A brief intro: I met filmmaker Michael Daye (based in south-west England) when we were both participating in the Visions Film Festival in North Carolina in March. When he mentioned that he would be attending Cannes later in May, I humbly asked him if he wouldn’t mind sharing the experience on the blog. You can watch the official Shorts Corner selection, “Aldilà” HERE and see more at http://michaeldaye.com/. A big thank you again to Michael for offering this great recap for us all. — Christina B.
As a filmmaker just starting out, one of my ‘bucket list’ checkboxes has been to attend the Cannes Film Festival at some point. When the opportunity presented itself to me a few months back, I just couldn’t bear to say no, even though I was maybe not as ‘ready’ as I would have liked to be. Nonetheless, it was a massively worthy endeavour, and something I would recommend to anyone wanting a leg-up in the film business.
The film I was taking with me was “Aldilà”, my graduation project. A ten-minute experimental piece on the subject of the afterlife, it’s not the most sellable of films on paper, but I was hoping that it showed enough of what I was about that it could act as a sort of showreel for potential buyers or collaborators.
I submitted the film for the consideration of Real Ideas Studio, a group dedicated to introducing filmmakers to the festival circuit. Though US-based, the programme takes on applicants from all countries and backgrounds, hosting them in the town and mentoring them through the slightly intimidating experience of promoting your film amidst thousands of other filmmakers.
The Short Film Corner pretty much took up the entire bottom floor of the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, with each studio taking over a booth to run its operations. At the end of the floor were the viewing booths, where one could watch any of the two thousand short films taking part this year. In addition to this, participating filmmakers could book a small private screening room to show their work to potential investors… or just a group of friends. I wound up pulling random passersby in to make up numbers, a tactic I probably won’t use again next time.
Given that this was effectively my first proper film festival experience, I felt way out of my depth trying to push my experimental university project on people. The key thing to remember is that you are one of many, that in order to be ‘discovered’ you have to single out the people you think might be interested in what you do. The best asset you can bring here is a motormouth – be a bit gutsy and overambitious about your goals, as most connections at Cannes start simply from chit-chat. I don’t talk from experience here, I barely talked to anyone and I’m kicking myself for it.
Of course, a large part of the desire to visit Cannes involves watching all the big films, or even just watching famous people. In both instances there were problems, and before long they weren’t a particular priority for me. Booking films could be done one of two ways, either by accessing a link or visiting the foyer of the Palais. In either case, you have to consider that all of the films in competition are going to be massively oversubscribed, so ‘first come first serve’ is not just a bit of friendly advice, it’s a gameplan. Take the opening film Moonrise Kingdom for example – we had been advised to visit the website at 8am on the day to book tickets… by 8:01am, all three screenings were fully booked. Bear in mind the theatre has 2,300 seats.
Because of this high demand, there were people in front of the Palais begging for tickets all hours of the day. It seemed to work for some people more than others, but standing in the rain for hours with a piece of paper is an activity I’d happily sidestep.
I don’t really consider celebrity-spotting to be a particularly important pursuit, but like everyone else I was sort of secretly hoping to bump into one or two during my trip. Best advice I can give here is to stop looking – while waiting outside the Artists’ Entrance will guarantee you a photograph or two, the town is crawling with celebrities anyway, and they may be more approachable sipping champagne by the beach than on the red carpet.
Perhaps I am not the ideal ambassador for the festival, but as a filmmaker still getting to grips with my long-term goals, the experience really set me straight. Finding out what people are looking for means you can tailor your next few years’ worth of projects without losing your integrity. More importantly, it’s not just about seeking out one or two bigwigs – the person next you at the bar could be your new collaborator.