In mid May I found myself in a surreal situation – I was at Cannes Film Festival. I wasn’t involved with a film that was screening, I’d been selected by Maison Scenarists – a group of French screenwriters – to pitch my screenplay idea to selected producers there.
I didn’t really know what to expect and it was certainly a baptism of fire, so here are three things I wanted to share from my experience that might be useful should you ever find yourself in the mouth of the beast.
1. It may be the digital age but you need a hard copy card. This was my big Cannes faux pas. Everyone is at Cannes to be seen and everyone within seconds of meeting presents you with their business card. 80% of the time that I shyly admitted I didn’t have one (but that they could google me or look on my agent’s website) I was regarded with a raised eyebrow – I couldn’t be a proper writer without a card on it saying so.
2. Don’t expect to see any films. This was an anathema to me, a film festival where I failed to watch a single movie! I was imagining the equivalent of an Edinburgh fringe fest for films – how wrong I was. There’s massive hierarchy to the festival, after asking for your card people have no qualms about grabbing your accreditation pass which everyone wears around their necks and judging you on the information held therein: name, profession and most importantly what level of access you have all aid the process. But even if you have high level access getting into films is tough for all but the VIPs – with high level entry you can buy tickets but still have to queue and may not get in! Even at short film corner the queues are staggering and constant. There’s also a weird phenomenon of beautiful young women appearing near the festival entrances in the evenings dolled up to the nines with signs saying ‘invitation please’ – it must work sometimes but I found it pretty creepy. I did discover this useful blog however on my last day which gives some tips on early morning screenings and other insider info should you ever need it: http://www.bestofniceblog.com/things-to-do-in-nice-by-month/may/cannes-film-festival/
3. Be yourself even if other people aren’t friendly. There’s a very unBritish dog eat dog atmosphere that can be supremely intimidating. It’s about the business not the art of films. But I think it’s important to be yourself because so many people are there putting on a pose. What’s good about that is when you meet a genuine someone you know it straight away – I was lucky enough to meet a few. And I’d recommend looking up the good folk at Maison Scenarists if you are ever there as they offer free masterclasses with screenwriters (highlights this year included one with Paul Laverty – Ken Loach’s screenwriter.)
And one more tip for luck – brush up on your French. Although many people speak English having your longline in French is very handy – just in case.