Day 1: The Stage Is Set at Cannes- page 2 | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
Preparations are underway for the opening of the Cannes Film Festival on May 13 (Michael Parfit)

Day 1: The Stage Is Set at Cannes

Filmmakers and husband and wife Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm watch preparations in Cannes and prepare to take on the festival behind the festival known as the Marché du Film

smithsonian.com

(Continued from page 1)

Our film is one of the thousand. It'll be screened in a 60-seat theatre early in the festival, and our sales agent has been busy for the past weeks inviting distributors to come. We have no idea if any of them will show up at all.

This might seem depressing, to have spent five years of our lives making a movie only to find it hidden among thousands far behind the flashiness of the big festival. But it isn't. That's because this is Cannes.

Some films are made like commercials, by skilled, cold hearts for commerce alone, but many are people like us, who care about both the craft of the medium and the story they have told. And if nothing else, Cannes is a place that recognizes and honors that fundamental piece of this industry.

The main festival officially values individual creativity in film, and often makes unexpected picks for its big award, the Palme d'Or, which can bring new filmmakers out of obscurity to a lifetime of prominence and achievement. The Marché du Film is a bit more pragmatic; no Cinderella stories here. Nevertheless, the buzz of good storytelling floats through the Marché as well, and this is the place where the most profound magic outside of the actual making of a film happens: It makes it possible for your film to be seen.

We are as hungry for that as for anything in our lives. And so are all the hundreds of other filmmakers here. We are all like a bunch of storytellers gathered around the world's campfire, ready to amuse, scare, move, or, we hope, enlighten. But when a film first comes to the Marché, the fire isn't built and the listeners have not yet come around.

Cannes and the Marché are places that can build the fire and gather the people. But will it happen to us? Will distributors come around? Only maybe. It's a tough business in a tough time. Documentaries are selling these days about as fast as used videocassette recorders, and it will take more than just a great salesman to plant "Saving Luna" on the world map. We'll also have to be lucky. But that's the crazy dream, and this is Cannes.

So today we navigate around the open boxes and poster tubes and watch throngs of French workers sweep up the sawdust and the glass and roll out green floor cover. Then we head back to our relatively cheap hotel room (very relative), which Suzanne has called "The Stateroom" to give it a nautical flavor and get us used to its size.

We stop on the curb of the Boulevard de la Croisette outside the Palais des Festivals and look at the place where the celebrities from the film world will walk upward tomorrow on a red pathway in a haze of strobe sparkle. But right now a bunch of men who will never be famous are building the foundation of that rise, the stairs.

"I have a new saying," Suzanne says as we turn to leave. "Underneath red carpet there's always plywood." She smiles. Enigmatically.

It sounds like a line from a film. I guess you have to figure it out for yourself. I'm still working on it.

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus