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Cannes Diary: Know Your Voice and Nurture It

05/25/2013 08:38 EDT | Updated 07/24/2013 05:12 EDT
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A man walks by the sign of the Marche du Film (film market) at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival on May 12, 2010 in Cannes. AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCE (Photo credit should read LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images)

As part of Telefilm Canada's Not Short on Talent project, 40 short-film filmmakers from across Canada are travelling to the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, where their films will be highlighted in the market. The Huffington Post Canada is pleased to share diary entries from a selection of these filmmakers, who describe their experiences at Cannes as Canadians on the rise in the industry. Here is Kyle Thomas with the seventh entry in our Cannes Diary series. Also check out previousentries from Kyle, as well as from Jacquelyn Mills and Moira Sauer.

Last year I came over to Cannes for only three days. And though I always love spending time in Europe, the grueling nature of that trip left me exhausted and ready for home. This year, after being here a full week, I feel that there is so much more to do. The days and nights flew by! There were plenty of Cannes standards: beach networking parties, late nights at Le Petit Majestic bar (always overflowing into the street and carrying on well into the morning), and more than my daily recommended intake of Provence Rose and Nespresso.

In my final days at the festival I managed to catch a few panels. Telefilm helped to organize a talk with Canadian filmmaker Ted Kotcheff, whose adaptation of Mordecai Richler's The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is being presented in a restored version at this year's festival. It was great to hear a man in his 80s speak about film with such accuracy and passion. Kotcheff was certainly a pioneer in the history of early English Canadian cinema, and I couldn't help being drawn in by his anecdotes about TV and film production in the 1960s and 70s.

Next I had the pleasure of hearing Jane Campion's talk at the Short Film Corner. Campion, known for such films as The Piano, Angel At My Table, and Portrait of a Lady, has always been an inspiration to me. After being asked a straightforward question about "what makes a good short film," Campion focused on the importance of personal artistic visions in short filmmaking. She described how many directors make "successful" short films that are based on a joke/gimmick, or that replicate a genre or style. But she returned to the idea that the great shorts films, ones that truly make their mark, will be ones that have a distinct and unique voice that resonates from behind the camera. She added that this approach can work in any medium; know your voice and nurture it. I couldn't agree more with Campion, as the lack of unique personal visions in much contemporary cinema is troubling to me. A film with fantastic production value and a compelling story can still fall flat without a solid driver behind the wheel. As an emerging filmmaker, I believe that developing a strong cinematic voice is essential to building a meaningful and sustainable career in this industry.

On my last day in Cannes, my new short film, The Post, screened in one of the five Not Short On Talent programs exhibited by Telefilm and curated by Danny Lennon. The cinemas for these screenings are quite small (around 35 seats), but they were nearly full every time. I had not yet seen my film in an environment beyond a post-production studio, so it was a rewarding experience to sit back and take it all in amongst strangers. I also enjoyed watching the short films coming out of our national cinema; the majority of them felt really "Canadian" (in a good way), which I feel is increasingly important in defining our work as distinct from commercial American cinema.

So I walked away from Cannes this year with an affirming sense that I am indeed on the right path, and that I must stay focused on developing my craft as a filmmaker. At Cannes you are exposed to myriad aspects of the global film industry, and you experience first-hand the benchmark for excellence in cinematic production. Though Cannes is not the be-all-end-all (since many brilliant films never screen at this festival), it does set a high internationally-recognized standard for aspiring directors. Later this year I will have the privilege of shooting my first feature film, Down In The Valley, and my experience at Cannes has recharged me with the drive and clarity needed to deliver the best film that I am capable of. I'm making it a personal goal to be back at Cannes next year.

Cannes Film Festival