Hi Film Folk!
With Cannes Film Festival just a couple of days away (16-27 May 2012) and quite a few of you preparing to attend for the first time, the Film Doctor Team thought to compile a ‘visiting Cannes tips list’. We also spoke to a ‘Cannes regular’, writer, director & producer, Chris Presswell – screening his work at both the Marche du Film and Short Film Corner sections of the festival this year.

Film Doctor’s Cannes Prescriptions:
  • Go when you have something to show – even if your film is not screening in any category that year, don’t attend ’empty handed’, have a project under way or at least be able to introduce yourself as “Producer/Director/Writer”, not “Filmmaker.”
  • Do a little research of people and companies attending and aim to match names to faces before you arrive – you want to be talking to the right people and be able to recognise who’s who as soon as possible.
  • Don’t spend your whole time ‘hanging around’ with other Directors/Producers/Writers – Cannes is the place to put yourself on the ‘gate keepers’ radar: distributors, agents and the like.
  • Don’t forget your business cards.
Cannes Film Festival
Chris Presswell’s Cannes Experience:
Could you tell us about the first time you took your project(s) to Festival de Cannes? 

The first time I attended the Cannes Film Festival, I’d been persuaded to go by a friend whilst drunk. Not that it took much persuasion; I’d wanted to go since I was about 13 years old, but I wasn’t sure I could afford it. An intoxicated EasyJet booking later, I ended up putting a film in the Short Film Corner, and learned that a man can in fact survive a week solely on canapés.

What lessons did you take with you and how did you incorporate that in the work that followed? 
I actually learned a hell of a lot about how the film industry works, and how films are bought and sold. In fact, I’d recommend that everyone’s first Cannes is done for fun. It’s very different from other festivals and can be a pretty overwhelming experience, so not having to get to grips with it while attempting to do any business will leave you with a much clearer head, and a little bit less insane. It made my return trip in 2010 with Missed Connections a lot less stressful.

Your view/experience of the Marche du Film, Cannes Court Metrage and Cinefondation opportunities? Who should aim for what?
If you’re going as a filmmaker, regardless of which branch of the festival you fall under, your aim should be to meet people. For ten days, the world’s entire film industry is in a small town on the French coast. These are people who can help get your film made. Go and say hello to them.
Find somewhere with a free bar. That’s generally where they loiter.
What are top 3 things that filmmakers often forget when preparing for Cannes? How should they be approaching it?
The main thing is to know why you’re going. Have a clear objective, and an idea of what exactly it is you’re trying to achieve. The number of people I’ve met over the years with no idea why they’re there is astounding, and their strategy hasn’t been developed any further than, ‘go to Cannes, find £2 million.’ It doesn’t work like that. Figure out who you’re trying to meet, and then work out how to meet them. For bonus points, work out why they should want to meet you, and make sure that you tell them that.
And for God’s sake, don’t forget your business cards.
Your ‘Cannes tips’ for first-timers? 
It’s advice that applies to people who aren’t first-timers too, but have fun. Don’t go in with unreasonably high expectations. If you’re under the illusion that you’ll find someone who’ll just hand over £2 million, then I’m sorry to tell you that you’re wrong. But what you can do is meet people who can be beneficial to your career, and potentially get you a little bit closer. If you meet just one person who can make a major difference to your project, you should consider that a successful Cannes.
Also, embrace your circumstances. On my first trip, my hotel room was 5km from the festival hub, and directly above the collection window of a McDonald’s Drive-Thru. It was horrible, dirty and populated with staff who failed to lock your door after ‘cleaning’ the room. But you know what? I was in Cannes.
And lastly, a Cannes story to share… 
I think the strangest Cannes experience I’ve had to date (that isn’t libellous) was in 2010. On a particularly long Sunday, we’d managed to go to seven consecutive parties and receptions, and had been drinking constantly for around 14 hours. Having accidentally wound up at a sposors’ party (it’s Cannes; it happens), it emerged that Benicio Del Toro was in the corner, having his photograph taken by members of the press.
So I wandered over to take a look, and in a shameless bout of self publicity, stood behind him while holding a Missed Connections flyer, attempting to get it into shot. And then, in a moment of severe dutch courage, I flyered him. To be fair, he seemed very welcoming of the drunken mess stood before him, and promised that he’d try and see it. I don’t think he ever did, but we took the opportunity to celebrate by going to the pub.
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Any questions/thoughts/experiences of your own??? Leave a comment below!
Have a great week!
The Film Doctor Team
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