Saturday May 20th was another “get up early with baby and then go down for a nap with him as soon as possible” start to the day. While I napped, Colin went to the Frontières proof of concept panel, and I joined him afterwards for a lunch also hosted by the Frontières market folks. They’ve been very good to us over the years, from the very first time we went there with The Void in 2013, through two other projects over the years – both with filmmaker/super-nanny Tim Reis!
At the Frontières lunch we got to see some old pals and colleagues, got to hang with a few folks who we normally only see at Fantasia, and got to recommend our fave pizza place (Papa Nino’s, obvs) to Void producer Casey Walker who’s in Cannes for his first time and presenting at the aforementioned proof of concept panel.
Best of all we got to sit down and catch up with Louis Tisné, who produced one of the fan-faves that Colin had in Midnight Madness back in 2014: the Belgian horror film Cub. Louis is a knowledgeable and insightful guy – and also a dad – so we got to chat about movies and about kids’ school plays in equal measure.
After lunch we raced off to say hi to another Midnight Madness alum and pal of Colin’s, French director Xavier Gens (his film Frontier(s) was at TIFF in ’07), who is completing a new film at the moment, Cold Skin. We got to see the promo, and I’ll say this much: if it delivers on its own promises, it’s gonna be one of my faves of the year.
Xavier Gens was the third in a run of awesome European directors – my version of ‘celebrity spotting’, maybe. I’ll tell you the other two as well, not to name drop (is it still name dropping if they’re not household names?) but to encourage you to see their films, which are so, so good: A.J. Annila, whose super-creepy and beautiful Sauna is easy to seek out because it’s on Shudder; and Koen Mortier, whose mind-fuck Ex Drummer is 100% worth whatever efforts you need to put into seeing it.
Later in the afternoon we decided to be adventurous with bébé so we strapped him to Colin’s chest and brought him to the terrace of the Grand for a meeting. He made friends with people all over the terrace and was delightfully well behaved throughout.
Afterwards, we strolled around in the direction of a meeting that was cancelled at the last minute and then got some Papa Nino’s pizza to go and settled into a nice dinner at home. Turns out that the guy who runs Papa Nino’s is named Alex. That technically makes him Sasha’s namesake, since Sasha is short for Alexander! He was delighted.
And, oh yeah, I picked up two tickets that I acquired through the far-less-complicated-than-it-used-to-be ticketing system. This system doesn’t require paragraphs of explanation. You just log in, make your requests, and then get an email later telling you if you got ’em. Easy!
Movie count: 0
Rosé count: ∞
Pizza count: 3
Friday May 19th was a day of naps and also of productivity. Colin had a ticket to OKJA, the Netflix-funded Bong Joon-ho film that is part of the current hullabaloo between Netflix and the French film industry (I’m simplifying but you can find out more here or here – and I have to add that I’m with Will Smith on this one).
While he and Tim enjoyed the film, I slept with booboo, then woke up with him, fed him and played for a while, then napped with him for another two hours for which I was immensely grateful.
Then a producer friend came over with a wide variety of delightful pastries and we hung out in the garden for a while talking while Sasha played and munched on bits of croissant. Perfect day so far!
Tip #1: if you’re going to a market with a kid, it pays to get a place that’s nice enough to host people.
I will preface this by saying that it’s often not possible. Apartments in Cannes can be wildly expensive, especially if they’re centrally located. However, just like the ‘arrive early’ tip from day 1, this is one of those targets of opportunity that you try to hit but shouldn’t stress out about if you can’t.
Many meetings in Cannes (or at any market or festival) must, by necessity, take place in the offices or booths of the people you’re meeting with. Sales agents, distributors and the like: they have offices and people come to them. Their schedules are too tight to allow them to zip all over town meeting with people, and besides, they need to have promotional materials handy, TV screens to show trailers and clips, and so on. But! There are also the producer types and the financiers and film festival programmers and buyers who float freely from meeting to meeting, location to location.
