Normally, Jessica Chastain would have launched her Phase 2 Emmy campaign for her first Emmy nomination for Best Actress in a Limited Series in ‘George & Tammy’ (Showtime), in which she plays country singer Tammy Wynette. I spoke to her on the phone just before the SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee released a formal strike announcement, with no Emmy campaigns allowed.
He had also planned to participate in some autumn festivals to promote “Memory”, the new film by Michel Franco with Peter Sarsgaard. “I’m definitely pro-union,” she told IndieWire. “There are huge innovations in our industry, the content has been incredible, streaming and amazing technology has come on leaps and bounds and quickly. But tough things like contracts haven’t kept up with the innovations that have been made, resulting in massive inequalities, people unable to earn a fair wage and support families. The industry has thus been separated in terms of who is able to make a living and who is not. This can no longer continue. My heart breaks.”
Chastain is ready to “not go to festivals,” she said, “not to go to the Emmys (which will likely be postponed). It’s sad. I’ve been linked to ‘George & Tammy’ for over 10 years. We all want, with Georgette Jones, to celebrate Tammy Wynette. I will no longer be able to talk about it or ask people to watch the show. That sacrifice is nothing compared to the sacrifices of others, who are struggling financially during the strike.”
Chastain highlights what the industry faces during the festival and awards season, not to mention the impact of the production shutdown. With her “Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning – Part One” promotional chores completed and “Dune 2” in the jar, Rebecca Ferguson was driving home to Sweden on Wednesday to be with her family and await the news of whether she will stay home or return to shoot the second season of “Silo”. Now we know.
As WGA’s outstanding writers are pencils down, so approximately 160,000 SAG-AFTRA members cannot shoot or promote anything, past, present or future, under a SAG-AFTRA contract. In theory, they could walk a red carpet in Venice without giving an interview — a likely scenario for multi-hyphenated Bradley Cooper, who can take compliments in Venice for directing his Leonard Bernstein film ‘Maestro’ but can analyze a lecture press or interviews without discussing its central performance? Netflix will have to figure this out.
Most of the actors, like Chastain, will be skipping festivals this year, including Telluride, which tends to promote a summer-camp atmosphere with no red carpets or press junkets, though a select number of press awards capture the Q&A and does separate interviews. Not this year. There are rumors of Scratch tribute star Annette Bening starring in the Netflix release ‘Nyad’. Directors like Jimmy Chin and E. Chai Vasarhelyi will bring the ball to Telluride, as will Venice and less glitzy Toronto, which rely on red carpet glamor.
Actorless festivals could prove a problem in attracting local audiences to high-profile titles, but it’s a major obstacle for studios and distributors looking to use festivals as fall launch pads at the start of Oscar season. The risk is that distributors will withdraw their titles if the actors cannot participate. On the other hand, they are the most expensive component of a premiere. Money could be saved. TIFF sent a statement:
“The impact of this strike on industry and events like ours cannot be denied. We urge our partners and colleagues to resume an open dialogue. We will continue to plan for this year’s Festival with the hope of a speedy resolution in the coming weeks.”
The timing is fascinating. Clearly, the studios got some press ahead of ‘Barbie’, ‘Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning – Part One’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ before it was too late. Or, according to SAG-AFTRA union leader Fran Drescher, who blamed the AMPTP for planting a damaging photo of her with Kim Kardashian while she was in Italy at a work event, not a party, she said, the studios had need twelve days extension that they “wasted” to have more time to promote their films.
But the strike will immediately cause Searchlight Pictures to miss an opportunity to have the cast of ‘Theatre Camp’, which opens this weekend, perform the final musical number live on ‘The Today Show’ starring Ben Platt, Molly Gordon and Noah Galvin as guests. Such promotions are invaluable in a world without late-night talk shows. Since the trio all starred in and co-wrote the film, even though they co-produced and Gordon co-directed, they can’t promote it just yet.
Searchlight is also tackling a festival dilemma with Yorgos Lanthimos’ surreal romance “Poor Things,” starring Emma Stone as a woman with her son’s brain implanted in her head. The offbeat film is scheduled for release on September 8, so a Venice launch and promotional tour in London and New York have been planned to push the film to release. If the strike appears to be going on for months, the distributor may need to rethink that anticipated release date.
While Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City” (Focus) had a solid three weeks of business before going PVOD and A24’s “Past Lives” is holding up well, the specialty business is still in a fragile state as art house audiences older is not returning in large numbers. This area of the industry could suffer collateral damage this fall if the actors’ strike isn’t resolved soon.
“Completed projects need advertising support,” one marketing executive wrote in an email. “This could literally kill specialist independent cinema as a theatrical experience forever.”
As always, timing is everything. Assuming the actors’ strike is resolved by September, subsequent festivals could pick up any lost PR slack, including New York, London, Middleburg, Hamptons, Savannah and other regional festivals in the fall corridor.
While some industry optimists see a quick resolution to the SAG strike because so much is at stake in the fall awards season, Thursday’s SAG-AFTRA press conference revealed that bigger issues facing the industry are likely to dominate. future negotiations, the ones that will cost the studios real money. There is clearly a long way to go on the issues of a new model for residual payments and AI.
Studios right now are experiencing their own pain, with 7,000 layoffs at Disney, for example. They may seem monolithic and flushed to the writers on strike trying to earn their rent, or the AI members fired from WGA pickets shutting down productions across the country, but the bottom line always speaks, and these considerations will inevitably determine how sides that are currently so far apart eventually come together.