After a week in southern France, I’m back home in Halifax inspired and exhausted from my rookie experience at the Cannes Film Festival AKA the centre of the film universe.
If you read my previous posts, you’ll know I was there as part of Telefilm Canada’s Not Short on Talent program with my NSI Drama Prize short film When You Sleep.
Cannes was an amazing experience and I have no big regrets but I have to admit I do have that same nagging feeling I get after wrapping a production. You know, the thought that you want to go back and shoot everything over again knowing everything you know now. Unfortunately, time machines don’t exist … as of press time at least.
But if time machines did exist and they were cheap enough for a Canadian filmmaker to rent, this is a list of 10 things I would do differently at Cannes:
1. Get a cellphone
One of the most exciting things about attending a big international festival is meeting new people. If you make a connection with an industry person in a lineup or at a party, you want to make sure you can meet up with them again later to talk more. Believe me, you won’t just run into them at the next event. Cannes is huge and there are tens of thousands of industry people in town. A cellphone is your only good option. Check with your provider before leaving Canada and if they can’t offer you a reasonable deal for being overseas, purchase or rent a cheap cell as soon as you get to France.
2. Bring a bow tie
Be aware of the red carpet dress code for the evening screenings at the Grand Théâtre Lumière. This includes a bow tie for gentleman and heels for the ladies.
3. Bring more screeners and cards
Don’t be caught without promotional materials halfway through the festival. Remember, this is the biggest film festival and marketplace in the world and you want every programmer, broadcaster and potential collaborator you meet to see your film and know how to contact you. Warning: This does not mean walking around the festival handing out your DVDs to complete strangers.
4. Set up your meetings in advance
Do your research in the weeks leading up to the festival and make contact with who you’d like to meet before you land in Cannes. I recommend www.cinando.com and their iPhone app which includes a list of accredited professionals attending the festival. I believe Cinando is free for registrants of the Short Film Corner and marketplace badge holders.
5. Spend your time at Short Film Corner
The Short Film Corner is ground zero for short filmmakers at Cannes. There’s a lineup of guest speakers including renowned filmmakers and panel discussions with international buyers and programmers. You can visit the film library to watch shorts from around the world, get contact information for the international buyers in town and take part in the daily happy hour.
6. Don’t spend your whole trip standing in line
It’s not easy to get into the main competition films without a ticket and it’s not easy to get tickets so prepare to wait for a long time in rush lines and still be turned away. My best advice is to go to the early morning screenings or the repeat screenings the next day. You’ll still have to line up early but you have a better chance of actually getting in. Otherwise, check out some of the great films in the sidebar sections: Un Certain Regard, Director’s Fortnight and Critic’s Week.
7. Don’t miss the Canadian events
Sometimes being in a foreign country is the best way to bond with people from back home. Be aware that Telefilm, TIFF, SODEC and the Canadian Media Production Association all have events at Cannes. Go to these events and you’ll get to know your own national film community better.
8. Contact press
Being at Cannes is a big deal. Everyone has heard about the glitz, glamour and great films but few have experienced it, so naturally the media is eager to get insight. When word spread that we were in Cannes, we ended up with several radio interviews and a handful of newspaper articles. Warning: prepare to answer tough questions like: Have you seen Brad Pitt? What was Brad Pitt wearing? Does Brad Pitt look as good in person as he does in films?
9. Make yourself at home at the Canadian Pavilion
Located right on the beach in the thick of the international village, Telefilm Canada hosts the Canadian Pavillion open daily during the festival. It offers a place to connect to the internet, host meetings, show off your promotional material and even receive press calls from back home. If you’re not part of a Telefilm program, you’ll have to pay and register in advance to take full advantage of the Pavilion. Watch their website in the months leading up to the festival for info.
10. Bring an umbrella
I packed plenty of sunscreen but it rained during half my time in Cannes. Apparently, this is abnormal but be prepared for rain because the lineups for screenings and parties are all outdoors.
*Bonus tip: You can only take 1.5L of champagne back home to Canada tax free.
If you’re an emerging Canadian filmmaker and hoping to go to Cannes next year, then you won’t need a time machine – just bookmark this page!