** Note: I’ve been behind on finishing the blog entries because I caught the mother of all Cannes Colds toward the end of the fest, but since I’m finally starting to see the light at the end of that tunnel, I figured I’d wrap up my last few days’ worth of diary entries. The rest will come tomorrow, and next week a mini roundup of my favourite films from Cannes 2014! Enjoy, and stay healthy, friends. **
Thursday May 22
This was one of those days that started out as a semi-failure (pouring rain, a failed attempt to get into the 11:30am screening of Fabrice Du Welz’s Alleluia) and then turned into a totally successful three movie bonanza!
The rain definitely put the kibosh on my desire to race around getting things done (you know, buying gifts for family, etc) so I stayed in the apartment, caught up on some emails, worked on that cursed Telefilm application (cursed only because they make it more complicated than the guidelines would have you believe. There are way more little details once you enter the actual back end of the online submission system, and many were quite time consuming. I was pretty motivated to get it the hell done though, so I was glad to be able to spend some time on it – that is, until the system kicked me out for maintenance, or something. Cursed, I swear.
In the evening, we managed to secure hard tickets to Alleluia, which was one of my most hotly anticipated titles and absolutely did not disappoint. It’s a Belgian take on The Honeymoon Killers and it’s both supremely weird and very fantastic. There are many friends to whom I want to heartily recommend this one.
The perfect double bill was semi-accidentally created when we also managed to land tickets to the remastered 40th anniversary screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Watching a gorgeous restoration film with a crowd (a very fancily dressed crowd, I might add) really drove home the point of how amazing the film actually is. It doesn’t jut “hold up” after 40 years. It actually could easily stand against any horror film of the present day in terms of good villains, incredibly creepy production design and generally effective terror. We haven’t improved a lot on that formula in the last four decades, honestly.
The film was preceded by a really moving introduction by Nicolas Winding Refn, who talked about how this was the film that inspired him to want to make movies. He also talked about how Tobe Hooper deserved to win the Palme d’Or 40 years ago. Refn was full of zingers about his own career and jokes about how soon he’d win a Palme d’Or himself. “Oscars you buy,” he said, “Palmes you earn”. He implored the audience to give him an “emotional Palme d’Or” by standing and applauding for him – which the audience did for such a long time that Hooper was visibly moved by the time he came on stage. It was actually really moving. Tears were shed.
After the Texas Chainsaw Massacre experience, we raced over to the Palais to catch the Korean film screening at midnight, The Target. It was raining while we stood in line, and we didn’t have umbrellas, but what the hell, the weather’s been great all week so who’s complaining? The film itself was fun enough, but if it had been English language, I highly doubt we’d be talking about it right now and there’s no way in hell it’d be screening in Cannes, y’know what I mean?
The triple-bill left us dinner-less so we hoofed it up to our old neighbourhood (circa two years ago) nearer the train station to a small kiosk that sells shockingly good baked goods until very, very late at night. Walked home with some cheesy pastries and Merguez sausage rolls and avoided the Petit Majestic entirely, because sometimes you just have to eat flaky pastries and fall the hell asleep. Besides, it’s not like it was even early. The midnight films actually start at 12:30 in Cannes and are rarely on time, so by the time the 2+ hour film let out it was nigh on three o’clock.
Anyway, this is my tip for you for next year. If you need a late night snack, this place is called Au P’tit Creux d’Azur. It’s got a blue awning and is on Rue de Maréchal Foch just south of Place de la Gare (so, really, right by the train station). It’s about one block east of the big Monoprix and it’s open very, very late. Trust me on this. It is the best tip I’ve given you all month. I just wish I’d remembered earlier.
Wednesday May 21
This was a no-movies day. Not because I screwed up my schedule but actually by design. Sometimes, you have to prioritize meetings, not to mention catching up on the work that’s piled up at home. Colin and I have the June Royal calendar to put to bed in the next few days and he’s been hard at work contacting distributors about titles we want to show.
Meanwhile, one of the films I’m working on, a noirish murder mystery with Peter Lynch (of Project Grizzly fame, among many other things) is at a polished enough stage to be ready to start hunting for dollars. We’ve already applied to the OMDC and have been prepped to send our stuff to Telefilm for a couple of weeks now, but their nightmarishly Kafkaesque system of signing up for the electronic submission systsem has caused a few delays.
