Entertainment Industry

Category: IATSE

Sony Pictures Imageworks workers take steps to unionize

A group of visual effects artists at Sony Pictures Imageworks, one of the leading visual effects companies, is mounting a campaign to unionize.

"We are artists at Sony Pictures Imageworks, the first group of visual effects artists that is taking a stand and attempting to organize under a collective  bargaining agreement,'' read a statement from SpiUnion blog, which was set up by workers at Imageworks who are seeking unions benefits, such as health insurance, that are shared by many of their colleagues who work on animated movies at Sony.

On Friday, officials from the Animation Guild Local 839 and its parent, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, will meet with Imageworks employees at the Culver Hotel to answer questions about joining the union. The animation guild already represents animation workers at Sony.

Sony Pictures Imageworks employs about 400 to 500 workers, at least one third of whom must sign petition cards seeking to be represented by a union before federal labor officials will consider holding an election.

IATSE President Matt Loeb said last year that extending union contracts to the visual effects industry was a top priority, but the campaign did not gain much traction. Employers have argued that providing union benefits would drive up costs, making it harder for them to compete in an increasingly global marketplace, where more work is already being handled in cities such as Vancouver, London and Mumbai, India.

An Imageworks spokesman said the company "respects the employees' right to consider union representation," but had no further comment.

Supporters say workers deserve benefits shared by their peers at a time when visual effects have become increasingly important to the commercial success of movies.

"We need health insurance that will carry us through downtimes now more than ever before,'' SpiUnion says on its blog. "We are not second class citizens. We sacrifice, work hard, and make good movies we should all be proud of. We are not a commodity, we have talent, we have value."

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Matt Loeb of IATSE charting a more aggressive path

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Andrew Garfield plays Peter Parker and his alter-ego Spider-Man in "The Amazing Spider-Man." Credi: Jaimie Trueblood/Sony Pictures.

IATSE and the studios reach a new contract

Matt Loeb, head of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract that averts a potential showdown with the major studios.

IATSE represents more than 100,000 entertainment industry workers, including camera operators, set decorators, grips and others who work behind the scenes on movies and TV shows.

Under the proposed agreement, IATSE members would receive 2% annual wage increase over three years -- in line with raises negotiated by other entertainment unions . Employers agreed to increase by 20% their hourly their contribution to the union's health plan.

"Our goals going into these negotiations have been met,'' IATSE President Matt Loeb said in a statement. "We were successful in maintaining the pensions of our retirees."

Members with dependents, however, would also be required for the first time to pay premiums between $25 and $50 a month for healthcare coverage, said on person familiar with the deal.

The union agree to the concession as way to help close a large deficit in the union's health and pension plans -  projected to be more than $350 million over the next three years because of rising investment losses and medical costs. The two sides have been sharply divided over how to close the deficit.

IATSE also expanded to expand the so-called 30 mile zone in Los Angeles -- the area that determines work rules and rates paid to union members -- to include Agua Dulce and Pomona, among other locations.

If ratified by members, the new three-year contract that takes effects July 31.

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-Richard Verrier

Photo: Matt Loeb, head of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, at the union's office in Studio City in 2011. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

 

It's not a wrap for contract talks between IATSE and producers

IATSE's Matt Loeb

After two weeks of negotiations, representatives of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the major studios have yet to reach an early deal on a new contract covering technical workers who toil behind the scenes on movies and TV shows.

IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers "have not completed their negotiation for a new Hollywood Basic Agreement,'' the groups said in separate statements Monday afternoon. "The parties need additional time to review data before resuming talks at a later time."

Citing a news blackout, the parties declined to elaborate further on the talks. The proposed contract expires July 31 and covers below-the-line workers, including camera operators, grips and costume designers.

People close to the negotiations say the sides remain divided over how to close a large deficit in the union's health and pension plans -- projected to be at least $300 million over the next three years -- because of investment losses and rising medical costs. The health and pension plans are funded by residual payments and employer contributions.

Union leaders could agree to raise eligibility requirements as they did in back in 2009 when they raised to 400 from 300 the minimum number of hours required to work over a six-month period. But such a move could spark fierce opposition within IATSE.  Union leaders from IATSE and Teamsters, which will also participate in the talks, have been prepping their members for months that they could be forced to accept some tough changes to their health and pension benefits.

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IATSE and Teamsters picket producers of '1000 Ways to Die'

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Matt Loeb, head of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, at the union's office on Riverside Drive in Studio City in 2011. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

 

'1000 Ways to Die' halts production

Original Productions Spike TV 1000 Ways to Die Teamsters
Production has been halted on the cable TV series "1000 Ways to Die" because of a labor dispute with crew members.

