Hi everyone! This time next week I’ll be struggling with jetlag as I set up my company’s booth at the Cannes Film Market. Cannes is the most hectic and demanding time of the year for international distributors/sales agents like myself, but it’s also where most companies initiate their greatest amount of sales for the year. Thus, regardless of how painfully hectic it gets down in the trenches, I’ll remind myself that “the trenches” are perched oceanfront in the south of France. Simply put, a hard day in paradise is still a day in paradise, so it’s never that bad.
Today’s article is for filmmakers who are headed to Cannes, especially those who are attending for the first time. Whether you have a film in competition (I’m jealous if you do), have one at the Marche du Film (aka film the market), the Short Film Corner, or any other smaller film festival that takes place during the Festival de Cannes (aka The Cannes Film Festival); Cannes will soon become your festival of choice for the rest of your career. I love Cannes as much as I love the Lakers, UCLA, Dr. Pepper and The Beatles, and that is one hell of a lot of love.
I go to Cannes three times per year for film festival/market, and two TV markets (MIPCOM and MIPTV), so I’ve been there about 25 times. Thus, here are some insights designed to make your Cannes experience magical, fun and productive.
Side note: even if you are not headed to Cannes next week, you should keep this column handy, for when you and your next film are headed to the world’s most significant film festival.
The Money Factor
The first thing to know about going to Cannes is how much it’s going to cost you to attend. That’s why you should be aware of www.xe.com, which is dedicated to currency conversions. These days, 1 Euro = $1.30, which means everything you buy in France is 30% more expensive when converted to dollars.
Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees
In addition to losing 30% on the Euro to dollar conversion, you’re going to lose an additional 3% every time you use you credit card. That’s because every credit card company adds a 3% “foreign transaction fee” to each and every transaction.
Stay Away From “Money Exchange” Stores
The money exchange booths that are littered around most international airports are a huge scam. The cost far too much money to use, and thus, you’ll love even more money on your conversion.
The best solution is to only exchange your money at bank ATMs. This is because banks give other banks the best conversion rates. Following this simple rule will surely put more money in your pocket.
Dealing With Transportation
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Once you land in the Nice Airport (NCE is the airport code), you are about 30 or 40 minutes to Cannes. However, getting there will cost you a pretty penny if you hop in the first cab you see. This is because, depending on how badly your cabbie wants to screw you on the fare, you could pay 80-120 Euros from the airport to Cannes, (yes, that’s $104-$156 before the 3% foreign transaction fee if you use a credit card). The solution is to take a bus for two or three Euros, or a train for about five or six Euros. The bus terminal is right there at the airport, and the train station is about 100-200 yards away.
You can also rent a car, and your weekly rental will usually cost about the same as taking a cab to and from the airport. Remember, if you are going to rent a car, do so online and don’t wait to rent it at the airport last-minute. Doing so will save you hundreds of Euros. Secondly, while France drives on the same side of the road that the USA does, most rental cars are manual transmissions (stick shifts). So, make sure somebody in your group knows how to drive a stick shift.
Resting Your Head Without Breaking Your Wallet
The best way to survive and enjoy your first Cannes experience is to not actually stay in Cannes. Unless you land a great last-minute deal on an apartment in Cannes (which may be possible because they usually overprice themselves until the last few weeks, then they lower the prices to get their place rented), most hotels are outrageously expensive. In fact, “flea bag” motels in Cannes will cost Euros, decent hotels are 400 Euros plus, and nice places are 800 Euros plus. The answer is to look at staying in small towns, which are only a quick train ride away. Thus, Jens Les Pins, Antibes and Cannes La Bocca are really good bets.
The Fun Stuff
Getting On The Red Carpet
No experience at Cannes is complete without having tickets to a red carpet screening and walking up the most famous red carpet in the world. So, here is how you get there:
If your accreditation allows you to get tickets, you will earn a few points every hour, 24 hours per day. More coveted screenings will demand more points. So, don’t just get tickets to any red carpet screening if there is one you really want to attend. Hold out for the one you want, i.e. don’t use up your earned points on a film you don’t care about.
Secondly, if you have a ticket to a red carpet screening and you don’t attend, you will be banned for at least 24 hours from getting any ticket to any film. Thus, if you pull the ticket, you must attend, or make sure somebody attends with your ticket.
Lastly, the dress code at red carpet screenings is very strict. Men must wear black tuxedos and wear bowties, and women must be in dresses and evening gowns. While sometimes (not always) security will allow men to wear black suits that are not tuxedos), they will never allow men to attend a screening without a tie. I’m serious about this. Ticket or not, they will stop any man who doesn’t have a bowtie on, so don’t test it!
The Best Daytime Meeting Spots
The best “high-roller” daytime meeting spot is the terrace at the Carlton Hotel. Of course, a Coca-Cola is eight or nine Euros, so get ready to hurt your wallet.
The best “more reasonably priced” daytime meeting spot is at The American Pavilion, the home away from home for American filmmakers. It sits on the sand (literally) and it’s right next door to the Palais where the film market takes place. However, The American Pavilion (www.ampav.com) has a membership fee to join, so it may wind up costing the same as hitting the Carlton a few times.
The Best Evening Meeting Spot
The best place to meet for an evening meeting/cocktail is the Majestic Hotel. It’s newly remodeled and directly across the street from the Palais. Yes, it’s expensive.
The Best Late Night Meeting Spot
The most fun late-night meeting spot in is the lawn of the Grand Hotel. It’s rock-concert busy at midnight, with at least 700-1,000 people jammed in the hotel’s oversized front lawn. Whether you are a late night person or not, you’ve got to check out this scene at least once. It’s magical.
The Most Famous Pizza
La Pizza is by far the most famous pizza in Cannes, and by many accounts, is some of the finest pizza on the planet. The place has been there forever and a day, so it has withstood the test of time. So, if you like good pizza, you’ve got to give La Pizza a try.
Okay, everyone. That’s the insight I’ve got for you today. As always, I thank you for lending me your eyes and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday.
I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.