TORONTO — Film and TV star Patricia Arquette joined dozens of actors and writers who rallied outside the Canadian headquarters of Amazon and Apple to support ongoing labour protests.
Members of Canadian and U.S. performers unions gathered just blocks from marquee venues hosting the Toronto International Film Festival to call for job protections and better compensation.
Aside from directors and producers, TIFF premieres have been largely devoid of Hollywood A-listers as strike rules prevent unionized actors from promoting projects, although some independent productions have been allowed to court publicity.
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 are each embroiled in contract woes.
Protesters held picket signs declaring, "Respect the performers," while SAG's chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said global support is essential to secure better treatment of actors and writers.
Arquette, who is at TIFF with her directorial debut, "Gonzo Girl," and was set to receive a festival Tribute Award, spent about 10 minutes speaking to the crowd about concerns including the unregulated use of artificial intelligence.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs through Sept. 17.
The Writers Guild of America walked off the job May 2 and was joined by SAG-AFTRA on July 14. Each are seeking new agreements with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
Common demands include better pay, guardrails around the use of AI and more transparency from streaming services amid a rapidly evolving entertainment industry.
Amazon and Apple both operate TV streaming services and are among the members of the AMPTP.
ACTRA has been embroiled in a dispute with the Institute of Canadian Agencies since their agreement expired more than a year ago. the ICA represents Canadian advertising, marketing, media and public relations agencies.
ACTRA is seeking higher pay, protections and benefits for about 9,000 commercial actors it represents.
ACTRA president Eleanor Noble said the income of an actor is well below the poverty line, particularly for the majority who are not household names.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2023.
Noel Ransome, The Canadian Press