If I’d known, for example, that they would only send me the PIN by registered mail, and that my housesitter would not be able to pick it up from the post office (because he is not me) and that even after convincing them to give me the PIN electronically (after days and days of delays) that it would still not work, because they didn’t correctly inform me about whether to sign up as an “individual” or “company” … well, let’s just say that if I’d known it was approximately 100 times more time consuming than signing up for any other online protal I’ve ever dealt with, I’d have started the process months ago, in anticipation of submitting something in May.
But who’s complaining? I’ve got my application ready, I’ve talked to someone at their office to ensure that it’s not too late to submit, and I’m doing it. From Cannes. At specific and somewhat inconvenient hours, because even though this is all online, it’s still got “hours”. Sigh.
The way Telefilm’s film fund works, for production, anyway, is that they open the doors to submissions at a certain point in the year (March-ish) and then start giving money away until the year’s allotment is depleted. So, it’s in one’s best interest to apply early, as they’re usually tapped out by June (sometimes money frees up in the fall when projects get stalled or postponed but that’s another matter). I was nervous about applying so late, but we weren’t ready before now so it’s kind of moot. And, we’ve been talking to them about our project since last fall, so they’re ready for it and have assured us it’s not too late. Fingers crossed, eh? It should be submitted completely by end of day Friday (today, as I write this).
Other than wrestling with the bureaucratic beast that is our national film agency, I did also manage to have a completely wonderful lunch with a bunch of super cool genre film ladies (three in sales, one in distribution, a couple in festivals, and one other producer), an annual thing that my mogul-in-training friend Ivy Lam has been organizing at every market for the past couple of years. It’s actually wonderful to connect with other women working not only in film but also in the very boys-club-ish niche of genre.
On the topic of “women” and all that, here’s an example of why Colin’s feminist outburst this week was so appreciated by so many. While at the lunch I heard a story from one of the festival programmer ladies about her attempt to politely reject someone’s (offensive) film and being told that he’d like “one of the male programmers” to look at it. That guy can go fuck himself.
In the evening we caught up (at Papa Nino’s yet again, it’s becoming a major habit) with two friends – the always charming Lane Kneedler of AFI Fest and one of my favourite film journalists, Drew McWeeny (a truly wonderful human, too). Movies are, of course, not to be underestimated. But the best part of having a travel-heavy festival schedule is the fact that you get to catch up with friends from far away. Because, let’s face it, I can’t actually go to London, Tallin, L.A., New York, Paris, Munich, Tokyo every year, but there are a lot of people who I love dearly in all of those cities, and it’s nice to at least see them here, in Berlin, and at TIFF (lucky me for living in one of the hubs).
After dinner, we had a drink at the Grand with an agent friend (a French expat living in L.A.) who gave both Colin and I some really inspiring career and life advice. More on that in a future blog post!
Of course, we ended up at the Petit Majestic at the end of the night. I don’t need to tell you how that ended. All I will say is, I did not drink any “Desperados” and that is, in itself, a victory.
Tuesday May 20
Is it really day seven? Has this really been going on for a week? It feels like three weeks at least. That karaoke party I went to … last night? It was at least a fortnight ago, I know it in my bones! I can feel my body aging at an accelerated pace as I ping-pong between movies and meetings in the hot sun, forgetting to eat for 12 hours at a time until I land at a dinner where the portions of rich, fatty, delicious French food make me feel woozy and disoriented, which I try to resolve by flooding my body with rosé and staying awake for as long as possible. It doesn’t seem like a logical way to cope, I know. But it’s been working for me for the eight or nine months that this festival has lasted. It has been at least eight months, hasn’t it?
I started my Tuesday by catching up on some blogging – that’s why I published not one but two posts yesterday! Then went off to see When Animals Dream, a much anticipated Danish film that’s been getting strangely mixed reviews from folks who felt it didn’t quite deliver on its horror/genre promise. Totally stunning film. I loved it to pieces, and it is very likely to end up in my top three of the fest. It’s not a horror film, but it’s a beautiful drama – a metaphor and a meditation on the oppression of women who are just trying to get by in this life (and a coming of age story as well). I was sincerely moved by it. Can’t recommend it highly enough.
