Cannes 2007 – before Mesocafé

Having postponed the shoot of our feature film from June 2007 to a pencilled in date of December 2008, I headed to Cannes with a view of raising awareness and creating interest in our project  in order to have the contacts for distributing the film once it is completed. My experience in the independent film and TV sector in the UK and  abroad had taught me that the more industry people know about a project before it is made the more chance the project would have of being viewed once it is completed by those very  people and thus its prospects for distributions would be markedly improved.

Arrival:

My Cannes experience has been most enjoyable, illuminating and exciting; almost like watching Catherine Deneuve on a big screen for the first time!

I arrived a couple of days before the festival and began to explore the seaside resort as it was busily preparing herself for the film clans of the world to descend upon her beaches, her boulevards and cafes. I bumped into a couple of Cannois who were preparing to abandon town in advance of the deluge. On the whole, however, the locals were extremely courteous and friendly and I even managed to hitch a ride with a couple young men to the centre de la ville  from the out of town place at which I was staying .

The Film Marche:

Simple or easy are not words that spring to mind when an independent filmmaker is trying to make his mark in a place where whole nations’ film industries are craw barred into what would amount to no more than a small back-lot in a major studio.

After some serious homework and revision work on the yellow-pages-sized film market guide, I located the production companies and distributors that are most likely to be interested in a project such as ours.

The illusive meetings:

To find a few minutes in the busy schedule of the  these companies’ executives as they try to meet other independent filmmakers, attend screenings, and more often than not work on marketing films they brought to the market … is a Herculean task, to say the least.

I managed to meet a couple of interested producers and distributors not so much by appointment but by chance while waiting for a screening or someone to turn up to a prearranged meeting.

Back in London

Aside from the great documentary with which I returned about the experience of a micro-budget filmmaker at Cannes, I also have in the side-pockets of my worn-out rucksack business cards and contact details of many potential distributors for our feature film. I have already begun establishing contact and am in the process of sending out detailed synopses and treatments for the project.

The plan ahead:

I am determined to go ahead with the shoot of the film in December 2008, as the reception of the project has been most encouraging and I think once the film is made to the best of our combined passion and talent, not only will it be a great film, but one that is also very likely to win distribution deals across many territories.

A Cannes diary:

May 15th

It’s the day before the festival and the coastal resort is bracing itself for the deluge from without. Everywhere you look preparations are afoot; from the red carpet being draped on the famous steps to le Palais, to tents and marquees being erected sur la Croisette, down right to the traffic being redirected especially for the anticipated horde of “A” list celebrities and their motorcades.

With mainly commercial cinema occupying every conceivable wall, roadside billboard, going as far as obscuring the beautiful early 20th century façade of the Carlton Hotel with giant posters for the latest Hollywood blockbuster, my first feelings of Cannes are best summed up by the locals I met on crossing la Croissette, M. et Mme Biguet, who are seriously considering leaving town for the duration of the festival.

But fear not; I shall persevere and do my utmost to peel away the swathes of superficiality to get as near as possible to the true spirit of Cannes the festival celebrating the love of cinema and those who make it the magic that connects audiences in Buenos Aires to those in London, in New York, Cairo and Mumbai.

Oh, and to be able to say in many years to come that I had a drink at the Carlton, I somehow managed to blag my way  past the security guards and found myself snapping away at the Bar.

Located in the cavernous underground of the Palais de festival, the accreditation office feels like an immigration terminal at an international airport; not only do you have the differently coloured kiosks, those for the pre-registered, and those making a last ditch attempt to be included in the cadre, but also you have people from every possible corner of the world talking in tens of languages and sharing their stories of past festivals to Cannes virgins comme moi!

The fact that my application was not promptly turned down  has given me cause for hope. I am to find out demain matin!

May 16th

9AM

The day began with a slight setback; I haven’t been granted accreditation at the festival. So I will have to spend the rest of my time as an outsider in more ways than one trying to get in or get a glimpse from of some of the films taking place.

Updated at 15:00

In Cannes, the Mediterranean sun can be a centigrade or two unwelcome during the lunch hour with all the restaurants in the vicinity of Palais de Festivals charging astronomical prices for le déjeuner sample, so I  found myself seeking the shade of the back streets a few blocks away from the marquees on the beach reserved for those with…you guessed right, a badge and an invitation. I came across this kebab place;  the total ease and carefree ambience created so effortlessly by the owner, the seats in the shade and the price would produce a montage of good food worthy of the great Vertov himself.

As I sat down waiting for my Kebab Poulet avec frites et Coca, I noticed other filmmakers and festival goers, and yes- a couple of festival rejects like yours truly, enjoying these Turkish delights a few minutes’ walk from the glitz and flashing cameras of the red carpet.

I think I may have found an oasis to recuperate from the embrace of this Mediterranean sun without needing a badge…

May 17th

With no badge or planned walks on the red carpet on my-oh-so-busy-schedule,


I think I can afford to invest some time in enjoying the view from our apartment in Cannes La Bocca, about a ten minute bus ride from Hotel du Ville.

Fortified, I headed to la Croisette and spent a few hours walking around taking in the atmosphere. I couldn’t help noticing the dreams and hope dancing in the eyes of most people going past the doors of the Palais; dreams of being part of a film, hope of catching a glimpse of a star on the red carpet, or even being handed gold-dust-premier tickets, a state of mind that  is reflected in the colourful carnival of smiles, ease of being and carefree feeling to this large crowd congregating in a small space.

