Even though I’ve been to Cannes twice before, this year feels like my “first year” in the sense that I’m here representing some actual projects under the banner of Ultra 8 Pictures, and having meetings with people to let them know about the cool stuff on our slate.

I recently posted on Facebook about my very first IMDB credit, which I was thrilled to get for the awesome indie horror film The Demon’s Rook, which was made by some awesome dudes in Georgia (US, not Europe) who really embody everything I love about the DIY spirit. They learned everything on their own and made a really fun and visually beautiful horror film. Part of what I’m doing here is talking that film up to festival programmers and sales agents who might be interested in playing the film at their event or representing it for international sales, so that the filmmakers can hopefully a) gain audiences and recognition for their great work, b) meet other talented folks who may be able to help them make their next film bigger and better, and c) get some money for all that hard work and hopefully repay their investors, break even, or even make a profit (crazy, I know, but sometimes it happens in the film world).

The Demon's Rook page in the Ultra 8 Pictures brochure (we have a brochure, guys!)

The Demon’s Rook page in the Ultra 8 Pictures brochure (we have a brochure, guys!)

Part of that job involves doing research – figuring out which festivals would be best to approach and which festivals care about whether they get the “premiere” of the film or would be happy to play it even if it’s been shown elsewhere (don’t underestimate the importance of this, most of the bigger fests care a lot about premiere status). It also involves research on the sales front – to find out which sales agents work with similar films and would understand the tone & sensibility of the project, and also to find out which sales agents are reputable and honest.

Part of that job involves doing research – figuring out which festivals would be best to approach and which festivals care about whether they get the “premiere” of the film or would be happy to play it even if it’s been shown elsewhere (don’t underestimate the importance of this, most of the bigger fests care a lot about premiere status). It also involves research on the sales front – to find out which sales agents work with similar films and would understand the tone & sensibility of the project, and also to find out which sales agents are reputable and honest.

Some of that knowledge comes from experience. based on dealing with sales agents for a decade, Colin can say “these guys are good”, “those guys aren’t good” or “I’ve never heard of those guys which means they’re either a sham or really, really, really new”. But if you don’t have the benefit of that experience, you can still do your own digging. Look up some of the films on a sales agent’s slate. Have you heard of them? Are they similar to your film? Are they the kinds of films you might enjoy watching, or the kinds of films your audience would enjoy? Can you look up the producers or directors of some of those films and get in touch with them to find out what their experience was like working with this sales agent? Yes, you can. It’s like checking references before you hire someone, which is actually exactly what you’re doing.

Today was jam packed full of meetings, at some of which I pulled out the Ultra 8 Pictures brochure and pointed out certain films that I thought might appeal to the person I was talking to. It’s important to feel people out and not waste their time with stuff that’s clearly not going to interest them. Nobody likes a hard sell.

One of the interesting benefits of getting to tag along to some of Colin’s meetings is seeing how the meetings go when you’re on the other side of the table. I’m trying to pitch myself to a sales agent, but when Colin goes to talk to them about TIFF, they’re pitching their films to him. Nobody likes a hard sell in that context either, but the charming, smooth sales guys somehow manage to make you want to watch a film you were sure you didn’t care about ten minutes before.

After watching a trailer for L.A. Slasher, I got to meet the real guy!

After watching a trailer for L.A. Slasher, I got to meet the real guy!

After a slew of meetings, we happily head for dinner at our favourite pizza place with our pal Travis Stevens & his wife. Travis has been on an amazing producing streak over the past few years, and he’s here because a documentary he produced, Jodorowsky’s Dune, is playing in Director’s Fortnight. If you don’t know a) who Alejandro Jodorowsky is, or b) that Jodorowsky was once supposed to adapt Dune to the screen, before David Lynch, or c) what Dune is, then definitely look all that up! It’s kind of a mindblow.

One of the weird fringe benefits of traveling around to lots of festivals is that if you make good friends in that world who live far, far away from you (like Travis, who lives in L.A.), going to fests gives you a chance to catch up with them a lot more often than you would be able to otherwise. I rarely go to L.A. and even more rarely go to Europe just for a social visit, but I’ve seen many of my film-scene friends from those places three to six times in the past year, because everyone travels for work so much. These constant mini reunions give the whole thing a nice summer camp feel. And it’s part of what makes it hard to explain that “no, really, we’re working really hard right now“.

Working really hard on the Croisette.

Working really hard on the Croisette.