Cannes 2015 Entry #4 – The Market Screenings

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The best thing about market screenings – if you aren’t buying or selling – is some kind of ego formulation: “I could have made that better. How did this film even get representation? Let’s walk out and filter some conceited pleasure in doing so.” I have to admit, no matter how **** the film, I struggle to walk out, not for didactic reasons (though we all wish to support our fellows), but because my imagination insists on discovering more about the image. It’s like cutting the cord short, taking a leap off a tall building to your demise and never finding out the what if (I hadn’t jumped). It is a parallel with life; we all know this lays the foundation for the essence of cinema, or am I projecting too much here? Don’t we have to over-project anyway as a cinema spectator? Do I take cinema too seriously? Shouldn’t we take it seriously? Okay…

Exploring the depths of independent cinema – one minute you are watching a Cantonese language film about an old head schoolmistress having a social/economic crisis, and the next moment you might be watching a German adolescent pierce the skin of her thigh with a musical instrument (true story). There is a great range and while one might have to endure some painstaking hours, you will always find the hidden treasures (if you stay long enough) and make a new discovery on your journey through the galaxy of cinema. It’s like being a child at the fun fair and taking boundless lucky dips at the slots with no extra cost.

Occasionally, the sales agents will be hovering outside the entrance to cut off any slackers – people like myself who just want a bit more cinema and don’t stand as head of acquisitions for Lionsgate in the UK; what a festive job it could be as head of acquisitions… A representative gave me a slight look of madness when I said I wasn’t a festival programmer/director, sales agent or buyer, no consideration on her part for my willingness to explore and share their movie. The screening was practically empty and so ten minutes later the lady distressingly waved me through, yet to my distress, it meant I had missed the first ten minutes of the film – I can’t allow that to happen. Call it what you will, but again (taking cinema a bit seriously) it’s like forgetting to cut the umbilical cord; I’m left behind to miss the first crucial moments of a precious life. Okay, cinema might not be so drastic; it remains intact for what should be an eternity, but not allowing the imagination to play with opening moments causes a longing to return and an unsatisfied mind (promising a satisfied mind can exist). The counter argument to this would be that missing the beginning of a film makes one more focused, as they have to play catch-up, and give more attention over to what is really happening. Whatever… I don’t imagine the filmmaker wrote the first ten pages whilst thinking, “Yes, we can definitely cut this.”

Cannes 2015 Entry #3 – The Divide

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The paradox of this place is that everyone is searching for money and spending money they don’t have. Or rather, the .1% here has great yachts (probably not the filmmakers – the CEO of Dolce & Gabbana perhaps) and spends with all riches while the 12,000 filmmakers cobble on the sidewalks and plea for development money. Where is the middle ground? There is one, of course, but it is harder to spot, as is the case when one critiques any walk of life/society. A further paradox is that everyone has to look like they do have money – this is Cannes – and so returns home completely out of stock! I’ll be taking that suit back for a refund…

The hotels. I discovered that the festival hotels on the Croisette, the Majestic, Carlton etc. aren’t even top dollar for around here. They are popping with glam and sleaze, but the stars venture further down the strip to a place beyond any apparent humane reach. One can begin to suffocate amongst all the comfort, though saying that, the lifts in the festival hotels are surprisingly tight-nit – don’t overload! I don’t mean to sound too critical, I mean who wouldn’t bath in these suites given the chance? It’s the self-absorbed entourage that picks my stomach.

Then there are the folks who don’t even hold a festival badge. They stand outside the Palais holding banners for invitations. I can’t see how that has ever succeeded when Lumière tickets are so sparse – perhaps I will defy my own convention and find a ticket for the old lady wearing her tired blouse; it’s certainly respect for the dedication of a cinematic experience. Then watch out for the cronies who will line the sidewalks with sticks of legs coated in their latest euphoric lotions – the suntans. Their eyes, mouths and ears lap over the iron bars to banquet on the red carpet. Then brace yourself for the selfie sticks that appear in their thousands (need I go down that route?); you grit your teeth as you try to get past the hordes to your far more urgent meeting regarding a potential future source of income! Either that, or you may stop to gaze, at whom I am not so sure – the (male) attention has many conduits to wonder in Cannes!

Cannes 2015 Entry #2 – The Consequences

The Coen Brothers – These guys are serious hard workers (and miraculous filmmakers) who are now heading up the Jury at Cannes this year.

The consequences of the reality of the film industry are quite simple: hard work (past the expiry date). Yet, you might say hard work that hides in plain sight, as everyone appears to be having a very jolly time. I can’t think of another industry where one minute the work could produce feelings in the nature of a catastrophic disaster, and the next, make one whistle amongst the stars.

Here are a few reasons why I expect hard work to be the key to some shape of success. The competition is so fierce, there are some 12,000 filmmakers in attendance at the market, which means you need to stand out and that won’t happen without hard work. Remember, even a genius with talent smoking from their ears needs to work hard. The industry is constantly changing and strategies are evolving, so how else can one keep up with the trends? Consistently renewing one’s knowledge seems likely. There are a thousand other factors, but the hard work will surely bring those other factors into being, they couldn’t exist without it.