They’re the ones you meet on the terrace of the Grand hotel or at your favourite cafe. If you’re lucky enough to have a centrally located apartment with a decent-sized living room or balcony (or in our case, a glorious garden – a rare thing for Cannes) you can invite them to come over so that you don’t have to cancel a meeting when your baby decides to nap at an inopportune time. If the difference in cost isn’t a deal-breaker and you have the option of getting a place where you can have people over, I highly recommend it. You might miss out on the late-night drinks at the Petit Majestic because of kiddo, but how nice is it to tell all your friends to swing by for a glass of rosé en route to all their fabulous parties?
As I warned in an earlier post, this year’s going to include a lot of niche tips for a niche audience. But really, being able to host a small do – even when you and everyone else you know is out of town! – is one of those slightly underrated but amazing skills that I advise to anyone to pick up. It’s showbiz, after all.
Colin got home from his blitz of post-movie Palais walk-by meetings partway through my garden hangout (I was in the middle of updating our friend on the progress of Birdland) and he whisked sweetpea off to the kids’ amusement area near the Palais to meet up with some pals who brought their older kids along to Cannes.
Yes, by the way, there is a mini kids play area right by the Palais. There’s an adorable double decker carousel which I can’t wait to take bébé on, a little ride where kids can ride different cars along a track-loop, a mini-pool in which you can race remote control boats, and a playground nearby. It’s adorable.
The fun-zone is next to an outdoor restaurant where we decided to stop for lunch. Unfortunately service was so slow that Sasha fell asleep on Colin’s shoulder and he ended up walking him all the way home, fast asleep, and gently sliding him into his crib for a nap.
Tip #2: try not to feel too much crushing mom-guilt over the amazing experiences you’re giving your kid (that they won’t remember anyway).
I can’t tell you how bad I felt that Sasha fell asleep before eating lunch and before getting home to his cozy bed. I felt like I was starving and exhausting my poor perfect little baby, because I’m an awful, selfish mom. But really, he was fine. He was sleepy, so he fell asleep. Later, woke up cheerful and had a good dinner. He is 100% the best. It was as if I’d temporarily forgotten that he is not a shy baby and always makes his voice heard if he has real complaints. Take a chill pill, mom! You’re in the south of France.
After Colin left to put Sasha down for his nap, I got his lunch to go, finished up with our pals and then headed home to get ready for the next thing. We left lovebug with Tim, who’d spent the afternoon watching a film in the market, and we headed off to the TIFF cocktail.
The TIFF cocktail is held at the La Plage des Palmes, a patio / restaurant / party space overlooking the sea on the end of a long row of beachside international pavilions that surround the Palais. It’s a great opportunity to meet up with a lot of Canadians and also a lot of the international film festival community. Plus, since Colin has only been out of TIFF for a few months, everyone was still expecting to catch up with him there. And so we went, and a lovely time was had by all. I reconnected with a woman I hadn’t seen since we spent a delightful afternoon in an Absinthe bar in Paris five-ish years ago with a small group of mutual friends. As one does, in Cannes.
Tip #3: have good answers for questions you’re likely to be asked.
After TIFF we raced over to the Grand for a cocktail hour meeting with our friends at EPIC, the company that is selling Jason Bognacki’s Mark of the Witch. We’ve dealt with a lot of sales, distribution & production companies over the years and they remain at the top of our list for being really good, honest guys who do great work. We talked to them about our future plans and were slightly stumped by their question of what we really want to do next. Gotta work on that one.
After such a packed day I was pretty happy to settle in with the bean and some takeout kebabs from a place across the street while Tim went out to meet friends and Colin went to a screening for Shudder.
Early nights. My new favourite thing about Cannes.
Movie count: 0
Meeting and/or work-related-reception count: 3
Baby playdate count: 1
Ahhh, day two. Thursday May 18th, that is. Already, time is speeding up. The first day felt endless, and now, time is starting to pass swiftly. By next Monday it’ll be whizzing by at breakneck speeds and then before I know it we’ll be home.
After a so-so night of sleep, Sasha ended up taking the world’s longest nap on Thursday late-morning, so we decided to split up for the day – Colin attended the meetings we had booked and I stayed home and relaxed / napped / ate 1,000 croissants / caught up on emails while booboo snoozed.
