Canada’s film and television community is bracing for more job uncertainty amid a Hollywood actors’ strike that observers say has the potential to throw more people out of work, upend TV schedules and dim the wattage of celeb-studded events like the Toronto International Film Festival.
The decision by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to walk off the job at midnight Thursday sounds the death knell for Canadian sets with SAG stars that survived a Writers Guild of America strike entering its sixth week.
It also raised questions about the fate of celeb-studded tourist draws including TIFF, set for Sept. 7 to 17, and Fan Expo Canada, set for Aug. 24 to 27.
TIFF said in an emailed statement that a SAG strike would almost certainly impact its typically star-packed festival, known for fan-friendly red carpets and premieres, as well as A-list studded press conferences and junkets that draw journalists from around the world.
“The impact of this strike on the industry and events like ours cannot be denied,” TIFF said moments after SAG announced job action.
“We urge our partners and colleagues to resume an open dialogue. We will continue planning for this year’s festival with the hope of a swift resolution in the coming weeks.”
Asked last week about the potential impact of a SAG strike on Fan Expo Canada, a vice president with Fan Expo HQ dismissed the possibility of no-shows at the genre-focused pop culture event.
“There will be no impact to the experience we have planned,” Andrew Moyes said in an emailed statement Saturday.
“We hope all parties affected by this are able to reach an amicable agreement soon.”
However, it was not clear Thursday if some SAG members might decide to sit out such events in solidarity, even if their appearance does not involve a studio project affected by the strike, said one Toronto-based SAG member who predicted TIFF would be “a quiet place this year.”
“I think they’re trying to do a hard no to everything,” Anthony Q. Farrell said of the strike’s intent when it comes to things like Comic-Con and Fan Expo.
“You definitely can’t go as someone who is trying to market a series, that is a SAG series. But they’re also telling you, if you don’t have to go then don’t go. Let’s cut them in the pockets where it really, really hurts.”
The U.S.-based battle is expected to send myriad ripple effects across the border, where more than half of Canadian-set film and TV shoots are U.S. productions that collectively employ tens of thousands of local talent and crew.
Farrell said he was happy to see his union stand up to the studios but predicted the move would put more Canadian crew members out of work if their shoot includes a SAG cast member.
Also a member of the WGA, Farrell hoped the twin strikes would accelerate deals for both unionized actors and screenwriters, and get everyone back to work soon.
“Things simply are not in a place where they are fair yet,” Farrell said from Winnipeg, where he was speaking to emerging showrunners.
“I feel like this will hopefully be a good thing for our cause, the WGA. I think we’ll have a strong contingent on the picket line and hopefully we’ll get to a resolution much faster because of it.”
Canada’s actors union, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, which represents 28,000 members across the country, expressed their solidarity with SAG.
The U.S. dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — which represents employers including Disney, Netflix, Amazon and others — has largely centred on compensation, benefits and guarantees around the use of artificial intelligence.
“We recognize that their fight is our fight and is for the good of all performers,” ACTRA president Eleanor Noble said in a statement.
“Together we will continue working to ensure performers are respected and achieve fair compensation for the value we bring to every production.”
Shaftesbury Films CEO Christina Jennings said a SAG strike would not impact Canadian shows with Canadian casts, such as Shaftesbury’s “Murdoch Mysteries” and “Hudson & Rex,” both currently shooting.
But she said it could affect future unannounced Canadian projects with a SAG cast.
“This isn’t a great day but we’re lucky at Shaftesbury that it really has not impacted our business at all right now,” said Jennings.
“We have a couple of new shows coming and you know, we’re in no urgency, but we will watch this news carefully…. We may have to make adjustments to strategy.”
At least one Canadian broadcaster acknowledged the chance of derailed fall TV plans, with Citytv noting that if the strike continues, it would delay the return of titles including “Law & Order,” “Chicago Med,” “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D.”
Jennings said shifts like that could open opportunities for Canadian shows, believing that homegrown broadcasters would have holes to fill.
“I already know this from talking with them that they have been really, really looking at their schedules just because of the writers guild strike,” she said.
“They’re already moving shows. Often Canadian shows are moving up in the schedule because they need them to fill the fall hole.”
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