stuff, written by me

Monthly Archives: May 2013

It’s hard  to explain the kind of “busy” and “tired” that you get at these markets. People who attend academic conferences or trade shows probably get it, because it’s the same kind of travel + frenzied activity concentrated into just a few days. It’s definitely different (for me, anyway) than attending a festival to actually watch movies. That can be tiring too, but it’s not the same as having to talk to people all the time. Of course, it’s still the south of France, and half the meetings take place over glasses of wine and the “work-related socializing” is actually a series of fun parties with open bars. And yet, the exhaustion can seep into your skin and make you feel so much more tired than you’d ever be after working a 15 hour shift at a job at home.

I’m sure that part of it has to do with the fact that you’re away from home, not sleeping in your own bed, eating foods that aren’t what you normally eat, and eating at odd hours (dinner rarely happens before 8 or 9pm here, which seems late by North American standards), and having to be “on” all the time, and often repeating the same pitch or humorous anecdote or whatever at 10 meetings in a row. It takes its toll. By the fifth day, it starts to feel like you’re just hoping to cross the finish line of a race instead of falling on the pavement.

Plus, in my own case, I definitely have some strong only child tendencies that make me prefer solitary activities. I love watching movies in dark theatres. I don’t necessarily love work-related socializing for 10 hours a day. And I definitely, definitely don’t love huge, dense, never-ending crowds. That’s just part of the reality of being here, though. There is no escape, from the crowds especially.

It's always at least this crowded on the Croisette

It’s always at least this crowded on the Croisette

To give you an example of what “busy” means for me while I’m here, I’m going to reprint my Sunday schedule:

  • 7:30 – wake up, shower, answer a few emails (only the ones that are related to today’s meetings and need ot be immediately addressed) and race out of the house to get to the Canadian Pavilion in time for a 9:00am info session.
  • 9:00 – 10:00 – info session co-presented by Telefilm Canada and the OMDC no international coproductions. More on this in tomorrow’s post.
  • 10:00 – 10:30 – sit at the Canadian pavilion and hammer out a blog post, plus answer a few emails (thank god they have wifi!)
  • 10:30 – 11:15 – meet with the OMDC and the German producer of a film I’m working on, which we hope to make a German/Canadian co-production. I also pimp my other project to them, the cool modern noir / murder-mystery thriller I’m working on with Peter Lynch. I leave them with my brochure and card, and suggest we follow up on it all when we’re back in Toronto.
  • 11:15 – 12:00 – meet with Colin, compare schedules, walk across town to our  lunch meeting. Luckily, in Cannes, “across town” is still only a 15-20 minute walk, depending on how dense the pedestrian traffic is.
  • 12:00 – 13:00 – lunch #1, with some producer + sales agent friends who have worked with some people we know. This is mostly to catch up, but also to talk about some projects that are of mutual interest to us all.
  • 13:00 – 14:30 – I race off to lunch #2, with a female producer I know (Swedish, based in L.A.) who wants to meet, hang out with, and support more women in the industry, because she’s sick of only hanging out with dudes all the time. Fair ’nuff, lady. We have a lovely lunch, and this is the only relaxing hour of my day. Meanwhile, Colin is also at lunch #2, something-or-other with the TIFF team.
  • 14:30 – 15:30 – I run to the apartment to get my jacket and answer some emails, then run out again to the Palais, another 15-20-ish minute walk from where we’re staying, along the crowded Croisette.
  • 15:30 – 16:30 – meet up with the lovely folks who bought Manborg for US distribution. We catch up, talk about how the film’s doing, make plans to meet socially in a couple of days when things are slightly less crazy.
  • 16:30 – 17:00 – run across town to meet with another sales agent. He’s delightful and has one green eye and one brown.
  • 17:00 – 18:30 – go back to the International Village and stop at the Estonian pavilion for their cocktail reception, which is being hosted by a dear Estonian friend. It’s important to support your pals. It’s not all about business.
  • 18:30 – 19:30 – wine & cheese at the apartment of yet another sales agent that Colin deals with for TIFF, but with whom we’ve become quite friendly over the years.
  • 19:30 – 20:00 – Colin dashes off to a TIFF-related meeting with his fabulous Midnight Madness publicist. I finish up at the wine & cheese (truthfully, I stuck around longer because I was having a fascinating conversation with a guy who produced Glengarry Glenn Ross).
  • 20:00 – 21:00 – Colin meets with his publicist / I get ready for the evening, put on more layers (it’s stopped raining but it’s still windy and friggin’ cold), answer more emails about tomorrow’s meetings, start slotting more stuff into the schedule.
  • 21:30 – 23:00 – Dinner with Colin and a TIFF staffer pal at our favourite pizza place. A little more down time at last.
  • 23:00 – ??? – Colin dashes off to see the new Johnnie To film at midnight, I go to the Legend of a Rabbit Party that we were invited to by a friend a few days ago. I run into the two guys we’re sharing our apartment with, which is nice because we certainly don’t see each other much at home. We’re all too tired to actually party, so we have a beer, wander around, and come back home.
  • 01:00 – I’m at home, creating the new PDF of tomorrow’s schedule document, which I save on my phone every morning so that I know who I’m meeting, when, and where. And also where Colin is at any given time, because we’re not necessarily spending our days together, if I’ve got Ultra 8 business to attend to while he takes care of his #1 top priority – TIFF.
  • 02:00 – Colin comes back home, we finally get to go to bed. The following morning, I’ll get to sleep in, but Colin has to be up around 6:30 in order to catch the 8:30 premiere of the new Takashi Miike film. Four-ish hours will just have to be enough.

