New Zealand acting agencies are refusing to put forward their clients for gay roles, according to a Kiwi film maker.

Director Andy Boreham, who is making a gay safe sex film for the New Zealand AIDs Foundation, told a gay publication that he has been stifled by agents who don’t want to offer same sex “affectionate” parts to their actors.

He revealed that every agency turned him down saying they didn’t think their actors would want to take part in a gay campaign. Mr Boreham said: “They just said they doubted their clients would be comfortable with being in a cinema and print campaign showing them being affectionate with another man.”

“They said a cinema commercial on its own might be fine but that print material ‘hangs around a lot longer’.”

Mr Boreham is producing the resource for “Out Takes 2006″ a gay film festival which tours Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch from May 25 to June 14. The festival attracts a lot of gay and bisexual men and the Foundation is keen to get its message through at a time when record levels of new HIV diagnoses among men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) have been reported in New Zealand, 89 MSM were diagnosed with HIV in new Zealand in 2005, the highest number ever and a 19% increase on 2004.

The foundation expressed concern that the stance of the agencies stops good actors getting work, when they understand that acting a gay man doesn’t mean they are any more gay than Brokeback Mountain star, Heath Ledger.

Veronica Jacob from UK acting agency, Fletcher Jacob told PinkNews.co.uk: “None of my actors has ever turned down a gay role.”

“I would have a big problem with it if they did.”

Acting agencies in New Zealand have denied the claims. Maria Gorham, of Wellington actor’s agency The Agencie Management, said there were other reasons for her declining the offers. Ms Gorham said the request had come during a busy time period, and Mr Boreham had been unspecific about payment.

She said actors took into account the nature of a production when deciding whether to take the role.

Other agencies said they would never discriminate over a particular role.