The biggest benefit of working with your partner is that you can take turns working and taking care of kiddo. But of course, since most of the people we’re meeting here are Colin’s business contacts, if one of us has to stay at home, it’s likely to be me (which, in this case, was completely fine because I needed the downtime).
By late afternoon we were able to leave the sweet, napped out little guy in Tim’s care and head out to a meeting with a Canadian producer who had great insights to share about where the industry is headed. Asking people what they think is working in the current market can be very illuminating.
Tip #1: when you meet with people, make sure you aren’t doing all the talking.
Yes, it’s important to talk if you’re pitching a project. But sales agents, distributors, financiers and other producers can all be very insightful and helpful, if you ask questions and then shut up for a while.
We scheduled a lot of our meetings this year on the terrace of the Grand Hotel, a good see-and-be-seen place where everyone congregates. Our motivation wasn’t so much that we need to ‘be seen’, but that we weren’t 100% organized about our meeting-requests and pre-market emails to reach out to various friends and associates, so being somewhere that’s a central hub helps, because we’re likely to run into everyone we need or want to see.
Tip #2: don’t be cranky with security, they’re just doing their damn jobs.
This is kind of an aside, but an important one. Security has been beefed up this year. Big time. There are way more army types with big scary machine guns roaming the streets, and it takes a lot longer to get into the Palais because the badge-scanning and bag-checking system is a bit more thorough than it used to be.
I’ve only gone through security a few times but a note to huffy Americans (they’re almost always Americans): you don’t have to harrumph your way through the lineup or tell the guy who’s just trying to process a thousand irate people a day that you’re “in a hurry” as if he’s trying to delay you on purpose. We’re all in a hurry! Just calm down and be patient. Accept the fact that you might sometimes be five minutes late because of security. Everyone will understand, because they’re going through the same security checkpoints as you. The guy who probably spends ten hours a day looking through handbags does not deserve your attitude.
After some walk-by meetings at the Grand and a fun catch-up with one of our Shudder colleagues, we went back to the apartment to snuggle our BB and get ready for the Shudder team dinner, which was at a fun but way-too-loud restaurant in the centre of town. Am I getting old? Yes. Was it also impossible to hear anyone more than one foot away from my face in there? Yes. The food was very good, though.
Tip #3: go to bed early sometimes.
After dinner, we swung by the Petit Majestic to have a single beer and introduce our Shudder colleague and pal Sam Z to the late night watering hole for his first time. And then we took our plastic cups of beer to go and headed home to bed. Sometimes, it feels just phenomenal to have an early (ish) night.
Movie count: 0
Meeting count: 2 (+ 2 that Colin did alone)
Social fun-gatherings count: 2
Every time I write Cannes tips, I start with this one, and I’m gonna do it again:
Tip #1: arrive early.
I know, it can be difficult to book the time off, or to afford the extra night’s stay in an already expensive place, but if you’re traveling to a film fest or market across multiple time zones, or going to a new (large) festival or market for the first time, and can afford the time/money to arrive a day early, do it.
Arriving early allows you to catch up on some sleep and adjust your internal clock, but even more importantly, it gives you a chance to do a walkabout, get the lay of the land before it gets crowded and hectic, and map out your days in peace.
Cannes is small and relatively easy to navigate, but getting your bearings before there are (literally) 10,000 assorted schmoozers jostling you for elbow room along the Croisette is a big bonus.
This year, we arrived early because we had no idea how travel and jet lag would affect our bébé, and we wanted to give ourselves a chance to deal with potential pandemonium before things got busy.
Tip #2: don’t adjust your baby for jet lag (much).
This tip only applies if you’re coming from North America to Europe – or Europe to Asia, or anywhere that’s a few (but not too many) hours east of where you started.
Our BB goes to bed between 6 and 7pm at home. Here, that’s midnight or 1am. We decided to make his bedtime while we’re in Cannes roughly 11pm-midnight. That’s only one hour of ‘adjustment’ for him and it allows us to go out in the evenings without risking a cranky, over-tired mess. Europeans eat dinner late[r than Americans], so being able to bring lil Bean out to a 9pm gathering is great. Especially since everyone wants to meet him!
