An Action Filmmaker In Cannes – Day 1

We left on Tuesday morning at 4am for the Oakland airport, driven by a man named Kabir, who took special interest in my having worked on a Bollywood film, Love Aaj Kaal, and he loved action films in general. Turns out he has a brother in the Bollywood industry. We exchanged business cards. Before leaving Oakland, we’ve already made one connection. Maybe the rest of the trip will be this productive.

The trip to Cannes involved four flights. Got to watch a movie I never would have watched otherwise (Contraband), slept in an awkward position for eight hours, woke up with the airplane equivalent of ‘bed head’, which could be called ‘airplane seat head’ I suppose, arrived in Cannes and took a long bus ride to our destination.

The film market had only just started, and there were thousands of people packed in the narrow streets awaiting the only showing on the first night of the event, a new Wes Anderson movie. Black tux only. Many civilians stood outside holding signs saying, “invitation please (svp)”, the acronym for the French word “‘please”. I think it’s hilarious that the French only get a parenthetical ‘please’ at a film festival in their own country. I think the people holding the signs were French too.

We browsed the populated floor and ran into our sales agent, WonderPhil, who had a big poster of Death Grip hanging on the wall and was taking meetings all day. Hopefully they were for our film. They had a bunch of fliers for my film too. I stole a pile.

Dozens of other companies have booths at Cannes. Sahamongkol, CJ Media, Mei Ah, and tons of others pushing the new action heroes, plus more B genre films than you could ask for. Apparently Christian Slater is still in a lot of films. Overall, though, the floor was full of sales agents and production companies looking for buyers for their films, but they were being met with cold handshakes and weary eyes from distributors who were losing sleep over the Euro Zone crisis. Not much money was changing hands.

Our event for the day was the “Producer’s Workshop”, where the speaker, Peter Buckingham, was discussing ways technology has changed how the audience demands experiences from the filmmaker. His ideas were interesting, if a little vague, like “give them an experience at the theater beyond the film”, the most interesting being that filmmakers should create ways and reasons for audiences to keep sharing the experience after it happens. Social media is a great way to spread interest, so any way to incentivize discussion after the fact can only help your film’s exposure. One idea was using cell phone apps. If I could write apps, I’d be on this immediately. (BTW, if anyone is able to write Android or iPhone apps and is interested in integrating them with action films, please email me. We could make something pretty insane, and I would figure out a way to pay you.)

But one audience member asked the burning question: “How will any of this help us get our movie made?” That’s all that’s on anyone’s mind these days. Other audience members asked things like, “I have a film I want to do where x happens, how do I market this?” Everyone here is a filmmaker, and they all want to make their movie. You can smell the tension in the air whenever a conversation deviates from this. And like at AFM, most of them want to do dramas, documentaries, and some comedies. Occasionally an animation finds its way in there. His answer was, “Well you can coproduce or…” etc. There isn’t really any hard info on how to get money to do a film here, except for things called “co-productions”, which I’ll get into later.

Buckingham’s most interesting point was noting that the increase in films being made in Europe didn’t make sense from a market perspective, and that European governments have been subsidizing them beyond market demand. It was a passing note, but it rang loud in my ears.

Grocery stores here have basically the same exact stuff. Same crappy snack food, same awesome meats, with one exception: they have salami racks. Three dozen different kinds of salami, all of them cheap. Anyone who knows me understands how much this means to me. Restaurants here are a different story. A meal runs approximately 20 €, which is $25.00. Cheaper meals are 15 €, and it’s not uncommon to find 45 – 50  € meals here. Coffee cups are roughly 5 oz. and cost 3 €, or $3.75. You get a thermos of coffee for that much in the States, so I drug up on caffeine at the house in the morning. Granted we’re on the riviera which is one of the nicest places in France, but Tokyo was far cheaper than this.

I’m also completely under-dressed compared to everyone in Cannes. In my usual fashion I repurposed some of the wardrobe from Death Grip and brought Kenny’s suit jacket, which just looks ridiculous on me. Tomorrow I’m giving up on trying to look cool and just wearing whatever I want.

At night we treated ourselves to a great dinner on a sidewalk in Cannes, searched desperately for ice cream, and failed to connect to Hulu or Netflix because this region is locked out of those services, at least with my subscription. We’re staying at a designer’s house right on the riviera, who has a dog that won’t leave me alone. Internet comes every couple of days like it’s some kind of weather phenomenon, so I’m posting these late.

Today: fish out of water, good food, and sparse internet. But what good is this place to an action filmmaker?