At the Telluride Film Festival’s Chuck Jones Theater, a buzz of excitement filled the air as audience members whispered their incredulity that Julia Louis-Dreyfus was in attendance. Louis-Dreyfus, known for her work in television shows like “Seinfeld” and “Veep,” was the first actor at the festival to take advantage of the Screen Actors Guild’s interim agreements. This agreement allowed her to promote her A24 film, “Tuesday,” despite the ongoing strike.
Louis-Dreyfus, who has been an active supporter of the strike, was prepared to address the crowd’s surprise. Most of the attendees had expected a star-free premiere of a small film from a relatively unknown director. Louis-Dreyfus expressed her solidarity with the union and the Writers Guild of America (WGA), thanking them for fighting on behalf of actors across the nation. She also commended A24 for signing the interim agreement, questioning why larger studios couldn’t do the same.
The strike has presented challenges for SAG members and their representatives, particularly during the fall festival season. As the first day of the Telluride Film Festival unfolded on the 47th day of the strike, Louis-Dreyfus and another actress, Emma Stone, demonstrated different approaches to navigating the festival.
Stone, who starred in and produced Yorgos Lanthimos’s film “Poor Things,” found herself in a unique situation. Searchlight, the distributor of the film and a division of Disney, is part of the AMPTP and therefore a struck company. Stone managed to fly under the radar by buying a pass, flying on the festival charter, and avoiding Q&As and press appearances. This low-key strategy worked well at Telluride, which had a more casual and relaxed atmosphere compared to larger festivals like Venice and Toronto.
Other actors, such as Sandra Hüller, Laura Linney, Maya Hawke, and Dakota Johnson, also attended Telluride on behalf of their films distributed by non-AMPTP member companies or covered by interim agreements. However, the future of these films in the marketplace remains uncertain, as the terms outlined in the interim agreements have been rejected by the AMPTP.
Initially, there were concerns and questions raised by SAG members, including Sarah Silverman, about the interim agreements. However, SAG issued a statement encouraging members to take advantage of them, emphasizing their importance in protecting the interests of their members.
The signs of the strike were subtly present at Telluride. The Chuck Jones Theater, normally sponsored by Netflix, did not display the company’s logo as requested by the festival. This allowed Louis-Dreyfus to speak on stage without the logo of an AMPTP company looming behind her. Even local businesses showed their support, offering free oat milk to SAG-AFTRA members.
Meanwhile, at the Venice Film Festival, Adam Driver promoted “Ferrari,” a film distributed by Neon. Like Louis-Dreyfus, he expressed pride in representing a movie not affiliated with the AMPTP.
Despite the challenges posed by the strike, actors and filmmakers continue to find ways to showcase their work at film festivals. The interim agreements provide a temporary solution, allowing them to participate in events and promote their films. However, the ultimate resolution lies in reaching a deal between SAG and the AMPTP, ensuring fair treatment for actors and protecting their interests in the industry.