Early in the evening I found myself heading towards the kebab shop of yesterday afternoon.

The mix of customers and the variety of their reasons for being in Cannes at this particular time in the spring have all made me itch for my little dv camera…

I wonder if the owner and his wife would allow me to film here…

Meanwhile,

May 18th

Saad Hindawy, a dear friend and an up and coming young Egyptian feature film director, arrived this morning.

With him leading the way, I found myself back at the festival registration office where we headed directly to the pre-registered half of the arrivals-hall-like- row of desks. There was no need for him to blag or schmooze his way into extracting that elusive badge.

The situation became surreal when I was allowed to enter the Palais du Film by virtue of the professional looking mic attached to my cheap DV camera. I kept looking behind my shoulder in case someone notices this illegal entrant into the sacrosanct inner walls of the dream palace. The tour with Saad was exhilarating, for I was torn between capturing with my wandering eyes as many moments of the exceptional setting enveloping me and looking into the LCD monitor of the camera filming the impromptu tour of the building.

By the time we left the building, I think one or two of the security guards, who only yesterday had used with me  the well rehearsed phrase, san-badge-san-access, were beginning to recognize me and would’ve manoeuvred me out of the building, if it weren’t for that professional looking mic!

Updated 22:00

Manger, mes amis, manger!

I headed to the place the owner and I agreed to call Istanbul Sur La Croisette.With the inevitable fatigue and mounting stress of the owner and his family members as they work almost round the clock catering for festival goers, I am beginning to find it increasingly challenging to spend time filming at the kebab shop; I don’t wish to get in the way of their work during a particularly profitable and short period in the Cannes city calendar.

May 19th

I am beginning to enjoy my status as the san badge filmmaker of la Croisette! The security guards, the hotel porters and even cinemagoers waiting in line for those elusive tickets, they all seem to have heard of the Man with the petite camera trying without success to enter the Palais or get into a film screening.

Ok, so not famous enough for a TV interview!

My spirits have not waned and I managed to find a way of watching a film on a big screen in Cannes and during the festival too!

With the stars above us, la Croisette in the back, the gentle murmur of the sea waves as they caress the sandy beach beneath the screen, and the French subtitles sharing the frame with Jane Campion’s The Piano, what more could one ask for experiencing Cannes during the festival?

Those with a badge and those with a lack in the invitations and accreditations department are treated with the same cordial and charming welcome reserved for invitees on the red carpet. Vive le Cinema!

May 20th

The relentless quest for that elusive badge and the chance to watch a film at the Palais has taken me into the confidence of fellow san-badge sufferers. Hanging around the many exits of the Palais and inflicting one’s lack of tickets on badge holders appears to be a highly respected strategy for gaining entry.

The advice came from no other than a cineaste who managed to watch 25 films during the 2006 edition by following the method of zooming in to badge holders for tickets.

Perhaps, something to look into tomorrow. Meanwhile, my search for an idea for a documentary about my journey in Cannes and its festival continues afoot.

May 21st

Rumour has it that the powers that be at the festival have been known to grant three-day temporary passes to san-badgees comme moi in return for a nominal fee. A British filmmaker making a documentary here suggested that I try my luck at the office for temporary passes, and that I should have to hand every possible proof and evidence of my worthiness of being granted a pass on such exceptional conditions.

I am not sure if I should go in there today; I’d like the day to pass with as few rejections as possible, particularly since I am beginning to get intimate with my San-Badge-Sur-La Croisette fame!

May 22nd

Having tried a colourful array of routes into the Palais du Cinema, I thought I’d go for a final throw of the dice and apply for that temporary badge I heard about during a stolen moment from filming and chasing film tickets and invitations.

After putting this budding filmmaker in his place with questions designed to put you ever so effortlessly on the back foot- Do you have many credits on IMDB etc., and watching the reflection on the young official’s face of the one or two mentions that googling me would bring up on his screen, he looked up and…

Happiness is a badge sur al croisette..

May 23rd

Life with a badge in Cannes is framed with a mise-en-scene of oui, bienvenue, monsieur, the cool colours of the Palais du festival and the smiling faces greeting you in every corner offering you help and almost daring you to come up with a festival screening or film market related question for which they have no answer.

I managed to talk to a couple of production companies that would most certainly be interest

This first day with the badge flew by as I tried to get used to the screening rooms with names like Bazin and le 60em, not to mention the market and what seems like whole nations’ film industries fitted into a few corridors of booths and kiosks.

Someone gave me a great word of advice: ‘study the guide for the Marche du film for the production companies and distributors that would be interested in your project, then do your best to arrange for meetings with anyone from this group, or at least get a contact for future correspondence.”

I think I will spend some time this evening in the confines of the 500 page marche du film guide book.

May 24th

Armed with my list of production companies and distributors likely to be interested in my project, I headed into la Croisette and was welcomed with that effortless charm of the Cannois into the confidence of the le Palais where I headed to the different booths and kiosks of the relevant companies marked on a helpful map of the Marche.

Only in Cannes would one experience attempting to deliver a well-practiced sharp and crisp pitch for a film while being constantly interrupted by people entering the booth and addressing your host in a language different to yours and that of the meeting, all done with such grace that it’s hard to get offended at the intrusion.

A good day, all in all.

Leave a Reply