We successfully got through day one and even managed to take him out to our favourite pizza place, Papa Nino’s. He loved the pizza. Obvs.
Day two was a equally easy-peasy, and we met up with friends for a leisurely dinner at Grandmother’s Wheelbarrow, another favourite restaurant that I highly recommend you check out if you’re in Cannes and a) have the time for a meal that will take a couple of hours, and b) have people to eat with who you want to chat with for a couple of hours.
By the time Wednesday May 17th – aka the first official day of the market – was upon us (day three of our stay), I was feeling pretty confident that we’d somehow outsmarted jet lag and had the world’s most resilient, easygoing baby.
Tip #3: don’t be cocky about your ability to outsmart jet lag.
Wednesday was very hot and sunny – a day that we really should have spent going to the beach, but instead spent strolling around the centre of town saying hi to people and showing our colleague/friend/roommate/occasional nanny Tim Reis around the Palais.
We investigated the new ticketing system (much easier to navigate than the old one) and snagged two tickets to the new Bong Joon Ho. It’s at 8:30am on Friday, so Colin and Tim will go and I’ll stay at home with the bean. Saddling Tim with early morning baby duty seems a bit cruel. I’m angling to go to the new Yórgos Lánthimos in a few days, anyway.
We had some croque monsieurs in the sunshine, bébé munched on dad’s festival badge, and somehow in the hubbub we stayed out too long and ended up skipping one of his naps.
No big deal, we thought!
In the eve, we left him in Tim’s care so that we could attend a cocktail we’d been invited to, and then came home for rosé in the back yard with some good friends.
When we got home, we put BB down for the night and settled into the garden for rosé and catching up with old pals. I went to bed shortly after midnight thinking it would be an easy night. And it was, until 4am rolled around and tired ol’ mom and dad had to party with the tiny, yelling muffin for two hours before he finally conked out again around 6:15am.
Maybe he got a little overstimulated, or a little dehydrated, or a little too much sun (don’t worry, he was covered and sunscreened up all day, with sippy cup in hand). Who knows. He’s a tiny guy and he’s gone through a lot of big changes and adventures over the past few days. When he did finally fall asleep again, he was sprawled sideways across our bed, and we didn’t have the heart to move him so we all snuggled down together for a morning snooze. It’s amazing how much space such a tiny human can take up. It’s amazing how little sleep an adult can learn to survive on when the cause of their sleeplessness is so cute.
One market/festival day down, eight to go.
Movie count: 0
Meeting count: 0
Dinners/parties/gatherings over rosé count: 4
Hey y’all, it’s been a while. Last time I posted on this blog, it was February of 2016 and I was one hundred years pregnant and getting ready to take a year’s maternity leave. Our lil potato was born in April, and I spent the better part of the past year struggling to actually be on maternity leave, even though I still had work to do that couldn’t be passed on to anyone else – finalizing the post-production on Birdland (which is now completed, and we’re looking forward to a release later this year!), and programming The Royal (which I am also done with!), and National Canadian Film Day 150 (which was a raging success, and I’m very glad I got to be part of it).
And now that my maternity leave should be over, I’m … actually finally free to spend time with my kiddo without stressing out about work. Ironic, or something.
Anyway, as you might have noticed if you know me or read this blog, Colin and I are not sit-around-and-do-nothing people, so instead of kicking back, we’re packing for Cannes, where we’ll be going (avec bébé) in less than a week.
Remember my Cannes diaries from days of yore? If you don’t, just go to the Cannes diaries tag and read ’em. Well, this year you’re going to get a very different version of the same: the hot-hot Cannes tips that 99% of the Cannes attendees I know do not need: how to pitch projects, attend meetings, walk the red carpet and drink your weight in rosé all while taking great care of a rambunctious one year old and having a wee family vacation on the side.
But y’know what? I’m very ok with focusing my attentions on the not-so-small niche of moms who work in film!
And now back to prepping for the market that brings us such cinematic gems as …
When I saw The Witch several months ago at TIFF 2015, I was already pretty hyped up after having read the reviews out of Sundance several months earlier. The experience didn’t disappoint. The film delivered on its promise of a truly rich and creepy atmosphere, lush visuals, a viscerally affecting score, an impressive level of attention to detail and period accuracy, and a story that would get under your skin and scare you in a refreshingly more profound way than the average new release jump-scare shocker.