Now, I know that half of that schedule seems like “party, then party, then party”. And it is. But trust me, after a few days, it gets hard to do. I bet that if you came here as a fan just to watch movies and have fun, it would be literally the most amazing thing in the world. But having to get up early for meetings and not look like shit because you’re hung over and didn’t have time to shower? Well, that does reduce the pure fun element just a smidge. And the worst part is: I didn’t get a chance to see a single movie today. There’s always tomorrow.

Who cares about sleep? I was at a party with a giant bunny head balloon!

Who cares about sleep? I was at a party with a giant bunny head balloon!


Saturday, the most persistently, brutally rainy day of the fest so far, started really well. We actually managed to get up early and make it to the 9:00am screening of Blue Ruin, which is playing in the Quinzane des Realisateurs (or Director’s Fortnight, although everyone seems to just shorten it to “Quinzane”). It’s the second feature by Jeremy Saulnier, who made the super fun comedy / horror film Murder Party in 2007.

I saw Murder Party at Toronto After Dark and loved it, and have wondered for the past several years what that guy would do next. Apparently, what he did next was work as a cinematographer on several awesome films before returning to directing the make the incredibly beautiful and touching Blue Ruin. Between Saulnier’s masterful cinematography and the emotionally charged performance of lead actor Macon Blair (so adorable in Hellbenders!), I honestly don’t know what I loved most about this film. The answer is: everything.

Macon Blair crushes it in Blue Ruin

Macon Blair crushes it in Blue Ruin

The Quinzane screenings all take place at the Theatre Croisette, inside the Palais Stephanie, which I guess used to be called the Noga, because that’s what half the people here still call it (I get that, I mean, I’ll never call the Skydome the Rogers Centre as long as I live). The Quinzane is my favourite Cannes sidebar, not only because I’ve only ever seen great films there (last year, it’s where Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers premiered, for example) but also because it seems so damn cool. They even have the best pre-screening bumper.

According to the Quinzane website, the selection was created by the French Directors Guild in the wake of the events of May ’68:

“The Directors’ Fortnight seeks to aid filmmakers and contribute to their discovery by the critics and audiences alike. From its initial program in 1969, it cast its lot with the avant-garde (the glorious seventies), even as it created a breeding ground where the Cannes Festival would regularly find its prestigious auteurs.”

Later in the day, after a few meetings in the miserable rain, we return to the Theatre Croisette to watch Jodorowsky’s Dune, the documentary about the not-making-of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s famous adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel Dune, which was ultimately made into a film by David Lynch. Even though the doc is seemingly about a failure (to make the film, at least), the story ended up being incredibly inspiring and touching, and left the audience obviously feeling like they’d been transported to a magical place by the director’s wild vision.

