Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How to Survive Cannes Without Really Trying

In honor of the Cannes Film Festival, going on right now, I thought I might impart some lessons I learned while at Cannes 2008 with the Wendy and Lucy team.

Left to right: myself, producer Anish Savjani,
co-writer Jon Raymond,
and producer Neil Kopp.

Here is what I learned:

1. It’s pronounced “can”, as in: “yes, I can drink a can of Schweppes in the canteen in Cannes. And then go to the can. Because my bladder is now full of Schweppes."

2. Bring your wallet. And your ATM card. And your parents’ credit card. And a line of credit. And be sure your unemployment checks clear before you get on the plane.

3. If you’re getting new business cards made, put “+1” in front of your phone number. That way people know you’re cool and international, and no one back home will think you’re snooty at all. Why would they?

4. The dress code: Cannes is famous for mandatory tuxedos at screenings (this is only true for evening screenings in one theater). I was all freaked out about going to France in a bad tuxedo. Guess what? 95% of the men at Cannes look like idiots in their tuxedos: ill-fitting, their trousers a different shade of black from their jacket, and all way out of style. Turns out the French can be fashion accidents too. Oh, and by the way, unless you know how to tie a real bow-tie, just bring a clip-on. Real bow-ties are freakin’ hard to tie. And no matter how much you brag about your real bow-tie, nobody cares. In fact you may “accidentally” get a drink poured on you if you mention it too many times.

Tying bow-ties is easy for man-about-town Neil Kopp
(seen here assisting me with my tie).
Neil can do anything required of the suave.

5. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by film commerce. If you picture Cannes as an highfalutin celebration of obscure art cinema, it’s not. It’s primarily a film market for all sorts of horror films, teen-sex comedies, low-budget sci-fi, what-have-you, all packed into a trade-show style convention center. Sometimes the film festival part feels like an afterthought.

6. Cannes is filled with paparazzi, and the seriousness with which the French regard celebrity puts US Weekly to shame. The festival is like the Oscars, except without Joan Rivers there to remind you how silly it all is. Unless you’re a celebrity, or Harvey Weinstein, nobody at the festival, including the paparazzi, cares about you.

See how the paparazzi are completely ignoring poor Neil and Anish?
And they put on real bow-ties and everything! Just how suave do you have
to be to get some attention around here!?!

7. Don’t ever say “I’ll buy this round of drinks!” unless you want to end up paying $180 for six beers. (And why even pay for booze? There’s got to be a Weinstein party around here somewhere…)

Chillin’ with the free booze at the Weinstein party.

8. Speaking of parties, never go to a party on the Bud Light yacht. I mean, obviously, the terms “But Light” and “yacht” are not meant to go together (“Bud Light” and “houseboat,” sure).

9. And by the way, just because you work for P. Diddy doesn’t mean you can get into his stupid party. (Thanks a lot, four years at MTV.)

Moving on to advice about attending screenings:

10. Try to sit next to empty seats at a premiere. The famous people come in late and take the last few spots. (I got to touch elbows with Gael Garcia Bernal for two straight hours!)

Fortunately he didn’t remember me from this altercation
we had
at the Telluride Film Festival some years earlier
(yes, that's really Gael Garcia Bernal, and yes, that's really me).

11. Every film, no matter how much you like it, requires a ten minute standing ovation, where everyone stares at the filmmakers and claps until their hands hurt. Kind of like how it’s impossible to get a bad grade at Harvard: if you’re in Cannes already, they you must deserve a ten minute standing-o, right?

This is the standing-o for The Class. Okay, this film did deserve it.

And finally, advice on attending your own screening:

12. Don’t worry that you have no idea when or where to walk on the red carpet. The red carpet experience is surreal: basically all you have to do is walk up some stairs, but somehow it feels like climbing a mountain. In a tuxedo. With blinding lights in your eyes. Fortunately the paparazzi will ignore you. If you have a celebrity with you, they will only take pictures of her, and they will scream at you to get out of the way if you happen to get between them and their shot of said celebrity.

This is a little video I took with my still camera of our red-carpet
walk. (This was almost as surreal as
the time I was on
"The Price is Right." But that's another blog entirely.)

13. While walking down the carpet, try not to think about how everyone in the theater waiting for your screening is watching a live video feed of you getting yelled at by the paparazzi.

Michelle Williams (on the screen) during the red carpet for
Synedoche, New York, as we wait for them to get their
asses inside so we can watch the movie.

14. At the end of your screening, try not to be blinded by the bright lights aimed at you, and somehow try not to be embarrassed by everyone clapping at you for ten minutes.

15. Oh, and if you get the opportunity to watch director Spike Jonze get hoisted up the 150 foot mast of a luxury sailboat owned by an Italian liquor magnate, you should do that.


Follow these 15 easy rules and you’ll survive a week in Cannes with nothing worse than a bad hangover and a $5000 hole in your bank account.


atu said...

MERCI Bachha BaabAA
Thanks for your wit it
Please do follow up with your
out of bodily functions in CAN

Prince Gomolvilas said...

I would like to know about your out of bodily functions too.

Anonymous said...

More about the altercation with GGB, por favor! Great blog!

tamara alexa said...

that sounds just about right. then there is the trash, literal and metaphorical...

E. Nina Rothe said...

This was an absolutely fantastic read! I laughed out loud, my neighbors must have thought I was crazy. Thanks for sharing your wonderfully witty inside scoops to Can!

Brandon Patton aka BL4k Lotus said...

Very entertaining read. It was better than Cats.