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
The flights were long, and our stopover in Frankfurt was even longer (seriously, like eight hours) but I watched a great Bollywood film (basically Romeo and Juliet, but more dancing) and read a friend’s (wonderful) script, and slept for a wee bit and ate complimentary sausages in the Frankfurt airport lounge. Besides, I’m not jaded enough to grumble about a trip of any length that lands me in Cannes, the jewel of the international film festival circuit, and the market that I hear more people complain about than any other. Quit grumbling, weary film professionals! You’re in the south of France! Is that a glass of rosé I see in your hand? Knock it back and look up at the (for now, at least) sunny sky and thank your lucky stars that this is your life. It’s pretty swell to be here.
Arrived in Cannes around dinnertime on Monday and headed out into the (quiet, nearly deserted) streets in search of something that would make us fall asleep. Settled on pasta, started feeling dozy, but then ran into some pals from Fantasia who joined our table and perked us right back up.
The apartment this year is strangely and badly laid out and has lots of frustrating quirks (like the fact that the bathroom door handle comes off in your hand every time you try to open it, or the fact that there are four people staying here but there is only one bowl in the kitchen), but who’s complaining? Certainly not me (see paragraph one, above). I just won’t close the bathroom door, no big deal.
On Tuesday Colin spent many hours in a TIFF staff meeting while I napped (woke up at 6am, felt like one million Euros, and crashed by 2pm – thanks, jetlag!) and then met up with Ultra 8 Pictures’ latest recruit, our Washington D.C. based acquisitions consultant, Chad Eberle. You know how some people do like, “fantasy baseball”? Well, Chad does “fantasy film programming” and the kid’s a natural. The tracking list he’s developed just as a hobby could easily rival any professional programmer’s. We’re delighted to have him on board to help build the U8P empire.
Chad and I went to Papa Nino’s for pizza while Colin noshed with the TIFF team, and then we all met up at the Petit Majestic, where everyone ends their night (every night) and where I proceeded to try to keep pace, beer-wise, with our dear friends from FrightFest. Pro tip: don’t try that unless you’re a plucky Serbian gal with a strong constitution. Good thing I am one of those! Phew. And speaking of FrightFest, if you only read one Cannes blog this year, let it be their Postcards From Cannes (I don’t think they’ve started publishing yet, because the festival hasn’t started yet, but here’s a link to last year’s to give you the flavour of the thing. Those London boys are charming, and then some.
As I write this, it’s a sunny and warm Wednesday morning and the market is just a few hours old. I’m about to pack up my schedule, toss on my sunglasses, and head out into the world. My first movie of the day is going to be some sci-fi Can-con, so life is good.
Today is a day of weird sleeping (fell asleep last night at 2am, woke up at 8am, got a lot of work done, crashed at 1:30pm, slept until nearly 4pm) and schedule-making.
Here’s my method for creating a film market schedule. I’m sure everyone does theirs differently. I request meetings with the people I have to meet with and let those filter back to me. I go through the screening guide and whittle it down to the films I would like to see.
I put all the confirmed meetings into the schedule (highlighted in blue) and all the parties and social events (in pink). And then I list all of the films on my “to see” list on the schedule. All of them. Even if there are five in a single time slot. Like this (except the schedule actually extends from 9am to midnight):
Also, I use the 24 clock. When your schedule stretches over a 15 hour period, there’s a lot less confusion in being able to say “see you at 21:00” than “see you at 9” because lord help you if you forget to put the AM or PM down and screw your whole day.
Obviously, I do this very differently from the way I approach a film festival schedule, where I actually select individual films that I’ll definitely see in a given slot.
Markets are different, and I’m watching these films for different reasons (festival programming, acquisitions consulting, mysterious producing reasons, etc). Sometimes, I don’t watch an entire film, so it’s handy to know what else is playing in the same slot that I can pop into. Other times, I won’t know what my priority is in a given slot until after I’ve consulted other industry pals who may have heard more buzz than I have. And sometimes meetings run long and it comes down to “which theatre can I walk to in 5 mins”. C’est la [market] vie.
