Under the Midday Sun: My Time at the Cannes Film Festival


Our videographer Rob Shearer writes about his experience at the Cannes Film Festival and the various parts of the festival.



The Festival de Cannes. Not only is it one of the world’s oldest film festival (celebrating its 70th birthday this year) but it is also the world’s biggest film festival. Filmmakers from all over the world descend onto the French Riviera for two weeks to celebrate cinema. The lights, the stars, the parties, there’s just a certain je ne sais quoi about the whole thing. However, there is far more to this legendary festival than what is shown on the news. There is a whole business side to the festival that is hardly known, but this is what keeps the major Hollywood players coming back to this festival year after year. Well, that, and the amazing weather.

I had the privilege of attending this year’s festival as the videographer at the American Pavilion, and I want to give you a rundown on what it’s like to spend two weeks under the midday sun.

First, I should explain what the American Pavilion is. The American Pavilion is the oldest and largest pavilion in an area of the festival that is called the International Village. The International Village is a series of tents that are set up on the beach right in front of the Palais des Festivals. Each tent is setup by different countries to promote and host their local filmmakers and highlight the region. The American Pavilion first started in 1989, and was the reason the whole International Village came into existence.



Alright, now onto the festival. Like I had mentioned, while the world is watching the festival to see who walks the red carpet, there is a whole film market (Marché du Film) that occurs during the festival. The market is held in the basement of the Palais, and it is here that filmmakers try to sell their films, and distributors look to buy films. Walking through the market is a crazy experience because you see so many movies that are looking for a home in a multiplex or DVD player near you. The movies sold here range from passion projects, to straight rip offs of successful franchises, to even the bizarre niche crossovers (one film in particular this year was Snakes Outta Compton, complete with a giant googly-eyed snake adorning its poster.) While the Marche du Film can feel like a giant supermarket for films, it is truly humbling and inspiring to see how many filmmakers are working to get their movies in front of an audience.

Aside from screening films and hosting filmmakers, Cannes sets the tone for the film industry for the upcoming year. The interviews, panel discussions, and press conferences all discuss the various innovations and concerns that surround the film industry, and the three big topics this year: Netflix, television, and virtual reality. Netflix had two original films in competition in the festival this year (Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories), which brought with it questions about whether films streamed online capture the cinematic experience compared to watching them in a theater, and also how the streaming giant is providing filmmakers the creative control that seems to be absent in the major studios. For the first time ever, this year also included television shows in the festival, namely Jane Campion’s Top Of The Lake, and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. The inclusion of these two projects just shows the prominence and newfound prestige that television has in the world today. And finally, virtual reality showed its storytelling potential with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s short film Carne Y Arena (Flesh And Sand). The immersive VR experience about the true accounts of refugee’s personal journeys. It was amazing being there and seeing and hearing the discussion and debate surrounding these topics that will no doubt be continued at various film festivals throughout the year.

With all of the business and industry talk that happens at the festival, it is easy to get so caught up in it all and forget you are in the South of France! One of my favorite things to do when I had a break from work was to walk up Le Suquet to the church overlooking Cannes and just look at the incredible view of the ocean and the city. What makes Cannes such a special film festival is the fact that you can be in such an amazing place and focus solely on your craft with thousands of other people in this industry. Feeding off of the energy of creativity, uncertainty, and excitement that surround this festival was an amazing experience that I will carry with me for the rest of the year.


Rob Shearer
written by ROB SHEARER

Rob Shearer is a Videographer and Editor at Carbon8. With a passion for telling stories, he is constantly finding ways to translate a client’s product or brand into an engaging and compelling story. Rob conceptualizes, shoots, and edits projects from start to final delivery. A regular Renaissance man in the world of modern video production.

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