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After naysayers predicted that the SAG-AFTRA strike would severely restrict U.S. titles and Hollywood A-listers from hitting the red carpet at the Toronto Film Festival in September, an optimistic TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey spoke of the strong American film presence in the first wave of Gala titles and Special Presentations unveiled on Monday.
“We are in excellent shape. We have a lot of great films that will be showing this year, including a lot of films that will be released with us. The reach of filmmaking is global, as we always aim for, but it includes many key films from the US,” Bailey said The Hollywood Reporter.
In all, TIFF announced 37 world premieres, seven international premieres and 12 North American premieres – including films by Anna Kendrick, Michael Keaton, Maggie Betts and Viggo Mortensen – as part of its first wave of official selections.
Bailey said Toronto programmers had been screening US and international film titles for months and invitations had already gone out before SAG-AFTRA members joined Writers Guild of America members in pickets across the US earlier this month. “Obviously we went back to all the people behind the films we were inviting, just to see what the situation would be like for them, if the (actors) strike continued. We don’t know if he will,” Bailey added.
Those conversations aren’t nearly over, as Hollywood, from media giants to small indie filmmakers, is still working out how to handle the historic strikes after SAG-AFTRA joined the Writers Guild of America in its own union action and barred its members from promoting movies tied to major studios and streamers.
Bailey said big-name talent lined up with upcoming studio titles and streamers to screen in Toronto won’t be making it north. But those big-ticket U.S. titles will still appear to allow studios and streamers to continue using Toronto as a proving ground for audiences and a springboard for awards season.
“That’s why directors, film companies, journalists, buyers and sellers come, because they want to see how films perform with Toronto audiences. So there are all kinds of reasons to bring a film here, even if the strike continues. Because you’re going to get that reaction anyway,” Bailey argued. He was quick to add that the fate of acting talent tied to US indie titles not aligned with major Hollywood giants remains an open question.
“We have films coming up for takeover at the festival where they are not part of the union action, but they obviously have a lot of actors who are members of SAG-AFTRA. So this is a film-by-film, actor-by-actor decision,” Bailey insisted.
The TIFF CEO added that there is an argument to be made for SAG-AFTRA offering waivers to talent seeking to promote unaligned US indie titles in Toronto, just as the US actors union has approved some productions that are not affiliated with any of the affected studios or streamers to continue filming.
“We think there is a parallel case to be made for films that have already been invited to film festivals, that have been completed and have not been completed under the terms of the AMPTP Agreement, and where SAG-AFTRA members could be granted interim arrangements that allow them to agree to terms that actors are fighting for,” said Bailey DAY.
He added that some Hollywood actors, while on screen in upcoming US titles, are also directors and producers and would have had the opportunity to talk about the goals of amazing writers and actors while in Toronto in September as ongoing negotiations with AMPTP representatives continue.
The world premieres of films by Hollywood actor-turned-director Michael Keaton were unveiled on Tuesday Knox leaves, his second directorial effort; Anna Kendrick’s directorial debut, The woman of the hour; and Chris Pine’s first feature film, pool man – it’s more a product of the pandemic, Bailey added, as A-listers with time on their hands have embraced passion projects to step into the director’s chair.
“This is his first time directing a feature film and he is very good. It’s a really strong crime thriller,” Bailey said of Keaton Knox leaves.
Other directors like Viggo Mortensen with The dead don’t hurt and Ethan Hawke with Wild cat have been involved in directing for some time, while Bailey is also betting on Kendrick The woman of the houra real crime drama in which she also stars as a bachelorette in the 1970s matchmaking TV show The dating game whose chosen bachelor turns out to be a serial killer, while continuing a mission of the Pitch perfect star to tell stories about how male violence affects women.
The Toronto Film Festival will make further lineup announcements in the coming weeks, before its official 2023 selections are unveiled on August 15. The 48th edition of TIFF will take place from 7 to 17 September.