Now in relation to this blogisode (could that work?), we should be talking about Cannes. What are the consequences of Cannes for a beginning filmmaker? There are fountains of film posters looking you in the eye and saying, “hey, I’ve already been made, I have representation, and don’t you wish I was yours?” This is in relation to the market, a fascinating place, and it makes one realise that the film only begins its life here, not during any phase of production but afterwards. It highlights the importance of thinking about marketing and distribution from an early stage in the game. Of course, big ‘players’ know this and are even able to raise significant budget numbers in pre-sales, but for the truly independents it is easy to forget and dive head first into putting a picture on the screen. Liaise with a sales advisor and ask them how your film will sell, I am sure you can even establish a firing line from your very first treatment.

More consequences? Attend film festivals. They are passionate places with people as crazy as you are i.e. they consume unholy amounts of cinema and talk about not a whole lot else (this isn’t a criticism – it’s a blessing). It will inspire you and give you a clear-headed perspective on what is actually on offer, in regard to careers etc. Or, actually, as in my case, it may just confuse you more – “now, there are all these other jobs to consider?” Frankly, confusion, in this sense, or complications, is beneficial as it widens your horizons and by offering more pathways can only serve to sharpen the mind. Once the mind is sharpened, then you are ready to follow the heart and soul of you career choices. Okay, that last note was a tad sentimental; let’s stop before this post turns out like an pre-dated self-help guide…

Cannes 2015 Entry #1 – The Reality

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I arrived in Cannes after a glorious drive through the heart of France; I say that with the utmost sarcasm other than the very respectable restrooms. It was a warm trip, considering the air con is bust (it’s a French car that I drive) and the windows don’t wind, I had a fair amount of heat to compete with. However, multiple stops, thoughts of nurturing cinema and layers of classical music served enough joy to see me through.

The Reality of Cannes is that the film industry is like a bombsite, or that it’s actually pretty damn large. There is so much to contend with and so much to scatter your nerve ends around that one either acts like a puppy on acid or decides to take the beach route; sit back, eat a baguette and watch the crowds pass. It is the reality of the film industry and it was also my hopes that it would all finally make sense… Though, if you are wondering why you need to consider marketing and distribution before making a film, then go to Cannes before making it and you’ll soon work it out! Meet a sales agent with strategy before pre-production; the likelihood is it could even effect the minutest details of content that you structure into your film.

Being impressed is what comes to mind most. Impressed by the scope of the international industry and impressed by the ethos of those in attendance, or maybe I haven’t yet seen enough ins and outs to make a concise judgment on behaviors, and so on; interesting, to say the least. People certainly make an effort and the cogs won’t want to stop anytime soon; it definitely feels like an exciting industry to be dipping in to, or rather sinking in to! And sink we shall, ever so deeper into the miasma of this glorious, glorious, and overflowing land of the films.

I Think David Fincher is a PERVERT

Before you get your fists caught up, let me explain that David Fincher is first and foremost a genius. Okay, now we are on the same page, I want to essentially deconstruct Fincher’s comment that “people are perverts”, or equally that the spectator is a pervert when they engage with cinema. My reason for calling Fincher a pervert himself, is because film directing is the ultimate form of acting as a spectator, you decide exactly how perverted you want the audience’s experience to be, and therefore you are the greatest manipulator of all – you can’t tempt a pervert (the audience) without understanding how they will recieve your intentions (the film).

So what does Fincher mean by this? I don’t believe it is a throwaway comment and as Fincher himself claims, he has based his entire career on this notion. I think all film director’s have believed this, whether or not they were acutely aware of the term. After all, why else would an audience want to sit in a dark room and have the gates opened onto someone else’s life and all their upheavals? We go to experience and be entertained by another’s pain (the character), and in doing so, project and release our own problems into this fantasy space. We can leave cleansed, for the time being. A pervert seeks this pleasure in which they will not be the obstacle, they will not have to face the consequences, their conscience will be left untamed. A pervert wants this, it is a sure way to turn things on their head, and cinema is a great way to reveal an upside-down nature (Seven and Fight Club go lengths to reveal disturbing elements of true nature, as do all Fincher’s films, in fact, Gone Girl is probably the best example).

A pervert is not only a Peeping Tom, but inevitably someone who wishes to satisfy their own desires. We all have this element of ego, but the cinema exploits it in almost a dangerous fashion. It is a pure ego formulation, our ego drive is solely at work when we view a film, there is no concern of the Id or Superego (no need for survival or ethitcal/moral regulations). We could psychoanalyse this further, but it is clear that Fincher intended to plainly state  that “people of perverts” and that is why they go to the cinema and enjoy watching his films!

Why do I say that David Fincher is a Pervert? Because he is a film director, and to be a film director you simply have to be a voyeur par excellence!

I would love to talk more about cinema spectatorship and the Lacanian gaze, the voyeur, and so on, but instead I recommend you pick up the following book on film theory by Todd McGowan, The Real Gaze. It is delicious, to say the least.

Finally, and for the good sake of it, here is an illuminating video essay on Fincher’s works: