(Toronto) When the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) rolls out its red carpet in September, it may not be trodden by major American stars.

The Hollywood actors’ strike could be a game-changer this year, say festival-goers and big players in the industry, now facing the prospect of a more restrained, glamorous TIFF.

Artists represented by the Actors and Actresses Guild walked off the job last Friday, joining fellow screenwriters already on the picket line.

The actors’ strike obviously interrupted the filming of most Hollywood productions, but also promotional activities. The Guild has made it clear that its members cannot promote the films in which they have acted, including at festivals.

Thus, Nicolas Cage will not be at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal this weekend to receive the “Honorary Career Award” on the sidelines of the world premiere of Sympathy for the Devil.

Organizers of TIFF, which is due to run from September 7-17, have not said what they will do if the strike continues until then. But they admitted the impact “cannot be denied”.

Eric Tisch, director of programming at REEL Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing Canadian films to schools, says a festival without stars can’t justify the high ticket price. Prices for “special tickets” at TIFF can reach $80 – and for some big sold-out premieres, resellers have demanded exorbitant prices.

“The star factor is what has always brought TIFF to where it is today, and what sets it apart from other festivals,” says the 28-year-old film buff, who attends the festival every year – and supports the strikers. Knowing that there will be no screenwriters, directors, actors […] it will be less interesting than before. »

Mr. Tisch also says that many moviegoers who are shut out of the festival due to high ticket prices hope to at least catch a glimpse of their favorite stars on the streets of Toronto.

Toronto film buff Ben Whyte also plans to still frequent TIFF regardless, in support of the culture, though he considers his presence a “double-edged sword.”

“We want to go support the movies, because there are a lot of people behind the scenes working very hard to bring it to life, but we also want to support the actors,” said the 20-year-old film buff, who also paid for it. attend TIFF events virtually during the pandemic.

After in-person events were canceled due to COVID-19 in 2020, TIFF went into “hybrid mode” the following year – but with very few headliners. And last year, TIFF returned to its red carpets of yesteryear.

Martin Katz, a Canadian producer who often collaborates with David Cronenberg, said an “umbrella of different issues” will affect enthusiasm for TIFF this year, if the strike continues into September.

“It’s an extremely unfortunate and even tragic turn of events because, on the independent film side, it’s all about exposure – finding a distributor and an audience. »

Mr. Katz, founder and president of Prospero Pictures in Toronto, also wonders how this strike will affect TIFF’s promotional activities. “The big networking nights during TIFF often rely on the presence of stars – that’s what attracts the sponsorships, which finance these activities. »