I tell people I have to go to the Cannes Film Festival again this year, and I groan.
And they roll their eyes and think I’m a wanker.
Perhaps I am.
But Cannes, for a working independent film producer, is gruelling. It’s a hard slog for the week or however many days you’re there. It’s not glamorous and it’s not sexy, it’s just meeting after meeting, late nights, early breakfasts, crowds rubbernecking, getting in your way as you’re rushing along the Croisette (the main drag) from one meeting to another.
Everyone is late for meetings at Cannes. Sometimes they simply don’t show, because someone more important crosses their path. Often the real business happens when you bump into someone in the street, or in a bar, or at a cocktail party.
It’s that random.
And it’s that structured.
For independent film producers such as Jennifer and myself, Cannes is the most important market in the calendar year.
Because Cannes is actually two beasts in one – it’s not only a glamorous and prestigious film festival – the most prestigious and important festival in the world – but running alongside is a market, called the Marche. This is where the year’s business is done in the film industry.
Every major distributor, financier, sales agent, and producer comes to Cannes. It’s the one market they all attend. This Cannes is my 20th. And one side of me loathes it with a passion, and the other side loves the celebration of cinema, and the attendant glamour.
The film industry is a tough business – and the physical production of a film is often extremely demanding, physically and emotionally – and so I love Cannes because actors turn into movie stars, and directors are feted, and films are studied and respected, not as entertainment artefacts, but as works of art.
I’ve had films in Official Selection at Cannes, in the festival, and I’ve walked up the red carpet, and I’ve stood in the Palais – the main cinema – and looked out at the faces of 2500 cinephiles as they applauded my work. For a filmmaker, there are very few moments in your career that beat that.
On the other end of the spectrum I’ve had films which have not been chosen in Official Selection, and have screened in the Marche. That’s like one year staying in the Plaza in New York, and the next year staying in the YMCA.
It’s grounding, and humbling. And every filmmaker goes through it, even the big names.
One year I sat in a hotel room in Paris beside the chief Cannes selector as he told Clint Eastwood that his film would not be chosen for Cannes. It’s brutal.
I would be quite content never to come to Cannes again – unless of course my next film is chosen in Official Selection. Then I’ll tell everyone with great glee: I’m going to Cannes again this year – whoo hoo!