‘May December’ Writer Samy Burch Finally Boards The Promo Train Post-Strike At NY Film Festival; Director Todd Haynes Says Her Presence Counters “The Grief Of Not Having Actors”

Todd Haynes, who has appeared on behalf of his latest directing outing, May December, since its splashy debut in Cannes, turned to a new collaborator when promoting it at the New York Film Festival.

Samy Burch, writer and executive producer of the film (which is based on an original story developed by Burch and Alex Mechanik) had to skip Cannes and any subsequent activities for the film in recent months due to the WGA strike. Prior to the July walkout by SAG-AFTRA members, co-stars Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman had joined Haynes on the stump. But at the film’s NYFF opening press conference (its gala debut is tonight at Alice Tully Hall), Haynes cited the script often. Before long, it fully registered who was able to sit onstage to his immediate left thanks to this week’s end to the WGA strike.

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“It will be so fun to finally have her onboard with us!” he enthused, wrapping his arm around her as the crowd at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater broke into applause. “It helps us a little bit with the grief of not having actors.”

That was the most prominent mention of the strikes during the 20-minute press conference for the Netflix release. As the fall festival circuit segues into general awards campaigning, all eyes are going to be on SAG-AFTRA talks with AMPTP, which resume Monday. Pending a resolution, the look and feel of the usual stops along the circuit will be a bit different than usual, especially for a film like May December that features standout performances.

Burch didn’t touch on the strike, confining her comments to the script and film themselves and basking in the positive reception from the packed theater. “I really like the tonal mix of humor and real, genuine sadness and heartbreak,” she said of her inspirations. “I feel like some of the humor is so uncomfortable that it breaks the tension. Some of it, maybe, is more acerbic. … That’s what I’m interested in.”

Although Burch provided a boost to the proceedings, Haynes also took a moment to recognize the value of having Moore and Portman be able to address the performance dimension of the film. One press member asked Haynes about how he created “the most fascinating lisp in film history” for Moore’s character. Haynes demurred. “I did not create the lisp,” he said. Opting for understatement, he added, “There are some people who are missing today who could speak so beautifully about how they built these characters.”

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