(Toronto) Canadian filmmakers hope to attract some of the attention at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), overshadowed by strikes by Hollywood actors and screenwriters.

Montreal writer-director Chloé Robichaud says she feels more interest and attention for her French-language feature film, Les Jours Heureux, than for the films she presented at previous TIFFs.

She thinks this is because fewer Hollywood celebrities are in town to promote their upcoming films.

Separately, film and TV star Patricia Arquette joined dozens of actors and screenwriters who rallied outside the Canadian headquarters of Amazon and Apple on Saturday in support of ongoing labor protests.

Members of Canadian and American artists’ unions gathered just blocks from the prestigious venues hosting TIFF to demand job protections and better pay.

Ms. Arquette, who is at TIFF with her debut film, Gonzo Girl, and due to receive a Tribute Award from the festival on Sunday, spent about 10 minutes talking to the crowd about her concerns, including the use of artificial intelligence. .

“If we let our industry, our art form, pass into the hands of artificial intelligence, we will only have films from giants, corporate megafilms,” Ms. Arquette told demonstrators who brandished signs proclaiming: “Respect the artists”.

“We’ll have spin-off movies that will steal the art of the real artists and that’s not fair. »

The double strike has halted American productions in Canada which employ tens of thousands of Canadians who work in front of and behind the camera.

Although the focus has been on job losses in British Columbia and Ontario, Robichaud said the strikes have also hit Quebec hard.

“There is generally a lot of American filming that takes place in Montreal. I have a lot of friends, technicians, who don’t have as many jobs as they used to,” she said.

Aside from directors and producers, TIFF premieres have been largely devoid of Hollywood stars, with strike rules preventing union actors from promoting projects, although some independent productions have been allowed to court publicity.

The lack of celebrity status on the red carpets didn’t stop moviegoers from showing up as the festival entered its third day on Saturday.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television Radio Artists (ACTRA), the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) are each grappling with contractual issues.

SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said global support is essential to ensure better treatment of actors and writers. He called ACTRA the “closest sister union” to SAG, along with AFTRA and the UK’s Equity union.

“This support is essential because they are multinational companies and they know that other artists around the world will uphold the same principles as us; there is nowhere to run to escape the unfair treatment of their workers,” said Mr. Crabtree-Ireland, National Executive Director of SAG-AFTRA.

“It’s really difficult for workers in this industry, not only in the United States, but around the world, because it has a huge impact, but workers understand that we are fighting for something existential. »

The WGA ceased work on May 2 and was joined by SAG-AFTRA on July 14. All are looking to strike new deals with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Demands include better salaries, frameworks around the use of AI and more transparency of streaming platform services in a rapidly changing entertainment industry.

Both Amazon and Apple TV operate streaming services and are members of AMPTP.

ACTRA has been locked in a dispute with the Institute of Canadian Agencies (ICA) since their agreement expired more than a year ago. The ICA represents Canadian advertising, marketing, media and public relations agencies.

ACTRA seeks higher wages, protections and benefits for the approximately 9,000 business actors it represents.

Toronto ACTRA member Dewey Stewart said he is fighting for higher wages and greater recognition for business players.

ACTRA President Eleanor Noble pointed out that an actor’s income is much lower than many would expect, especially for the majority who are not considered stars.

“The average income of an actor is well below the poverty line, and I’m talking about those artists that we see in films, TV series and in commercials who are not known. This is absolutely unacceptable,” denounced Ms. Noble.