Today, I’m really hitting my stride, confirming meetings left, right & centre, and kicking the schedule’s ass. Unfortunately, it’s nearly 5pm the day before the market begins, so, y’know, I could have gotten into the zone sliiiiightly earlier.
This is, however, where the “travel early” advice also comes in handy. Here I am, 24 hours before it begins, comfortably sipping coffee at a desk and responding to emails as soon as they come in. If I was at an airport right now or on a flight with no wifi for seven hours, I’d be a mess of anxiety.
It’s the day before the day before it all begins.
I landed on Monday Feb 3 (yesterday) and spent the day embroiled in various tasks that were made slightly more challenging by the six (or in some cases, nine) hour time difference between me and the people in Toronto and L.A. that I was corresponding with. Luckily, the work was urgent enough and engaging enough to keep me awake until almost midnight, so that I got a good night’s sleep, woke up at 8, and almost feel as though I’m not jet lagged at all. We’ll see how long that lasts.
The festival and market begin on Thursday Feb 6, so I have plenty of time to catch up on work and adjust to the time difference at a leisurely pace from our Berlin Air BnB pad. Flying in the night before and feeling totally out of it for two days would have been the cheaper way to do it, but I would be very miserable. Flying in early is not a luxury that everyone can afford (time wise and money wise) but for very busy, high-stress work trips, I hiiiiiiiiiiighly recommend it if you’re going more than three time zones away (especially if you’re travelling west-to-east, because the jet lag is, for some reason, worse). For me, I’m pretty sure it makes the difference between a killer opening weekend and a “I think I’m getting sick” opening weekend.
I found the place on Air BnB after weeks of hunting (I compared a lot of places and a lot of prices). Since we’re bunking with our pal Tim (Reis, producer/DoP/editor of The Demon’s Rook), I was looking for a two bedroom. I found this insane place for only about 40 euros more per night than what we were paying last year for a bedroom in a 5-bedroom shared rooming house type apartment, where we had kitchen access, but not a lot of privacy or space. I recorded a 2min 45sec tour of the place:
As most of you who’ve been following my bloggy bloggy activity know, I’m here for the European Film Market, more so than the actual Berlinale (aka, the Film Festival), though this year there are a lot of films playing the fest that I’d love to see. There are festival passes, and market passes, and a double pass that gives you access to both. Unfortunately, I only got the market pass this year, because last year I paid for the double and ended up going to zero official festival screenings, so it seemed like a bit of a waste of an extra hundred euros (that’s like, a thousand bucks in Canadian – ok, not really, but it’s almost double). So, I may not get to see the new Wes Anderson, but y’know what? I’m not here for that anyway, so whatever. Suck it up, woman!
The point is, I’m here, I’m taking lots of vitamin C for my immune system and probiotics for my travel-belly, and coffee for my jet lag, and I’ll hopefully be writing posts about my experiences daily, or close-to-daily (gimme a break, sometimes the schedule here goes for 12+ hours with no pauses, or at least no pauses near a laptop with wifi).
If you want a primer on Berlin and the EFM, check my 2013 diary, which I wrote for the now sadly defunct Substream:
- Berlinale 2013 Diary Part 1
- Berlinale 2013 Diary Part 2
- Berlinale 2013 Diary Part 3
- Berlinale 2013 Diary Part 4
I might want to reread those myself, actually, just to make sure I don’t repeat all the exact same EFM tips. And if you’re interested in my other festival and film market diaries, just click the Festival Diaries tag on this site and you can read all about my experiences at Cannes, TIFF and Fantasia.
In the meantime, I’ll be over here consulting the whopping 47 page EFM screening list and trying to cobble together a schedule for myself that nicely balances movies, meetings, social events and networking/schmoozing events. Let’s face it, there is a big difference. Going to the Fantasia karaoke party is social, because I know (and love) everyone who will be there and I will probably spend my time catching up with them about their actual lives and not talking up my projects. On the other hand, going to the Telefilm reception, while it might be fun (and the bar definitely will be open), is a wee bit more of a “networking occasion”.
Anyway, back to work.