Actors' deal over film profits ends two-year dispute

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The Independent Culture

The fierce dispute between British actors and producers that had threatened the future of the UK film industry was finally settled yesterday after nearly two years.

The fierce dispute between British actors and producers that had threatened the future of the UK film industry was finally settled yesterday after nearly two years.

The two-year agreement means that for the first time British actors will share in the profits generated by films or the sale of films to television, video and DVD. But, in a calculated move agreed by the sparring partners – the actors' union, Equity, and Pact, the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television – the deal only kicks in when certain financial thresholds have been crossed.

The deal means that British actors will not be paid as much as their American counterparts, who have benefited from film profits for years, but will ensure that Britain retains a competitive edge over the States.

Actors including Alan Rickman, Timothy West and Vanessa Redgrave had been lobbying for a change to the system, which had prevented some actors, even if they were successful, from making good money. Joan Sims, for instance, died in poverty; she had only been paid flat fees for her 25 Carry On films, earning nothing further no matter how many times they were repeated on television.

Ian McGarry, general secretary of Equity, said actors would be delighted. "At last their contribution to the success of films made in the UK is being acknowledged," he said. "This agreement means that, for films made in the future, substantial additional amounts of money will flow to actors if the film is successful."

John McVay, the chief executive of Pact, which had rejected the initial calls for talks in June 2000, said what had now been achieved was a "modern and progressive agreement that recognises that talent will share in the success of films produced in the UK".

The British producers had come under strong pressure from US studios over the proposals, which will make working in Britain less profitable.

But in recent months many in the industry had come to the view that the greatest risk to British filmmaking had been the uncertainty caused by the dispute, rather than the eventual costs of any deal agreed. Although Equity had struck deals for the next Harry Potter and James Bond films, no other American studio had signed up to make a major movie in the UK this year because the dispute was unresolved.

Clare Wise, the director of the British Film Commission, said the deal "means that we can get on with what we're supposed to be doing, which is building a sustainable film industry and helping filmmakers".

Kim Howells, the films minister, who had warned that film would go the way of the dying coal industry unless a deal was struck, said it was good news for actors and industry alike.

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