In the afternoon I went home and napped. For a couple of hours. Felt really great, but I missed at least three events I’d been looking forward to including drinks with a lovely L.A. based lady-producer who I quite like and quite look up to. We hadn’t totally confirmed the location for our meeting and I didn’t get her email about it till much later so it wasn’t entirely the nap’s fault, but still, kind of a bummer.
Luckily, the evening lifted my spirits considerably, as we went for dinner with a group of pals to the newest restaurant on the Riviera (opened just nine days ago) – Dracula! It’s located at 10 rue de Constantine (a bit out of the way but hardly far) and serves authentic Transylvanian cuisine, according to the flyer. According to my belly, the five kinds of meat with polenta and soft feta that landed on my plate were very delicious and very filling. We sat at the outdoor tables but the decor inside (blood red walls, etc) was pretty great too. I hope this place survives till next year because I’d like to recommend it to many more people, and everyone’s already started to head out of town. They also serve breakfast. Stay tuned for a review a few mornings from now.
After dinner we went for drinks at an English pub called The Kingdom (Irish and English pubs, I swear you can find them in every country on earth), which we thought was a brand new place, but turns out to have been here, on blvd de la Republique, just a few doors north of Papa Nino’s, for four whole years! If you’re looking for an out of the way, quiet place for a beer (and some slightly obnoxious dance music), I recommend it. The owner was even nice to us when we tried to pull some shenanigans on his laptop playlist.
and then down to the Petit Majestic to drink Desperados (they are tequila flavoured beers and they are gross) and hang out. I got into a really interesting conversation about relationships and friendships within the film biz, with a film fest acquaintance from Tel Aviv and then realized how late it was and bolted. I hope I run into him again because it would be very worth continuing that chat!
All in all, not a banner day for “getting things done”, though actually writing two blog posts, seeing a film and napping for two hours all counts as “getting things done” so maybe I’m wrong. Productivity, ahoy.
Monday May 19
Started the day with a meeting with a couple of guys who are trying to woo Colin to work for their new festival. In addition to TIFF, don’t worry, he’s not leaving the Midnight Throne. Anyway, we’ve talked to them a few times, and the last meeting we had made us worry that their expectations and plans were a little too ambitious for what one can reasonably expect to accomplish for a new upstart on the festival scene. We (foolishly!) believed we’d talked them down from their Mount Everest-sized dreams, but alas. Being in Cannes with the pixie dust of Hollywood Glamour™ in their eyes probably didn’t help, either. What seemed like a cool opportunity was looking more and more like someone’s kooky pipe dream. C’est la vie. Dreams are born and die fast on la Croisette!
My advice to anyone thinking about starting a film festival is simple. If you’re doing it for any reason other than a genuine desire to show the films you love to other people (because you actually, y’know, care about films), then you are in it for the wrong reasons and should probably get out now.
Sneak preview of how my night ended (and because I’m determined to keep posting pictures of the man who says he hates pictures – the cutie in the middle):
Next up was a quick trip to the market (via the apartment, because I managed to leave both my badge and my wallet at home, like a champ) for a private screening of an American indie comedy that Colin was roped into seeing in a tiny screening room built for maybe six people in one of the larger booth / offices in the Palais. The film wasn’t terribly funny, and the cool-factor of going to a screening that was organized just for us wore off after about 15 minutes. After all, when you’re alone in the theatre, you can’t slip out after half an hour when you’ve determined the film is not for you.
We went for a walkabout to check out a few companies on the Palais floor who we hadn’t met with before. One young company with a roster of so-so looking horror films was shocked that Colin didn’t think their I Know What You Did Last Summer-esque film didn’t feel like a fit for Midnight Madness to him. He tried to explain why something like You’re Next did work while this film might not, and they seemed puzzled. “Is it the home invasion thing?” one asked. There are so many passionate people in this business, but there are also a lot of folks who don’t seem to care about actual movies. It’s odd, and yet, see above, on the topic of “starting a festival, reasons to”.
