Saturday, 25 May 2013

Sophie On: Her first time at Cannes

Hey Guys,

    It is more difficult than I expected to think that, merely three days ago, I was still at the Cannes Film Festival. Everyone had told me how it would be overwhelming, and that it would open my eyes to 'what the industry is really like', but I didn't feel that way at all. For me, the scariest part was the plane journey there and back - having never left the United Kingdom, or been abroad.

   Having Neil Oseman with me as my own personal tour guide definitely helped. This year was his 4th in Cannes, so he knew the layout really well (as soon as he got his bearings), and for the most part we could avoid the hours getting lost, which I would've inevitably spent if I'd gone on my own. As a fist-timer, I found the best thing to do was basically to shadow Neil, to act as a sort of personal assistant him as he went about his meetings (most of which I proudly arranged myself). Even when he discussed the projects I wasn't involved in, I learnt a lot, as I always do with him. As they say, two's company.

   Also, having had Neil - and other industry professionals I've worked on - constantly hammer home that Cannes is basically a buyer's market for produce, that element of it certainly didn't come as a shock. What's more, having spent a fair few evenings over the last year selling tickets in my local cinema, I'd become accustomed to seeing films as faceless items to sell. When it comes down to it, every film is sold in the same way - the paper the tickets are printed on are the same, just the name and the screen number change.

    For the whole of my time at Cannes, I just felt relatively calm (or at least my version of calm). In the UK, when I often have to do whichever job pays the bills - as most people do - I am haunted by a sense of unceasing restlessness; a constant nagging feeling that there is something else I should be doing which would be a better use of my time (not just things I would enjoy more but things which would help get me 'out of the gutter' quicker, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde). When I was at Cannes, that nagging ghost disappeared completely, and I felt a constant sense of blissful contentedness. Right then and there, I was in the very best place for myself, doing the thing I absolutely should be doing.

    So, what did I learn from the whole affair? Well, there are countless useful guides out there, including the one which Neil and his wife Katie got me for my birthday, but here's a few tidbits I learnt which probably won't appear in any of them.


    As I show you in the first of our video diaries from the trip (above) everyone who has a festival accredation gets a free Cannes shoulder bag when you collect your badge. Whilst this is a lovely souvenier, and although it carries the covetted Cannes logo, it is batch-produced to cover all the people which recieve them. The inside of mine was frayed by the time I left the country, but that's not the important point - the main problem was the strap. It is made of a cheap, synthetic material which starts to scratch your shoulders raw as you fill up the bag with all the brochures and guides you collect (which are not only useful while there, but also make great mementos). The hot weather meant I always had my shoulders out, and these started to look sunburnt after the first day, purely from 'strap rub'. Neil (who had a version of the messenger bag from three years ago with him) had thought to bring a padded attachment for his strap, which let it sit on there comfortably.


    Ashes was at Cannes as part of it's Court Metrage/ Short Film Corner, which is a great way for a lot of people to have their film at Cannes (over 1000 films were available to view in this section through a sort-of in house Vimeo service, and the selection process is a million times more lenient than that of the In Competition section). However, this also means that standing out amongst the masses is even more difficult in this area, and if you go down to the 'corner for Happy Hour, you will be inundated with bright young faces giving your flyers and imploring you to come into a hot little screening room to watch their film.

   On acceptance to the 'Corner, you are advised to bring a poster for your film. I wasn't sure where it would go but ordered one A3 poster nonetheless. Well, let me tell you, bringing one poster is pointless. The 'corner is literally coated in posters. If you get there on the first day, you may get a good spot, but it will undoubtedly be covered over by at least five other posters by the end of the first week. On the flip side, get there a few days in to the festival and there won't be an inch of wall space left (and don't be tempted to put yours up on the official banners like I did. This will be taken down within 24 hours, and the Cannes officials won't take the time to find anywhere else to put it. Your dreams of flash advertising will line the bottom of an official Cannes dustbin).


    As with many British visitors at Cannes, we often took refuge in the UK Pavilion. When there, I didn't have to butcher the French language in my poor attempts to order food, we got free tea (thankyou TeaPigs!) and there are free talks for those who can arrive quick enough to get a seat - one of which was a talk from Clio Barnard and the makers of The Selfish Giant. However, you can be tempted to spend all of your time there, and apart from the odd official who is based in there (such as Brodie Pringle, locations manager for Creative Scotland, who got me on the guest list for their party), this means you'll mostly end up networking with people who are just like you - bright young things from England with films in the Short Film Corner.

    Whilst people like this are good to meet (some of them have quality films to show, and meeting these people can lead to collaborations on future projects), if you want to try meeting people with more power in the industry (and by this, I mean money) then you have to try the European Pavilion. It is bigger and quieter, and lecture free; the difference is like comparing your local pub with a trendy cocktail bar. The people in there do not need your business, and so will not be as hospitable. This is the land of the cream-blazer crowd, and we were two 'crazy kids' in a Primark dress and geeky movie T-shirt, respectively. But you need to try your luck; whilst people in other areas will pretty much throw business cards at you, you need to show that you actually mean business before people here will even admit that they have cards. And the fact that just showing the first few shots of the Ashes trailer - on my phone, of all places - was enough for an official to produce a business card, was probably the best experience of the week. Although it does make you wonder how much crap they've seen before...


