Cannes! The Riviera. The croissette. The sun, the sand, the celebrities...the movies. It's the 65th annual Festival de Cannes, a meeting place of filmmakers great and not-so-great. Ken Loach is here. David Cronenberg is here. So is Takashi-freakin'-Miike. For an independent filmmaker like me, it's as close to a real life Mount Olympus as I have ever set foot on.
You're probably wondering...who am I exactly? My name is Rodrigo Gudiño and I am the founder and publisher of Rue Morgue, a magazine you may be very familiar with if your tastes veer towards the macabre.
I've been watching and writing about thrillers and horror flicks for the past 15 years. Then, back in 2006, I decided to make one myself. I started with a few short films, toured them around the world, snagged a bunch of awards and even sold them to companies like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Canal+.
All that was groundwork for what's happening today: I am in Cannes with my first feature film, a suspense thriller called The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, starring Academy Award winner Vanessa Redgrave, along with a really talented up-and-coming actor named Aaron Poole who you will also be seeing in The Samaritan with Samuel L. Jackson. I feel excited, a little incredulous that I am even here, and a little bit like a superstar because I've been around long enough to recognise that no matter how my film does, I am one of a few who are an active part of the festival. Ultimately, Cannes is about the movies.
And I made one.
But at first sight it doesn't really feel that way. On arriving, I feel pretty indistinguishable from the stiff- legged men and women who pour in and out of the Marche (that's Cannes ground zero) like so many ants. After my arrival and speedy orientation, which basically consists of getting in line, getting a badge and coming away with a two tonne bag of literature and reference material, it's off to the Canadian Pavilion to get settled in and coordinate with Team Rosalind Leigh. Among them are my producer Marco, executive producers Lilia and Jake, our publicist Andrea, her assistant Kara, my girlfriend Nat, and Marco's girl Ilse, who also happens to be my sister.
We're all here with one goal in mind: to sell the film to a distributor which, in case you've ever wondered, is the reason why most people want to help a director make a movie. Beneath the glamour, a film festival like Cannes is strictly business.
This idea is confirmed on our first meeting with an old time studio exec who was kind enough to give us some from-the-gut advice. For that reason, he shall remain nameless. Sitting on a couch and sipping beer beside the sun-kissed Riviera, our nameless advisor takes us through a crash course on what to expect: war tactics, bullshit and back stabbing.
"Don't be discouraged at your screenings when distributors walk out," he says amiably, "I've almost never sat through a film in my life, even the ones I liked."
Apparently it's a common strategy for film distributors to try to dissuade each other from taking interest in movies, especially ones they plan on putting a bid on. He tells me not to take things personally and to try -- unlike other famous directors that he's worked with -- to keep myself from vomiting when people walk out of the screening.
"The place is full of sharks," he says, his eyes scanning past the beach to the stiff huddles of suited men and smiling women. "But you seem to have one advantage over most people here. Your film isn't shit."
Feeling like a graduate in an intensive master's course, we thank him courteously and follow the river of badge-wearing attendees along the pavilion.
I think I see Rob Zombie standing in front of the Marche chatting with a couple of business types and the thought crosses my head: "Is that really Rob Zombie?" Somehow, I thought he'd be above all this. But I suppose even he has to contend with the business. It's officially my first Cannes celebrity sighting.