Talking Head: Mark Brennan on the Short Film Corner at Cannes
Filmmaker and Exit 6 Producer, Mark Brennan, shares his experience of the Short Film Corner at this year's Cannes Film Festival. His film Tea For Two, which was selected for the BAFTA-Qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival and Best Original Screenplay winner at the Winchester Short Film Festival, was part of the Short Film Corner catalogue.
I write this as a physically broken, financially challenged, fully energised filmmaker just returned from my first trip to the Cannes Film Festival and the Short Film Corner. It’s been an eye-opening trip where I’ve learned a lot about the SFC, sunburn and how much I’m willing to pay for a pint.
Let’s start by explaining what the SFC actually is: a small section of the festival where a few dozen computer stations have been set up for people to watch films selected for the online catalogue. There is also a small lecture area for industry talks and exhibition stands where you can make contact with companies that promote, distribute or buy short films.
Unless you hire a private screening room, which can be done for a price, having your film in the SFC is not having your film screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Not really.
I heard an unfortunate story over there where a filmmaker hadn’t quite realised this and flew over with his cast and crew, complete with red carpet formal wear, ready for their dream screening. In the end they couldn’t even huddle around one of the Hewlett Packard monitors together as it’s one person per station, a station you can only sit at for an hour at a time. The reason for the time limit is the sheer number of filmmakers in attendance, which is also a reflection of the amount of films selected for the catalogue.
The point is that even if your film gets into the Corner, there is no guarantee that anyone will watch it during the festival without some serious promotion on your part. You’ll find filmmakers handing out flyers about their film or simply just asking people to watch it in the hope of getting their work seen. All filmmakers then receive an email report each day of the festival detailing how many times their film has been watched, by who and how long for.
While this may all sound a bit deflating and possibly ruin the romance of being accepted into the Cannes Film Festival, it’s absolutely worth getting your film into the Short Film Corner - as long as you plan to go to the festival. You being there is so much more important than your film being there.
The access that the accreditation gives you, not just to the SFC and your fellow short filmmakers, but to other areas of the festival and people there from all kinds of professional backgrounds, countries and cultures is truly a remarkable thing to be a part of. You'll even meet people outside of the festival - on the flight over I sat next to someone from the British Council and on the bus from the airport sat next to someone who buys films for the BBC! That’s the real magic of Cannes.
So, now that I’ve convinced you it’s a good idea to go, what’s worth knowing before packing your flip flops and factor 50?
- Take a load of business cards. This may be a little obvious but you’d be surprised how many people don’t have them.
- Have other projects in development to talk about. If a tumble weed joins the conversation after someone asks you what you’re up to next, no one can save you.
- Find out everything about the Pavilion representing your country. The UK Pavilion this year had a series of fascinating industry talks, as well as free tea and water.
- If you can, try to stay in the Cannes city centre. There’s a whole other life to the festival at night that goes on until the small hours, bars and parties everywhere.
- Don’t drink at all or learn to drink a lot. The candle will burn at both ends every day and you’ll be operating with a perma-hangover in Mediterranean heat.
- Take a suit/dress. You may not need them, but you don’t want to miss the chance of dancing the Macarena on a yacht because of your Converse.
- Connect with other people going out there before you go. You could end up renting a flat together or just arrange to meet while you’re there. Start early.
- Decide before you go exactly what it is you want to get out of the trip and prepare accordingly.
- Beer can vary in price between free and €14 depending on where you are so keep your wits and wallet about you.
- If anyone offers you Sambuca as a follow up to oysters, you say no.
The Cannes Film Festival is, as you’d expect, a crazy place like nowhere else. To be part of it, even in the Short Film Corner, is a big deal and should rightly be reveled in as such. However, there may be encounters, occasions or conversations where you may question your place there.
When I first arrived I made my way along the side of the Palais where yachts were anchored up, and the sheer opulence of my surroundings immediately made me feel like a gnat on the windscreen of one of the smaller speed boats parked inside its giant super yacht mother. When the people sitting aboard those boats, drinking in the VIP bars and taking meetings in exclusive areas all looked at me, I felt like I was in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers when the aliens just know you’re not one of them. Ignore all of that.
You made a good film, have been invited and deserve to be there. You will meet some incredible people from all over the world (you’ll watch their films and they will watch yours), it will give you a whole new perspective on your work, how to proceed with projects in future and leave you convinced you might even get on your own yacht next year.
Definitely the year after…
You can also follow Mark on Twitter: @MrMarkBrennan