And yet, and yet.
Even though it’s a visually stunning film with haunting music and great performances, I left the theatre feeling uncomfortable about something that I couldn’t put my finger on for several days. Eventually, it dawned on me.
My problem with The Witch is that there’s a real witch in it. Or many witches, as you discover by the time you get to the admittedly striking final moments of the film. Many reviews have singled out the ending as especially powerful. And I would agree with them, if the film hadn’t made such a point of highlighting its own historical accuracy (the opening credits even mention that much of the dialogue is lifted directly from accounts of the time).
We all understand that the persecution of witches in our history had far less to do with magic and spells than it did with the subjugation of women. It may not have been the way that the people of the 17th century saw it, but it is obvious to us today that women were persecuted for witchcraft because their voices and their sexuality were seen as dangerous, unwieldy and terrifying to puritanical society – and not because they were actually Satan’s hench-women. The Witch pulls a weird bait-&-switch on this point.
Robert Eggers is fully aware of the above, and The Witch treats Thomasin’s budding, pre-teen sexuality, and her brother’s and father’s fear of it with great subtlety and care. Eggers makes it excruciatingly obvious just how much the simple fact that she is a woman will harm and undermine Thomasin in life. It isolates her from her family and sets her up to be persecuted for something she isn’t guilty for. It’s a no-win situation and it’s really well done.
The exhaustive research and painstaking execution of every historical detail are so obvious in The Witch that every conflict between Thomasin and her siblings or parents seems like a stark, honest snapshot of injustice. That is, until you get to the end and think back on the entire story as perhaps a lengthy and methodical recruitment process of a new, young witch into the local coven. Then, all of a sudden, you might see that her family members were right to fear and condemn her, because even though she may not have realized what was happening to her – it was happening.
It’s like saying “yeah, we made you think that this was about keeping women down but actually this persecution … it’s justified, because those women are actually witches and they are in league with the devil.” Whether intentional or not (my bet is: not), that feels like a wrong and jarring conclusion to arrive at.
Was it just me? Did anyone else have this reaction?
While on our ‘babymoon’ in Quebec City I’ve been really amused by how often a visibly pregnant woman (me) gets offered alcohol in restaurants. When Colin ordered a half-litre (for himself) at dinner the other night, they automatically brought and poured two glasses. Two nights ago, we got complimentary cranberry-infused vodka shots with the meal (again, I got one without being asked). So, I’ve been eating for two, and Colin’s been drinking for two, all trip!
This vacay is all about reflecting on the past and looking forward to a whole new life and getting ready for baby and all that, so I’ve been thinking a lot about how difficult I expected not drinking to be, and how easy it has actually been. I mean, I had a sip of the wine, but that was all I needed and not having more was super easy. And it has been super easy for the past six months – which is definitely the longest I’ve gone without drinking since I came of age.
I thought not drinking would be hard because I love drinking. I didn’t do it every day, but I certainly drank several times a week and really enjoyed it. So now the real question is: will my drinking habits be permanently changed by this, or will I go back to them after I’m done carrying or nursing a babe?
Here’s a list of ten things I have found much harder and/or more frustrating than not drinking:
- Not being able to tie my shoes or really do anything that involves bending all the way over without extreme discomfort. I take my flexibility for granted!
- Not being able to sleep through the night without getting up to pee (several times).
- Not being able to sleep, period. Especially not unless I’m being propped up by a million pillows.
- Not being able to enjoy extreme heat (in hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms & the like).
- Having to keep to a rigid and frequent eating schedule (this one has been especially difficult).
- Not being able to climb two flights of stairs without getting winded.
- Not being able to stop myself from crying at the dumbest things (like TV commercials).
- Being constantly way too hot.
- Being ridiculously clumsy.
- Back pain. And hip pain.
Not drinking is a breeze compared to all that other nonsense. But all the complaining aside, I’m actually having a wonderful time. Being pregnant is fun and weird and I love it!