Cold Squad, ACFC cut deal

Vancouver: A Canadian labor union has finally put its money where its mouth is and forged an agreement that cuts Canadian producers some slack.

The new Canadian Indigenous Collective Agreement ­ negotiated between ACFC West and the producers of new Baton series Cold Squad ­ will save the series about $225,000 over the course of a 13-episode season. The overall budget will come in at about $12.5 million.

The series is produced by Vancouver’s Keatley Films and Toronto-based Atlantis Films.

‘Cold Squad is wholly Canadian,’ says series producer and labor pact negotiator David Shepherd. ‘Because of that, the amount of funding is not that of The X-Files. In order for us to produce primetime Canadian drama, we have to have some concessions.’

Comparable u.s. shows produced in Vancouver have budgets of about $1.2 million per episode, about $300,000 more per episode than Cold Squad.

While regular ACFC West labor rates remain the same, the savings come from reductions in the fringe costs. Pension payments will drop from 6% to 4% of the production budget. Administration costs will be reduced from 3.5% to 2.5%. Health and welfare costs will shrink from 3% to 1.5%.

The cica is narrow in its target audience. Only shows that qualify for funding through Telefilm Canada, British Columbia Film or other Canadian provincial funding agencies and are wholly owned by Canadian corporations with no financing from foreign or u.s. subsidiaries need apply. In addition, the originating broadcaster must be either a Canadian network or cable company.

‘You can have a service production qualify for cavco, but it won’t qualify for this,’ says Conor O’Sullivan, business agent for ACFC West. ‘As far as I know, [this contract] is a first.’

The deal, meanwhile, solidifies acfc’s niche in the lower-budget, which is essentially the only business left in b.c. now that B.C. Council of Film Union’s master agreement is being ratified for another three years.

Because of operational problems, O’Sullivan says there were concerns that the acfc may not have opened its doors in beginning of 1996. But it restructured, tightened its standards, simplified its bargaining, established a working relationship with iatse camera unit 669, and began rebuilding its confidence through positive feedback from producers.

Today, ACFC West has four series, a dramatic market change away from the low-budget features and mows it has traditionally done.

‘The timing was right for this agreement,’ he says. ‘We wanted to respond to the commitment made by Baton to local production. There are not huge savings [for producers] in the short term, but it’s a small step to define the market.’

Shepherd, meanwhile, says he has signed his crew of about 65 people. Cast is still be negotiated and production begins June 16.

According to Shepherd, the Directors Guild of Canada and actors union ubcp are also negotiating concession-granting contracts.