"Spike TV has confirmed that production of season four of '1000 Ways to Die' has concluded," according to a statement from the cable network. The shutdown comes less than a week after nearly 30 crew members went on strike, alleging their efforts to unionize the show were thwarted by their employer, Original Productions.

The company has questioned the right of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Teamsters Local 399 to negotiate on behalf of the workers.

Original Productions had tried to hire replacement workers, but they were unsuccessful in resuming production of the show.

The unions picketed outside the Burbank offices of Original Productions this week in support of the workers, who are primarily seeking health and pension benefits.

"We were effective in halting them from shooting, but that's not the goal here,'' said Steve Dayan, business agent for Teamsters Local 399, which represents casting directors, location managers and drivers. "What we wanted was for them to sit down and bargain with us for a fair agreement for the crew members."

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— Richard Verrier

Photo: Paula Kaatz (seated) with other picketers as they protest outside the production offices of Original Productions in Burbank on Monday. Two unions, the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees and the Teamsters Local 399, are staging a strike against "1000 Ways to Die," which is produced by Original Productions. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times.

 

IATSE and Teamsters picket producers of '1000 Ways to Die'

Original Productions Spike TV 1000 Ways to Die Teamsters

About 100 workers staged a protest in Burbank in support of crew members from the cable TV show “1000 Ways to Die.”

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Teamsters Local 399 organized picket lines Monday morning outside the Burbank production office of Original Productions, the producer of the Spike TV show. “1000 Ways to Die” has become the latest flash point in an effort by Hollywood's leading unions to extend contracts to the rapidly growing cable TV sector.

In mounting a strike against the show's producers, IATSE and the Teamsters are alleging that about 30 crew members were fired last week after they unanimously voted to join the unions so they could secure health and pension benefits, safe working conditions and collective bargaining rights.

“This is a successful show,” said Steve Dayan, business agent for Teamsters Local 399, which represents location managers, casting directors and drivers. “They’re making money and they’re doing it on the backs of this crew.”

Jonathan Hanrahan, a transportation coordinator for “1000 Ways to Die,” was among the protesters walking the picket line Monday. “We work really hard on this show and we go the extra mile," Hanrahan said. “All we’re asking is that we have the opportunity to receive health and pension benefits and be properly compensated for our efforts.”

In a statement, Original Productions accused union officials of urging crew members to walk off the job last week and denied claims from union leaders that they had refused to meet with them.

“Neither union has made attempts to meet with the company prior to the picket line announcement,” the company said in a statement. “IATSE and Teamsters have not filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for certification, nor have they demonstrated a majority of the crew signed cards... It is the company’s position that it is not obligated to recognize these two unions as bargaining representatives. Original Productions has always offered competitive wages and excellent working conditions.”

Monday's rally included representatives from the Writers Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild and the AFL-CIO.

Now filming its fourth season, "1000 Ways to Die" re-creates unusual ways in which people have died. Original Productions, which makes a number of reality TV programs, including "Ice Road Truckers" and “Deadliest Catch,” has already hired replacement workers, union officials said.

This marks the second time in the last 15 months that IATSE and Teamsters have mounted a high-profile strike in Hollywood. In late 2010, the unions waged a successful walkout against the producers of the reality TV show "The Biggest Loser."

Labor dispute erupts on the set of '1000 Ways to Die'

Matt Loeb of IATSE charts a more aggressive path

'Biggest Loser' labor dispute is settled

— Richard Verrier

Photo: Paula Kaatz (seated) with other picketers as they protest outside the production offices of Original Productions in Burbank on Monday. Two unions, the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees and the Teamsters Local 399, are staging a strike against "1000 Ways to Die," which is produced by Original Productions. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times.

 

Labor dispute erupts on the set of '1000 Ways to Die'

Biggest Loser IATSE

Crew members from the popular cable TV show "1,000 Ways to Die" are locked in a labor dispute with the series' producer.

About 30 crew members from the show who had been seeking to unionize were sent home last week after attempting to join Hollywood unions Teamsters Local 399 and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, said Jonathan Hanrahan, transportation captain for the Spike TV show.

He said the show's producer, Original Productions, which makes a number of reality TV programs, including "Ice Road Truckers," had already hired replacement workers.

"It's gut wrenching,'' said Hanrahan. "We love the show, and we hope that a TV deal is struck [so that] we can have basic health benefits."

IATSE and the Teamsters are expected to stage a protest picket outside the show's production offices this week. IATSE staged a successful strike against the producers of the reality series "The Biggest Loser" in November, 2010.

Representatives of Burbank-based Original Productions, which produces the show that re-creates unusual ways in which people have died, were not immediately available for comment.

