Hollywood has long concerned itself with aspect ratios—making films bigger, and wider. Even television and DVDs now strive to replicate a cinematic 1.85:1 kind of look.But forget all that. The numbers Hollywood will be concerned with through the summer are 1:1, which is almost the ratio of the Canadian dollar to the American buck. That’s right: one to one. And we are indeed talking about the same Canadian dollar—the loonie, as it’s called—that used to languish at around 60 US cents. But since those years certain events have unfolded, not the least of which is a US administration that’s run up huge budget deficits and huge trade deficits. Guess what? Canada has neither. Guess what? The dollar is weakening and the loonie isn’t. Indeed, as of this writing, the loon, as we’re now calling it at UR, had been holding steady in the 90-cent-plus range for days, if not weeks.This may all change, of course, and eventually will. But nobody’s sure in which direction. Which is to say, if “market fundamentals” stay as they are, the Canadian dollar may officially match the US buck, or—heaven forbid!—surpass it.What are those “fundamentals?” Let’s take a gander at the Toronto Globe and Mail:“That’s not to say the economy isn’t immune to the rising dollar. The trade balance in volume terms has plunged, while tourism is starting to suffer… Still, the combination of high resource prices and a strong structural position suggests Canada could outperform the US in a downturn, as occurred in the mid 1970s even though the Canadian dollar exceeded par.”“High resource prices,” by the way, means gold, currently surging to over $700 an ounce, as well as record-high prices for copper and oil. Canada is strong in both minerals, and when those markets rise, so does Canadian currency.And why is gold surging? Why, as a hedge against an ever weakening, deficit-wracked US dollar, of course!Astute readers already know where this item is heading: Once the Canadian dollar matches—or exceeds—the buck, then one of the major arguments for filming in Canada is completely off the table, from the vantage point of US producers looking to “stretch” their dollars. When you’re holding the weak currency—dollar fans had better hope the Chinese Yuan stays tethered to US Money—you’re not going to “stretch” much of anything.Canada will, of course, continue to throw tax breaks at productions—much the way England has, with its strong pound, in order to lure postproduction work. But then it becomes exclusively a game of government subsidies—though that likewise favors those governments who’ve kept their resources at home rather than squandering them on foreign shores.It will be a long, hot, interesting summer, compadres. At what point will the cheapest option for film production be simply to film in the place that requires burning the least amount of fuel for cast and crew to get there?Meanwhile, Canada still has the potential for getting us into trouble here at UR. In the spirit of free flyin’ dialectic, we’ve heard back from Sue Cabral-Ebert, the president of IA 706, that estimable collection of makeup artists and hair stylists:“Something that was reported in Mark London Williams’ Union Roundup isn’t right either. The way Mark reported it, Home of the Brave signed only with Local 488. Not true. The actual contract is covered both by the Basic Agreement (covers the Hollywood locals) and Local 488 (Spokane). That way, the LA hires got their benefits contributed into MPIPHP and the Washington hires got their benefits contributed to their own plan. That missing bit of information has caused a bit of a tizzy. Those who stuck their necks out and helped to organize that production are reading that the fruits of their labors were for nothing. So, because of that report, we get to correct things for the people who call, all worked up. Obviously, not your fault, but thought you’d like to know how that sort of thing backfires to us. It’s all in the editing.”Here at UR, we’re happy for the elucidation and clarification, but we’re not quite ready to proclaim “thank you, sir, may I have another!,” either. In that last column, we were comparing/contrasting the way the exact same issue gets reported—Rashomon-like—on an IA website, an American paper in the affected region, and in a Canadian paper. UR didn’t “report” anything other than certain glaring differences in the coverage, all of which was shaped to reflect the best interests of the area/group in question. Don’t let anyone ever tell you journalism is objective—it ain’t! That said, if such a culling of reports missed a key element of the settlement, we regret the inadvertent misinfo, and thanks, Sue, for writing in and shedding additional light on the subject.And while we’re on the subject of follow-ups, trial watchers will note that IA 44 called off its trial—and brewing “can you top this?” spectacle of charges and counter-charges—against “brother” Ronnie Cunningham, who remains a brother in arms at the local, but is no longer a business agent. The official statement on the local’s website was brief and to the point:“The Executive Board and Brother Cunningham announce that all issues based on the internal union charges have been resolved and settled, and the trial scheduled for May 6 and 7 is called off… In the interest of resolving this dispute, Brother Cunningham will now take leave of his office and return to civilian life as a member. ‘I am proud of my record as Business Agent at Local 44 and I look forward to many more years as a member,’ said Cunningham. ‘I want to thank all Local 44 members for the support they have given me over the years.’”Since there’s no longer any IA contract on the table for this to even tangentially affect, no longer-range fallout can be assessed until after the Local elects Cunningham’s successor, but hopefully, everyone can get back to work in undistracted fashion now. While the website didn’t contain any information about monies to be repaid, etc., viz. embezzlement charges, UR notes that behind-the-scenes considerations were made. Meanwhile, we point to Jack Egan’s news coverage of this topic on page 1, and we’ll see you next month, at the mid-point of the year.
Written by Mark London Williams