SAG-AFTRA Joins WGA on Strike endangering the fall festival season (including TIFF)

For the first time since 1980, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has voted to go on strike. SAG-AFTRA will be joining the striking members of the Writer's Guild of America, who have been on strike since May 2. This marks the first time the two unions have been on a “Double Strike” since 1960. In addition to demanding studios pay them a sustainable wage, both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are fighting against threads to use developing AI technologies to writers and actors, including SAG-AFTRA stating the studios planned to scan extras in a single day's work to be forever available through AI without proper compensation.

The news of the SAG-AFTRA strike comes right as buzz has been starting for the fall film festival season, which includes Venice, Telluride, and of course the Toronto International Film Festival. According to Variety, cynicism was well on display by studio executives regarding how the strike will affect the fall festival season:

“You can't premiere movies anywhere without your stars. No stars, no movie.”

Studio Executive, Variety

The Variety article goes on to state that TIFF might be the most affected by the strike. The festival has gained a reputation for helping to kick off Oscar buzz with the films that premiere as part of the festival's Galas and Special Presentations. Even though the Director's Guild of America has a new deal in place allowing the filmmakers to come, there is an argument that TIFF will not be the same without the stars:

Without stars in attendance, sponsored photo and video studios will disappear, and the media presence will shrink considerably.


Probably the most worrisome news is that an award and publicity strategist has stated the studios are even considering pulling their films from TIFF altogether since will not be worth it to them to send just the directors and producers to these expensive places. This could resort in this year's edition of the Toronto International Film Festival to be a much less glamorous affair. This is bad news considering the difficulty the festival had during the COVID-19 pandemic, which greatly affected both the 2020 and 2021 editions of the festival.

My Thoughts on the Effect of the SAG-AFTRA and WGA Strikes on the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival

This news of the SAG-AFTRA strike is coming a week I received the notification that I am again approved to cover the Toronto International Film Festival as accredited media. While many media outlets are dependent on the festival's glitz and glamour, I am someone who is always more interested in the films themselves. We should also make note of the fact that TIFF is an International Film Festival.

Both WGA and SAG-AFTRA are American unions and the strike will theoretically only affect the Hollywood productions that make the Galas and Special Presentations programmes. Even if all those films end up fulling out of the festival, it is still quite likely that TIFF will have a full line-up full of Canadian, independent, and foreign films. In fact, those are the films that deserve the most attention at film festivals, yet mostly often get lost in the shuffle. A less glamourized TIFF might give these films a bigger chance to shine.

No matter how big or small the disruptions these strikes may cause, I'm still going to be standing in support of both WGA and SAG-AFTRA, because they are fighting to protect the integrity of the film industry. Studio executives are only concerned about the bottom line and this includes taking shortcuts such as exploiting AI technologies that aren't even fully developed yet. Both writers and actors form the backbone of Hollywood and hopefully, once the productions themselves can't move forward, the studios will be more willing to meet both unions' demands.

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This post was proofread by Grammarly