Is Cannes worth it? In pure career terms, do you think you advanced your project/s significantly? Made enough new contacts to make the trip worthwhile? Or is it too soon to tell?
Attending Cannes is definitely worthwhile. Writers should note that it's not a festival for them, it's a festival for films and making deals on completed projects, or near to completed projects. However, it seems that the entire worldwide film industry is crammed along the Croisette over a fortnight so why shouldn't writers be there to soak up the atmosphere and make new contacts?
Of course, it's not unheard of for projects and development deals to get off the ground at Cannes but I think that's down to your particular savvy and approach. It was my first time at the Festival so I was all wide-eyed and naive. Having the assistance and support of Tim Clague and Suki Singh was a blessing that I'll continue to thank them for until they get bored of me doing so.
I went to the Festival mainly to broaden my contacts, especially internationally, and to see what could be mustered up with a few pre-arranged meetings. It's commonly advised for writers not to approach UK producers at Cannes as they could easily meet you in the UK but I think this is a myth as all UK producers/directors I approached were more than happy to discuss my projects.
Thanks to some focused and prepared self-marketing, I was able to target people to talk about my projects as well as me as a writer in general. I think it's important to have an 'hook' above all the writers out there bustling for attention. My hook was just a personal and professional approach, outlining the projects I had on the go and what I wanted to achieve out of the festival. After day two, the approach seemed to be paying off.
Naturally, there's a lot of meeting euphoria while you're there but on the whole I would say that two or three of the more positive meetings I had could lead to some assignment or rewriting work down the line while everyone I met requested to read my scripts for possible acquisition and/or a sample of my writing.
It's impossible NOT to make contacts at Cannes. You just have to say 'hello, how are you?' to someone standing next to you in the queue and you'll discover they're an actress/producer/director whatever and who knows where it'll lead... I was determined to get as much meetings in as possible to make my time there more 'official' rather than 'schmoozing', and although I found this exhausting and challenging at times, it certainly helped to boost my overall confidence in how I present myself and my work.
Since returning to the UK, I've emailed everyone I've met to say 'hello' and have followed up on whatever "action points" were agreed at my meetings. It's too early to say whether or not the trip is a qualified success or not but to view it in those terms would be misleading. It's a Festival. Everyone's there. Thousands of films. Loads of industry people. And lots of opportunities. But above all, just a good place to hang out and make new contacts.
Tim and Suki, veterans of Cannes, would have a much more insightful and practical assessment of what it's like attending the Festival but for my first time, I had a ball, met some great people and potentially lined up some work for myself. The only real expense is accommodation. Looking forward to next year already.