News from Hollywood North
Payroll company bankrupcy hits local entertainment industry
The closure of payroll service company Axium International Inc. has left hundreds of Vancouver’s entertainment-industry workers holding the bag.
Kirk Shaw, CEO of Insight Film Studios, says that about 400 workers in five productions managed by his company have been affected. In a phone interview, Shaw estimated that they are collectively owed $250,000, mostly in uncleared paycheques.
“That is a lot of money to make up,” Shaw told the Straight. “We pay the payroll company; the payroll company pays the crew.”
Shaw said that Insight will settle these outstanding obligations from its own resources. “We will file a claim against Axium, but we doubt that there will be success in recovering that from Axium,” he said.
Insight television and movie productions stung by Axium’s closure, according to Shaw, are Helen, Personal Effects, The Room at the End of the Hall, Higher Form of Learning, and The Hurt Locker.
“I can’t instantly pay a quarter of a million dollars, but we’ll be paying it all,” Shaw said. “We will make sure from our own resources that everybody gets paid.”
The Burnaby-based Local 891 of the technician union International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees stated in a January 20 media release that there are five union-related ongoing production projects affected by Axium’s closure, including two by Insight.
In its release, IATSE Local 891 stated that Elegy, by Elegy Productions Inc., was also affected. Two Warner Premier projects—Another Cinderella Story by CS2 Films Inc. and Lost Boys 2 by LB2 Films Inc.—are likewise affected. Local 891 executive asistant Lisa Becker refused to grant the Straight an interview with union business representative Kathleen Higgins.
The Union of British Columbia Performers has alerted its members to Axium’s closure, but it declined to comment to the Straight.
Workers in the entertainment industry in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. are owed “millions and millions of dollars” in unpaid wages, according to the appointed trustee for the payroll company. “Eventually, claims will be filed in the bankruptcy case, and those claims will be paid to the extent that there are funds available,” Los Angeles–based lawyer Howard M. Ehrenberg told the Straight by phone. “It’s far too soon to make any kind of guesses what that amount will be.”
Ehrenberg was appointed Axium trustee by the Office of the United States Trustee effective January 9, a day after the Los Angeles–headquartered payroll service provider sought bankruptcy protection.
Axium had offices in Los Angeles and Burbank in California, New York, Toronto, Vancouver, and London, England. According to a news release from the SulmeyerKupetz law firm (of which Ehrenberg is a partner), the company filed for bankruptcy liquidation after lender Golden Tree Asset Management seized US$22 million from Axium bank accounts because it had defaulted on a US$140 million loan.
Ehrenberg said that he expects a federal bankruptcy court in Los Angeles to approve procedures today (January 24) for the sale of what remains of Axium’s assets. He also noted that the Canada Revenue Agency has frozen funds held by Axium’s former offices in Toronto and Vancouver.
> Carlito Pablo
Film Festival Flurries
Across the Strait, the 14th annual Victoria Film Festival (www.victoria
filmfestival.com/ ) will run February 1 to 10. Among five world premieres of Canadian films will be Carts of Darkness, a documentary about North Vancouver binners. Guests include model/actress and Siberian cultural revivalist Irina Pantaeva (Siberian Dream ).
At Vancity Theatre, Spark VFX ’08—from Wednesday (January 30) to February 4 (siggraph.ca/ )—will showcase the best visual-effects films with screenings (Tron, the 1933 King Kong, and more) and industry speakers, including Oscar winner Ed Jones (Who Framed Roger Rabbit ).
Under way is The Return of”¦Samurai! (until February 14 at the Pacific Cinémathí¨que, www.cinema
theque.bc.ca/ ), which features
jidai-geki (period pieces) from the chanbara (samurai swordfight) genre. Still to come are masterpieces from genre maestro Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood ), Masaki Kobayashi’s critique of Bushido (Harakiri ), two from Hideo Gosha (Japan’s answer to Sam Peckinpah), and Kihachi Okamoto and Hiroshi Inagaki features that varnish guilty pleasures with a veneer of art.
> Craig Takeuchi and Mark Harris
Awards deadlines loom
The February 1 submission deadline is fast approaching for this year’s Leo Awards, to be presented on May 23 and 24.
Sonny Wong, producer of the awards celebration for B.C.’s film and TV industry, pointed out that there are often misconceptions about the consideration process. “Because of the kind of awards program we are, if you don’t submit, you can’t be considered for a Leo,” Wong explained by cellphone.
Official entry forms are available at www.leoawards.com/ , and nominees will be announced in April.
More nominations are being sought for Women in Film & Television Vancouver’s Spotlight Awards in six categories, including the WIFTV Artistic Achievement Award, the Honourary Friend Award, and the Woman of the Year Award. January 31 is the new nomination due date, and forms can be found at
will be announced on February 15.
> Craig Takeuchi