Plan for Cannes

A Cannes photo I did not take.
A Cannes photo I did not take.

Considering a trip to the Cannes Film Festival this year? Well, now is the time to start planning and booking. Here are links to the most useful Cannes-related blogs I’ve posted over the last few years.

First up, if you’re thinking about entering your movie into Cannes’ Short Film Corner, this guest blog by Sophie Black explains exactly what you can expect to get from your entry fee and how you can make the best use of your time at the festival.

There are some things you don’t want to leave home without – read Packing for Cannes to find out the essentials.

Attending Cannes can be expensive if you’re not careful. Have a look at a breakdown of my Cannes spending in 2011, and check out Five Tips for Doing Cannes on a Budget for hints and tricks to conserve your cash on the Côte d’Azur.

Things I’ve Learnt in Cannes and Things I Learnt (Again) from Cannes 2013 lay out some of the important truths about the film industry that my trips to Cannes have hammered home to me.

If you want to find out how Sophie and I got on at the festival last year, watch our 2013 video blogs.

To get a sense of the madness of my very first trip to the festival as I attempted to sell my indie feature Soul Searcher, read my 2005 Cannes blog.

And finally, not particularly useful but quite amusing, here is the account of my travel woes on my way to Cannes in 2010.

Plan for Cannes

Sophie Black’s Guide to the Cannes Short Film Corner: Part 2

The Short Film Corner at Cannes
The Short Film Corner at Cannes

In part one of this guide, filmmaker Sophie Black explained exactly what you get when you pay your 95 Euros to submit your short to Le Court Métrage at the Cannes Film Festival. Today she takes us through what happens in practice and what you can do to promote your film while attending the festival. Over to you, Sophie…

From the start, as soon as your submission goes through successfully, you are part of the SFC [Short Film Corner] mailing list, and the regular emails not only give you lists of lectures and contact details for the short film buyers, but give you temporary access to Cinando (an online database/catalogue where you can contact many industry professionals who will be useful to your career) along with other tips for a successful Cannes, so use all of these to your advantage if you can. Cannes will also share your details with other related parties, many of whom have clearly paid them to do so, which will result in a little spam.

Amongst this spam are emails from various PR companies wanting to promote your film. But it is a costly £400+ for these services, many of which just involve promoting the film through social networks, and emailing people to tell them to go and watch your film, which you can easily do yourself (although it may sound better coming from a PR firm).

Sophie's Ashes poster (top right) has a brief stint on the SFC banner.
Sophie’s Ashes poster (top right) has a brief stint on the SFC banner.

Due to PR costs, the majority of SFC applicants ignore said emails and choose a DIY approach to marketing their films. This way, however much or little you do is up to you – the minimum being just putting up a poster and hoping people will be inspired to go and watch your film (if your poster is still up and not covered by other peoples’ by the second day). It also means that every time you go to the Corner, you are met by a flurry of bright-eyed young things, all of whom think their film is great and who want you to go and see it. 

The real challenge is to branch out into other areas of the festival, and persuade people with money and power to leave their ritzy pavilion (and free drinks all-day-round, for bearers of certain passes) and come and queue in a hot room underground to view your film. But if you impress them enough, and network well, it can happen, and the results of this will be much more helpful to you in the long run.

It’s also important to think outside the box to get you and your film noticed at Cannes. I hammer on about this all the time, but you really can’t go with the flow. During the much-treasured Jane Campion lecture at the SFC, she encouraged us all to write down a question for her on pieces of paper, and put these into a hat. One clever girl wrote her question on the back of a postcard-sized poster of her film, and handed this in. Cue Jane Campion noticing the poster amongst all the blank white paper, and taking the time to study it. This small gesture is one of the cleverest things I saw at Cannes this year, and it left me with the irritating feeling of “I wish I’d thought of that!”

Although I did promote my film Ashes, and inspired a few people to go and watch it, my main reason for going down to the Corner was to meet with the people who might actually want to distribute it. I learnt something from all of these meetings although they ranged from genuine interest to an actual no-show. (Rule number one about arranging meetings: make sure you actually make contact with the person you’re meeting beforehand, even via email, and not just with their assistant – who isn’t even in Cannes this year!)