Oh yeah, and did I mention? AGNES VARDA SAT RIGHT BEHIND ME. SWOOOOOOOOON.

H.R. Giger's designs for Castle Harkonnen obviously influenced his designs for Alien

H.R. Giger’s designs for Castle Harkonnen for Jodorowsky’s Dune obviously influenced his designs for Alien

In the evening, we braved the rain to attend the Blue Ruin party at the fancy beachside bar Chivas House, but after two or three glasses of admittedly delicious Chivas-based punch, we were too tired and waterlogged to continue partying. Highlight of the party was getting to catch up with another Quinzane director who’s film we’ll be seeing in a few days, the awesome Jim Mickle (who came to Toronto in 2010 with the post-apocalyptic vampire film Stake Land). I highly recommend Steak Land, if you haven’t seen it.

ThassalottaChivas

ThassalottaChivas

After catching up with old friends at the party we took the long, rainy stroll home around 12:30 and felt like champions for making it such a (relatively) early night. No rest in Cannes, that’s for sure. And even though we left the party just as it was getting really good, Colin did manage to make one new friend …

Colin and his new pal arguing about cinema.

Colin and his new pal arguing about cinema


Today was filled with meetings topped off by a cocktail party and a relaxing dinner with friends. I spent part of my day strolling the long row of national pavilions, which I thought I might describe here, because they’re really a bit of a marvel of pop-up architecture. how they even manage to build the dozens (hundreds?) of small white tent-like structures in the days leading up to the fest is beyond me. And I was here a few days early and got to watch the giant trucks unloading building materials, and grumpy French guys with cigarettes dangling out of their mouths hammer it into place!

Surrounding the Palais (aka, the convention centre + multiplex / beating heart of the festival) is an endless row of white tents that form the “international village”. They’re national pavilions. Every country has their own, where the local film commission and/or talent from the region is represented, where people go to find out more about partnering with or producing in that region.

Hilariously, Quebec has a separate pavilion rather than sharing the Canadian one. Make of that what you will, and vive le Quebec libre, etc etc.

Just a small fraction of the number of International Pavilion tents.

Just a small fraction of the number of International Pavilion tents.

Most of the pavilions have “happy hour” cocktails to encourage people to come in and meet with them. So far I’ve been invited to several but haven’t had time to attend any. I’m looking forward to Estonia’s and Serbia’s most of all, because it’ll be nice to see some old friends.

Many people use the pavilions as a place to stop off between meetings and check their email (the Canadian, at least, has wifi). Others use them as a place to actually have meetings (again, the Canadian one has lots of little tables, and when the weather is nice, the back room opens out onto the beach). Sometimes, the pavilions host events – anything from info sessions to tell people about the various benefits of the country’s film industry, to informative workshops or panels for people from that country, to fun social events, to the aforementioned cocktail hours. Some of the pavilions (coughAmericancough) charge money for a ‘membership’, without which you can’t enter. At the Canadian pavilion, visitors are asked to register, and Canadians are given a (not very attractive at all) Canada lanyard to hang around their necks, which identifies them as “canuck enough to enter”. When I enter without the Canada lanyard, I routinely get glared at and asked who I am there to meet. With it, I get free espresso and a password for the wifi.

This afternoon, TIFF and the OMDC co-hosted a cocktail party (for which, miraculously, the rain actually stopped). TIFF doesn’t hold court in the Canadian Pavilion, but it does host a great cocktail party every year at the end of the endless row of pavilions, at a beachside terrace called the Plage des Palmes. It’s an afternoon affair where various Canadians and friends of the festival from around the world congregate to (what else?) drink rosé and chat.

View from the entrance to the TIFF cocktail

View from the entrance to the TIFF cocktail

My plan had been to schmooze the Canadians – introduce myself to the OMDC, talk to other Canadian producers, pimp my projects, and so on. Instead, I spent almost the entire time talking to friends. Sometimes, I am really bad at productive business schmoozing. But I did get to pull out one of my amazing purchased-in-Berlin dresses. Just a brief change of pace from the rest of my Cannes fashions, all hand crafted by my personal designer (I mean, mom).

