Monday Prescriptions – What can you take away from Cannes? (AKA Cannes characters, market moves and you)

Hi Film folk.

The 66th Cannes Film Festival has now drawn to a close (winners here) and The Film Doctor Team would like to share something with you…

Towards the end of the market we overheard two young filmmakers utter the words ‘back to the airport – we came, we saw, we achieved nothing’. Sad, and funny, words to hear.

Well WE want to make sure this isn’t going to be YOU, whether at the next market or simply as the days go by and your dream of making a film (or 10) seems ever elusive.

So today The Film Doctor Team are wrapping Cannes up with pointers for everybody, regardless of whether you attended the market this year or not.



Cannes Characters

The market is an assortment of different people all working at different companies with different approaches to the business. Here you will find CEOs who used to work in oil and acquisitions guys whose eyes have been glued to cinema/TV screens since the age of 4. You will find companies ‘sensitive to the material’ and others who want ‘guns, gals and guts’. You will find people who want projects based on quality and meaning and others who ‘need action’. Neither are wrong or right. They are different and you must know where you fit in. The companies keen on ‘slashers’ will not take your period romance story (although there are some crossovers). Don’t waste your time or theirs.

Another big waste is speaking to companies that don’t deal with your stage of development/production. Some companies only deal with acquisitions of completed films. Some want to work with you creatively from the start. So do not waste your time trying to impress an acquisitions guy who only wants completed films about your ‘great idea’ or approach a distribution company who only work from inception with your completed film.

Similarly, don’t approach the wrong person in the company – if you’re looking for co-production then you’ll need to speak to their production guy/gal or a creative executive, not acquisitions or sales.

NB/ Obviously these are general rules here. You may accidentally hit it off with someone at a party who happens to know someone. At the market, however, you should be targeting the right people.



What those two young filmmakers may have done is spent too much time partying and ‘festivalising’ than doing their due diligence at the market. Many buyers, financiers et al do not even profess to attend parties while in Cannes. Why? Because they’ve been to the market for the last 14 years, have children, miss them and have just had a long day in meetings and have more meetings (involving a lot of money) to attend the next day. Yes, to your twinkling, new-to-Cannes, doe-eyes everything looks so magical and exciting but be warned, if you’re seriously trying to shift something you should be spending 80% of your time selling it at the market. Not at parties/screenings.

NB/ This is not to negate the important relationships that can be made at parties but to get you focused. ACTORS! Parties might be the VERY place for you!



Did you try and set up meetings in advance?? Most companies set their meetings up months ahead of the market. So, make sure you get in early and have some official time appointed.



You MUST ensure your budget fits the cast (unknowns? A-list?) and director that you are aiming for. Nobody is going to give $50m to a first-time director and producer partnership. Similarly you will not make a $1m drama with Tom Cruise. Do your research into budgets, genres, actors and concepts to understand the realms of reality for you and your film.


Your Package

What those two young filmmakers may not have thought to do is have a completed package.

Now depending on the type of movie you are making (or what your role is) this could mean anything from a finished screenplay to a finished film. Either way you need to bring out the big guns. If you’re a screenwriter then promotional visuals or even a trailer can assist your pitch (‘Hey, I’m just a writer. I’m LOOKING for a producer. I shouldn’t have to do that’ – Times have moved on, get with them). Otherwise the phrasing of your story must be so rich in description (this means succinct and powerful NOT waffly) that even the most mindless money guy can picture all.

If you’re a director then previous shorts, commercials or music videos are an absolute must but we would still recommend visual aids to pitch your specific project (posters and a trailer). Producers, all of the above.


Small Fish Syndrome

Many come to Cannes, or other film markets, and suddenly feel like their movie, the one that has controlled their entire existence for 2 years, the one that they shunned friends and ‘real life’ for, is suddenly nothing more than a piddling plankter in an overwhelmingly depressing and indifferent ocean. The Film Doctor Team happen to disagree. Yes, you will see that there are thousands upon thousands of films lined up on shelves ready to go and yes, maybe you’re not that special after all. BUT think about it. There are thousands upon thousands…and so there must be a small spot for little old you.

With the right attitude, a market-friendly approach and knowing where you fit in, you will be one of those thousands.



The key, really, is to know all of this BEFORE approaching anybody and BEFORE attending a market. Read the trades. Study the market. Attending Cannes or Berlin or AFM (or any other market) is not inexpensive and it is better to know what you can (via helpful information from Film Doctor and other online publications) so your trip is put to good use.


Anything we’ve missed? Any stories of your own???

If you’ve been to Cannes or any other market and have success or failure stories to share please do include them in the comments section below. We’d love to hear them!


‘Monday Prescription’ No.65 – Get to know the market before you take the market plunge. Create realistic projects (that have a market), approach the right companies and you should be on your way.


Have a great week!

The Film Doctor Team
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