The Buyers Corner
The Buyers Corner

The designated meeting rooms looked a bit like the lobby in an accountant’s office, complete with random film-noir blinds, and the blank walls everywhere left room for your creativity to shine if you let it. During my meetings I not only had mini Ashes posters left, but also a set of promotional stills in my press kit, so I laid all these out before one distributor had arrived, and it gave him a full presentation of the film straight away. I definitely recommend doing this for your meetings if you’re left waiting for any length of time beforehand; what’s even more important is to make sure you have a copy of the film and trailer on you – if you don’t have a tablet or laptop, you should at least have it on your phone! Basically, these people are buyers, and you need to prove that you have a product to sell, and that you’re not just “all talk”.

With my mind clearly fixed on meetings and networking, I chose not to book out the screening room, although I did attend a good screening and recommend you do the same (if nothing else, you get to see what the screening rooms look like, and see if it’s somewhere you’d like to have your films played). The on-demand service gives your film more chances to actually be seen. You also get daily statistics emails saying how many times your film has been watched – along with contact details for who watched them, so you can chase these up for feedback and to create potential collaborations/work. Although, with thousands of other films out there, even having your film played 20 times on the system is not as good as having one screening and shoving 30 people in there (although I suppose it does depend on the viewer).

Also, a big thing to remember whilst you’re soaking in the sights and the sun, is that you’re not just representing yourself out there. Photos and souvenir mementos aren’t just things to make your parents proud – with your film you carry the name of everyone who worked on it with you, and you can’t help but think how much a screening of the film at Cannes would mean to your cast and crew. But, at the same time, a successful distribution deal or further festival acceptances will probably mean a great deal more. In the end, you have to do what is best for your own film, and plan your Cannes strategy around personalised rules, using everyone else’s experiences as your guidelines.

Find out more about Sophie and her work on her blog at and her website

Sophie Black’s Guide to the Cannes Short Film Corner: Part 2

Sophie Black’s Guide to the Cannes Short Film Corner: Part 1

Sophie Black with AD Chris Newman (left) and myself at the Ashes premiere
Sophie Black with AD Chris Newman (left) and myself at the Ashes premiere in London

Last month filmmaker Sophie Black, producer of my short Stop/Eject and director of the brilliant, dark fantasy-drama Ashes, attended the Cannes Film Festival and market for the first time. (Watch our vlogs from the festival here.) She entered Ashes into the Short Film Corner, an area of the festival which many filmmakers don’t fully understand until they’ve attended it themselves. So, if you’re making a short and aiming for the Corner next year or further down the line, let Sophie explain exactly what it is.

Let me start with an uncomfortable fact. You may have made an absolutely stunning short film – you may have rented the best camera your budget can afford, and even got a named actor in a small or voice role. But it is still near-impossible to get your film into the Cannes Film Festival.

There were no British films “in Competition”, “out of Competition” or in the “Un Certain Regard” category this year – although two British films made it into the “Director’s Fortnight” section of the festival – and there was a similar absence of Brits in the official short film selections as well. Taking into account the amount of people who undoubtedly submitted their short films from this country, many of which I’m sure were wonderful, you can see how difficult it is to get your film into Cannes.

The Short Film Corner
The Short Film Corner

But, for the thousands of short film makers who receive the dreaded rejection email, Cannes offers a lifeline – the Court Metrage (or Short Film Corner), a “meeting place dedicated to short film professionals”.

When Ashes (then still a work-in-progress) didn’t make it into the official selection, I took this lifeline without fully researching what the SFC actually is, basically wanting any way to get the Cannes logo on my film’s poster (which is the biggest appeal of the SFC, although the logo you’re allowed to use from there is simple, blocky and sadly laurel-free). The submission process for SFC is decidedly easier than the Official Selection – you upload your film to them rather than sending off a DVD copy, and as long as it plays well and you pay the (somewhat pricey) entry fee, you get a confirmation email pretty much straight away. Which causes a bit of a “jump for joy” moment, I can tell you – particularly if you don’t have Java script and have to spend an evening or two installing it to make the online submission system work first!

