Cannes, a very super market
Hastings and St Leonards are developing quite an affinity with the quaint and unpretentious town of Cannes: first St Leonards featured at the Straight 8 Film Festival there last July, then we hosted the Trash Cannes Festival in October. Now Christine Kimberley gives us an exclusive personal account of her recent visit to the festival.
I had no intention of going to the 66th Festival de Cannes until I was told that a film I worked on was going to be screened there. Eighteen months ago I directed a stage play in London and last September my leading actress asked me to work with her on a film in which she was to play the lead.
All I knew about the festival was what I had seen in the media, a sort of Hollywood in French. I was in for quite a surprise.
Arriving on the express bus from Nice my first impressions were overwhelming. Where does one start? Fortunately I had fallen into conversation with a chap who was looking for films to show at a horror film festival in Essex and a Swiss film director over from San Francisco. Like me she was a first-timer, but he was an old hand and escorted us to the Palais des Festivals, where we could pick up our badges.
To give some idea of the scale of the festival, the number of accredited attendees was well over 30,000 of whom 4,000 were press and media. All branches of the industry are represented, not just actors, directors and producers. From companies that make the actual film stock, to specialist lawyers and accountants and all manner of other professional services. There are representatives from film schools too and if you look at the credits at the end of any film you’ll find most of those listed will fit one accreditation category or another. I got mine as a dialogue coach – someone who works with actors on the script.
Le Palais des Festivals, the hub of the festival, is huge. At the entrance one’s pass is checked, then one is scanned with a hand-held electronic device just like airport security. Once in, two staircases lead up to several floors and numerous screening studios, press offices and exhibition spaces. Wandering around up there I also came across an exhibition of wonderful cartoons from an auction sale hosted by the Cannes Festival, in support of Cartoons for Peace.
From the main entrance another staircase leads down to Le Marche du Film – the area dedicated to the promotion of international film. The market is divided into distinct areas. One section is dedicated to yet more film companies with stand upon stand awash with posters, screens showing clips of their offerings and areas to entertain guests. There are also stands here for new digital technology, introducing new ways for audiences large and small to view film and a large cafe bar.
Then there is Le Marche proper, where the business end of the industry is undertaken. And the Purple Lounge offering more screening rooms and office facilities. The name derives from the level of access your pass allows. A purple strip gets you everywhere.
Last but by no means least, there is the Short Film Corner. This is a vibrant, lively place where the 2,178 short films accepted into the festival this year are digitally archived and available to view on demand. Some 180 of them were from the UK. To be included you pay €200 and submit your film. If it is rejected you get your money back.
During the day the somewhat misnamed ‘corner’ is bustling with the comings and goings of people using the 52 booths to watch the shorts. Others are rallying round the three mini screening rooms with three, six and nine seats respectively. These give the film-makers a chance to pre-book to show their films on a larger screen. With a free coffee bar area and places to display publicity, the Corner is a hive of activity punctuated by breakfast conferences, talks and workshops from industry gurus on pitching an idea, getting financial backing and so on. From 5 to 6pm is happy hour, with free beer and mojitos and another chance to mingle and network before moving on.
Networking is the thread that holds Le Marche together, even in the busy cafe bar area. A generous buffet at a reasonable price can be enjoyed with total strangers as everyone strikes up a conversation with table companions from around the world. The general atmosphere is one of mutual support. Everyone is there for a purpose and as with all performing arts, film is a collaborative enterprise, so everyone here is united by one passion – film.
As if the palais wasn’t enough, the festival spreads out along the coast on one side and the port side along the other, where practically every country that has a film industry has a pavilion. As well as offering a home base for nationals, they are there to promote what their country has to offer the industry and to support their film-makers to make the most of the opportunities created by such a huge gathering of professionals.
The UK pavilion was a perfect example, offering four or five events, including Q&A daily. ‘ Co-productions with New Zealand’, ‘Filming in England’, ‘Meet the UK Film Organisations’ and ‘Financing Cross Media’ for example . Also available were one-to-one meeting slots with the likes of the BFI, British Council and numerous specialists in all areas of film-making. They also did the best cup of tea that could be enjoyed on the terrace.
Attached to the Palais des Festivals with its screening rooms and ‘Les Marches Rouges’ (Red Carpet) were four other big screens hosting premières, films in competition and selected offerings including classic and recently restored films and short film competition contenders. Then a stone’s throw from the palais, four more cinemas with two screens each. One of these, ‘Les Arcades,’ is where Heckle, the film I worked on was being shown.
Accommodation at Cannes during the festival is astronomically expensive – the more central, the more expensive. A group of young British film-makers had a great idea and set up a FaceBook page for people to share information and cut costs by sharing spaces. Thanks to this page I found myself in an apartment in a holiday complex in La Bocca, (a short bus ride from the centre of Cannes) with two young film-makers, one of whom is also an actor on a break from Othello at the National Theatre and a Cannes regular with 22 festivals under his belt, back again to find more films for the new IndieCork Film Festival in Ireland. Although we may never meet again, united by the festival we enjoyed each other’s company and supported each other’s well-being and objectives.
Cannes never seems to stop. Screenings morning noon and night, premières, press conferences and the day-to-day business of industry professionals. Then there are the parties, bars and hotels. A 4 or 5am finish was not uncommon.
Most pavilions have an early evening drinks party. One needs to secure an invitation for many of them as they are very popular. A friend of mine had a delightful experience at one such party. On arrival all guests were given two cocktail vouchers. Along the bar was a man whose voucher wouldn’t scan and the bar person could not accept it. My friend offered him one of hers. A little later he approached and asked her if she would like to go to a party. She said yes and was taken to a most glorious location in the hills above Cannes. The event was a post-première party. One of her fellow guests was Leonardo de Caprio. She was so surprised to see him that her first reaction was to give him a ‘high five.’ He reciprocated. Now, there’s one for the memoirs.
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