News from Hollywood North

UBC film program's future uncertain
Once again, UBC's Department of Theatre, Film, and Creative Writing has suspended applications to its film-production programs (diploma, BFA, MFA). This is the second year a program review has delayed admissions, and BFA, MFA, and alumni students have formed groups to express their concerns.

Although current students will be able to graduate, alumni group organizer Amy Belling is worried about the impact on the film community. "The alumni see it from the perspective that it's completely unfortunate to cancel out a program that has such a huge legacy in the film industry. The Vancouver film community thrives off different communities of schools, different streams of thought, and UBC is one of the key education centres creating filmmakers that go out and create more opportunities in this industry."

UBC dean of arts Nancy Gallini explained the reasons for the suspension: "Over the past several years, there have been several concerns expressed about the program, that it wasn't up to standards that we would expect of UBC programs and so that's why I suspended it." Accordingly, Gallini consulted students and asked faculty to "try to evaluate the program, see if we could improve on it, using the current resources."

The university's recently revised deficit of an expected $36 million has exacerbated fears for the future of the program.

Gallini will meet with BFAs next Monday (April 2), and with MFAs later. "It's quite wonderful to see this reaction, that clearly this is a program important to many people, and I do want to hear from everyone before I make a final judgment.”¦I'm looking for changes that aren't just marginal changes but something that would take the program to the next level."

Although students can't apply for film-production degree programs, students can still take film-production courses. The program admits 15 to 18 students a year and is separate from the film-studies program, which examines the history, criticism, theory, and aesthetics of film.

> Craig Takeuchi

UBCP strike provokes counterstrike
 Workers employed in clerical and support functions by the Union of B.C. Performers have upped the ante in their stalled bargaining with the actors' guild. The Canadian Auto Workers Union Local 3000 recently voted for a strike after negotiations bogged down in mid-February.

"We are in a legal strike position once we give 72 hours' notice," Kevin Hancock , CAW national representative, told the Straight . "If the employer doesn't meet us in a couple of weeks, we'll take whatever action is necessary."

Members of CAW Local 3000, according to Hancock, had earlier rejected the package offered by the UBCP, which included a five-percent wage increase over three years, and a $700 flexible medical-benefit plan for each year.

Hancock acknowledged that the UBCP, as a trade union itself, is about to conclude labour negotiations with movie and television producers. "They apparently have come up with a deal and they're waiting to ratify," he said.

Mercedes Watson is the CEO and chief negotiator of UBCP in both labour talks. When reached by the Straight , she declined to speak about her group's negotiations. "We're not releasing details to the public," Watson said. She said her union will release information "soon".

A CAW news release noted that in the last contract, UBCP staff received a three-percent increase in wages over three years, with the employer pleading poor finances and a troubled movie industry in the province. The same release stated that the main outstanding issues in the talks are wages, benefits, and definitions of work hours. The two groups have been bargaining since October.

> Carlito Pablo

B.C. film industry stays strong
BC Film Commission
data released on March 22 revealed that although the number of film and TV projects in the province increased from 211 to 230, the industry was overall on par with the previous year. In spite of a rising Canadian dollar and international competition, B.C. film-production expenditures in 2006 decreased by only a half percent from 2005 ($1.234 billion to $1.233 billion).

The number of domestic and foreign feature-film projects, including Fantastic Four and Night at the Museum , dipped from 63 to 53. Yet even though the number of domestic features decreased from 24 to 18, domestic expenditure in B.C. increased from $43.1 million to $49.7 million (roughly the same amount spent in 2004).

Domestic TV series productions, such as Intelligence and Whistler , decreased from 18 to 14 while other domestic TV projects (movies, miniseries, specials, pilots, documentaries, docudramas) mushroomed from 65 to 100. While foreign TV series productions doubled from 13 to 25, other foreign TV projects sank from 28 to 20.

> Craig Takeuchi