Le Palais des Festivals. Photo: Sophie Black
Le Palais des Festivals. Photo: Sophie Black

The SFC website doesn’t exactly spell out what it is; it is worded with strong adjectives to make it sound like a professional, esteemed experience when all you really want is bullet points and dumb language to tell you exactly what you get for your money. So here is what you get:

  • Your film will be available on the Cannes SFC database and is viewable on selected computers, all of which are in booths at the Short Film Corner, in the basement of the Palais des Festivals. Sort of like a Vimeo service, but not open to the public. But there are always big queues to this section, so if you want to find a computer which is free, come first thing in the morning (when everyone else is still hungover from the parties).
  • There is a public area leading up to the booths where you can stick up the film’s poster, as well as racks for flyers and postcards, to attract passers-by to come into the booths. But, as I discussed in my recent blog post, it can be quite difficult to get your poster in there – and even more difficult to get it to stay there!
  • There are “three screening rooms available to you” – which is how the website phrases it without further explanation. Basically there are three enclosed cubicles (of varied size, with varied numbers of chairs, none of which fit more than about forty people at a squeeze) all of which are painted black inside with a personal cinema-sized screen, and a projector linked up to a laptop with the Cannes SFC database (the Vimeo service again) on it. These rooms are shared between every filmmaker with an entry in the SFC, and you need to book it if you want to screen your film there. You can book on the day rather than planning it in advance, but this leaves you less time to persuade people to come. Also, these cubicles get ridiculously stuffy, prompting anyone in there to want to leave before your (optional) post-film Q&A even starts.
  • There is a bar in the public area, with free strong espresso in the morning – the brand depends on who is sponsoring the festival that year – and a happy hour with free alcohol around teatime. Ask at the information desk about different types of happy hour because there was a Mexican-themed one on an evening we missed (although it was only the drinks which were themed, not the attire). Coming to the SFC during happy hour is a good time to meet people and network because it’s always packed, with people from other areas of the festival coming along for the free drinks, although it can get hot and difficult to move. And the beer always goes first.
  • There are certain lectures held only in the SFC area. As members, you are emailed a list of these in advance, including ones which you have to book for because places are limited (such as pitching sessions to industry professionals for feedback, and lectures on funding). But with some talks, you just have to queue up and arrive early to make sure you get a seat – including a talk with one of my favourite directors, Jane Campion, which we learnt about two hours in advance due to word-of-mouth in a queue for a stuffy cubicle screening.
  • Most importantly, there is a separate area next to the screening booths called the Buyers Corner, where people who genuinely buy short films come and meet with you. You will have to book meetings well in advance (although we did try leaving notes for some buyers we couldn’t get hold of in advance), but again, you will be given a list of buyers and contact details via email when your submission goes through. If you are attending Cannes for business rather than pleasure, as I was, then this is your most important asset. But if you are a first-timer, or if you have not dealt with these people before, expect to be treated somewhat differently than those they greet with a “hello again, you!” and a hug. Those people will be given coffee while they wait; you will be lucky to be offered water. And sometimes, you may just get stood up.
  • Finally, as with any submission to the Cannes festival, you are given a free festival pass, which you wear everywhere to access the rest of the festival (although priority access is given to those with gold strips on their passes, whereas yours is silver). This is worth submitting for – even if you don’t visit the SFC at all, you get to see screenings (if you can get in) and network in the pavilions and marketplace. In fact, if you want a cheap way to get into Cannes, submit a film to the SFC – which, as I said, has a minimal selection process – and get a pass for around £70 rather than £250! [Note: you can get a free festival pass if you apply early enough and can prove you are active in the film industry. – Neil] You also get a souvenir Cannes shoulder bag and a load of booklets, brochures and magazines with your submission – although some of these are in French and it all soon gets heavy as you cart everything round from place to place.

That’s what you get included in your submission price, but your Cannes experience is what you make of it, and the possibilities are endless.

In part two we’ll hear about those possibilities and how everything above works in practice once you get off the plane at Nice. Find out more about Sophie and her work on her blog at and her website


Sophie Black’s Guide to the Cannes Short Film Corner: Part 1

Things I Learnt (Again) from Cannes 2013

Fireworks and Jaws on the beach
Fireworks and Jaws on the beach

My recent trip to the Cannes Film Festival was my fourth, but I still learnt several new things and re-learnt old things that I’d forgotten since my last trip:

