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By Amanda-Marie Quintino

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Arts (ACTRA) went on strike Monday at midnight, but thanks to special negotitations, Ryerson’s student films and productions will be able to hire ACTRA’s Toronto members.

“Students are in no way affected by the strike,” said Carol Taverner, public relations officer for ACTRA. Since ACTRA recognizes that students should be able to work with professional performers while learning their craft, the union has made agreements with recognized film schools that allow ACTRA Toronto members to work in student film productions.

“Getting the first film off the ground is often the biggest challenge facing young filmmakers. Questions of ‘How can I get started?’ and ‘Where can I find the resources?’ are often at the forefront of a young filmmaker’s mind,” reads ACTRA’s website.

With the strike, the union, which represents 21,000 English-language performers and artists across Canada, wants to send the message that Canadian talent deserves better treatment, especially a higher wage scale.

ACTRA had previously set a strike deadline of Dec. 31 at midnight, but then agreed to continue negotiations until 12:01 a.m., Jan. 8. For the following week, union negotiators resumed bargaining in Toronto with representatives from the Canadian Film and Television Producers Association and its Québec counterpart, the association des producteurs de films et de television du Québec.

Alexandra Anderson, the Image Arts program director for film, thought that students would be affected by the strike. She was worried the fourth-year film students, who are in the midst of completing their final projects, would have a hard time getting actors.

“Working in a non-broadcast, non-exhibition environment, often we only use ACTRA when we can’t pool from our own talent,” Anderson said. “But, if there is no ACTRA, then that alternative would become pretty much our only choice.”

The alternative, Anderson said, would be to use students from the Ryerson Theatre School, putting a great deal of pressure on those students. Anderson supports ACTRA’s reasons for striking, adding that if Canadians in the film industry are being treated as “second-class citizens,” something needs to ensure Ryerson graduates have more success.

“Even if (the strike) did affect Ryerson, I would support it,” she said. “How can one not if one cares about Canadian film?”

As much as fourth-year film student Yaz Rabadi would like to secure himself a stable future in the film industry, he was relieved when he was told by an agent who deals with ACTRA that he wouldn’t be a victim of the strike.

He will be shooting his film in late January and early February. “I spoke with ACTRA representatives about my upcoming shoot and they know the dates and all the details and they haven’t mentioned the strike once to me even as a possibility,” Rabadi said.

Fourth-year film student Kyle Wilson, who has already filmed his final project, is happy his classmates will be able to shoot their films as scheduled. “Had the strike affected us we would have lost a lot of great actors,” Wilson said. “From my own personal experience, producing my fourth-year film ‘Billy Bites People’ we would have not been able to cast some fantastic child actors as their agents follow ACTRA guidelines very meticulously.”

Wilson had to shift around all of the production dates to ensure that he would have had leeway time to find non-union actors had the strike affected students.

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