CannesHow can one attend the Cannes Film Festival?  There are four ways: with a film, as staff, as a patron, or the way I did in 2011, as a journalist.

  • First and foremost, it is utter chaos. Generally, the festival has 75,000 attendees.  In 2011 more than 250,000 fans joined the crowd.

Being part of the press does not leave much time to take it all in.  On the first day we had to register with public relations agencies representing the talent and films.  Essentially, we were begging for access. My job was to prove why the magazine I represented deserved to interview the stars.  After securing interviews I had to figure a way to fit in screenings and parties.

  • The festivities would start at 8:00 a.m. the next morning, but I arrived at the Palais Des Festivals, the festival complex, at 6:30 a.m. to find a good spot for the screenings. There are more press members than theater seats, so timing is everything.  Moreover, the color of one’s badge dictates the seating priority.

In 2011, there were four different badge levels:

  1. Gold – given to veteran members of press from highly circulated publications
  2. Pink – given to press from highly circulated publications.
  3. Blue – given to publications that were less circulated.
  4. Yellow – given to bloggers with lower traffic.

Naturally, anyone with a yellow badge that came late wouldn’t likely attend the screening.

  • Each screening ends with a press conference.  Usually inexperienced journalists are the first in line to ask questions.  Not all journalists are created equal, some come off pretty green.  For example, during the Kung Fu Panda 2 press conference, a journalist asked Angelina Jolie what she thought of Osama Bin Laden’s death.  Ms. Jolie handled it with grace and professionalism by telling the journalist that the press conference for Kung Fu Panda 2 was not the appropriate time for questions of that nature.  This was not the only incident of a journalist asking inappropriate questions.
  • With the exception of a short lunch, there is no time between the reviews, interviews, and posting stories.  By the end of the day, dinner-time comes as a relief.  The only time where we could sit down, eat, and enjoy. The day ends in the early morning hours after any transcription and writing are complete.
  • Cannes is not without its perks, but it’s hardly a vacation.  The entire city is rife with marketing and advertising paraphernalia for Hollywood’s latest offerings.
  • Cannes gets a heavy influx of money.  The worlds elite line up to show off their bling and various surgical augmentations.  To say I felt out of place would be an understatement. The elite who attend are mostly there to be seen.
  • The Cannes Film Festival is crowded., Photographers line up by the thousands to get a glimpse of the action.  Trying to get anywhere is tough.
  • Every night there’s a different party to attend.  But if you’re a journalist, you’ll be too busy watching films and writing to go to any of them.  Thought, a few will be necessary for networking.
  • The theatres are spectacular—spacious, vast, and far surpassing the quality of any local movie theatre.
  • Even with the grandiose theatres, watching a film at Cannes is not always enjoyable. It is common for a great film to be booed and a really bad film to be given a standing ovation.  Usually the quality of the film is based on the quality of the audience.
  • You can make or break your career at the Cannes.  Everywhere you turn deals are being made for funding, DVD rights, or to attach names.  The next time I attend Cannes I hope to be there to sell a film so I can experience the other side.
  • It’s impossible to do everything at the Cannes. The first five days is where the action happens.  Most of the attendees leave after the weekend.  That’s not to say that the second week isn’t full of work.  There are still some films to see and, of course, interviews to transcribe and more to write.
  • Given the types of films, the history of the Cannes, and the people attending, at it’s best this place is electric– an experience that money can’t buy.

As a journalist and as a fan of films, the Cannes Film Festival was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.  It’s something I recommend to anyone who can go.  I also recommend visiting Cannes when it isn’t hosting the festival.  It is truly a remarkable place.