It's screening day in Cannes. Some 15 films screen roughly every hour and a half across the city. From red carpet affairs to the B-films on their last run in the market, films of all kinds sputter to life in every theatre and screening room, the magic of this festival.
But today is an even more special screening day because it's the premiere of my debut feature film, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh. Most directors, so I am told, have a tough time sleeping the night before their screenings. I slept a long, dreamless sleep, probably helped by the marathon walks I've been putting in the past few days, zig-zagging across the Palais, hopping from café to restaurant and generally circumventing the downtown of a tiny city that seems to have no taxi cabs when you need one.
The day is overcast and perfect for sitting in a cool theatre. Wandering the Palais beforehand I run into a tall, dark, crow-like man who I instantly recognize as Nick Cave. He has a film here too; Lawless starring Shia LeBeouf. Nick wrote the script, which doesn't surprise me considering his natural talent for telling stories. He is an artist I have long admired and consider the moment a good omen.
Sure enough, the theatre is packed.
Watching from the sidelines I can't help but recall the long process that brought me and the production team here. We shot the movie in less than a month, posted it through the winter and ended up with a polished cut with an original score (courtesy of Turkish superstar Mercan Dede) just in time for the Cannes festival. So I am very close to the movie at this point and can't get any objective distance from it even if I tried. So I just don't.
Instead I think about the words of advice given to me a few days ago by the unnamed executive: try not to throw up if there are any walk outs. I feel fine, really, even if it does cross my mind how anxiety could get the better of a filmmaker in his hour of truth. As a director, you want the audience to experience your film perfectly, which in reality means that you wish people would see it with the same eyes you used to make it.
But that is impossible.
It was impossible for Martin Scorcese, Stanley Kubrick, Takashi Miike and Alfred Hitchcock. And David Lynch. And Federico Fellini. And every other filmmaker who ever made a movie and presented it before an audience. The hard truth is that there is no movie that appeals to everyone. And the more people see it, the more reactions you will invite.
At the heels of that realization comes another: that witnessing that mundane moment when the teller rips the ticket and security lets the excited patrons into the theatre two by two is really the highlight of the event. The filmmaker's ultimate high is this little moment, because it encapsulates what it's all about: the opportunity to show people your work. What happens during the screening or even afterwards is much less interesting.
In a few minutes, everyone is inside and the presentation begins.
It goes great, and afterwards we were approached by distributors and festival programmers eager to spread the word.
Afterwards, walking by the rows of parked yachts, I run into Mads Mikkelsen, Danish superstar who happens to be attached to my next project. I haven't seen him in a long while and I think, man, it's time to make the next movie. It's time to put it all together for the thrill of experiencing that moment when the ticket stub gets ripped in two again.