9 Cannes Film Festival Truths, Because No One Tells You There’s No Starbucks
This year I was lucky enough to attend the Cannes Film Festival for the first time. I was an intern at one of the dozens of production and distribution companies that attend the festival in hopes to sell their films to acquisition executives and buyers. I was fortunate enough to see a slew of films — some major productions, like Carol and Amy, and some smaller films also garnering buzz, like Krisha.
Over the course of Cannes I learned a lot about the festival circuit and the film industry in general. Now that the festival is over I can fully reflect on the experience. I went into the festival thinking it would be ten days of drinking wine, watching movies, and lounging at the beach — and, OK, while each of those activities definitely occurred, the Cannes Film Festival is certainly not a vacation. Between waiting hours in line to see The Lobster only to be turned away because the theater was full, to trying to ask directions from someone who only speaks French, there are some things about the festival I wish I knew going in.
Here are 9 tidbits I learned about being at Cannes.
Beyoncé may be there, but people will say she is even if she's not
Before the festival even began there were rumors that Beyoncé was at Cannes. They fizzled out pretty quickly, but it’s safe to say that buzz about the Bey and similar celebs will crop up throughout the festival. There will be a shit ton of high profile names at Cannes, but don’t believe every one you hear.
You don’t have to shop or eat on the Croisette
The Promenade de la Croisette is a road in Cannes; on it lies the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, where the festival is held. On the Croisette you’ll also find lavish hotels like the Carleton and the Grand as well as dozens of luxury stores, beach restaurants, and food vendors. All of these things are, naturally, expensive, but don’t fret. Walking just two or three minutes away from the Croisette leads you to both cheaper eating and shopping options (and cheaper drinks in the evening).
Take the free San Pellegrino every chance you get
If there’s one thing my friends and I always discussed during the festival — besides what celebs/what films we saw that day — it’d be how dehydrated we all were. When you’re running from screening to screening in the mid-day heat, water should be a priority but never was — especially when you don’t want to leave a theater and miss parts of a film to run to the bathroom every hour (and annoy everyone in your row in the process).
That being said, be sure to pick up the complimentary bottles of San Pellegrino or whatever bougie sparkling water company is sponsoring the festival that year. It’ll help hydrate and (maybe) keep you from buying the mid-day glass of wine instead (OK, probably not, but it may deter you for a bit).
Between early morning screenings (Macbeth at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, for example) and late night parties — and, oh, working — people don’t get much sleep at Cannes. The lack of sleep too quickly becomes a routine, which could lead to burning out by week two. To try to prevent this, try to catch a quick nap mid-day between screenings (or in one, if it’s particularly boring) and before all the nightly festivities start.
If all else fails, always have a few euros on hand for the inevitable espresso you’ll be downing. Speaking of…
There’s no Starbucks in the festival vicinity
I know. In fact, I didn’t see any Starbucks during my stay in Nice at all (though I did not see the city in its entirety) — and when you’re running on less than five hours sleep, it seems devastating at first. While there are countless cafes to get an espresso fix (and free Nespresso in the Palais!), don’t expect huge cups of coffee, hot or iced.
Be prepared for traffic
…especially if you need to take a shuttle or taxi from your hotel to the festival, like I did. In the mornings it is not bad, but as it gets closer to premiere time, expect the roads to become an extreme mess. This goes the same with the sidewalks on the Croisette; between some people rushing to wherever they need to be to others standing still looking at the red carpet, walking can also be a nightmare. Manage your time accordingly if you have reservations, meetings — or are going to the premiere yourself.
La Pizza and Steak and Shake don't have fine French cuisine, but they’re great
La Pizza is, naturally, an Italian restaurant. It has been around since 1956 and is considered a Cannes “institution” — apparently Tarantino frequents it when he’s attending, among others. La Pizza’s reputation is with good reason: the pizza is good, cheap, and you get a huge portion—which you don’t expect in France.
The Cannes Steak and Shake opened in 2014. If you’re homesick and need a burger and fries for inflated prices, you can go no wrong — and it’s right by the Palais.
Don’t be discouraged by the lottery system
A photo posted by @annaloveen on May 18, 2015 at 11:24am PDT
All the screenings in the Grand Lumière Theater, a theater where the premieres take place and located in the Palais, are ticketed. This year the tickets were officially distributed through a lottery system: you go onto a website and log in with your badge identification and pick which films you’d like tickets to. While it is a supposed “lottery,” being high up in the company you’re attending the festival with and having attended the festival for a long time increases your chances of getting tickets.
Oh, and it’s really looked down upon if you get a ticket and don’t use it. You’re not banished from the festival or anything, but it’s a pretty big “no-no.” Also a big “no-no”: selling tickets.
As a Cannes-first timer and lowly intern, my chances were slim. I did manage to get two tickets through the lottery (Macbeth and Ice and the Sky; I ended up giving the ticket to the latter to a friend), I did not succeed in some films I really wanted to see, nor did I score a premiere.
There are other ways into getting into a premiere, however. One is the rush line, but you have to wait hours and might not get in any way. The other may seem desperate — and it is — but it works: standing by the Palais with a sign asking for a ticket.
The having-to-use-the-ticket-OR-ELSE and no selling rules mean that if you’re not attending a screening for whatever reason, you better give the ticket away — and who better to give it away to than a stranger on the street? I got several tickets through this method, including one to the premiere of Louder than Bombs.
You’ll be ambivalent when it’s over
I said several times throughout the festival that Cannes is a marathon. It’s ten days of little sleep, parties, screenings, debating whether to screw the system and wear flats on the red carpet, sustaining on croissants and espresso, and meeting so many people you can’t help but forget their names.
It’s exhausting, and I was not heartbroken to fly back into JFK Monday afternoon and go home. The festival, however, left me inspired and driven — and I cannot wait to go back the next chance I get.
Images: Tumblr; Giphy