Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things is amongst the high-profile productions plunged into uncertainty as the UK film sector starts to feel the impact of last week's decision by actors union Equity to strike from December 1.

Other titles hit by Equity's call for its members to refuse any new contracts involving work from December include Ruby Films' Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath bio-pic and Thaeddus O'Sullivan's 1930s love triangle In The Heart Of Me. Frears is in the middle of casting Dirty Pretty Things, with shooting scheduled to start in six weeks, while the other two productions are to go early next year.

"This could have a catastrophic effect on the British film industry," said BBC Films chief David Thompson, who is overseeing all three productions. "We have managed to get a number of important projects off the ground that offer huge opportunities to British actors and now they are in difficulties."

Equity, which is seeking a share of profits from films from negotiations with producers body PACT, is in talks with Warner Bros. to allow its members to work on the second Harry Potter instalment providing they receive some form of residual payments.

But Thompson said that it was tougher for the independent sector to negotiate such exemptions because of the number of different investors and partners involved in financing productions. He pointed out that number of productions have already collapsed this year including Boswell For The Defence and Young Adam.

"We have to negotiate the numbers with our investors," he said. "Things have been tough enough as it is recently because of the economic climate."

Equity has said that it does not want to hurt local production but has been in fruitless talks with PACT for 15 months. The union aims to secure a settlement before December from the talks, which are ongoing.