A rare not-made-by-mom fashion creation.

A rare not-made-by-mom fashion creation.


For the past two years, the weather in Cannes has been unpredictable, and often kind of miserable. About 50% sunny and warm, and 50% torrential downpours, strong winds and cold. Really cold! I know, boo hoo, it’s still the south of France. But if this keeps up for another year, we’re all going to have to accept that climate change is real and May is no longer a great month to go bumming on the beach in the south of France.

A lot of these are getting cancelled lately.

A lot of these are getting cancelled lately.

I’m not saying “Cannes is colder than you think”, I’m saying “pack for unpredictable weather, and be prepared”. The world is changing. Weather is erratic. You never know when a blizzard might hit weeks before winter “usually” starts somewhere, or when a normally sunny spring month might turn into monsoon season.  C’est la vie. Deal with it like a pro.

Wherever you’re traveling to, dress for the worst case scenario, and if you only end up wearing your cute sun dresses, then great. If I’d planned ahead properly, I would have had a couple of cute sweaters and a really great scarf in my suitcase to wear on a day like today (high of 13 degrees, strong winds, 100% chance of rain all day). Instead, I had to go to Monoprix (supermarket that sells clothes – think French Loblaws/Joe Fresh) to buy a damn jacket. That’s because the only warm top I brought is a worn out old hoodie that I flew in because it’s comfy and cozy for a seven hour flight. But that shit ain’t gonna fly when I try to get into a party at the Chivas House on the beach later. I can’t be one of those women who freezes through their night in bare legs and arms. I need to look stylish AND BE WARM.

Poor Carey, shivering like a leaf in the wind.

Poor Carey, shivering like a leaf in the wind.


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.


Sometimes, being in a foreign place surrounded by open bar cocktail receptions, fun parties and bars full of your friends from all over the world is the best and most obvious excuse to stay out until 4am and get super wasted. And anyone who’s ever met me can probably confirm that I’m the last person to tsk tsk someone for having a few (or many) drinks or partying really hard or doing something super dumb at too-late o’clock.

But here’s the thing. Chances are, if you’ve gone through the hassle of getting all the way to Cannes, you’re probably here in a professional capacity. Few people shell out the dough exclusively to have a fun time. And if you’re here at least partially because of your career, then as fun as it is to go balls-out crazy at the open bar, you also have to think about the impression you’re making. You don’t want to be the guy who’s post-verbal and needs to be escorted home by a pal because everyone’s worried you won’t find your way alone. You don’t want to be the girl who gets overly confessional about personal or (even worse) confidential work-related info which really should be kept private. You don’t want to be the guy who is so hung over the next day that you sleep through a meeting or screening you’d been looking forward to. You don’t want to be the girl who gets a brutal cold halfway through the fest because you’re so run down from all the partying and lack of sleep.

Double fisting: appropriate with good friends!

Double fisting: only appropriate with good friends!

I mean, sure. You do want to have a few funny stories in your repertoire, but think about where you’re at in your life and career before you become a party story that everyone tells. Are you already a powerful and well respected big-shot who runs a cool company and is universally beloved by the film community? Or perhaps you’re a hot, up & coming producer or director who everyone is desperate to work with and who’s recently been profiled in The Hollywood Reporter? Then by all means, also be the guy who took off all his clothes and jumped into a pool at a posh party. It’ll be a hell of an anecdote and you might get into the gossip columns (no such thing as bad publicity, right?). But if you’re just starting out, don’t be that guy. Keep in mind the fact that you are making an impression, and that people who you don’t realize are even around are watching you, and that they will remember these things, and that one day you might end up being the guy who’s “really fun to hang out with, but I don’t think I’d hire him”.

If I look like this, take me home, please!

If I look like this, take me home, please!

