will begin with the reason for this particular subject matter. On July 16th,
negotiations with the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) came to an
abrupt halt when I stood up and walked out of the room (while uttering
expletives and colourful metaphors). Before I explain why, you must first
indulge me in a journey through some Canadian AFM history.
are two contracts which have for many years been the bible for movies and
television drama: the Theatrical Motion Picture Agreement and the Television
Film Agreement. Both are excellent, and have the additional advantage of
channelling payments into the Film Musicians’ Secondary Market Fund (FMSMF). Through
the years, in order to monetize changes in distribution, the primary session
fee of both agreements has been deliberately set on the low side. However, as
the product moved to supplemental markets (think in-flight movies, pay TV,
videocassette/DVD rental and sales, free TV, and sales to other countries),
this would generate mandatory payments into the Fund on behalf of the musicians
who participated in the score. In the end, those residuals resulted in
significantly higher payouts than what could be bargained for a session.
while those agreements were used in Canada, the results were quite different.
First of all, the US is the big dog when it comes to the production of
audiovisual content. With our population being one-tenth of the US, Canada’s
footprint is proportionately smaller—and narrower. While it’s not unusual to
hear of a US film budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the vast
majority of Canadian films are well below $5 million. Most are what used to be
called “movie of the week.” There are also documentaries, some episodic
television drama and features that are entirely “Canadian Content.” To assist
Canadian producers in finding capital to produce at all, there are federal and
provincial tax credits for qualifying content, along with the ability to
partner with foreign entities and produce “treaty” films. Some of this funding
comes by way of a certificate issued by the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification
Office (CAVCO) and is acquired by scoring high enough on a point system to merit
am oversimplifying for the sake of space, but another factor is the absence of
“big” Hollywood studios. There are very few based in Canada, with some
exceptions, meaning they don’t own/distribute the production once it has been
completed, but rather produce on behalf of another entity—primarily a Canadian
broadcaster. In order to keep everything straight (for the tax credits and
other necessary financing), a separate numbered company is opened to produce
each film, or season of episodic drama. Once production is completed, the
company is terminated.
vastly different system (and market) created some problems for AFM members
working under the MP/TV Film agreements, one being that each individual
numbered company would have to become signatory to the agreements. Since the
doors would close at the end of production, there were not many takers. If they
did sign, once production ended, there was no entity left to pay any residuals
into the FMSMF. Further, because of the type of productions these were, it was
unlikely that a Canadian product would go further than television, and
therefore, little opportunity for supplemental market residuals. Canadian
session players would be recording for the same session fees as their LA
counterparts, but would see residuals of $10 as opposed to thousands, or
nothing at all.
To remedy the inequity and recognize the vast difference in production, around 1995, Canadian composers—now known as the Screen Composers Guild of Canada (SCGC)—consulted with former vice president from Canada Ray Petch, and shortly thereafter his successor, David Jandrisch, to find a remedy. Hence was born the Canadian Content Production Rules (CCPR). While I am unclear as to just how many folks were involved, I know that David Jandrisch and Local 149 (Toronto, ON) member/composer Glenn Morley played significant roles in the structure and language, as well as former Administrative Assistant Len Lytwyn. I’m sure Glenn or Dave will correct any inaccuracy.
CCPR was/is a short
document, and lives as an addendum to the MP/TV Film Agreements for the
production of CAVCO-certified or Canadian content in Canada. The premise is
simple: The mandatory payments into the FMSMF are waived in favour of a higher
session fee. In reality, it’s a pre-payment to the musicians to replace the
residual. Because of this, the production may be distributed worldwide, to all
markets in perpetuity. While often mistakenly referred to as a “buy-out,” it’s
really only a pre-payment on distribution. The fees do not include other uses
of the music, or repurposing in any way. To be clear, CCPR is not to be used by
US companies who are currently a signatory to the other agreements. There is an
application that must be completed, and certain criteria must be met.
