Industry calls for ‘borderless’ market amid clampdown on illegal foreign TVC directors



A leading production house executive has called for the international market to become “borderless” to allow staff to work around the world, amid a crackdown by the Australian Directors Guild (ADG) on foreign TVC directors working illegally in Australia.

ADG CEO Kingston Anderson told Mumbrella they have already amassed “significant evidence that we have been passing onto the immigration department” during the crackdown, which is being run with union the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) and Department of Immigration.

But Revolver’s executive producer and managing director Michael Ritchie said while he was not aware of anyone who was breaking the law in this way the industry needs more cross-border cooperation on the issue, adding: “If we put borders in, we’ll kill our industry.”

“I don’t think the ADG understands that. I would like to think they understand it’s an international market. It’s borderless. We need a process that can allow for directors to come into the country, and vice versa,” he said.

“A lot of our directors are working in America, and a lot of our work comes from America.”

The ADG claims there is widespread evidence agencies and production companies have intentionally breached immigration laws by importing foreign directors, mostly from the US or the UK, without the required work visas.

ADG CEO Kingston Anderson

ADG CEO Kingston Anderson

ADG CEO Kingston told Mumbrella: “The laws are fine, but the companies are choosing not to obey them. I do not know why. If a TVC is being shot in Australia then the director must have a 420 visa. It’s the law.”

In a statement, Kingston said: “It’s no different to other countries. If an Australian director tried to work in the United States without a visa, the producers would be prosecuted by the Department of State and the director would be deported and in some cases banned for several years from entering the country.”

The cost of a 420 Temporary Work (Entertainment) visa starts from AUD$720 for applicants over the age of 18 with discounts beginning when more than 10 people apply, while the base rate for a 600 Visitor visa starts from AUD$135.

Kingston said the system is not equal around the world.

“If it was a level playing field around the world then it would be different, but for an Australian director to work in the U.S. he or she has to jump through hoops and pay a lot of money,” he said, “Our system is straightforward.”

The industry is aware of what is going on, he added.

“It’s risky because it’s a small industry and everyone knows what everyone is up to. Eventually, you’ll get caught. The Department of Immigration has the right to remove an illegal director from a production at any time without notice and potentially jail, deport or fine them, which would be an embarrassing and costly situation for everyone,” he said.

“We’d hate for that situation to occur so we’re urging production houses, agencies and clients to know the immigration laws and not breach them.”

In the financial years 2012-13 and 2013-14, the number of visas issued to people in a “production role other than performer” was 2,076 and 2,058 respectively. The vast majority came from the US and the UK, and stayed for less than 27 days.

The Department of Immigration had not responded to Mumbrella’s requests for further information at the time of publishing.

Earlier this year, the Screen Producers Association recommended 420 visa requirements be relaxed, and ‘unnecessary red tape’ be removed, after a government review found the existing laws to be too strict.

Sam Buckingham-Jones


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