It’s that time of year again where filmmakers alike get their finest tuxedos and gowns ready for the Festival de Cannes. If you’re a first timer like myself, it can sound pretty intimidating and my first few days at the festival were exactly that… intimidating. I spent an entire 10 days in Cannes and the knowledge I received was invaluable. I must admit before I begin to tell you about my journey pitching my project to distributors, producers and sales agents, that I wasn’t planning on going to the festival.
I know what you’re thinking, “Why would anyone NOT want to go to Cannes?” Well the truth is I thought I needed to have a film ready to be sold or at least have a script with famous actors attached. Although that’s great to have, I’m here to let you know I had neither. Here’s what happened when I threw caution to the wind, gave fear the finger and dove in headfirst.
I love the art of storytelling through documentaries. I’m the founder of an outreach program called Fostering Dreams Through Dance, to empower, educate and inspire foster youth and at risk youth to find their voice through the art of dance. Using film to share the story about the positive impact dance can have to turn one’s life around and raise awareness on the importance of art and education is vital to the work that I do.
How did I get meetings? Well, the great thing about the Festival du Cannes is that there is an entire building, the Marche du Film that’s set up with booths for distributors, sales agents, and production companies. It’s like a giant buffet to approach anyone you desire. Granted, most people set up appointments prior to attending the festival, I, however did not. I used the cold call approach and went up to each booth pitching my project. Keep in mind, I didn’t have a press kit with me, all I had was my passion and my idea.
My first lesson in Cannes: The importance of finding distribution once you have your script, rather than when you’ve half way into filming. This is something you want to start looking for right away. Getting soft offers and letters of intent from distribution will give you an idea of who’s interested in your film and its market. You want to prove that people want to buy your product. That’s with any product; you want to make sure people want to buy it before you start making it. Although this now seems like common sense, for a newbie like myself, I had no idea how to get my film going.
I approached as many booths as I could within six hours. I shared my pitch to the person at the front desk of each booth and asked to speak to someone in acquisitions. Nine out of ten times I was taken to the back for a meeting with the person in acquisitions. Not bad for not having ANY meetings lined up.
Share you passion! This is my #1 rule when pitching a project. My passion is something I carry on my sleeve; I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. When you’re passionate when talking to others, it becomes contagious and suddenly people start listening.
Each meeting I had lasted about 15-30 minutes involving my pitch, questions and getting to know if this is something they would be interested in. A handful ended with future follow up meetings. Some distributors and production companies were very interested, some not so much. The key to remember is not everyone needs to say yes or will be the right fit. Find the ones that believe in your project and keep trekking onward. Get what you need to make it happen and go make it happen.
The biggest lesson I learned from going to Cannes, is not to get caught up in the idea of how you think you “should” do something. There’s no set path, especially in the entertainment industry. In fact, I didn’t have what most people bring to the table, but I came from an honest, passionate place. I think that’s why people took the time to meet with me. It’s easy to ignore an email or phone call but tougher to ignore someone with passion who’s right in your face.