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Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Festival
By Joseph D. Sullivan Esq.
May 30, 2015

 For ten days in May, Cannes, France is the movie making mecca of the world condensed into a ½ mile strip which makes Las Vegas seem quiet and quant.  Anybody who is anybody in the film industry is at this festival.  We travelled to Cannes for the 68th Film Festival on May 13 to May 23 and learned a lot, including how changes in the movie making world and the Internet have made the Profession extremely complex and difficult.

The festival on the Mediterranean transcends Hollywood.  Beautiful white tents line the Mediterranean beaches which include film representatives of various countries trying to entice filming in their lovely neck of the woods.   Shoot your summer love story in Budapest for example and receive get a 25 percent tax rebate.  During the week, parties are thrown at these tents to attract movie industry people to experience China or the Armenian Republic, or Germany in an informal setting.

In the Forum, a Convention Center like setting, houses the vendors, distributors, sales representatives, short film venues, production companies are lined up in booths for film festival attendees.  Seminars are conducted sporadically throughout the week on topics involving the film making process-from VOD and the Internet’s impact on the Industry-to foreign distribution needs.  Each day the Forum is packed with meetings held by potential distributors and producers looking for product.  There are 3,300 films for sale and eleven thousand attendees.  The makeup of the festival forum is 29 percent producers, 24 percent distributors, and 11 percent sales agents.

Along the outskirts of the Forum are multimillion dollar yachts either owned or rented by distribution companies, film studios and other companies totally impressing the attendees and fully outfitted for meetings.  The hotels around the Center also are converted to business rooms for the world’s producers to meet, talk, sleep and buy anything in the movie making world.

The Red Carpet in the Center of the festival is the big event circus where the Big Screenings take place. Tuxedos, gowns, stars, and paparazzi are to be seen as spectator’s cheer the superstars of the Industry as they parade into screenings of their movie.  This goes three times a night for 10 nights. 

The biggest French, Korean, Chinese, and Russian stars are walking the Red Carpet to the delight of onlookers.  Very little can compete with the Mad Max IV: Fury Road crew led by Charlize Theron making her way to the carpet with 1,400 flash bulbs going off.  The rest of the 100 plus movies being screened at Cannes are being shown every minute of the day in movie studios set up to view them.  The actual judging of the 10 to 12 movies that will receive awards at the festival goes on in secret and is lost to the average festival goer.  However, it is the buzz from the judging of independent movies and awards received at this festival that makes the Cannes Film Festival one of the best festivals to attend and be recognized.

What we learned early on however is that The Money—buyers and distributors--aren’t in reality the festival.  They are outside the festival looking in.  They hold court in yachts at sea; at the hotels 10 to 20 minutes out of town or in hotel lobby bars.  The mystery buyers pops into town outside the reach of minions peddling their wares to meet a prospective film maker with a project.  The Money which most of the festival goers are looking for is not on the strip but in and around it and few have access to their whereabouts.  We did. At the end of the Festival, many travel to Monaco to watch the Grand Prix race throughout the streets of Monte Carlo.  The Super Wealthy continue their “holiday” at this spectacular area on the French Rivera.

Many leave this festival feeling part of a large, fun, glamorous industry.  However, there are choppy seas ahead in the movie making business as independent movie makers are left without a lot of distribution opportunities due to the large mega movies now taking over the screens.  The alternative to the Big Screens seem to be where the independents are going – V.O.D.; Netflix; YouTube; and or Internet sites willing to take on production at a very reasonable rate. 

The other countries however, seem to still be interested in product.  They will take a little risk (except Germany which are very risk averse) in the independent movies so that their theaters can be show some U.S. films, even if it’s not a blockbuster.  The Internet in Europe has not advanced as it is in the US, so it is at these international trade shows likes Cannes, Germany, Toronto and the American Film Market in Santa Monica that the Indy still has a shot, a long shot.

Perhaps making movies is less about making big money and more about making great, interesting, compassionate pieces of art.  It is 65 years ago that Cannes, France began showing films that were not designed for the mass populace to make money, but for the art world to increase their culture.  This town has been taken over by the “big top tent of money” but with all the glitz and glam, there is still recognition for independent film project made by the little guy, with a place to show its craft. And, that’s a good thing.


Mr. Sullivan is an Entertainment lawyer as well as a Producer/Consultant.