Cannes Diary

Tuesday, May 16

Up early to the usual flawless, hot, sunny day and an apartment full of snoring co-workers. Pam is the next one conscious—which is generally the case, since we’re sharing a room. We stumble out into the sun in search of Variety. Killer Films’ deal with Jody Patton and Paul Allen’s Clear Blue Sky is supposed to be announced today: We’re anxious to inspect the placement and to make sure that our other deal—with John Wells Productions—is also there. It is: front page! Too bad it’s beneath an announcement of a digital deal between GreeneStreet Films and United Artists. Harummmph. Our lawyer, John Sloss (he “brokered” the deal with Clear Blue Sky), says not to worry. We should ultimately feel very satisfied. Job well done. And they mention our deal with John Wells Productions, which they’ve omitted from previous reports, to the distress of many. Whew!

It’s our third straight day of pitching our slate, and we’re starting to flag a tiny bit. After a few days, everyone you meet develops a sort of demented stare: They’re exhausted, hot, and often hung over. And when you look in the mirror you don’t always recognize the bleary-eyed person staring back. A few people somehow manage to avoid this. We bump into Manny Nunez, a big talent agent at CAA, and marvel at how rested and put together he looks. He says it’s his Cuban roots, but we all believe that CAA has discovered some sort of anti-aging elixir. Or maybe it’s some sort of package deal with the devil. 

Cannes Note 10. You will look like shit by the end. Embrace your dissolution. Celebrate it.

We move from meeting to meeting with distributors, financiers, foreign sales agents, and other production companies: in and out of offices and bars up and down the Croisette. We tout our past successes, our record of fiscal responsibility, our buzz, then go through our projects (around a dozen) in active development or production, dropping names like Todd Solondz and Mary Harron. Sometimes those meetings are great: high energy, exciting, engaged—the kind where we ourselves are actually reminded how cool our movies are. But the opposite can happen, too, and yesterday was a little demoralizing. Back–to–back meetings with important companies with whom we thought we were simpatico, and they were like scenes out of Living in Oblivion: pathetic.   

Signs that your meeting is going nowhere fast:

Bad Location. Instead of a busy bar, at a decent table, or a terrace with classy drinks, you’re in someone’s unkempt hotel room surrounded by dirty laundry.

Ignorance. The people with whom you are meeting have no idea what the meeting is about, schedule almost no time, or maybe don’t even show up.

Yawns. A terrible sign—despite the fact that no one sleeps here. Yawns are especially bad news from people trying hard to make it look as if they’re not yawning.

Absence of Honchos. The Head Honcho decision-maker didn’t make time, and you’re palmed off on an apologetic assistant-type. Last year we went to meet with a Big Cheese at Pandora (a European financing outfit) only to find ourselves with a teeny-weeny cheese. Who hadn’t even seen any of our movies.

Interruptions. A minion slinks into the room in the middle of your pitch to remind the Honcho of the next, far more important meeting/phone call. This means that before you sat down, the executive has told his assistant that this is an “interruptible meeting.” The worst is when you’re pitching to a group and the key executive simply gets up while you’re talking and, without explanation, leaves the room.

Your Own Boredom. When all of the above starts to happen, and when you begin to bore yourself with your spiel—I feel like I’m chewing food that has already been eaten—it’s time to wrap it up and cut your losses.

Today, however, our morning meetings click—especially the 10 a.m. one with Alliance, a large Canadian distributor and foreign sales company. Charlotte Mickie, who has been trying to do a project with us for a long time (she worked hard to convince her company to get involved with Boys Don’t Cry), clearly made this session a priority. It was well-attended, focused, and productive. We have one script in development with them and leave with a clear sense of what else they have their eye on. 

Then it’s off to the American Pavilion to check our e-mail and post our Slate piece. Annoying, because no one honors the 10-minute limit on the public computers. It’s more like 10 European minutes.

Quite hungry by now, we pile into the car and head off to the extravagant Hotel du Cap for lunch—courtesy of UTA agent John Lesher. The lunch scene at the du Cap is pure calm at the center of the storm. Casual fabulosity. Spectacular views of the Riviera, really good food, crisp white wine, and an excellent angle on Harvey Weinstein and Sean Penn in private laughter. Lesher is fun company. He represents a host of cool directors we want to hear gossip about—but he is discreet and most of the gossip comes from us. Still, we get nuggets. Meanwhile, I share the asparagus risotto avec black truffle with Brad. Pam and Laird do La Grande Bouffe (only one trip each). We all finish with wild strawberries and cream. Now we’re fortified for an afternoon of meetings.

Running late for our 3 p.m., stuck in what Brad calls “beach traffic,” we use the time to fit in phone calls. Pam calls Bulgaria and talks with the line producer about researching the period costumes available in Sofia for The Grey Zone (shooting in August). Laird calls his friend at Miramax for contact info on the guy we’re running late to see, but the conversation quickly segues into party reports and the contents of festival goody bags. I speak with Katie Roumel at Killer about our upcoming film of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and wonder when New Line will finally cash-flow us. Brad—who really shouldn’t be talking on the phone because he’s one-handing the wheel on some narrow, curvy Riviera streets—checks in with Jocelyn, his development associate, who tells him that for some reason domestic issues of Variety DO NOT mention Killer’s deal with John Wells Productions. He freaks out, begins to shriek, and we grab the phone before he drives us off a cliff into the sea. What a Cannes legend that would have made.