May 15, 2012

Preface to the 65th Cannes Film Festival: Blow Shit Up

*NOTE: I wrote this while falling asleep so please ignore mistakes. This will be revisited when I awake tomorrow.

Today I began my journey into the 65th Cannes Film Festival: the Prelude. The festival begins tomorrow night, but with our passes, we were able to get a taste of what’s to come. For those of you unaware, I am taking part in the fabulous Penn-in-Cannes program. For one credit, I get to take part in this amazing festival in the experience of a lifetime. Unless it's not, which would be ideal. I'd like for this lifestyle to be on repeat.

We woke up this morning to a beautiful day, filled with sun and glamour as we began our tour of Cannes. The city is lined with the ritziest shops, a sharp contrast to the more touristy Nice, and much more reminiscent of our trip to Monte Carlo (for more on our trip to Nice and Monte Carlo, read my friend Sharon’s blog). Nicola, my advisor and one of the leaders of the trip, had given us our passes earlier in the morning, so we were prepped and ready to take advantage of the day.

The main festival area was a myriad of white tents rising against the sky, only matched by the sails and yachts just behind it. Little flags decked the tents, representing each country that was there, but they were only in the preliminary stages.

Hayley, Sharon, Jaycee, Chris, Takara, Ari and I approached the main entrance of the pavilion, unsure of what to expect. We presented our passes, and after a brisk wanding were allowed to go inside. And yes, our jaws dropped at the sight of images of the festival plastered around the room.

We walked down and found the area in which we were able to pick up our free, patent leather, totally awesome bags. (Free, if you discount the exorbitant amount of money we had to pay to get here.) And to top it off, the people were nice enough to replace mine after the zipper broke five minutes later! We then proceeded to leave and take a walk down the promenade, where Hayley and I decided to stop for some gelato. As surprising as it is that I wanted gelato, other people didn’t understand why I would want that before lunch. There was a brief separation from the rest of the group, and Hayley and I took the opportunity to brush arms with the yachts of the rich and famous. Unfortunately, the rich and famous weren’t aboard their yachts, but we figure that we have plenty of time for that.

When we met up with the group again, we returned to the pavilion, with increased confidence thanks to our lovely black badges. We went underneath to the market area. People were just beginning to arrive and set up their stands – which we later discovered cost a small fortune. Who would have thought that a relatively mundane booth could replace the cost of financing an entire movie?

We decided to take advantage of this time to learn more about how production companies worked to get their films picked up by distributors. One person we spoke to told us a little bit about how the process works at Cannes. Each company has to fight for different distributors to pick up their movies, and from Phil Gorn’s perspective (of Wonderphil Productions), Cannes is an important venue for producers to sell films, but is less efficient than sending out emails. He told us that he found most of his success comes from sending out emails to everyone, because the digital world makes it easy to get the word out to a large group of people with minimal effort, whereas setting up at the festival is expensive and much more inefficient. However, another production company told us that Cannes and other markets are where some of the most important sales of the year come from and that Cannes is where certain companies make the majority of that year’s profit.

One of the most interesting people I spoke to was Miriam Elchanan of Fabrication Films, a company that specializes in blockbusters, faith-based, and LGBT films. At first I was confused… aren’t Christian and LGBT audiences at odds with one another? Oil and water mix just as well. She explained to us that the Christain and LGBT audiences are very different, and also very distinct. Therefore, it is crucial to find the markets that are most relatable for each type. For example, Christian films mostly sell in the US and Australia, whereas LGBT audiences are primarily situated in liberal countries with large gay populations.
Totally up my alley.
She then gave us some great advice. People love to see shit being blown up. Dramas don’t sell internationally because people want to see their own country’s dramas which are more pertinent to them (except for specific instances, like WWII dramas, which are popular in many countries, although not in Eastern Europe). Things being blown up is something universally adored, particularly in Asian countries. As an exemplum, she showed us a poster of their new movie Hell Beast, which seemed ridiculous to us, but is expected to be a great success in China and Japan.

One thing she said that really stuck out to me was about race in film overseas. She said that urban films rarely sell well abroad, making them unviable films as 80% of a film’s revenue often comes overseas. When I pressed her on the reasons behind this phenomenon, she said that oftentimes race isn’t a prevalent factor in overseas societies like Scandinavia. How could someone in Thailand understand African American culture? (Although Big Momma’s House just hit it BIG over there). It became clear to me through this conversation just how particular each region was in  its tastes, and how each distributor must cater to the audience in order to find profit and avoid loss.

We were about to leave when we ran into Hayley’s camp friend Zoe, an intern for The Weinstein Company. She had just flown in, was exploring the area, and was the best. She has an amazing opportunity to work for TWC at the festival as an acquisitions intern and gets to participate in the whole festival. (The lucky girl gets to reserve invitations already, while we have to wait until the 23rd!)

We parted ways, and my group spent some time on the beach, bronzing hard. Hayley and I took a nice little stroll, while Chris, Ari and Takara went off to shop. Sharon slept on the beach, a new and exciting event for her. We then went back to get ready for dinner.

Your hair looks sexy pushed back.
You may have played dumb in The Help,
but damn you can act.
We had a wonderful meal at a little restaurant in the cobblestoned streets of Cannes – and then went out for some drinks. On the way, Sharon had her first celebrity siting. I’ve never seen anyone more excited to see a D-list celebrity cross her path. Yes, folks, it was Mean Girls’ very own Aaron Samuels. Thrills on thrills. So as Sharon continued to freak, we approached a bar, when, who should casually emerge but Jessica Chastain, this year’s nominee for Best Supporting Actress from The Help. That was pretty thrilling, I must say.

After drinks, we walked back and decided to call it a night. I took some more time to continue investigating which movies I want to see. The selection is incredible! I want to see everything and I feel like I won't even have the time. I definitely want to see everything in the Official Selection, but am unsure of where to go from there. I've mapped out the times for every day's screenings, so let's see what I can get! I have faith that if I can't charm the tickets out of someone's hands, at the very least I can pretend that there's something in my eye, snatch, and run away as fast as I can. Fingers crossed it doesn't come to that.
 I write these last words as my eyes begin to shut, so please forgive me for any glaring errors, grammatical and otherwise. Tomorrow we have an exciting day as the festival begins and we finally learn what the passes we have actually mean. Get prepped to see me decked out in a tux! 

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