Launched in 2008, "1000 Ways to Die" films on stages in Burbank and Sun Valley.

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'Biggest Loser' labor dispute is settled

'Biggest Loser' crew members go on strike

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Striking workers from The Biggest Loser picket the NBC reality show's set in Calabasas on November 15, 2010.  Some 50 crew members stage a strike to secure a union contract. Credit: Brian van der Brug/LA Times.

On Location: New Santa Fe Studios beckons filmmakers


A longstanding artists community and celebrity vacation destination, Santa Fe has a new rising star -- one it hopes will help the state regain its footing as a leading production destination for filmmakers.

This week, Santa Fe Studios, a nearly $30-million production facility in the southeast part of the mountain town, will open for business. Built in line with the city’s traditional pueblo architectural style, the 65-acre studio includes two 19,275-square-foot soundstages with lush offices and dressing rooms, access to electric cars and ultra-high-speed broadband technology.

Financed partly by a $10-million economic development grant from the state, the facility will be New Mexico’s fifth studio and the second largest after Albuquerque Studios, which has eight soundstages and has been home to dozens of feature film and television productions including Marvel Studios’ “The Avengers” and four seasons of AMC’s “Breaking Bad.”

While the investment in a new studio less than 80 miles from the Albuquerque appears to be a gamble, its owners -- longtime producing and directing brothers Lance and Conrad Hool, along with Lance’s son Jason -- tout the smaller-city facility as the boutique alternative for filmmakers looking to shoot in the state.

“New Mexico now has a first-class studio,” said Lance Hool, producer of such movies as "Man on Fire" and "Flipper." "This will help stabilize the industry and with the backing of the administration will result in more activity."

One of the pioneers of state-implemented film incentives, New Mexico’s 25% tax rebate, combined with its proximity to Los Angeles, mild weather, experienced crew and aggressive state film office, proved to be a gold mine for the state, resulting in $275 million in annual direct film spending at its peak in fiscal year 2008. Films shot in New Mexico include “Transformers,” “Terminator Salvation” and, most recently, “The Last Stand” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  

The future of the state’s film industry was thrown into question earlier this year when New Mexico became the latest of several states, including Michigan, to consider cutting its film subsidies. Gov. Susana Martinez had attempted to reduce rebates to 15% but lawmakers ultimately reached a compromise to keep the incentive but implemented a rolling annual cap of $50 million.

Although the cap is well below the tax credits approved in the last two years -- $65.9 million in 2010 and $76.4 million in 2009 -- New Mexico Film Office Director Nick Maniatis said the new limit should not hinder the state’s ability to attract future productions, as applications for qualifying projects filed after the limit was reached would fall into queue for payment the next year.

“We saw a fallback when the incentive was in question, but we’re hoping that by the spring we’ll be back to where we were,” Maniatis said.

The total value of approved tax credits has been on the decline for the last two years, with $54.6 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, compared with $65.9 million in the same period a year prior and $76.4 million in fiscal 2009, according to the New Mexico Film Office.

Despite this decline, Hool is confident about the future of the movie industry in the state after meeting with Martinez earlier this week. “She’s 100% behind the film business,” Hool said.

Hool says Santa Fe Studios has received substantial interest from filmmakers considering shooting at the new facility. “We have several features and television shows booked.”

Although Hool would not confirm which productions were heading toward the studio, he said Disney’s much-publicized “The Lone Ranger,” starring Johnny Depp, was among the possibilities. Albuquerque Studios is expected to be the main base for "The Lone Ranger" but Santa Fe is negotiating to have some of the film shot at its new studio, said one person familiar with the matter. Production of "Lone Ranger" halted in August in a dispute over the film's budget, which is more than $200 million, but is scheduled to resume early next year.

Jon Hendry, business agent for Local 480 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents crew members in New Mexico, is optimistic about the state’s ability to bounce back from the uncertainty of the last few months and says Santa Fe Studios will play into that recovery.

“Albuquerque Studios was transformative for New Mexico,” Hendry said. “I have no reason to believe Santa Fe Studios won’t be able to accomplish the same thing."

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Photo: Santa Fe Studios in Santa Fe, N.M. Credit: Santa Fe Studios

IATSE and Fremantle sign new pact

Fremantle, the production company behind Fox's "American Idol" and the upcoming "The X Factor" as well as NBC's "America's Got Talent," has signed a three-year agreement with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

The new deal will cover programs made for U.S. broadcast and cable networks. 

"This new enhanced agreement underlines our commitment to working with Fremantle Media North America on some of the biggest programming brands on television," said Matthew D. Loeb, international president of IATSE.

Previously, IATSE had agreements with some individual Fremantle shows but not the entire company.

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-- Joe Flint

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