Warning visa changes will kill roles for the next Jackman or Blanchett

As the Federal Government reviews its visa process for foreign actors and crews to work on local films, producers are calling for less red tape. But unions say proposed changes will see local actors miss out on key roles.

At this stage The Ballad of Les Darcy is a film idea portrayed in a crowdsourced teaser. But Los Angeles-based actor Zachary Garred hopes to one day turn it into an Australian feature.
 
The proposed film would show how Darcy, one of Australia's greatest boxing champions, left for the United States after being embroiled in the politics of conscription during World War I. 
 
It includes roles Mr Garred wants American actors to play. However, if he wants to secure funding from the Australian government, the process of bringing them to his home country gets more complicated.
 
 
"I see it as an unnecessary obstacle or sometimes a bit of a draconican measure that can be difficult to surpass," Mr Garred said. "Sometimes when you have to come back to American investors and say, 'we have to go down this avenue', it puts you behind and it hurts in the long run."
 
Along with the Immigration Department, foreign talent visas also need approval from the Federal Arts Minister. That includes consultation with the actor's union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA).
 

"We will see within one generation meaningful roles in Australian films taken up by overseas actors"

 
Screen Producers Australia CEO Matthew Deaner says it's a process that involves too much red tape.
 
"In an increasingly globalised world where production and the skills we've developed over a number of years here in Australia can be taken off into other territories, if we want an Australian system operating here, we really have to rethink some of that," he said. "It doesn't make a lot of sense to anyone working here."


Union concerns


As the government reviews this process, producers and other entertainment groups are lobbying for the Arts Minister and the MEAA to be removed from the equation. But the union is fighting proposed changes by the government.

Zoe Angus, the MEAA's Actors Equity director, said they include removing a certification process that ensures 50 percent of lead roles and 75 percent of supporting roles in films that receive government funding are played by Australian actors.
 
 
"We will see within one generation meaningful roles in Australian films taken up by overseas actors," she said.

"With no consultation, no transparency around the process, the government is proposing entirely dismantling 25 years of industry protection."


'The next Jackman or Blanchett'

 
Actor and talent-agent Jon-Claire Lee, who has appeared in such films as Muriel's Wedding and Mao's Last Dancer, said removing those guidelines would make opportunities for Australian talent even more scarce.
 
"Will we be able to create the new Hugh Jackmans and Cate Blanchetts? I don't think so," he said.
 
"If they say, 'Let's bring in five main cast from the US or England, there will be some extras and 50-worder, small roles for the Australian cast', what will that do for new up-and-coming people in Australia?"
 
But Zachary Garred said he believed that would not happen.
 
"We have too strong a voice and too many stories to tell," he said. "They're not going to import the Baldwin brothers to play a role the Hemsworth brothers can do. 
 
Garred said the vast majority of Australian productions would consider Australians first, "because we work so hard to be the best at what we do".
 
The government said it would still consid submissions but would not say when its findings would be released.
Source: SBS