So, my advice to you is this: when you’re at festivals, pick one or two nights at which you know you’ll be staying out super late and rocking hard. Hang with friends, and let loose. Have the best time ever. And the rest of the time, when you’re out in the evenings: leave early. Be mysterious. Disappear into the night. Don’t close the bar or the party. Let everyone wonder if you’ve got somewhere better or cooler to be, and go to bed instead. And on the nights that you do rock out mega hard, don’t get that much more drunk than you’d want to be in front of your boss. Or your grandma.

(file under: Kat used to party and now she’s a fuckin’ buzzkill)

 

 

 

(also file under: real talk)


Finally, the market has actually started! I’ve been here for three days already and it was starting to feel deceptively vacation-like. But it’s definitely not vacation time anymore. It’s getting harder and harder to elbow your way through the crowds on the Croisette, and the hundreds of techs and their dozens of huge trucks full of stuff are somehow all gone, even though just two days ago it seemed like half the town was under construction, with elaborate displays, booths, and beachside pavilions all being erected simultaneously.

On the first day of the market, I started slow. I grabbed the dailies (the editions of Variety, Screen and The Hollywood Reporter that are published every single day of the market with the latest news & reviews) and had a coffee at the Canadian pavilion.

The view is pretty ok at the Canadian Pavilion!

The view is pretty ok at the Canadian Pavilion!

Next up, some meetings and a general walkabout in the Palais, to orient myself to where all the various booths and offices are. Around mid-morning, while it was still kind of nice outside, Colin and I took an ice cream break, to keep our vacation vibe going.

Today was a light day, meeting-wise, so we also spent some time checking out fun one-sheets and goofy taglines for films that were being sold in the market. My favourite was “what if talking to the dead was just a download away?” I mean, seriously guys. What if?

We got invited to a screening of a film called App, for which we will actually have to download an app, prior to the screening, in order for the movie to have, I guess, its full effect? I’m not sure exactly how that works but I’m ready for it. Surely, this will be the best app-based film of the market. Not like that lame InAPPropriate Comedy. Right? Right!

Indeed!

Indeed!

My afternoon was spent in a dark theatre watching Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, where I enjoyed flesh-eating hijinx, blissfully unaware of the fact that it had started pouring rain outside. I left the house without my umbrella this morning (at least I learned my lesson from last year’s extremely rainy Cannes to pack an umbrella). It was a cold, wet walk back. Luckily, Cannes is a tiny town, so my walk “halfway across town” to our apartment took about 10 minutes.

Cabin Fever Patient Zero, in case you’re curious, was screening in the market. The film isn’t “out” yet, it hasn’t premiered anywhere, and even though there were no restrictions as to who could come into the screening (sometimes, they explicitly say “no press” or “buyers only”), it’s an implicit rule that you’re not really supposed to review movies that are just showing in the market. It’s a bit like giving TV spoilers before the show has aired. It’s not cool, and most people respect the rules, although certainly nobody could really stop the thousands of people here from tweeting or blogging their immediate reactions to what they see, so any kind of market screening is a bit of a risk. But don’t worry guys, my lips are sealed re: Cabin Fever Patient Zero!

It’s a strange middle ground between public and private here, because there are so many people attending the market that it’s impossible to consider anything here really “closed” or “private”. And yet, the entire Cannes Film Festival and Market are industry-only events. The public can’t buy tickets to the films, ever. You have to register, and the process isn’t super easy. My first time registering, I had to provide a resume, a letter of reference, and proof that I was employed by a legitimate film company in order to be accepted. I actually lied, pretending to be an employee of a festival that friends of ours run in the US, but even so, it wasn’t super easy, and the pass cost me nearly €400.

People complain about the TIFF ticketing system being convoluted, but imagine if you had to provide letters of reference just to be allowed to access the box office. And, once you have the pass, there’s still a complicated ticketing system to contend with (I summarized it in my Cannes diary last year, here).

You know it's an exclusive festival when the party invitations look like this!

You know it’s an exclusive festival when the party invitations look like this!

Because of the persistent rain, after a great dinner with some friends from a US sales agency, we decided to call it an early night. Drinking on patios just doesn’t seem as appealing when it’s drizzly and cold, which is probably best for our health and stamina. It’s only the first day. This is a marathon, not a sprint!