My nugget of wisdom for all you aspiring film industry types out there is this. If you’re getting into the world of film festivals, or film sales, or distribution, or filmmaking itself, and if you’re interested in working in a particular genre (horror is an easy example, but it works for others too), then do your research before plunging in. You don’t have to know the ins & outs of every festival, and you don’t have to have seen every film. But at least look up the basics so that you don’t sound totally clueless when you’re talking to people who might be in a position to actually help you. It’s easy to google festivals that you want to submit your film to and find out whether they accept short films, or how many films (approximately) they program each year, or whatever. Do the work. You will seem 100% more professional if you do.
In the afternoon we met with the lovely folks at Epic Pictures, who recently picked up Another, the latest Ultra 8 Pictures acquisition. When I say acquisition, I don’t mean that we’re becoming distributors, or anything like that. I just mean we’re helping this orphan in much the same way as we did Manborg and The Demon’s Rook, with festival strategy, sales/distribution strategy (and matchmaking) and social media (we’ve got super-whiz Johnny Bunning on the case). Not to mention sage advice based mostly on Colin’s 13+ years of experience in the industry.
Screen Daily picked up the story about Epic snapping up Another. You can read it here.
In the afternoon we had another one of those private screenings in a room built for six. It too was sadly not a standout. Luckily, we managed to wipe all mediocre-movie-memories from our minds with the evening screening of Jim Mickle’s Cold in July. I can’t imagine this gem not making it to my best of the year list. Beautiful performances by Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard and Don Johnson (that man has really still got it) and masterful directing from Jim. The film’s based on a book by Joe R. Lansdale, who was also in attendance. I’ve never seen Colin more starstruck as when he saw this white haired author step into the room. Cutest!
Sidenote: Got to see my absolute favourite translator, the woman who handles all the Directors’ Fortnight films. I blogged about her last year too, because she’s so fab. She always wears these frumpy yet effortlessly cool outfits and looks incredibly stylish and hot in them, and she never needs to write anything down and translates perfectly no matter how long the guests talk for. At this screening, everyone said a few words, in turn, and when it got to the end of the line, Don Johnson started by asking the audience to give her a round of applause for her mad skills (I am paraphrasing, though I do kind of wish Don Johnson had said the phrase “mad skills”). So, anyway. I’m not the only one who thinks she rules. Don agrees.
Went to Papa Nino’s for dinner (yes, again) with Maria (Estonia’s brightest firecracker) and then to The Station (Cannes’ most divey dive bar) for the annual Fantasia karaoke party, where I did not sing, but watched pals belt tunes, drank beer, and chatted about movies with a whole lot of lovely folk. Forget the glamour of the beach parties, with their bouncers and DJs and women in ten inch heels. This party is where everyone who I love on the festival circuit is most likely to be found, and it’s the most relaxed and friendly vibe within miles of the Croisette.
I was totally planning to go home after last call (Colin was tired and left a bit earlier) but the siren call of the Petit Majestic was too strong, and I got dragged along. The Petit (and the little place up the street from it) don’t seem to care much about observing last call laws, so it was probably 4:30am before I found myself strolling home with Ivy Lam, who is the mastermind behind my favourite annual Cannes & Berlin event, “Awesome Ladies Club”. I’ll be having oysters with a bunch of cool lady producers (and assorted other film mavens) later this week. You’ll hear all about it.
Sunday May 18
Forgot to tell my fave story of Saturday in my Saturday blog post. While in a meeting with a sales agent who was showing Colin a bunch of really rapey trailers for possible Midnight Madness submissions, Colin cut him off and was like “Here’s the thing. Nobody wants to see that. There’s been a lot of discussion lately in the world and on social media about rape culture…” He went on to talk about how it’s lazy to never have other ways of threatening female characters in horror films except by victimizing them sexually, and how it’s not the kind of thing that he wants to show. If I had swooned any harder I might have hit my head and passed out. Husband/Programmer/Man of the Year.
Anywhoo, Sunday started with a meeting on a really great terrace, which is the best way to start any sunny day in Cannes.
