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]