Will an actors’ strike mean empty red carpets in Venice and Toronto?

What if you held a red carpet and no one showed up?

For organizers of fall film festivals — and studios planning splashy summer premieres — that nightmare scenario is set to come true after contract talks between actors guild SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Film and Television Producers break down. television (AMPTP) without agreement Wednesday night.

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SAG-AFTRA’s National Board of Directors is now almost certain to officially call the strike when it meets in Los Angeles early Thursday morning. The guilds have not publicly announced any protocols for members in the event of a walkout, but in a call Monday with top PR firms and hundreds of agents, SAG-AFTRA executives explained how the rules strikes can have an impact on promotion and campaigning. A source close to the call said The Hollywood Reporter that the promotion and press of film and television projects from stricken companies would not be allowed, which means that top talent cannot walk the red carpets of Venice and Toronto, nor participate in Emmy For Your Consideration campaigns.

The strike is already having an impact. Universal walked the red carpet for the London premiere of Christopher Nolan Oppenheimer an hour Thursday night local time, reportedly to allow the star-studded cast that includes Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr. Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh to get their photocall and spot interviews ahead of the official walkout announcement SAG-AFTRA.

Upcoming premieres, including those scheduled Oppenheimer red carpet in New York on July 17, will likely also be affected.

Across the Irish Sea at the Galway Film Festival, Matthew Modine was due to attend the gala premiere of Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s film The Martini Shotin which Modine plays the role of a sick director planning to shoot his latest film. THR understands that Modine is already in Galway for the premiere but, given that it kicks off at 9.30pm local time, four and a half hours after the strike vote, it seems unlikely that he will be able to attend to promote the film. Modine is due to give a Masterclass in Galway on Saturday, which is unlikely to be affected by the strike as it is not directly related to any film or promotional work.

But news of an impending walkout has publicity teams and marketing departments scrambling to come up with contingency plans for the upcoming fall festival season. The Venice Film Festival, which kicks off August 30, and the Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off September 7, are the fall twin platforms for major indie and specialty titles from studios and streamers. Venice will announce its 2023 lineup on July 25.

“I don’t think the strike is going to change the movies that go to Venice or Toronto,” noted a former advertising executive. “Venice has already sent these invitations, the filmmakers have already accepted. But if the cast can’t attend and can’t promote, it’s going to be a very different type of event.

The ongoing writers’ strike had little impact on the red carpet action at Cannes, and even writer-directors like Wes Anderson and Martin Scorsese were able to attend, promoting their studio projects in their capacity. of directors. But if a SAG-AFTRA strike means high-profile talent like Zendaya (star of the Venice festival opener Challengers) fails to impress the Lido, and to participate in international promotional junkets, that changes everything.

“If there are no stars, will journalists come to cover the festival? And if they don’t come, what will that mean for your film’s coverage, now and before it comes out? notes a public relations executive who specializes in festival junkets. “A lot of movies won’t get the attention or the publicity they were hoping for.”

The impact on a studio mast like Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which generated huge excitement ahead of its premiere, may be limited. “Everyone already knows what this movie is,” notes a marketer familiar with the studio Oppenheimer campaign, “the red carpet premieres are just the icing on the cake”.

A PR executive has suggested that studios might even welcome banning actors if it means they don’t have to foot the bill to bring their stars to Venice and pay for those luxury hotel suites.

But a film like Michael Mann’s Ferrari, which is set to premiere in Venice, could suffer if its stars, including Adam Driver and Shailene Woodley, are unable to attend the festival. Neon, who bought the film earlier this month for the US, was counting on a splashy Lido premiere, with accompanying media coverage, to introduce audiences to the racing biopic and pave the way for its awards campaign and national release.

Similarly, Netflix will have to drop its promotional plans for Bradley Cooper’s Maestro — another anticipated Venice premiere — if Cooper and co-stars Carey Mulligan and Maya Hawke can’t attend. Cooper could theoretically still promote the film as director, but the SAG-AFTRA and WGA member would struggle to abide by union rules by dodging questions about his performance, as legendary composer Leonard Bernstein, or his screenplay. , which Cooper co-wrote with Josh Singer.

A strike by American actors, whatever form it takes, will not derail the Venice or Toronto festivals. Both events have always relied on international productions for the bulk of their lineups. European, Asian, African and South American films, with talent in tow, will be out in force no matter what. But if SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP can’t quickly resolve their dispute and get Hollywood talent off the picket line and back on the red carpet, expect this year’s fall festival season to be a much duller, underpowered affair.

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