many years, CCPR flourished and producers were happy to sign on. However, in
the 24 years that have passed, the industry has transformed radically, and that
includes productions in Canada. Filing of CCPR paperwork (and the accompanying
B7 report forms) has declined significantly in recent years, and there is more
than one reason. With the surge of different broadcast models (i.e. streaming
services), production budgets have dropped, which includes post-production (and
scoring) budgets. The producers are offering less money to composers to deliver
a completed product. Sometimes, the composers choose to use musicians in other
countries (e.g. Prague, Bratislava) to keep costs down. Of course, none of that
can be filed as AFM. And more often than not, the composer is compelled to hire
no musicians at all and produce the music “in the box.”
producers and distributors are still making profit as there is more content
being produced than ever before, but it doesn’t seem to be available for music.
So where is the money now? In a word—streaming.
those of us in the Canadian Office, it became obvious that CCPR, in its present
form, had outlived its usefulness. If producers were not offering a sufficient
music budget, then musicians must be resourceful and find other means to
maintain their scoring business. The agreement must be rewritten to allow for
revenue to be extracted from what is now at least a $40 billion market
worldwide—online streaming services. This is also the reason we entered into
negotiations with the CMPA, to establish a new, forward-thinking agreement that
recognized where the money is, and give musicians a fair share.
In our first meeting
with CMPA, we tabled a reworked version of the General Production Agreement, as
used with broadcasters such as the CBC. After one pass back from them, it
became clear that broadcasters and producers (when they are not the same
entity), are different animals. The next four rounds of negotiations were
extremely busy, as the AFM team worked toward a complete rewrite of an
independent production agreement for use in Canada. In March of this year, we
sent a complete pass to the CMPA, and while it no longer looked anything like
our first proposals, the team was confident that we had constructed a fair and
comprehensive agreement which both recognized the quirky differences of
Canadian production and presented multiple alternatives for the fair
compensation of AFM musicians.
now come to July 16. CMPA had prepared a response to every article of our
proposal. As they read through them, my heart fell. None of the major points
were accepted; in fact, what they came back with was worse than the original
the subject of streaming residuals—knowing most of their member producers would
have difficulty in making payments once production was complete—we offered two
alternatives. One was the standard percentage of distributor’s gross—the
musicians make money if the producer makes money. The other was a term buy—a
pre-payment for the number of years required, which could be made at any time.
This would allow the producer to easily budget in advance, based on their
licensing deal. CMPA deleted both proposals, unwilling to share any of the
streaming revenues, despite the fact that other unions already have it.
there were many additional aspects which clearly demonstrated that CMPA had no
respect for musicians, they also eliminated composers from the agreement.
Notwithstanding that we had presented a letter from the SCGC requesting their
inclusion, CMPA took the position they didn’t belong in an agreement specific
to scoring music (yes, you read that correctly). Further, they insisted upon
eliminating provisions for musicians who are captured on camera (“sidelining”).
All of these existed in the CCPR language. At that moment on July 16, the
overwhelming feeling was that we were facing a team of greedy, anti-musician
union-busters, giving rise to my angry reaction to walk away.
get back to the bargaining table? While I hope so, as it would be in the best
interests of all concerned, there will have to be a different attitude
emanating from the CMPA side of the table. What about CCPR? We have given
notice to CMPA that CCPR terminates on December 31. It will be replaced by a
document which recognizes the current realities in television and film production;
a document which provides musicians with pension contributions, fair wages, and
a doorway into the billions being made from streaming that is currently being
horded by the large corporations and digital companies. Producers wishing to
utilize AFM musicians may do so by utilizing this new agreement; or, they can
use one of the other AFM agreements already negotiated and ratified—such the
MP/TV Film, or the General Production Agreement (CBC). Whichever way it goes,
we are further ahead than agreeing to the table scraps that were being offered
by CMPA. Obviously, this story has more chapters to be written.