Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chronicles 63 - Post-Cannes (2008) Report

Just arrived back from Cannes. I was there from May 14th to May 20th. Every year is a learning experience. I still haven't got it down pat even after my 8th Cannes. Strategy-wise, clinching meetings etc I've got covered but I still haven't got the whole accomodation thing worked out. In earlier years I found this very basic, zero star hotel that was ultra cheap and was close to a very regular bus service. It was family run but sadly the owner died and they closed it down as a hotel.

Last year I stayed in a hotel in Grasse with a director friend of mine because I only found out in February that the zero star hotel wasn't a hotel any more. I went on-line to et al but couldn't find anything in Cannes. If I had phoned all the hotels in Cannes I would have probably found something but generally for hotels in Cannes you have to book for the whole festival period.

Anyway, the whole Grasse thing was okay but involved a lot of travelling so this year I looked into apartments. I booked one in Cannes La Bocca which is very close by car but about an hour's walk from The Palais. Unfortunately the coast road buses are not very frequent and my friend and I, who was a few blocks away, ended up spending quite a bit of 'hard equity' on taxis who extortionately increase their rates during the festival.

The location was great, ocean view and after a hard day pounding the means streets of Cannes it was nice to go to to sleep with the sound of the waves crashing onto the sand. Of course I could have rented a car but then you get into the whole parking thing, although there is a multi-story car park close to Cannes railway station that is reasonable. Still, it all becomes a headache. My feeling is that if you scrap the whole rental car/taxi thing and book early and pay the extra cost to stay in Cannes then it's worth it.

Sometimes you just want to go off for a power nap or freshen up after darting from meeting to meeting. Serial pitching can get exhausting even though the adrenalin rush keeps you going so it would be great to just nip back and crash for a while to recharge the batteries. For next year that will be my focus, to stay in Cannes itself, and preferably in a hotel room in order to avoid the whole song and dance with deposits and landlords. A photographer I know, who stayed in the zero star hotel, told me about a hotel he knows in Cannes, so I will give him a call after the festival ends. Cannes is carved into my yearly schedule so I may as well book early.

The other aspect is timing. This year it wasn't too bad but I feel I should have stayed for 2 days more. I arrived early this year, on the official start day of the festival, Wednesday 14th, and left on May 20th which was a little too early. Many people arrive later and have meetings on the early part of the second week, after about Tuesday, Wednesday of the second week things start cooling down. Because I was leaving on the 20th it meant that I had a very busy day on the 19th. I really had to cram my meetings in so I think the optimal period is Wednesday to Wednesday. Maybe arrive one day before the festival, get your bearings and then leave on the Thursday. That way it gives you a bit of time to chill and you catch the early and late birds and importantly it allows for re-schedules. Someone will ALWAYS try and reschedule you in Cannes so if you build enough breathing space in your schedule you can pick up the meeting later.

This year was the first year I actually ended up cancelling other people out of my schedule (9 meetings) although I got cancelled too (3 meetings). I realized that as the week was progressing I had mostly achieved my goals. My existing projects were consolidating well with pre-arranged meetings on the finance and sales side. From the response I was getting to my new spec, still in development, I knew it had legs, in fact one prducer is interested in developing it from an early stage (just got an email from him today following up on our meeting). I told him that I only have a very, very rough draft.

So, even though there were some key people I wanted to still meet I went through my schedule and cancelled people who hadn't really made any films with substantial cast. This business works so much on 'names' and the fact is, it is really better to team up with someone who has already proven he can attach top cast especially to financiers. My US producer has exec produced two major studio films with A list cast and directors and when you drop that in a meeting then that's the end of it, no more explanations, the confidence is there. They 'get it'.

Since I now actually have a couple of commissioned scripts under my belt, both of them out to directors, a Canadian producer was interested in me looking at rewriting a period piece and a New York producer is looking for a European writer to adapt a book. Once this week is over I will follow up on that. Who knows? Might come to nothing but worth pursuing in any case. I also have three companies who produce a lot of animation, 2 from the US and one from the UK interested in several animation projects. Again, it will be all on the follow up. Most Cannes meetings fizzle into nothing, although a few of course, deliver the goods and that's why I try and get as many meetings as possible, it's a numbers game. I suspect as time goes on and one gets more films made then the meetings become more selective. One of the best meetings was a 2 hour lunch on a yacht with a financier and my US producer. It will probably come to nothing but it was great to see how the rich live for a couple of hours and get served by the yacht's private chef.

