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What if you hold a red carpet and no one comes?
For organizers of fall film festivals – and studios planning flashy summer premieres – this nightmare scenario seems likely to come true after contract negotiations between actors’ guild SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Film and Television Producers (AMPTP ) ended without a deal Wednesday night.
The national board of SAG-AFTRA is now almost certain to officially call a walkout at its meeting in Los Angeles early Thursday morning. The guilds have not publicly announced protocols for members in the event of a strike, but during a call Monday with top PR firms and hundreds of agents, SAG-AFTRA leaders outlined how the strike rules could impact promotion. and the countryside. A source familiar with the call said The Hollywood Reporter that the promotion and press of film and television projects of affected companies would not be allowed, meaning that top talent could not walk the red carpets of Venice and Toronto or participate in Emmy For Your Consideration campaigns.
The strike is already taking effect. Universal scaled the red carpet for Christopher Nolan’s London premiere Oppenheimer by an hour Thursday night local time, ostensibly to allow the star-studded cast that includes Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr. Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh to get their photoshoot and spot interviews ahead of the strike’s official announcement SAG-AFTRA .
Future previews, including those planned Oppenheimer the red carpet in New York on July 17 will also probably be affected.
Across the Irish Sea at the Galway Film Festival, Matthew Modine should have attended Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s gala premiere The Martini shotin which Modine plays a sick director planning to make his latest film. DAY he understands Modine is already in Galway for the premiere but, as it kicks off at 9.30pm local time, a full four and a half hours after the strike vote, it seems unlikely he will be able to attend to promote the film. Modine is holding a masterclass in Galway on Saturday, which she should not be affected by the strike as she is not directly linked to a film or any promotional work.
But news of an impending strike has the advertising teams and marketing departments scrambling to figure out contingency plans for the upcoming fall festival season. The Venice Film Festival, which kicks off on August 30, and the Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off on September 7, are the twin fall platforms for major independent and specialty studio titles and streamers. Venice will announce its 2023 lineup on July 25.
“I don’t think the strike will change the films that go to Venice or Toronto,” observed a veteran advertising executive. “Venice has already sent out those invitations, the filmmakers have already accepted. But if the actors can’t attend and they can’t promote, it’s going to be a very different kind of event.”
The ongoing writers’ strike has had little impact on the action on the red carpet at Cannes, and even writer-directors like Wes Anderson and Martin Scorsese have been able to join in, promoting their studio projects in filmmaking capacity. But if a SAG-AFTRA strike means great talents like Zendaya (protagonist at the opening of the Venice Film Festival Challengers) fails to amaze at the Lido, and taking part in international promotional junkets changes everything.
“If there are no stars, will journalists come to cover the festival? And if they don’t, what will that mean for your film’s coverage, both now and ahead of release?” observes a public relations executive who specializes in festival junkets. “Many films won’t get the attention or publicity they hoped for.”
The impact on a tentpole studio like Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which garnered tremendous interest before its premiere, may be limited. “Everyone already knows what that movie is,” notes a marketer familiar with the studio Oppenheimer campaign, “the red carpet previews are just the icing on the cake.”
A PR executive has suggested the studios might even welcome the actor’s ban if it means they don’t have to foot the bill for flying their stars to Venice and paying for those luxury hotel suites.
But a film like Michael Mann’s Ferrari, which is expected to premiere in Venice, could suffer if its stars, including Adam Driver and Shailene Woodley, are unable to attend the festival. Neon, which picked up the film for the United States earlier this month, was counting on a flashy Lido premiere, with accompanying press coverage, to introduce audiences to the racing biopic and set the catwalk for its awards ceremony and home exit.
Likewise, Netflix will have to abandon its promotional plans for Bradley Cooper Master – another expected Venice premiere – if Cooper and co-stars Carey Mulligan and Maya Hawke can’t attend. Cooper could conceivably still be promoting the film in his directorial capacity, but the SAG-AFTRA and WGA member would struggle to abide by union rules by avoiding questions about his performance as legendary composer Leonard Bernstein or his script. , which Cooper co-wrote with Josh Singer.
A strike by US actors, whatever form it takes, will not derail the Venice or Toronto film festivals. Both events have always relied on international productions for most of their lineups. European, Asian, African and South American films, with talent in tow, will come out in force, regardless. But if SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP can’t settle their dispute quickly and get Hollywood talent off the picket line and back onto the red carpet, expect this year’s fall festival season to be a lot more boring and low-wattage.