For film producers, the Cannes Film Festival is one of those markers of the professional year, in much the way anniversaries and birthdays mark the personal passing of the years for most. It comes around every year with seemingly ever increasing frequency and it is a (not always welcome) time for corporate and professional self-examination. Inevitably it is time to reflect on where you were last year and where you hope to be next year.
The reason that the attendance of the festival is so critical for producers is that alongside the glamorous world of red carpet screenings and starry press conference, the film industry’s biggest market also takes place during the festival. This means that the length of the famous Croisette is packed full of expensive apartments and hotel rooms which become temporary bases to international film distributors, sales agents and financiers who know that these 10 days may be the most critical of the year. Also in attendance are thousands of film producers, trying to sell, position, finance and package the films on their slate. The opportunity to find all the key players of the business in one place for 10 days is an opportunity too valuable for most too miss.
Weeks or often months of planning goes into the schedules of everyone involved in the festival whether they are buying, selling or financing films. I am writing from a producer’s perspective and thankfully that means that we do not have to be there for the full 10 days but can usually get in and out in 4 to 5 days. I say thankfully because I’ll let you in on a little secret: Cannes is exhausting and not generally the fun and glitz that people imagine when you mention you are off again to the festival. Certainly there is plenty of fun to be had as there are countless receptions and parties every nights and lots of opportunities to catch up with old colleagues and friends. Star spotting is inevitable and the setting is beautiful. There is often, during the flight over and over the initial day or two, the atmosphere of a middle-aged school trip.
However, the days start early and end late. The famous Croisette which hugs the beachfront of Cannes is 2 kms long and the offices of all the participants are dotted along its length. So a lot of time is spent hoofing up and down it, in the heat, trying to perform at top level in meeting after meeting, where a lot is at stake. And with an estimated tripling of the town’s population during the festival, not to mention the huge influx of star spotters that descend in on day trips, the Croisettte is jammed with people hurrying back and forth. And Cannes is ultimately a holiday town: the weather and the setting make you feel like eating an ice-cream on the beach would be a much more appropriate way to spend your time. As the days wear on and the feet wear out, it can be hard to keep the energy going.
But you do, because despite all that, the festival is our festival. It is the biggest gathering of our community and colleagues. And it is most high profile opportunity to get out there, show what you’ve got and pitch for your life. And even when your feet are screaming, your spirit is waning and you are sick of the sound of your own voice; you must go on: this is show business after all.
Rebecca Flanagan is a producer for Treasure Entertainment