How Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Emma Stone and Other SAG Members Are Navigating Telluride

How Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Emma Stone and Other SAG Members Are Navigating Telluride

“I can’t believe she’s here!” an industry audience member whispered to his neighbor at the Telluride Film Festival’s Chuck Jones Theater Thursday evening, when Julia Louis-Dreyfus stepped up to the podium. Louis-Dreyfus was the first actor at Telluride to take advantage of one of the Screen Actors Guild’s interim agreements, which allows her to promote her A24 film, Tuesday

Louis-Dreyfus, who has been a regular on the picket lines during the strike, was clearly prepared to explain herself to the crowd at the Chuck Jones, almost all of whom had assumed they were coming to a star-free premiere of a tiny film from a little known first-time director, Daina O. Pusic. 

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“As a proud member of the Screen Actors Guild for the last 41 years, I stand here in solidarity with my union and the WGA,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “I want to thank my union for the battle they are fighting for actors all across the nation, and for granting our film, this film, Tuesday, an interim agreement, so that I could be here.” She went on to thank A24 for signing the agreement, which is binding until SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture Television Producers strike a deal. “If smaller studios like A24 can agree to what my fellow brothers and sisters deserve, why can’t the AMPTP?”

For the last several weeks, SAG members and their reps have been trying to figure out how to navigate fall festival season during the strike. As the first day of Telluride unfolded on the 47th day of SAG’s walkout, Louis-Dreyfus and another actress, Emma Stone, provided a couple of examples of how they might.

Stone also has a film here, Yorgos Lanthimos’s Poor Things, which she stars in and produced for Searchlight. Searchlight, as a division of Disney, is part of the AMPTP, and therefore a struck company. Stone bought herself a pass to come see movies, flew on the festival charter, and, at least as of Thursday night, seems to be flying under the radar to all but the most eagle-eyed festival goers. She isn’t participating in Q&As for Poor Things or doing press on behalf of the movie. That low-key strategy wouldn’t work at Venice or Toronto — much larger festivals with red carpets and photocalls, but here at Telluride, a Spanx-free environment, it’s doable.

Other actors are here, too, including Sandra Hüller, whose movies Zone of Interest (A24) and Anatomy of a Fall (Neon) are distributed by non-AMPTP member companies.

Laura Linney and Maya Hawke are here on behalf of Wildcat, Ethan Hawke’s independent acquisitions title that has obtained a SAG interim agreement. So, too, is Dakota Johnson, whose indie, Daddio, is also for sale and covered by an interim agreement. Buyers of films that have signed interim agreements will need to adhere to the terms laid out in the agreements, which the AMPTP has already rejected, and it’s unclear how these films will fare in the marketplace.

When SAG initially introduced the interim agreements, some members, including Sarah Silverman, raised questions about them. A little over a week ago, SAG issued a statement encouraging members to take advantage of the agreements. “The Interim Agreement is a vital part of our strategic approach and was created for several reasons, all of which are aimed at protecting the interests of our members,” SAG national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said in a statement.

In Venice on Thursday, Adam Driver promoted Ferrari, a Neon movie, and his comments were similar to Louis-Dreyfus’s at Telluride. “I’m proud to be here, to be a visual representation of a movie that’s not part of the A.M.P.T.P.,” Driver said.

Elsewhere at Telluride, the signs of the strike around were subtle. The Chuck Jones Theater where Louis-Dreyfus’s film premiered is sponsored by Netflix and normally their logo would be prominent. But the festival asked sponsors to forgo the logo signage this year, which meant Louis-Dreyfus was able to speak without the logo for an AMPTP company looming behind her.

Around town, there are signs the strike has even made local businesses extra sensitive. “Free Oat Milk for SAG-AFTRA members” reads the chalkboard in front of one coffee shop.