All in all, it was a GREAT Cannes and it felt like real progress was made but, buyer beware, this is the film business and it's based around smoke and mirrors so the old maxim, 'I'll believe it when I'm eating the popcorn', still applies :-)

Ciao for now
SWU - swunderwoods[at]yahoo[dot]co[uk]

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Chronicles 62 - Cannes 2008

I'm off to Cannes next week. So far I have about 43 meetings in 6 days and more to confirm so I will be hitting the ground running. May 19th will be crazy since I have 13 meetings in one day! Yikes! When I start scheduling, which is always early, 4 weeks before, I always think that maybe this time I will have a relaxed Cannes and just set meetings once an hour but once the campaign gets going that plan goes out of the window.

Once you get into meetings every half hour in Cannes you have to be careful about locations and make sure that you, if possible, schedule the meetings next to each other in the same hotel otherwise you'll find yourself running around like a sweating, puffing speedy Gonzalez. It also puts you under pressure in the meeting itself because meetings run over very easily in Cannes so if you're meet is late and you know you have to dash off to the other side of Cannes your meeting quickly deteriorates into a speed-dating scenario.

For me Cannes is a big networking opportunity. This is my 8th Cannes and in my second Cannes, or rather first Cannes where I actually had some kind of strategy and presented myself as a production company, I found a UK co-producer. That helped me progress the project along to a certain stage e.g. attach a director and then meet LA talent agents, casting directors and at one point the project looked like it was going to have a star attached but this didn't happen. Then the government changed the tax-laws, financing became difficult and somehow the project reached a bit of an impasse and the producer and I went our separate ways. Cut to last year where I managed to attach a US producer with a great track record and the project is now making some real progress again. This stuff takes time.

Also, my black comedy-drama project has taken a few Cannes to get going. In 2005 I went to Cannes to find a co-producer for the short. I met someone, had conversations, met at Cannes the next year but it wasn't really working out so I pitched another producer in Cannes 2006. They loved the project and the short film, which was intended as a showcase for the feature, was shot in October 2006. I then went to Cannes 2007 with the director and the short, which is one storyline within the feature, and we then managed to attach a New York producer with a great track record who is actually on set now with some major talent. After she came on board in June 2007 I delivered the final draft about a month ago and the producer has set up a meeting for me with a financier at Cannes 2008. Funnily enough, this script is based on the first play I ever wrote back in 1995! Did I say this stuff takes time?

I've got a great set of meetings this year, top production companies and financiers some of whom wouldn't meet with me normally as 'Joe Schmoe fledgling producer' I'm sure, but now that I've built up a team of track record producers around my projects I'm emitting some 'proxy heat'.

My main aim is to consolidate existing projects with existing partners and financiers who are on board, reach out to new financiers, pitch new projects to new and existing production companies and also possibly pick up assignment work as I did in Cannes 2006. I'm also meeting with animation producers since we still have a bunch of animation projects in my bag of tricks.

The animation projects have had their own history of 'Close, but no cigar' which has been chronicled in this blog. In Cannes 2006 I met a company who wanted to put a lot of development money into one of the projects and was about to sign a deal then they got cold feet on doing an animation feature. At one point Disney were interested, LOVED the ideas but that went nowhere and in Cannes 2002 a company wanted to develop one idea into a feature and then went bust! In any case, I keep on plugging away.

That's what this game is all about really, plugging away, despite all the obstacles so that you reach a point (to paraphrase the Business Consultant Jim Rohn) where time, fate and circumstances see that you've paid your dues and give you the greenlight. Hey, this stuff isn't going to bring about world peace or feed the hungry but it's a passion and, as Joseph Campbell says, in life, you have to, "Follow your bliss".

Ciao for now
SWU - swunderwoods[at]yahoo[dot]co[uk]