The dilemma for the union has always been the threat that if the producer can't import then the production doesn't go on thus jeopardising the opportunities of many others. But this has rarely happened. We probably always cave or the Government is convinced by the pleading producer. Importing makes sense when there is a skill set, an ethnicity or peculiarity that we in Australia can't provide...the deal was always that an exhaustive audition process has taken place.
I have a feeling that over the last few years producers have cut corners with auditions and have cut off and cut down opportunities. A lot of this has been as a result of using specialised casting agents restricted by their budgets and experience, and imported Directors who have no feel or concern for the careers of Australian performers... Imagine how our directors designers choreographers etc, must feel about their limited opportunities with producers importing ready made productions with built in creatives.
Dare I say it from my battered bunker, that this is what Kookaburra 10 years ago was trying to provide for the industry - consistent and properly paid opportunities for Australian creatives and musical performers. But it gets complicated because the same producers who are importing are also doing other productions that are cast totally in Australia. They have commercial models and business structures that require a range of production approaches as well as I am sure a genuine desire to promote Australians. And this keeps many employed.
We are unfortunately or fortunately in an era of global musicals and international producers. who couldn't care less about those who work here. Cameron Mackintosh (well represented here by Michael Cassel Group ), was and is, the only international producer who has nurtured and promoted the careers of Australian performers and creatives giving them great opportunities here and around the world.
To me the only solution (short of having our own musical theatre company in the mold of our state theatre companies) is to extract from these importing producers a commitment to including Australian made and created productions in their repertoire ... Tim Lawson's 'Fiddler' is a great example...
We also need proper commercial alternatives to fight the mindset of importers. We need to inspire and support new producers to get out there and learn how to raise money and provide livelihoods as well as creative opportunities for performers and creatives and dare I add to that list... composers. Bravo South Australia's Cloudstreet.
What we are having to accept at the moment is some feel good well intentioned opportunities coming from the likes of Hayes and other co-ops but these do not provide livelihood. It was the late Carol Burns who pointed out in her Equity 75th Anniversary Article that we need to be vigilant about our professionalism and demand a livelihood and not allow our hard fought gains to be diluted by the constant tension between the 'love of doing it' and the integrity of professionalism.
We are in different times and we need to think how best to embrace the changes and pressures but also keep battling for our place in the scheme of things. It seems to be a battle that never ever ends. Go Chloe Dallimore