One of the biggest reasons why filmmakers go to film festivals, including Cannes, is not just to showcase their films, but to network and make new industry contacts. In the final part of our 3-part series on how to Survive the Cannes Short Film Festival, filmmaker Lit Kilpatrick fills us in on how and where to network, including where to go and who to look out for, at the festival based on his own experience attending last year.
This is a guest post by Lit Kilpatrick.
Go and make friends.
This was among the best pieces of advice that I received before attending the festival. The invitation-only stipulation means that all Cannes attendees inside the Palais and International Village are film industry professionals of some kind. Spend a good deal of your time chatting with the wide variety of potential new contacts, such as festival programmers, film producers, distributors, investors, and sales agents, etc.
But before getting trigger-happy and pulling out your business card, be tactful and relaxed. A potential new contact who may be looking for a break from the Cannes madness will likely be happy to shoot the breeze, as long as it is relaxed and casual. The people you meet will be interested in why you are there, so be prepared to talk about your projects in a very clear and concise manner. In other words, have your pitch ready.
The SFC is a great place to meet and make friends with other short filmmakers, swap information, and form an entourage to navigate the terrain, attend events and parties, and generally share and enjoy your experience. But after a certain point, spending too much time in the SFC will provide diminishing returns. Get out beyond the SFC to explore, learn, and network. Many of the contacts who are most likely to take your career further will probably be found elsewhere.
Seek meetings with either shorts distributors or festival programmers.
This will likely depend on how recently you completed your short and what your plans are for putting it in front of an audience. One thing I learned at Cannes is that if your short has promise and has not yet begun its festival run, well-organized and proactive distributors will want to acquire some of its rights in exchange for using their connections to put it in front of top festival programmers with a special emphasis that the normal submissions process does not provide.
If your short is currently enjoying a festival run, distributing it will likely disqualify it from being eligible for festivals, so this might not be the time to look for distribution deals. A film that has successfully ended its festival run will again be attractive to those who are at Cannes actively looking to acquire the rights to short films. In any case, I would recommend recording all of the short buyer and distributer company and contact information that the SFC provides -- the names on the list are in the dozens. You can set up meetings as a way to educate yourself about the short film market and the possibilities for the life of your film.
Bring a feature script or other project that you are ready to pitch.
As I mentioned above, the people you talk to at Cannes are interested in what you do and why you are there. You will frequently be asked what it is that you plan to do next. Cannes is a place where professionals who like your short film will want to support, follow, or collaborate with you in the future. One of the most inspirational aspects of being at Cannes as a new filmmaker is seeing that the international industry is very large and diverse, and it is actively looking for new content, new talent, and new opportunities.
Having an attractive script or potential project ready to go at Cannes allows you to "create your own luck" and attract serious production partners. If you don’t have a future project to tell them about, a central motivation for keeping in touch after the festival will be lost. The contacts you have met will all return home to their busy lives and wade through the dozens of business cards they have collected, sorting the most memorable from those that hardly ring a bell.
Approach parties, clubs, hotel bars, etc. intelligently.
While at Cannes, you will hear likely here some version of this saying repeated often, "all of the networking happens at the parties." This is not entirely false, but it’s also not quite as wise and insightful as it might appear. I would say "some networking, sometimes happens at the parties -- maybe half of it." The parties, beach side clubs, and hotel lobbies might seem like a great place to enjoy the fruits of your acceptance to Cannes, but they should be approached with a bit of level-headed awareness and a grain of salt.
At many of the parties and clubs, alcohol is free and people are happy to hangout until 4 or 5 am. And fueling the party atmosphere, along the Croisette at night you will see more Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys, huge luxury yachts, and ridiculously beautiful people than you would have thought could be crammed into one small beach-side area. But a good number of the people showing off at night are not actually film professionals associated with the festival; some are members of the international party crowd who are simply there to see and be seen. They don’t have to keep their energy up and their heads clear to take advantage of networking opportunities, meetings, and discussions the next day. So, go out and have fun; but be ready to talk and think coherently the next day.
If you're interested in getting your short film into the Cannes Short Film Corner this year, the deadline to register is April 14, 2014. In case you missed it, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of Lit's 3-part SFC series, in which he shares all the basic information for the uninitiated, as well as how to prepare for your stay.
Lit Kilpatrick is a Brooklyn-based writer, director, and producer. You can find his fledgling filmmaker website here. Check out the Facebook page for An Intimacy, the short film that he wrote and directed that appeared in the 2013 Cannes Short Film Corner. An Intimacy was produced by, based on a story idea by, stars, and was submitted to Cannes by Sara Jewell.