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It had been a few years since we'd been to Cannes, so we decided to make the trip to talk to various film financiers about our two current film projects in development: Venus Rising and The Heroes of Mafeking. Both screenplays are period dramas, though very different in style and historical context.
The slight madness that is Le Festival du Film is quite fun. The scale of the film market is huge, although after a couple of days of navigation, it all becomes familiar with a villagey feel.
The market is multi-faceted: a floating corporate hospitality fest; an opportunity to see a myriad films from obscure countries; a chance to catch the bigger films in competition; and surprisingly, a slightly nerdy convention peopled by delegates in summer rig with their 'we belong here' IDs on tape around their necks. Actually, we had those, too . . . it's the law.
Happily, we met some some excellent people whose addition to the mix will help to bring our projects to fruition. It was good to meet David's long time lawyer Nigel Palmer of Farrer & Co and have a noisy dinner at Le Petit Paris. Thanks, too, to our accountant Ivan Sopher and his wife Helen for inviting us to join them on the Coutts yacht. Very heaven, if a little sunburny, even at 6pm. We saw some familiar faces there and made a few new connections.
A poolside lunch at an impressive-looking villa with the representatives of the consortium which is raising finance for The Heroes of Mafeking was encouraging. They seemed to be making good progress with their funding set-up and had some exciting plans to integrate branding into the package to finance the film. And we had a few good meetings on the Carlton Terrace, in particular with Prescience Film Financing regarding Venus Rising. More names, more pack-drill, when we get past 'Go'.
Meanwhile, the merest whiff of an A-lister causes much hoopla and we largely avoided that part of the circus, although we did arrive on the Croissette on our first evening minutes after Mr & Mrs Pitt had entered the Palais des Festivals for the premiere of Tree of Life.
The security this year was, apparently, on higher alert than usual, so it would have been very hard for anyone to catch a glimpse of a star save for the huge screens on the Palais. Their stage-managed arrival in blacked-out limos down designated lanes and precise delivery onto the red carpet to be papped by 10-deep photographers on stepladders ensures their rarity. And the closest we got to the world's best-loved pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow, were huge hoardings of Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides hanging from the Carlton Hotel. His ship had sailed days before we landed.
Daytime in Cannes is very business-like, despite the location. The allure of the yachts and the Med can easily take your eye off the ball; it would be so much easier to just spend the day just visually grazing. But as late afternoon merges into early evening the noise levels rise and a carnival atmosphere pervades.
Before you know it it's cocktail hour. You need to be on a yacht at this point. These are moored and packed tight in the marina. Unless you're really lucky, they don't go anywhere but are hired out to corporations and bankers (media dept) who generously ply you with chilled rose and canapes, offering financial set-ups (bridge loans & gap financing) which which are usually too expensive a way to fund your film. Guess who wins in that scenario?
By nightfall Cannes becomes a street party. Every restaurant is jammed and spilling out onto every available pavement space and if you're unlucky enough to be in throbbing distance of the huge sound system at the Palais de Festival, R n B pumps - disco balls and all. Beyond the film makers and movie afficionados beats the true, pimpy heart of the festival and sadly, it's unavoidable.
Happily for us we were staying in Juan Les Pins - an altogether quieter place - and only two stops away from Cannes on the train which takes one of the world's prettiest routes along le Cote d'Azur.
Our hotel was a peach, our local restaurant 'Le Perroquet' was unfailingly impressive and above all, we think we've opened up some exciting avenues for our projects.
A good trip ? Bien sur, and looking forward to next year's festival.