Attending the Cannes Film Festival and Market for the first time can be a big shock; it certainly was for me back in 2005. Here are some of the things I learnt from that first trip.
- Filmmaking is a business, not an art. Films are bought and sold like tins of beans, and profit – or the reliable promise of profit – is the driving force behind it, just like every other business.
- Many more films get made every year than you could possibly imagine, and crucially many more films turn a profit than you might expect. The industry does not consist of only Hollywood blockbusters and micro-budget indie fare. There are also hundreds of formulaic low budget films that most of us will never see, but nevertheless find an audience and make money, typically on straight-to-DVD release or in foreign territories (even if they were made in English). There is a living to be made if you can get into this section of the industry, though it may not be exactly what you always dreamt of.
- Name actors are everything. When I went around the market in 2005 asking all the distributors if they were interested in buying a fantasy action movie (Soul Searcher), the first question was always: “Who’s in it?” It is almost impossible for a film to make a profit unless it has elements (a name actor, a name director or it’s based on a successful book, game, etc.). For the same reason you won’t get a film financed without one of these things attached.
- Don’t believe anything they tell you. Cannes is home to more horseshit than Biff Tannen’s car. Most meetings you have, no matter how positive they seem, will ultimately come to nothing.
- There are many, many talkers but not so many doers. If you go to Cannes having actually made a film, particularly a feature, you will immediately command some respect.
Of course, it is one thing to read this stuff in a blog, but another entirely to learn it firsthand. If you want to be a filmmaker, I strongly suggest you attend the festival at least once so you can truly understand the industry you’re getting into.