Industry groups including Screen Producers Australia, FreeTV Australia, ASTRA, Foxtel and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance have made submissions to the government this week over the question of visas for foreign actors and crew.
The MEAA warns changes to the Temporary Employment (Entertainment) visa (Subclass 420) and the Foreign Actors Certification Scheme could undermine local production.
Zoe Angus, director of MEAA’s Actors Equity, said, “The government is trying to wind back visa requirements for overseas actors as part of its agenda to ‘cut red tape’ and deregulate overseas worker visas. If they succeed, opportunities for talented young Australian performers and crew will diminish.
“We all know Australia produces great actors and technicians. But they don’t come from nowhere. International stars like Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush and Rose Byrne started their acting careers as unknowns in TV and film productions supported by taxpayer funding.”
Yesterday actors Susie Porter, Geoff Morrell and John Howard met with key senators to campaign against changes.
Susie Porter said: “Local actors like me need every possible opportunity to be cast in local productions. It’s how we get our training, it’s how we make a name for ourselves, it’s how we tell Australian stories.”
John Howard said: “The current guidelines don’t prevent big names from coming here. That’s not their purpose. What they do is make sure that a production funded by Australian taxpayers gives job opportunities to Australian performers. Productions with a lot of foreign finance can – and do – hire whoever they want. ”
But Screen Producers Australia says that the reforms will reduce unnecessary red tape at a time when incentives and subsidies alone no longer meet current levels.
“We are looking to Government for sensible reforms that embrace simplicity in design and structural flexibility,” said Matthew Deaner, Executive Director of Screen Producers Australia.
“This should be seen as an opportunity, not a threat. The local industry clearly benefits from the international engagement as our talented technicians, performers and creators are working globally as a result. In return, the Australian industry is significantly larger than it would be if we were purely domestically oriented. This is key to preserving wages and employment conditions,” he says.
Producers are recommending that the requirement to consult with the relevant union be removed to align the Subclass 420 with other temporary work visas.
“The question the industry needs to ask itself is whether it wants to be a small inward-looking industry or an ever expanding industry, proudly creating Australian screen content for the world,” Deaner says.
“The key here is Australian Content. The world is increasingly looking to us as they see a vibrant industry bursting with talent both in front of and behind the cameras.
“Sensible reforms that reduce red tape will help us to grasp the opportunities at hand while at the same time, keeping in place those other existing safeguards that ensure Australian content and Australian actors remain front and centre on our screens.”
Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, said, “These rules have been crucial in developing the Australian film and television sector and making a viable career pathway for many thousands of talented Australians. The problem with the Government’s so called war on red tape is that the real casualties will be Australian actors and crew.”