The business side of fall film festivals, which typically involves backroom bidding wars and late-night sales sessions, may look quite different this year. New conditions placed on film sales for movies that received SAG-AFTRA waivers to attend and promote at the fall festivals could deter the biggest buyers in the market, such as studios and streamers who are members of the production guild, the AMPTP. This shift in the market has raised concerns and uncertainties for sales agents.
On August 15th, SAG chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland outlined the terms of the interim promotional agreements given to movies to allow SAG-affiliated talent to participate in festivals. In order to receive a SAG-AFTRA waiver, the film’s seller must adhere to the terms proposed by the guild in their new contract with AMPTP. These terms include higher residual payments for actors and below-the-line talent, as well as a share of subscription revenue generated by the projects. Sales agents are then responsible for passing these terms on to festival buyers.
While these new conditions may have a significant impact on the market, many independent movies are willing to accept SAG’s terms as they heavily rely on festival publicity and audience buzz to secure any sale. In fact, for films whose most likely buyers are non-AMPTP affiliated companies like Neon and A24, agreeing to SAG’s terms is seen as a worthwhile compromise. Actor David Krumholtz expressed his support for the agreement, stating “We agreed to SAG’s new criteria for the sale of our film and as a result we are allowed to talk about the film.”
Nevertheless, these waiver restrictions won’t affect films that already have U.S. indie distribution in place. Therefore, films like “Ferrari,” distributed by Neon, and A24’s “Priscilla” can benefit from their interim agreements without worrying about any potential sales drawbacks. As for Richard Linklater’s action comedy “Hit Man,” it is reportedly screening in Venice without a waiver, possibly due to concerns about the impact on sales.
Sales agents, however, are concerned that AMPTP members such as Netflix, Disney, or Amazon – the deep-pocketed buyers responsible for large festival deals – may pass on projects that require them to accept conditions they have already rejected in contract talks with SAG-AFTRA. Crabtree-Ireland acknowledged these concerns, suggesting that indie films that secure guild festival waivers are unlikely to end up on platforms owned by AMPTP members.
Rumors have circulated that certain major streamers have expressed their unwillingness to acquire content subject to the interim agreement. This reluctance is understandable, as the interim agreement includes a streaming revenue share requirement that applies to the licensing or platforming of any project under the agreement on an AMPTP streaming service. Consequently, this year’s fall festivals may witness a quieter business season unless SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP return to the negotiating table and reach a new deal.
Overall, the new conditions on film sales for SAG-AFTRA waiver recipients attending fall festivals have introduced significant uncertainties and concerns within the industry. The absence of major studios and streamers who are reluctant to accept these conditions could dampen the usual excitement and financial buzz surrounding the festivals. It remains to be seen if SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP can come to an agreement that satisfies all parties involved, allowing for a more vibrant and active business environment at future festivals.