Calgary film workers union signs three-year deal with streaming giant Netflix

Netflix brass signed the deal with IATSE 212 officials in Los Angeles Thursday morning — the first deal of its kind the streaming giant has signed with a union in Canada.

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The local union that represents Calgary-area film workers has signed a three-year deal with Netflix, suggesting the streaming giant is looking to bring more productions to the area.

Netflix brass signed the deal with IATSE 212 officials in Los Angeles on Thursday morning, with local president Damien Petti calling it a “game-changer” for both the union and the province’s film and television industry. It is the first deal of its kind Netflix has signed with a union in Canada.

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“For our local, it’s a monumental achievement,” says Petti. “It’s also a big move forward for the entire community because it signals a new labour-relations model.”

The three-year deal offers stability for members and for Netflix, Petti says.

“For our members, it secures things that are unique to Calgary like travel time and overtime structures for working in remote locations,” he says. “It solves a lot of issues that both sides wanted to solve and it gives (Netflix) the ability to budget in the long term. They know exactly what the rate increases will be for the next three years and that gives them confidence when they invest hundreds of millions.”

It also suggests that Netflix sees a bright future bringing projects to the area.

“Netflix has indicated they want to expand their production slate in southern Alberta,” says Petti.

The deal is effective immediately so will come into play for Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter’s new Netflix series The Abandons, which is currently in pre-production in Calgary and is set to begin filming in May. The big-budget series will feature X-Files star Gillian Anderson and Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey. According to Netflix, it will tell “the story of a group of diverse families in 1850s Oregon.”

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Alberta has been home to previous series and films streamed on Netflix, including the 2018 film Hold The Dark, the zombie series Black Summer and the family series My Life with the Walter Boys.

“The show that is prepping now, The Abandons, is a made-for-Netflix product, which means they do the whole production process,” Petti says. “Some shows, like Walter Boys, are done as licence deals. It’s like a local company produces it and then they sell it back to Netflix as a licence deal. Netflix seems to be moving in the direction where they want to do the whole thing.”

In January, Mayor Jyoti Gondek, Calgary film commissioner Luke Azevedo and leaders from local unions and guilds that represent film workers met with executives from nine major studios, including Netflix Animation, Amazon, MGM, Disney, Fox, Apple, DMG Entertainment, Lionsgate and Skydance.

Gondek and Azevedo spoke to executives about Calgary becoming a “hub” for various studios, allowing them to produce multiple projects here at the same time.

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