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Category Archives: Festival Diaries

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!

Back at the Plage des Palmes for Frontières!

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.

Sasha pitches his big ideas at the Grand.

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.

Sasha and his namesake, Alex of Papa Nino’s!

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!

two hotly anticipated (by me!) titles

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 ol’ Cannes carousel

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. 

the boat-race fountain and the mini amusement park rides in the distance

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.

post-nap Sasha catches up on the festival dailies

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.

I’m in a teardrop-shaped pod. The terrace of the Grand is at my feet.

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.

Anyway.

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.

Early-arriving mom feels great on empty streets of Cannes after shopping at  Monoprix!

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.

Pizza pour bébé. Bon apetit, bébé!

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.

Bébé holds court (with slinky) at Grandmother’s Wheelbarrow.

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.

Bébé & papa at lunch

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.

Selfie on a pier at a cocktail party with one of my favourites, Paul from FrightFest.

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.

Does this guy look Cannes ready or what?

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 …

 


By Friday, that  sore throat has turned into a tired, woozy but thankfully not feverish feeling and a stubborn cough. At least the throat’s not sore anymore. It might be a sign that I’m going to cycle through all the symptoms quickly and feel right as rain in two days. Could happen, right?

Friday starts out with some non-TIFF work, a meeting with Tim Reis and our post-production friends at The Royal about some post work that we’re hoping to do on Tim’s debut feature, Bad Blood, later this fall. It’s a super fun film that I’m very excited to be helping out on, and I think that a bit of polish on the sound and colour will really take the quality and style up several notches. Plus, any excuse to bring Tim back to Toronto, because he’s basically our favourite dude.

After an extended lunch/meeting about Bad Blood I had to race downtown to another meeting, this one about a TV series that I can’t talk about yet but am very excited to be part of in whatever capacity. I made the dumb decision of taking a taxi from John and Wellington down to the back (west) side of the ACC, which should only have been a 15 minute walk but turned into a nearly 30 minute drive because of some insane traffic. Is it always like that downtown, or what? Am I just blissfully unaware of the nightmare that drivers live every day in this town? Anyway, I should have walked, it was nuts. I arrived late but the meeting went smoothly  anyway and I’m very excited about the potential of  this project.

early Bad Blood poster

early Bad Blood poster

I went back to the hotel for a nap, where I proceeded to grumble and groan a lot about whether I would be able to make it to Midnight Madness (I can get a bit babyish when I am sick, lemme tell ya) but in the end, I rallied for one important reason: Friday was Moms at Midnight day!!! Colin’s folks came into town (they’re staying with mine, because our families are the cutest ever) and the two moms came out to see Takashi Miike’s completely zany Yakuza Apocalypse. They loved Why Don’t You Play in Hell? two years ago so we figured Japanese insanity might be their thing?

best villain of all time?

First Bad Blood then this! I’m having a frog-themed day?

Went for an all-curing bowl of pre-midnight ramen at Ramen Raijin (on Gerrard at Yonge, so about as close to the Ryerson as humanly possible) before enjoying some serious yakuza/mom time. I was about as tired as I’ve been all festival, but definitely glad I went. Plus, the moms got to meet Miike! He looks like a disembodied head in this picture, but trust me, up close, his  outfit was extreeeeeemely cool.

moms'n'Miike

moms’n’Miike

Sometimes, the only thing that really helps at the end of a grumbly sick day is moms. ❤


Back to movies! On Thursday I managed to  see three films and have a nice dinner and make it to bed early.

I woke up a bit tired and unwilling to invest too much emotional or intellectual energy into anything I was seeing, because I was already feeling drained and in need of some feel good pick me ups.

Sandra and Billy Bob

Sandra and Billy Bob

First up, I saw Our Brand Is Crisis, the Sandra Bullock number loosely based on a real story  of an American political consultant who helps a Bolivian presidential candidate win the election. There’s actually a 2005 documentary (same title) which tells the story of the real strategists and the real election, which I’d love to check out because the fictionalized version left me feeling a bit weird. I can’t put my finger on what was wrong with it (I think the ending, which is both jarringly hopeful and too-easily-redemptive, had something to do with it) but there was something about the largely comedic tone of the film’s first half that just didn’t gel with the truly depressing outcome. I was really hopeful since it’s directed by David Gordon Green, who has more hits than misses books, but … I’m not sure about this one, and I’d love to read up on the actual situation.

Mr. Right

Mr. Right

Next up I saw Mr. Right, which is basically a really dumb story about a kooky girl falling in love with a charming hitman. And vice versa. It doesn’t matter how dumb it is though, because Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell are so incredibly charming, charismatic, likeable and delightful to watch that the film ends up being greater than the sum of its parts, and very funny and enjoyable.

My final film of the day might end up being one of my faves of the fest. Basically the feel-good film of the year, Born to Dance is a dance film from New Zealand that manages to be incredibly  fun and fresh in spite of having pretty much the same plot as every other dance film since the dawn of cinema. There are a few key differences that made it stand out, mind you: it’s about Maori teens, it features an openly gay character (who is a total badass and not at all a stereotype), plus, actually, an entire gay dance crew who totally rock out in the film’s big dance championships finale. The lead actor is so adorable and the film is such a heart-warmer that I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough.

these New Zealanders can really dance

these New Zealanders can really dance

Post-movies, I met up with Colin and a friend (who also happens to be our L.A. lawyer – we need one of those cuz we fancy) for dinner near the Royal, so that we could give him a tour of the cinema and enjoy some downtime in a non-TIFF neighbourhood. It felt so nice. I miss home!

I came back to the hotel, ready to go to bed early and get a great night’s rest, and then felt the familiar and unwelcome tickle of a sore throat. The dread TIFF cold! HOW COULD I POSSIBLY BE GETTING IT WHEN I HAVE TAKEN IT SO EASY!? Seems unfair, doesn’t it? I haven’t even been hung over once!