I’m up way early today for the first day of the festival and market, not because I set my alarm for 6am in order to be incredibly well prepared, but because I had a crazy nightmare about being car-jacked. The silver lining here is that I’ve got time to do my hair and write a blog post over breakfast!

Nothing has begun yet, so I’m going to recap a bit of what I probably already covered in more detail in last year’s diary entries for The Substream. It’s worth repeating, though, because the film market is such a weird thing.

Today’s the first day of the Cannes Film Festival but also the first full day of the Marché du Film (aka the film market). As far as the festival’s concerned, it’ll be a quiet day, much like the opening day of TIFF or any other fest. There will be a screening tonight of the opening night film, The Great Gatsby, and undoubtedly a million different opening parties of varying levels of exclusivity.

As far as the market goes, today will be the first day of total frenzy, with hundreds of booths in the Palais des Festivals (it’s a convention centre with a multiplex in it, basically) and dozens of offices in various hotel suites and buildings scattered all over the Cannes downtown core, opening their doors to the film biz types who are here to buy, sell, finance, develop, produce, market, program, or otherwise manhandle movies.

For a little bit of context, consider the fact that the Cannes Film Festival is actually kind of small. It screens approximately 80 feature length films. 20 of those are in Competition for the Palme d’Or (that is, the big deal red carpet affairs that get most of the press). The rest are out of competition, in Un Certain Regard or part of the other sidebar selections, Critics’ Week and Directors’ Fortnight. For comparison, TIFF showed 289 features in 2012.

However, in the shady parallel world / underbelly of the Market, over 4,000 films will be screened this week, to a staggering 10,000+ buyers and sellers from around the world. You think you have a hard time deciding what to see at TIFF? That’s like 13 TIFFs.

This is the market guide. It's 1200+ pages.

This is the market guide. It’s 1200+ pages.

The thing about the market, though, is that it’s unregulated. At a film festival, there’s an expectation of quality, because someone actually took the time to watch a whole bunch of films and select the best ones for their festival. Occasional stinkers notwithstanding, that system works pretty well. At the market, anyone can book theatre space if they have the cash, and films of any level of quality can get equal(ish) play, though obviously a careful study of the market guide will tip you off to what’s likely to be good or not. These films aren’t “premiering at Cannes” in the same way that The Great Gatsby is. This is just a business convention, and, as the name “market” might indicate, it’s where people go to buy, sell and make deals. It’s where other festivals’ programming teams go to watch freshly completed films and meet with various company reps to see what will be done in time for their fest. I know, you’re thinking “sure, I’d work for 15 hours a day if I got a free trip to the south of France too”.