Cannes! I'm there! I mean here! What's going on? What am I doing here again?
Let's breathe and break this down. I am currently sitting on the patio of a 7th floor La Bocca apartment, facing the riviera and trying to loosely strategize some kind of schedule based on the armful of programming handed to me yesterday. As I reached for the official (and very cute) festival bag, I couldn't help feeling like fuck yes. This is it. I made it. That is, until I noticed the thousands (I don't know, maybe hundreds? Seemed like millions) of other bags behind the registration staff, waiting to be handed to other industry professionals and hopefuls like me. (Life really BE like that sometimes--you think you've taken a huge step forward, when you're just closer to seeing how far you have to go.) The last few days have been a pastel-colored crash course in accepting that this is a new level, and I need to step up in my head from the student mindset I've let myself settle into for the last....25 years. Just last Friday, I semi-reluctantly let myself be talked into walking across the stage at my master's commencement ceremony; now it's Tuesday, and I have to keep reminding myself to start thinking and acting as if the ritual and all that led up to it was not just an excuse to postpone a career-driven adult life (it was), but that it was inevitable, earned, intentional. (The fact is that I had applied to USC's cinema and media studies graduate program after working as a hotel housekeeper for a summer and, with true teacher's pet instincts, felt the impulse to be in school once the fall had rolled around. I applied to just one other program--the comparable Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh--and didn't get in. My attitude moving to California might have best been described as "Welp, LA, here I come, I guess.")
Fast forward two years: my application to the Creative Mind Group in Cannes program was sent in at the last minute during a shift at my slacker work study job in the cinematic arts library, and was accepted a week later. (My attitude then could best be described as "FUCK SHIT CANNES HERE I COME I GUESS?!??") The organization, which I recently learned was founded by a former participant in a supposedly similar program which left something to be desired, is focused on three divisions: internships, filmmaking, and networking. Feeling too old to be an intern and too unfocused to apply as a filmmaker, I went with networking. Advertised as the best choice for those who aren’t sure what they want to do within the industry, networking was the most ambiguous “path” offered by CMG—and now that I’m here, it’s clear there’s probably no better place for me to be.
What exactly does one do in a networking programming, you ask? Turns out, it seems the answer is whatever needs to be done. Unlike the interns and filmmakers, networkers (the smallest group—fewer than 10 of us) have no set schedule, no specific obligations or concrete tasks. We have a Marché badge (the marché—the buying and selling of movies between production companies and distributors—is by far the biggest draw of Cannes as a global event, being the biggest and busiest film market in the world) which grants us walk-in access to most screenings, aside from the red carpet showings. Our badge also enables us to (try to) get into the many industry workshop events which take place alongside these coveted invite-only screenings.
Access is the networker’s primary resource—what we do with it is up to us. This is a major benefit, but also a potentially major stressor: this could be a pure vacation if I wanted it to be (and it seems like it is, for some participants who already have regular jobs), but most of the networkers (myself included) are hoping to fly home with some promising employment prospects. To make the most of these two weeks, I paid $15 to print some business cards at Staples, then $20 to print some better, more colorful ones, and less than $150 at Goodwill and Buffalo Exchange for an entirely new wardrobe (which I’m hoping screams “I’m not like all the other 20-somethings handing you a business card”)…aaaaaand that’s pretty much it. Appearances aren’t everything, but in service of the broadest networking goal—to “make an impression”—I figure they’re like, 85% of it.
So what am I trying to get out of this? What are my goals? My business card says I’m a “writer” (quotes included, for self-deprecating humor purposes), and although I do have big-time fantasies of becoming the showrunner of a prestige comedy-drama or making Oscar speeches for best director, the one thing I left grad school with is full confidence in my writing (though this blog post may not be the best indicator). I’ve been exposed to enough writing from peers, professors, and students to know that a readerly sensibility is far from a given—in this industry or otherwise—and I’ve consumed enough criticism and close analysis to know that these instincts are something to be desired at any stage of any creative endeavor. I’m meek enough to know that what I know about writing is nothing compared to what I don’t know, and I’m vain enough to believe that I can learn it better than most people might, if I try. (And I do plan to try.)
Goal for today: concretize some goals. Luckily, and terrifyingly, today is the first official day of the festival, so I have a little more time before the onslaught of events and parties and business card handoffs takes full force. In the meantime, the beach might be the best place for me to mull over these thoughts…
More to come! Pray for my red carpet request to the Elton John biopic to be granted!!