Film Festivals come in all shapes and sizes: The AFM is all business, Edinburgh is wonderfully down to earth for such a great event, and the jewel in the crown has to be The Cannes Film Festival. I’m pretty sure that 50% of the film people reading this are preparing to head off to the south of France just as soon as they are finished with this post.
But is it worth it? Is the deal for your next film just an EasyJet flight away? Perhaps, but you will have to apply a few rules to your unbridled creative enthusiasm if you really want to get the most out of the trip. As usual, these are mi thoughts based on mi experience, they are not a complete guide or definitive. So accept them in the spirit they’re given, and hopefully you’ll avoid wasting your precious time and money.
At this point, I am going to assume you have your accreditation sorted; your flight, accommodation and car hire rental is printed and ready to go. If not, then your mini break in Cannes will be short lived. But don’t worry, Monaco is really nice at this time of year.
Now, lets get back those of you who have your business trip planned. If it’s your first time, this document by the Marche du Film people has some helpful tips. If it’s not your first time, then this page is also helpful.
Here are my 2 cents:
1) Be Prepared.
Before you go make sure you have:
- Laptop or iPad – So you can show off your budgets (top sheet/schedules and any other presentations if needed)
- A mobile, which will work abroad. Tell your provider, or they can freeze your account if your bill suddenly sky-rockets. If your phone is unlocked, you can buy a Sim card locally, which can save money.
- Business cards – No, these don’t go out of fashion.
- A flash drive – you can always print items at one of the many business centres.
Don’t carry loads of scripts and DVDs, they generally get lost or binned by the people you give them to. Concentrate on making good contacts and you can email/post stuff to them later.
2) It’s called the film ‘Business’.
Despite what it looks like, Cannes is business. Distribution companies are there to show and sell their films; they will also be taking meetings, but in mi experience buyers will always take precedence over sellers. So don’t be offended if your meeting gets pushed back or bumped completely. In reality, for most smaller and independent companies, the best meetings take place outside of work time anyway. I’ve spent hours shlepping up and down the Croisette, in useless meetings, then stopped by the Petite Majestic in the evening and connected with some really good people.
3) Meeting people socially – The 3 strikes rule.
Cannes takes many facets of the film business and distills them down into a small town in the South of France. For almost two weeks the town is the most target rich film environment on the planet. Even here in LA, it’s noticeably quieter during the two weeks of the festival. But in addition to the actual film people, there will be many more “Producers,” “Directors,” “Movers and Shakers” – many of whom couldn’t give you the time if you gave them a watch.
From mi own experience:
- A “Producer” who didn’t know what a completion bond was, OR why he needed one for the late (then 85 year old) Norman Wisdom
- A “Director” who thought scripts were overrated, and “his vision” for a $20M film (“…A-list cast attached but I can’t say who”) was purely improvised
- A “Mover and Shaker” at Fox “…working on the Simpsons,” who, after a little detective work, turned out to work in HR
These are but a few of many examples…
So you have to prepare yourself to weed out the imposters quickly and efficiently. To that end, let me introduce you to ‘The Three Questions’.
Me: Hello, I’m Mark A. Todd
Producer: Hi, I’m Seymour Clearly.
Me: It’s busy here this year. Are you showing a film?
Producer: No, I’m looking for a deal on my project.
Me: Nice. What type of film is it?
Producer: It’s not really a genre film; we’re pitching it as “Mrs. Doubtfire” (Rom/Com) meets “Alien” (horror). The budget’s $20 mil.
Me: Fantastic, it sounds like a really interesting project. Any cast attached yet?
Producer: Bruce Willis is my wishlist lead. We’re pitching the idea to Troma tomorrow.
Now at this point you make your exit (or not, if you still fancy a laugh) because this person knows so little about the business they claim to be part of. If you don’t know what genre your film is, it’s impossible to target the right distributor, cast or budget. The big budget sounds enticing, but it’s time to move on…if you kiss enough frogs, eventually you’ll find a prince.
Finally, unless you need to, don’t plan to stay for the whole festival. I had to stay for 10 days (2001) and it nearly killed me. It’s why you can’t get anyone after the festival…they all take a break to recover! Keep your sanity and money by targeting the companies you want to meet and scheduling meetings in blocks. Also, use Cannes to meet people you can’t get hold of normally. If you live in London, why go all the way to France to meet a company based out of London? David Garret at Summit told me this is a no no for him, and he generally won’t take the meeting.
So, there you have it. I hope you have a good and fruitful trip. Your Cannes experience will teach you a lot in a very short time. Then you can write a blog about it!