It continued with a lovely lunch with one of our favourite sales guys, Michael Favelle of Odin’s Eye (Australia). Great chat about the realities of the market, and the extent to which prices for certain films are plummeting. It’s a bit demoralizing to talk to people who are on the front lines of film sales about how things are going. The market seems to be constantly shrinking, prices seem to be endlessly going down, and everything is getting harder and harder. Why are any of us in this business again? I guess in spite of all that, some pretty inspiring films are getting made, and that process is getting easier and easier to accomplish with fewer resources, so there is a positive flip-side.
In the afternoon we had an incredibly eye-opening meeting with a financier from the UK who laid out his theories for us on how to make a low budget film that will make money in the marketplace. According to him (and most of the sales agents we speak to tend to agree), the key is marquee value. Make your film for a million bucks, but get someone (like this guy) to give you another two mill on top of that so that you can pay Bruce Willis (or whoever) to pop in for three days. Make sure he’s in at least 30 minutes of your film, and then sell that film for the price that you’d otherwise not be able to command unless your budget was literally ten times larger.
Interesting theory, probably quite spot-on in a lot of ways, but also depends on knowing a dude like him who can bankroll your Bruce Willis cameo. And let’s face it, most indie filmmakers don’t have those connections and can’t afford to just pop over to Cannes in order to make them.
In other news: Bruce Willis is going to star in every film I ever make.
A hilarious thing happened on the way to one of our next engagements. We’re walking down the boardwalk where all the ridiculous yachts are docked, and I’m making jokes about which one I would buy, and I point to one that looks by far the most crazy – it’s all grey metal and wood and looks like a cross between an old army boat and some sort of Asian fusion restaurant. And I say “this one is definitely it”. And seconds later, someone from the deck of that very boat yells Colin’s name. Turns out to be an agent he knows. Lord knows why he was there, but we got to climb on board and hang out for a while and see their crazy hot tub and the table built from a 100 year old tree.
The agent told us that it was the boat from The Life Aquatic, which I found hard to believe because it looked so different, but I googled it and sure enough. Read “From minesweeper to superyacht, the story of Mojo“, in Super Yacht Times. The boat has a pretty interesting history.
Also: a publication called Super Yacht Times exists. Doesn’t that make you LOL till you throw up in your mouth, a little?
In the later afternoon, pulled Chad away from screenings for a few minutes in order to take him to a couple of cocktail parties. First, the annual Shoreline Entertainment wine & cheese, where the snacks are great and the company is lovely. Shoreline is a sales company that Colin deals with for TIFF, but they’re also a really fun bunch, and their team is run by a major food lover, so we’ve been lucky enough to get invited to a few really top notch dinners by them over the years. Second, a “fantastic” mixer at the same beautiful terrace where Friday’s TIFF party was held (oh god, Friday feels like it was three months ago) where festival types mingled with producers, sales agents and distributors who all work in genre film.
For dinner, we went to a place called Le Jade, which serves mind-blowingly delicious French Vietnamese food. Not a fusion of French and Vietnamese, mind you. Just “French-Vietnamese”, as in “the one good thing that came out of French colonial rule in Vietnam”. A first for me: discovering a cuisine (an amazing one) that we legitimately do not have in Toronto. Our dinner companion was Jennifer Dana, the producer of It Follows and another gem that I really liked last year, the strange doppelgänger film Coherence. I love meeting the super cool lady-producers. They inspire me.
It’s felt so good to not stay out too late or get too drunk for the past few nights that we decided to do it again! Home to bed at a reasonable-ish hour! Woo!
Saturday May 17
I wanted to have an early start, but in spite of waking up totally un-hung-over, I was too damn tired to actually make it out for the earliest of our early meetings. Instead, met Colin for coffee and croissants after his first of the day and then went off to meet with a sales agent. Fairly uneventful early afternoon of quick meetings as I tried frantically to update my paper schedule to match my online schedule (takes time but is ultimately worth it to have both).
In the afternoon, Colin and I got to actually watch a real movie together, which was a rare treat. Saw the Critics’ Week selection It Follows, which I loved. Maika Monroe, who stars in it and also the Wingard/Barrett joint The Guest, is really shaping up to be my Indie Film It Girl of 2014. I like her a lot. Haven’t seen her in anything but those two films so far, and don’t know how far she can stretch her acting range (yet) but she’s incredibly pleasant to watch. I’m charmed, totally.
