Last year I wrote Diary of a Cannes Virgin to share the experience of going to the most famous film festival in the world for the first time. But I didn’t go alone. I went with three new friends from the WFTV mentoring scheme. ‘Four go to Cannes…’ It was a real Girl’s Own Adventure story, although we were less Enid Blyton and more a writers’ splinter group, a Gang of Four curious to see how the international system of buying and selling features worked on the inside. Faced with long queues for badge collections and deciphering the arcane booking system to see films, our first day in Cannes felt less like ‘What dress shall I wear to the premiere?’ and more like hacking into a heavily encrypted national bank.
It took us a good 24 hours – helped by Elizabeth’s insider knowledge of previous Cannes – to simply work out where everything was. We spotted the red carpet easily enough – the big one at least. The pavilions, the film market, the food stands and the loos took a while longer. But like all good Brits abroad, we splashed out on overpriced hot dogs and vino with cheerful humour and threw ourselves into the long Cannes days – from queueing in the rain for our bus in the morning to all jamming into a taxi together at midnight…
Three days later, after countless industry panels, rained out screenings, a party and a case of food poisoning from a dodgy salad at the panini van where we took most of our meals, we took refuge in a proper French restaurant outside the enclosure and celebrated our first Cannes visit. Despite the crazy conference centre atmosphere we’d all had a really great time.
I put this mostly down to our natural support of each other. From sharing beds on the first night in our hotel and giggling into the night, to sharing canapés at drinks dos, to arranging to touch base for lunch and dinner during the festival and compare notes on networking events, we had each other’s backs from day one. Although Cannes is full of people you either know or think you want to know, it’s important to draw breath – and have a real conversation with someone you really like, who you’re not trying to sell anything to, and who knows your feet are aching and you’ve been on the go since 7, and, most importantly, have a laugh with.
Looking out for each other at Cannes created a real bond, and we’ve stayed in touch during the last year, reading each other’s scripts, supporting each other through the ups and downs of development, and sharing our good and bad writing days. Our faith in each other has been rewarded times ten. One year on, it’s fantastic to see how well our Gang of Four has done.
Elizabeth closed a development deal on her feature script this year. Wanda has enjoyed a stellar series of acting roles and is writing her first UK feature. Our other friend has a feature length thriller in development. As for me, I met a great producer during that first trip to Cannes, who is helping me develop the US feature I took there so hopefully a year ago. As Sinatra would say, ‘It was a very good year.’
So to Cannes 2014 – Wanda and I will be braving the Croisette once more, with the others there in spirit. This time we have a studio apartment thanks to another friend from last years’ trip. We are determined this year to hit the best parties, the most exciting premieres and sample the delights of proper French food.
That is until we get there – and the panini van beckons.
Share your Cannes stories (or plans) below – or you can find me on twitter @emlin32.