    Lots of guidebooks state the wardrobe basics for Cannes: wear comfy shoes which will get through running from Pavilion to Pavilion; dress for a hot May (dear god, it was hot) but prepare for tropical winds and rain, and bring a jumper for catching a screening on the beach, because the winds off the ocean at night are icey; if you intend on catching a Premiere or crashing a yacht party (which we tried but failed to do), then you need formal wear and smart shoes - although anything goes on the beach parties. And I mean anything.

    But there should really be a fashion guide for Cannes, because it turns out to be one of your biggest business assets. I decided to wear mostly white and cream, and stuck to vintage tea dresses to keep cool (plus some of these worked as both day and evening wear). These were the kind of thing where, if you wore them in the United Kingdom, you would look overdressed - particularly when the British winds yank your dress up and reveal your pants! But in Cannes, I blended into the masses - everyone wore white and cream, and little vintage dresses not only lined the streets, but also the shop windows. I had apparantly nailed riviera chic.

    But, if you're trying to make a name for yourself, you don't want to blend into the masses. You want people to remember you as much as they remember the man in 18th century costume who juggles cats on La Croisette (according to Neil, he is there every year). Be bold; be experimental - you'll still feel comfortable in your own skin, because you're in another country, and you're in the centre of glamour and extravagance (at least, that's how the media sees it). And bright hair colours/bold styles alone won't be enough - although, as I said to Neil, my hair should've been redder, and his spikes should've been taller. 

    You need a gimmick in order to stand out. For example, if you have feathers in your hair - different ones every day - then when it comes to contacting someone you gave your business card to, months later, they will say "oh, you were the girl with feathers in your hair!" Then you avoid the embarrassing moment when you go to speak to someone you met last Cannes, and they've completely forgotten who you are (mentioning no names...!)

   So, be original. And no, you can't do the feathers in your hair thing - that's what I'm doing next year!

Sophie x

p.s. to get Neil's thoughts from this year, and to watch all four video diaries from our trip, please read his latest blog post.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Cannes I or Can't I?

 Hey Guys!

   Well, I certainly don't blog as much as I used to - or as much as I'd like to - but there's a small comfort to this, in the fact that my last blog post resulted in a published article online. You can still read this on the Gorilla Film Magazine website, and it came about due to the hard work of my new PR team, Laura Cann and Charlotte Ashton. This was part of a brief press boom, with Ashes articles in both Awesome Online Magazine and also the Derby Evening Telegraph (although the former was somewhat more extensive than the latter). There's also another article in the works, one which came out of nowhere and which I'm very excited about. But more about that soon...

   And on April 28th, of course, we had the Ashes cast & crew premiere in London. A year and two days after the original Ashes shoot got cancelled (and the Stop/Eject shoot came to a close), we were able to celebrate a project completed. The film went down better than expected with our guests as well, and you can experience the event for yourself through these wonderful photographs by the talented Lawrence de Gruchy.

   Since the premiere fell on the day after my birthday, my dear collaborator Neil Oseman gave me a lovely gift (and rather creative Ashes-themed card) from himself and wife Katie Lake:

Somewhat themed Birthday presents from Neil Oseman and Katie Lake

    Which brings me on to my next news update. As I discovered on the last day of the Love & Other Chairs shoot, Ashes is going to be screened at this years Cannes Court MetrĂ¡ge/ Short Film Corner!!

Ashes on the official Cannes Court Metrage online catalogue!

     Not only is this wonderful news for myself and all involved (any festival acceptance is wonderful but this goes beyond that for me), my successful application meant that I was given two free festival passes. If I wanted to buy one festival pass it would cost me at least £250, and these things are very limited, so it's one heck of an offer. 

     But would I accept it? Having never even dreamed of Ashes touching anything related to Cannes, I hadn't planned on going. Not forgetting the fact that I've never left the country except to go to Wales and Scotland, and I've not been on a plane once in my life. Travel was something other people got to do.

    Aside from being a travel novice, I've also only been to two festivals, both of which were small independent ones, so attempting Cannes maze of stalls, screens and beachside meetings would leave me nothing but lost.

    Also - no matter how much I try to accept the fact - because I am a freelance filmmaker, I am frequently close to penniless.

   So I had no intention of going (although it was a nice dream) until I got a phonecall from the afforementioned Neil. I'd offered him my second festival pass, because although they are reserved for Directors and Producers, I was both those things to Ashes - and I knew that Neil would benefit from the pass because it meant he could promote Stop/Eject (and as that project's Producer as well, that is in my best interest too). 

    I'd actually been on the verge of taking a break from filmmaking (a mix of flat-out exhaustion from the ongoing work, with the attitude of some people in the 'industry') when I got the call from Neil. He basically said "Sophie, don't give up. You're too talented... let's go to Cannes".

   And that was that. Without stopping to let it all sink in, I  set about getting a new passport and arranging meetings with potential short film buyers at Cannes while Neil made all of our travel and accomodation arrangements. I made the difficult decision of selling my Fostex and Rode Blimp set to fund my journey (I'm not an expert in sound and tend to hire sound designers with their own kit, anyway). And I needn't worry about getting lost in Cannes, because this will be Neil's fourth time there. I kid you not!

   So there we have it. Here is my admittance of the fact that I am going to Cannes. I am going to fucking Cannes! And we're taking Ashes and Stop/Eject with us (along with some of mine and Neil's separate personal projects which we can't disclose details of yet).

   And of course, I won't forget about my followers while I'm there (although I do not know how many of you there are). Myself and Neil will be joining forces on a little video diaries series over there as well, which we'll share online as soon as we can. Or Cannes...


Sophie x