In the evening, went for cocktails just north of the centre at the apartment of my new friend Evrim, a totally delightful gentleman who I met after learning that he’s engaged to one of the coolest ladies I’ve met on the film fest circuit (BUFF director of programming, Nicole). I didn’t know just how much I needed a good Old Fashioned until Evrim made me one. Lovely times with him and his flatmates till it was time to stroll down to Papa Nino’s for pizza before the midnight screening.
There was quite a wait for pizza, because Papa Nino’s only seats about 30, but it was very much worth it. I went totally rogue (I always order the “Speciale”, with various meats, veggies, and an egg cracked into the middle) and this time ordered the “Napolitaine”, an anchovy, caper and olive pizza. It was saltier than the dead sea but boy was it delicious.
The midnight screening (the Danish western The Salvation) unfortunately failed to win my heart, in spite of Mads Mikkelsen. The 140-ish minute film didn’t get rolling until around 1:00am and by the time 2:15 rolled around I realized that I actually had no interest in the remaining 70 minutes. Slightly longer thoughts to come in a future roundup, but the characters seemed both flat and thin to me, and the film lacked the soul of a good western. I can’t rightly review it, since I didn’t see the end, but man, I can definitely say one thing about Cannes. They’re not very good at selecting films for the midnight timeslot that make you really want to stay awake till 3am. At 7pm, I might have liked this film more. At 2am, I had no patience for it.
Skipped late-night drinks at the Grand and Petit and went straight to bed again. It was still quite late, but whatever. This sobriety-bender feels amazing!
Friday May 16
Ah, le weekend! As if the last few days didn’t feel weekend-ish enough, with all those late nights. Started out my day with our friends at MPI Media, a US-based sales and distribution company that’s been very good to us since they picked up Manborg for the US a couple of years back. Colin’s always had dealings with them regarding TIFF-matters, but now we’ve got all sorts of other things to discuss with them. Notable topic on the table at this meeting: bringing the remastered (original) Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to which they own the rights, to Toronto for a run at the Royal. How awesome would that be?
Next up, a couple of quick meetings on the inflatable couches that crowd the grassy expanse in front of the Grand hotel. The first was with a US company that’s involved in financing and packaging films. They had some films to pitch to Colin for TIFF, of course, but I also had a film to pitch to them, Rite of the Witch Goddess, which is hot right now because of that whole Fantasia Frontières thing you might have heard about. The second meeting is with a Serbian director & producer about a film they want to show Colin. The producer was responsible for one of my faves from the homeland, Tears for Sale, which Colin showed a few years ago.
They give us their promo materials and we zip off to a Cannes Classic screening of , which I’ve never seen before and Colin’s only seen on VHS. Coming to Cannes and mostly watching old movies is a funny experience, but Dragon Inn is definitely one of those amazing martial arts films that makes me understand why people get obsessed with kung fu films.From that, straight to the HÖFF reception where we drank vodka with our beloved Estonians, then to the Plage de Palmes for the TIFF cocktail, which on a sunny day like Friday was the perfect place to be.
They give us their promo materials and we zip off to a Cannes Classic screening of Dragon Inn, which I’ve never seen before and Colin’s only seen on VHS. Coming to Cannes and mostly watching old movies is a funny experience, but Dragon Inn is definitely one of those amazing martial arts films that makes me understand why people get obsessed with kung fu films.From that, straight to the HÖFF reception where we drank vodka with our beloved Estonians, then to the Plage de Palmes for the TIFF cocktail, which on a sunny day like Friday was the perfect place to be.
Had no dinner plans on this night, which is just as well, because I scored a ticket to the Atom Egoyan film, The Captive (a red carpet affair, though I’m very sorry I did not take a picture of my amazing ensemble – floor length red halter gown, matching red lipstick, and beat-up jean jacket, which for the record they made me remove to walk the red carpet). I have lots of thoughts about The Captive that are less negative than many of the reviews I’ve read, but I’ll probably save them for after the fest so that I can articulate them properly.
After the film I was briefly tempted to stop by the Petit Majestic but instead hoofed it home to find that Colin had popped a leek tart into the oven for me, since I skipped dinner. Bless his heart. A sober end to the night. What a sweet relief that was.