Venice Film Festival director Alberto Barbera is working on a plan B. Should American films not participate in the Venice Film Festival because of the WGA and SAG strikes, the director has told his fest programmers that the 80th edition of the event “will be a Pan -European festival,” according to sources with knowledge of the plans.
Barbera has told his staff that it is too early to say how things will play out. “Let’s try to figure out what American producers and directors intend to do,” he said, according to people familiar with the situation. “In the meantime, we are taking action to create an alternative program.”
Sources tell THR Roma that the organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival — which takes place from Sept. 7-17, overlapping as usual with Venice — are similarly preparing for the possibility that there will be a limited presence of US films at TIFF. It’s generally believed unlikely that the dispute will be resolved before September.
One of the key issues driving the SAG strike is the state of residuals in the streaming era. According to the union, the streaming revolution has decreased the number of payments that performers receive when their projects are re-used or re-run on a new medium (like, say, if a theatrically released movie is played on cable TV). Traditionally, residuals help performers, who typically hop from job to job, make a living during lean periods for work.
The strike is having an immediate impact on Venice, which relies heavily on the presence of Hollywood talent and is considered the unofficial start of awards season. For instance, Zendaya, the star of the fest’s opening-night film — Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers — would likely be prohibited from attending the premiere.
Guadagnino, who is currently working between Italy and France on the film queer, confirms that the situation is very uncertain: “Of course the actors will not do promotion,” he tells THR Roma. “We have to understand from the studio what they want to do, then we will decide how to proceed.”
This is the context in which Barbera is preparing an alternative program for Venice, which he says could see more international titles land coveted screening slots. “We shall see. Asian cinema is having a moment of post-pandemic recovery, in this sense if Americans do not participate, the focus would be mainly on Europe.”
The festival director has told his staff to “be ready for anything and take nothing for granted.”
A press conference to unveil the Venice lineup is planned for July 25 and will still take place as scheduled.
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