Now that I have been back for almost a week from the Cote d’Azur, I have been meaning to relate my experience from my first ever Cannes.
First, I horrified my roommates by continually telling them I had no particular agenda. This was absolutely true. I did not set up tons of meetings ahead of time, I wasn’t there to buy or sell a film or to watch any in particular (and I didn’t see any either). What was my purpose there then?
One, I was in the area anyway having participated in two TOTBO marketing and distribution workshops in Europe just prior. Two, if you are in the industry you must be where the industry congregates. In mid May, that is Cannes. Three, the Cannes market is immensely educational. Think your film is something special? Something never seen before? Will absolutely set the world on fire, people will clamor to see its genius simply because it is so amazing? Yeah, so do the thousands (THOUSANDS!!) of other films being touted at the market and you have to see that to believe it. For all of those who proclaim if you create an amazing story, people will simply discover its genius, they are the most in need of a visit to a film market.
This education seems easier to grasp at Cannes than at AFM (haven’t been to EFM, so can’t comment) because it is much more trade show in spirit. The market floor is open with stands and it is easy to navigate the aisles. AFM is housed in hotel suites and less open to perusal by the non buying filmmaker. Everywhere you look is key art of every genre of film. Some with “stars,” lots with blood and zombies, family friendly animals and fantastical animation. Some with strong imagery but most with the utterly forgettable. Lots of people in suits, some even having meetings. I did not even go to the hotels along the Croisette where the more recognizable sales agencies and distributors house their offices. I had seen enough to know that if your film didn’t have its audience identified and gathered before it reached the Marche floor, you were in for immense competition for attention from buyers.
I did attend many discussions in the UK Film Center Pavilion on succeeding in festivals, the future of microbudget filmmaking (I tweeted that one, see #micromovies), success in short films. All free and very intimate. If nothing else, visit Cannes just to hang out in the International Village pavilions to meet the speakers, heads of film funds and film commissions to talk about co production opportunities. There was also lots of talk about the need for better marketing and distribution opportunities for independent film. You know I was all over that discussion, but our European counterparts do seem a few years behind in their thinking about this issue. Maybe it is all of that film fund money clouding their entrepreneurial judgement. From the workshops we organized and meeting some of the filmmakers on the ground, this issue is one that is slowly gaining prominence as the digital revolution spreads to Europe. VOD, mobile and digital platforms are not as developed as in the USA, and I consider ours in infancy. Not to mention crowdfunding. That has to be the next big subject for discussion in Europe.
I attended an informal brunch in the lovely hills above the Croisette to discuss what shape the digital revolution will take in Europe. Those in attendance ranged from old school film commissions intent on keeping everything as status quo as possible to forward thinkers who could imagine a world free of territories and windows for content. The discussions we had there will continue online and I look forward to participating in them even though I am not from Europe so my perspective is less government support dependent.
One of the highlights was watching the antics of filmmaker Chris Jones as he worked the place to chronicle every part of his Cannes journey. The yacht blag was my favorite story! He did his best to make sure that his readers, and now viewers of his LiveStream show, could see exactly what goes on at one of the world’s most glamorous events. Chris is a filmmaker after my own heart as he shares all he knows with other filmmakers and ultimately he is building up a fan base for all of his future work. A role model for sure to those aspiring to build a sustainable career in independent film.
So, as Chris would ask, what are my top 3 takeaways from Cannes? 1)Go, especially before you make a film. It is very valuable to realize that what you are asking to do when you pursue filmmaking is participate in a business. A very competitive and conniving business. That point is made crystal clear when you enter the Marche floor. 2)Soak up as much knowledge as you can from this or any major film event. Try to go without preconceived notions of how things work. At the moment, everything is in flux, no matter what anyone is trying to tell you. Everyone from the most stalwart studio to the newest venture is trying to figure out the future. Your ideas are just as valid as anyone else’s and you have every right to choose and pursue your own path to success. 3)Cannes is very inspirational. The films that play in the festival are considered among the top in the world, no matter what their gross ends up being. It is exciting to feel a part of this industry and I am not sure you can feel that any better than at Cannes. I am not talking about the fame and the glitz. The true artistry, the creativity, the meeting of the minds. All of this really crystallized for me why I would be drawn to such a bizarre profession, visual storytelling. There is so much energy and hopefulness in being around filmmakers from around the world that it sends you home with the feeling that you aren’t alone in your struggles and that your game has to come up so much more to compete.
See you next year on the Croisette!
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