Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Achtung Riviera

Damn – that came around quickly.

Yup, this time tomorrow, Jake and I will be basking in the Mediterranean summer heat at the Cannes Film Festival, swimming with the sharks and doing our very best to stay away from the sharp bits. It’s our first foray into the world of the hard sell to distributors and sales agents, and I can’t wait to test our wares against the great and the good at the money end of the industry.

Tomorrow we get to see why they call it show-business.

Cannes is basically two separate film events happening one on top of the other: the glamorous red-carpeted one filled with the beautiful people and baying paparazzi that you see on the TV, and its idiot cousin (the Marché du Film) which happens in the bowels of the same building; an enormous warehouse of stressed filmmakers, distributors and sales agents, all hawking their B-movie fare around trying to secure that elusive Taiwanese DVD release.

Guess which one we’re going to be at.

Trust me, we’re going in armed. A gorgeous looking and sounding 6-minute précis of the movie, wrapped in a suitably sacrilegious sleeve, and with a skipful of A5 flyers. Come on, distributors of the world. Who wants some?

Even though we’ll be dropped into the festival as a couple of neophytes, we have dug out so much information about what goes on that I almost know what to expect. Chris Jones’ on-line Cannes virgins seminar, the How to Sell your Film Without Selling your Soul e-book, and advice from just about every filmmaker that we’ve met along the journey.

Safe to say that there doesn’t appear to be one best way of approaching Cannes and of finding distribution; people only know what did and didn’t work with them. That said, certain universal truths have emerged: don’t buy a drink in a hotel bar (€100 for three cocktails), don’t buy a drink in a nightclub (€70 for two 33 cl stubbies), and if you find a party that’s offering free drinks don’t leave before you’ve had enough to drink.

And, who better to give us our final steer onto the inside track than the legendary Johannes Roberts, writer / director of the Zombie Resurrection template F; he very kindly took time away from distribution activities of his own on his latest feature Storage 24 to hook up with Jake and me in a London coffee-shop. To even up the numbers, Johannes brought along his flatmate James Harris, producer of Psychosis, Screwed and the soon-to-be-released Cockneys vs. Zombies, and even before the Frappuccino had had time to settle the two of them had launched into a torrent of distribution advice that made my hand hurt.

Johannes and James have been around this loop so many times before that they know practically all the short cuts. To go into details would I’m sure jeopardise their respective futures in the industry; let’s just say we are now in possession of some very promising marketing strategies. It has to count amongst one of the most productive coffee breaks that I have ever experienced, where just one piece of good advice might translate to literally thousands of pounds in sales revenue. Thanks again, guys – you left us with spinning heads and all the better prepared for it.

And in our last act as Cannes virgins, Monday night was spent in the esteemed company of some of the Zombie Resurrection stars, in what we’re now happy to refer to as the best boozer in London. Inevitably any festival conversation was soon side-lined by discussions on the merits of yellow trousers (firmly pro), the best kinds of adverts to be in, and on all the places that one of our prop guns had been before Shami seized an on-set photo-opportunity and gave it a big lick.

The last fifteen months have been one extraordinary journey, but tomorrow we finally get to approach the inmost cave. I’ll try and post some updates from the front, but let’s see just how much time we have. We go out as boys, we return as warriors. Bravehearted.