moviesAndrew McMillan

SAG-AFTRA Chief Negotiator On Whether Stars Of Indie Movies Can Promote At Fall Film Festivals

The ongoing strike by SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents more than 160,000 actors and other performers, has put a halt to most film and TV production in Hollywood. The strike, which began on July 13, is the result of a breakdown in negotiations between the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the group that represents major studios and distributors. The main issues of contention are the use of artificial intelligence to replace or manipulate actors' voices and images, and the residual payments for actors who work on streaming platforms.

The strike has also raised questions about how it will affect the upcoming fall film festival season, which showcases some of the most anticipated and acclaimed movies of the year. Many of these movies are independent films that are not produced by AMPTP companies, but feature SAG-AFTRA members in their cast. According to the union's strike rules, members can participate in a film festival that has no known connection to an AMPTP company, but they cannot promote work they did for a struck company at any film festival.

This means that actors who star in indie movies that are premiering or screening at festivals such as Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York, and others, may not be able to attend or do interviews to support their films, unless they get an interim agreement from the union. An interim agreement is a temporary contract that allows actors to work on or promote a project that meets the union's demands.

In an exclusive interview with Deadline at San Diego Comic-Con, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said that the union is looking into the possibility of granting interim agreements for indie movies headed to fall film festivals.

"We're looking at that issue," Crabtree-Ireland said. "There might be a form of an interim agreement that we can make available for that purpose."

Crabtree-Ireland added that if such an agreement were to be made, the companies behind the indie movies would have to agree to the terms of the union's last offer to AMPTP, just like any other company seeking an interim agreement.

"If we were to do that, those companies –assuming they are free and complete of AMPTP fingerprints– those companies would have to agree to the terms of our last offer to AMPTP just like any company doing an interim right now," he said.

Crabtree-Ireland's comments come as some film festival organizers and publicists are hopeful that exceptions will be made for indie movies that feature SAG-AFTRA members. Toronto International Film Festival CEO Cameron Bailey told Deadline that this year's edition of the fest will have "a bumper crop of sales titles…independent films with A-list actors on screen," and that he remains hopeful that an interim agreement will be approved by the union so that talent can travel to Canada.

"Every member of SAG-AFTRA will make their own decisions on this even if an interim agreement is in place," Bailey said. "We're just working that through with all the filmmakers and directors of the films, and the actors."

Some of the indie movies that are expected to make a splash at fall film festivals include A24's Problemista starring Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio, Lionsgate's White Bird starring Julianne Moore and Sebastian Stan, Netflix's The Power of the Dog starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst, Amazon's The Electrical Life of Louis Wain starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy, Focus Features' The Card Counter starring Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish, Neon's Spencer starring Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana, MGM/United Artists' House of Gucci starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver, Sony Pictures Classics' Mothering Sunday starring Olivia Colman and Josh O'Connor, Searchlight Pictures' The French Dispatch starring Timothée Chalamet and Frances McDormand, Warner Bros.' Dune starring Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, Universal Pictures' Halloween Kills starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Greer, Paramount Pictures' Jackass Forever starring Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O, and many more.

The strike has also affected some indie movies that were scheduled to be released in August but have been pushed back to later dates or TBD this year due to lack of talent availability for promotion. These include A24's C'mon C'mon starring Joaquin Phoenix and Woody Norman, Neon's Titane starring Vincent Lindon and Agathe Rousselle, Bleecker Street's Together starring James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan, and IFC Films' The Nowhere Inn starring St. Vincent and Carrie Brownstein.

The strike is expected to last until a new contract is reached between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP, or until one side decides to walk away from the bargaining table. Both sides have accused each other of being unreasonable and misleading in their statements and proposals. The union has said that it is willing to resume negotiations at any time, but the producers have said that they have made their final offer and that the ball is in the union's court.