year, IATSE opened a local in Montreal, leading to a series of legal challenges from AQTIS, which claims it has the sole legal right to handle service shoots.

While many industry watchers welcome the deal, one AQTIS member, speaking on the condition of anonymity, says he doubts the deal will actually solve the labor problems in Quebec’s film industry.

‘It basically boils down to whether people want to work this summer or not. If they do, they have to ratify it.’

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