  • The Market Guide – a sort of Cannes bible containing contact details for everyone attending – is available Argos-style at the back of the Riviera Building by the escalators. Getting a copy of this book was always a big advantage of having an expensive market badge rather than a free festival pass, so having free access to it is very handy. The staff at the UK Pavilion are usually happy to look stuff up for you in their copy too.
  • There is a free left luggage service to the right of the casino in the corner of the Palais des Festivals.
  • Antibes, ten miles out of Cannes, is a popular place to stay because it’s cheap yet easily accessible by train. A weekly rail pass is only 8 Euros.
  • Wifi at the festival is awful, so save any screeners, photos etc. to your mobile device before leaving home/your hotel.
  • When networking, show your trailer/screener/photos as soon as possible to prove that you are (a) a doer, not just a talker and (b) a filmmaker who delivers high production values. From the response our Stop/Eject and Ashes materials have got, we can only assume that most people’s materials don’t look as good as ours. Showing trailers/screeners also gets the attention of other people nearby or even across the room, which can lead to further networking opportunities.
  • Also when networking, it is not cheating to talk to people you already know. Often they will introduce you to people you don’t.
  • Delices Yang, the Chinese Restaurant I mentioned in a previous post as a good place to eat cheaply, has had a makeover and is now more expensive, but is still competitive – especially as it’s all-you-can-eat.
Things I Learnt (Again) from Cannes 2013

Things I’ve Learnt in Cannes

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.

Things I’ve Learnt in Cannes

Packing for Cannes

Business cards are exchanged at a prodigious rate in Cannes.
Business cards are exchanged at a prodigious rate in Cannes.

With Cannes approaching fast, here are some things you definitely shouldn’t leave out of your suitcase:

  1. Comfy shoes. Because of the way the festival and market are laid out, you do a HELL of a lot of walking in Cannes. Yes, the festival has glamour after dark, but during the daytime you want your most comfortable walking shoes on. Even so, pack plasters too, because you will get blisters.
  2. Sunglasses and sunblock. Most meetings take place on the sun-decks of the pavilions on the seafront. It’s a hard life in Cannes, it really is.
  3. Business cards. Cannes is the biggest filmmakers’ networking event on the planet. You will collect a massive stack of business cards and you should be prepared to hand a lot out.
  4. French phrase book. Although everyone speaks English at the festival, this may not be the case at your hotel, in restaurants, etc.
  5. Materials. Take something to show people, be it a press kit, a one sheet, or the film itself on your smartphone. If it’s the latter, a pair of headphones and some sort of hood to keep glare off the screen are strongly advised. Again, most meetings will be in bright sunlight and with plenty of chatter going on around.


Packing for Cannes

5 Tips for Doing Cannes on a Budget

The Palais des Festivals in Cannes, 2010
The Palais des Festivals in Cannes, 2010

I’ve recently booked my flight and hotel for this year’s Cannes Film Festival and Market. This will be my fourth Cannes, and I’ve been trying to get the cost down every year. Here are my top five tips for saving cash on the Côte d’Azur:

  1. Get free festival accreditation by applying as soon as registration opens (usually the start of February). Make sure your IMDb page is up-to-date to prove you’re active in the industry.
  2. Book early to get the best hotel deals. Adam Hale tipped me off about an extremely cheap campsite with mobile homes – Parc Belle Vue – but it was already full by the time I decided I was going to Cannes this year.
  3. Stay somewhere on a bus route (timetables and maps here). Relying on taxis can quickly destroy your budget, but the buses in the Cannes area are only one Euro for a single ticket and run until about midnight.
  4. Slash your food and drink budget by living off canapés at parties and carrying a water bottle which you can continually refill from the cooler downstairs in the Palais des Festivals. If canapés don’t fill you up, Delices Yang on Rue Emile Negrin is cheap and cheerful if you can handle all the MSG.
  5. Save around ten Euros each way by taking the train from Nice airport to Cannes, rather than the tourist-baiting 210 bus. Board the free airport shuttle bus, alight at L’Arénas and from there Nice St. Augustine railway station is just a five minute walk (map here).
5 Tips for Doing Cannes on a Budget

The Dark Side of the Earth: May 21st, 2011

Okay, for any of you contemplating a future visit to the Cannes Film Festival, here is the cost breakdown of my trip this year. Did I manage it within my UKP600 budget? Let’s see….

Flight: 76
UK transfers (train & EasyBus): 58
Subsistence en route: 9
Laptop insurance: 3
Phone credit: 10
French trains (paid for by card): 15
Festival accreditation: 0
French hotel (4 nights): 288
Luton hotel (1 night): 28
Euros for petty cash: 73
Total: UKP560

So I came in under budget, and I’m sure you could do it for even less than this if you lived closer to the airport and were prepared to live off canapes and crisps all week.
The UKP73 for petty cash got me 80 Euros, of which 8 were spent on bus fares between my hotel and Cannes, 4 went on hotel tax (sometimes charged separately in France) and the rest went on food and drink.

The Dark Side of the Earth: May 21st, 2011