A term was coined and tossed around at a ‘drinks’ event I attended on my first night there: “losing your Cannes virginity.” This year I lost mine. It’s kinda like the sacred pilgrimage in the filmmaking world, the creme de la creme of cinema celebration, the ultimate homage and the cherry on top. Going to Cannes Film Festival is almost like a ‘birthright’ for filmmakers and while the idea of such Riviera festivities carries with it glamorous coiffure and decadence, I came to discover that there are many more dimensions to Film Festival Numero Uno than one may expect. Much like film making itself.
If I had any doubt about whether the train I was on was in fact taking me from Nice to Cannes, the Irish gentlemen who were unashamedly critiquing independent films in the booth beside me provided me with all the assurance I needed.
I was a bit scared going to Cannes. Sure, I had a film in the Short Film Corner – which gave me my magic ‘pass’ – and had starred in a couple of films that were in the Market, but I was frightened I might get swallowed up and forgotten in the enormity of it all. Plus, prior to arriving in Cannes, people kept asking if I had brought “evening dresses” with me. I’d packed a few cocktail dresses, but an elaborate tableau of black ties and ball gowns was forming in my mind.
This wasn’t the case at all! Yes, you do spot the odd celeb, if you’re lucky you’ll get to watch some stars walking the red carpet, and there are plenty of tres chic Euro types sailing in and out of lunches, but generally, it’s all pretty chill.
I stayed in the Arab district in a charming French Riviera apartment with 3 Australian film producers, two of whom I’d worked with. The $1000 to $5000 per night hotel accommodation is along the Croisette. All the other Cannes-goers find similar apartments to ours, and producers often establish relationships with the landlords so that they reserve that same apartment each year. I met several producers who had been coming to Cannes for over 30 years!
Of course, we all know about the movie stars and film directors who grace the red carpet of their world premier and whose film is at least in the Official Selection, if not in Competition. But few talk about all the other guys. The other 97% of the Cannes Film Festival community. This is who I worked out they are:
Red carpet party ponies: You know – your Paris Hilton, Kardashian cousin-types who rock up with an entourage, hit the red carpets and then PARTYYYY. Needless to say, this lot have no films showcasing at Cannes and have little to do with any serious aspect of the film industry at all. I heard that The Biebs made an appearance this year, and Lindsay Lohan posted some kind of wasted black and white phone clip from a Cannes nightclub. Woot woot!!
Producers: Cannes is literally RUNNING WILD with film producers from all over the world with ‘slates’ of films they need help with. That help could come in the form of a) financing b) a distribution deal or c) a sales deal. These producers run around from one quick meeting to the next in which they have 15 minutes or something to pitch their project. High stakes indeed.
Equity people: These guys are the ones with yachts and who arrive at Cannes in private jets. If there was one thing I took from my Cannes virginity loss it was that CANNES IS WHERE ALL THE MONEY IS. Filmmakers from all over the world hunt down these guys and try and strike a deal. I was sitting beside one of them at a dinner at the Grande Hotel. He spent the entire night cracking jokes and talking about anything but the high stakes game he was there to play. Only later I found out he was one of the ones with a cheque book. (Damn, shoulda pitched my I Lost My Virginity At Cannes movie idea.)
Young and fresh faced filmmakers: Ya gotta start somewhere, and these guys (I may or may not have been one of them) inhabit the short film world. They dream of their feature film debut, and as a consequence of beginners luck and youthful charm, they’re often the ones landing invites to the BIG parties.
Press: There’s the real press who are at Cannes on behalf of a newspaper or magazine. These guys attend all of the ‘press’ screenings, will either review the films, interview and write about the talent or, in the context of online journalism, will be posting more frequent updates with hash tags galore! And then ya got the paparazzi. We were leaving the Expendables 3 Party when Paris Hilton made her entrance. It was like an orchestrated dance. The paps politely waited across the street, talking amongst themselves, and then when they got the call that Paris’ car was arriving, they ran to greet her, got their snaps as she exited the car – acting as if she was disgruntled by the attention (yeah right) – and then sauntered back to position one.
Distribution companies and sales agents: I have little to say about these people but I will say this: I met one of them, a Brit, on a hotel shuttle bus and he seemed… flustered and nice. These guys are there to buy and obtain films. As this British fellow explained to me on the shuttle to the Palais, Cannes can feel just as competitive for them as it does for the hustling producers in the Market. He had discovered at 2am that morning that his company had lost out on a film they really wanted to another distribution company. (And I thought acting was hard..!)
It’s true that at such a festival you really never know who you may bump into: I happened to find myself at a dinner party with one of Julian Assange’s significant lawyers, and at the Expendables 3 after party, I was introduced to Pat Hughes, the director of that very film, who, as it turns out was 5 years above me at my Secondary school in Melbourne! The next day my producer messaged me to say that she’d gotten Woody Allen’s producer’s email at the Red Army after party!
Such is life is Cannes! #Cannes2014 #CannesVirginityLost