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

EXCLUSIVE: For those awards strategists wondering whether stars from indie U.S. films can promote at the fall film festival troika, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland says “We’re looking at that issue.”

“There might be a form of an interim agreement that we can make available for that purpose,” Crabtree-Ireland told us today at San Diego Comic-Con.

SAG-AFTRA Strike rules underscore that members “can participate in a film festival that has no known connection, such as sponsorship, to an AMPTP company, however you cannot promote work you did for a struck company at any film festival.” 

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After the guild cleared several starry indie movies and TV series to shoot during the actors strike, as they’re made by non-AMPTP companies, hope prevails among film festival organizers and personal publicists that exceptions will be made for those indie movies making their premieres at TIFF, Telluride and the Venice Film Festival.

Toronto International Film Festival CEO Cameron Bailey told Deadline that this year’s 48th edition of the fest, which will clear 200+ features, has “a bumper crop of sales titles…independent films with A-list actors on screen,” a subset total that’s up from last year. Bailey remains hopeful that a SAG-AFTRA interim agreement for completed indie films will be approved by the guild so that talent would have the opportunity to venture to the Great White North. Awards publicists have told Deadline that “it just takes one star to show up, to make everyone else feel comfortable.” Again, it’s not the companies behind indie films that SAG-AFTRA has a beef with.

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

Regarding an interim agreement for indie films headed to fall film festivals, Crabtree-Ireland specified, “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.”

When TIFF announces the first phase of its lineup next week, it is set to include at least a third coming from both U.S. indies and Hollywood films. Some awards season contenders, such as A24’s Problemista and Lionsgate’s White Bird, shifted off their August release dates to TBD this year as they await the strikes to end, and talent available to promote. As Deadline told you earlier today, MGM’s Challengers starring Zendaya is skipping its Venice Film Festival opening night premiere, and the studio has pushed the Luca Guadagnino feature to April 26, 2024. It’s crucial for that movie that Zendaya, who can transmit a message to her 200M social media followers, be available to promote the film.

Crabtree-Ireland explained the complexities today on how some AMPTP-looking projects were getting waivers to shoot, i.e. Apple TV+’s Tehran. He was here at San Diego Comic Con this afternoon with members of the National Association of Voiceover Actors to talk about how AI was impacting their lives, and how their rights and livelihoods are great need of being protected.

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