Sean Penn Talks WGA Strike In Cannes: The Industry Has Been Upending Writers & Directors For Some Time; Black Flies Actor Blasts A.I. As Human Obscenity

Sean Penn, asked about the current state of Hollywood studio chiefs and the plight of writers and directors currently embroiled in labor unrest in the U.S., said Friday in a Cannes Film Festival press conference that “the industry has been upending the writers and directors for a long time. I fully support the situation with writers guild, of course.”

The Oscar winner continued, “There’s a lot of new concepts being tossed about including the use of A.I. It strikes me as a human obscenity for a pushback on that from producers.”

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‘Black Flies’ Review: Sean Penn And Tye Sheridan Ride The Mean Streets Of Brooklyn In Dark But Familiar Paramedic Drama – Cannes Film Festival

Penn, in Cannes for last night’s world premiere of his new film Black Flies, emphasized that the producers, meaning the AMPTP, should be retitled “the bankers guild.”

“It’s difficult for so many writers industrywide to not work during this time,” Penn said, “This is going to soul-search itself out.”

Penn’s comments come as the Writers Guild of America is picketing in Hollywood and New York, the SAG-AFTRA board voting this week unanimously to authorize a strike before talks with the AMPTP, and the Directors Guild entering talks with the studio body. There’s been a flood of projects announced here at the Cannes market in advance of a feared trifecta strike involving the WGA, DGA and SAG-AFTRA; buyers are facing situations that if they buy into a project, it may not be able to shoot this year with a screenplay. Summer production shoots could be pushed.

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Should the WGA strike linger, or if a SAG-AFTRA strike occurs, it could greatly shake up the theatrical-release calendar with most films getting pushed into next year.

Black Flies stars Penn as a grizzled veteran paramedic known as “Rut” now on the nighttime beat with rookie partner Cross (Tye Sheridan), as they deal with traumas in the rundown neighborhood of Brownsville in Brooklyn. Says Deadline’s Pete Hammond in his review, “It is the classic Hollywood setup for this kind of drama: the older guy who has seen it all teamed with the newbie just trying to make it through rough nights on the mean streets of New York City, ground zero for those who find little or no hope in America’s broken health system. They are the tough gang members, the abused and beaten wives, the homeless camped out in laundromats, the drug addicted, the ignored immigrants and more that these guys see 24/7. Sometimes they forced to fight them off in order to save a life society for the most part doesn’t care about saving.”

Talking about how the film addresses the current state of U.S. healthcare system, Penn said today, “One word that most paramedics share in talking about the healthcare system. People go into them with largely a desire to serve. And what they find is that they’re beleaguered by short-term political gain policies, and they’re not really there to practice their jobs, they’re there to support a racket.”

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Michael Pitt, who stars in the film, shared with the room his daunting experience with going on a call with city paramedics. The actor witnessed a man, presumed dead, being revived and then barking for the medic team to get out of his house. “He said worse, literally.”

“They’re seeing (situations) like this everyday, they’re saving people. I don’t think anyone can’t do that job and not have PTS[D],” he said.

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