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News And Views

News & Views

Cannes Sea
  • 27 May 2016
  • Alan Wanders

How to Avoid being Crushed by the World’s Most Famous Film Festival

Just like you saw on the Mail Online, this year at Cannes beautiful and talented people walked up red, carpeted stairs to sit in cool darkness and watch a love story set in the Bronx. Meanwhile, in the basement of the palace, a man called Giles watched a film called Gimp Tiger he abandoned just after the four-minute mark.

Guess which one I wrote.

Gimp Tiger is a rom com that frames the squabbles between a theatre power-couple around the rehearsals of the controversial play that lends its name to the film. Between me and the director we might have repeated that single sentence a hundred times over the course of the festival, but here it is again.

Why were we at Cannes?

We applied and were accepted, it was weirdly simple. Making the most of the opportunity when you’re there is not simple. The Cannes Short Film corner was established to introduce upcoming filmmakers from around the world to industry big shots, each other, and incredible fame (maybe). But if you’re not loaded, Cannes can be cruel: compared to most amateur efforts, the films in competition look as though they’ve been shot in heaven by God himself, so you have to get used to repping the ugly duckling.

And don’t go swanning about neither. In the former fishing village where for a few days a year nothing is quite real, you need to be genuine. Booking in time with buyers and producers is a must, but don’t act like Fellini. Why would Fellini need funding and advice? Be honest, let them know where you’re at and what you need, and dress comfortably. Having said that, don’t wear shorts, nobody wears shorts.

Almost nothing suggests Cannes is accessible to the man on the street. Behind the paps are scruffy, lost-looking folk with cardboard signs asking for tickets to a film directed by Sean Penn: for the rabble it’s hardly glamorous. In fact, Cannes doesn’t even do tickets, it does invitations. So even with a festival pass you need to request an invitation from the box office, which is really a ‘we’ll call you’ thing with invitations handed out according to your celebrity status. All the signs were there: Cannes is resting on its laurels and giving égalité a big French shrug.

But the Short Film Corner is a different story. Although heavy on strip lighting and short on square meters, this part of the festival hosted a huge database of films with the contact details of the people behind them. What it lacked in swank it made up for in opportunities to meet filmmakers from around the world.

While Cannes is never going to pretend it’s anything other than the cream of the cream (that’s its shtick), the Short Film Corner shows how a major festival can use collaborative technology to give the stage to a new wave of filmmakers, even if their cuts are a little rough around the edges.