It’s my last night in Cannes and I’m strolling Le Croisette after an inspiring day of screenings, talks and conversations. Dozens of young hopefuls stalk the famous Grand Theatre Lumiere, holding signs and begging for tickets. Tonight’s film is the sold-out premiere of Ken Loach’s Official Competition drama Sorry We Missed You. The last few limousines crawl up to the red carpet when suddenly, a glamorous American turns and offers me an ‘invitation’. ‘Wanna ticket?’ My jaw drops. ‘Oh. My. God. Yes!’
The next morning, after laughing and crying through the moving Indigenous Aussie rom com Top End Wedding, I meet a friendly Irish programmer who is also on his first Cannes. While we queue to see the documentary feature Mystify about INXS frontman Michael Hutchence (an Aussie musical legend I thought I knew but definitely didn’t), we swap stories of films we’ve seen. Then he tells me about his epic night at the wrap party for Rocketman, where Elton John and Taron Edgerton sang duets at a baby grand on the beach. It sounded like an instant Cannes classic.
I came to Cannes as a ‘Cinéphile’ accredited student to see films but found the access patchy. While some lucky students got ‘next day’ tickets to Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die at the Lumiere, I queued for an hour-and-a-half to see feature animation The Swallows of Kabul, and didn’t get in. At least the sun was shining and I got what a veteran festival-goer called a Cinéphile’ tan.
Regardless of Cannes’ many, many rules and systems, attendees seemed genuinely open, helpful and happy to share advice.
On my second day, I ran into a sales agent friend who gave me a Marché pass which granted access into the trade centre, market-only film programme and international pavilions on the beach. I visited FilmUK’s pavilion and heard an inspiring talk about talent labs. Industry from Sundance, Torino and Rotterdam Film Festivals detailed their impressively well-resourced and supported schemes for writers and directors. All worth checking out if you haven’t already.
I used to work in PR for Sydney Film Festival and have attended Edinburgh, Glasgow, Berlin, London and Melbourne festivals but Cannes really is in a league of its own. The small city on the Riviera buzzes with industry, celebrity, security and press like no other film festival. I saw military police, national police, armed security and secret service, guarding hundreds of press and paparazzi as they jostled over Julianne Moore, Elle Fanning and Penelope Cruz on the red carpet.
While student accreditation in Cannes can be frustratingly limited, it is a relatively easy way into this gem of a film festival where classic moments can and do happen. And if you don’t get lucky, at least you’ll get a tan.
Sophie Linehan is a current MA Screenwriting student at Screen Academy Scotland. Her 10’minute film Shirley & Jane, featuring legendary Irish actress Rosaleen Linehan and renowned Scottish actress Kate Dickie will be filmed by MA Film students in Edinburgh in June 2019.