Cannes Diary

Monday, May 15

We wake up after a couple of hours of hard sleep. I leave first—I’m being interviewed by Charles Lyons of Variety for a cover story that’s supposed to run today. Our company, Killer Films, is forming an alliance with Jody Patton and Paul Allen’s production/finance company, Clear Blue Sky. This is (we hope) big news. I have to make sure to stress Killer’s ongoing partnership with John Wells Productions, which Variety has failed to mention in the last two stories it has run on Killer. Who cares, right? Well, like many small companies, we have more than one alliance and you’ve got to mention every one or people get upset.

We fill the morning with meetings and, in the afternoon, Pam swelters in a tent in the Variety Pavilion moderating a panel on “Financing Independent Film.” She’s flanked by eight guys (Rick Sands of Miramax, Russell Schwartz of USA, and Jonathan Sehring of the IFC, among others)—the only woman on stage. “Despite how it may appear from this panel,” she begins “there are women who spend their lives raising money for independent movies.” Rah rah.

During the panel, Brad and Laird call around, trying to figure out our evening’s activities. On any given night, there are a dozen parties in villas, on the beach, and in boats that are strictly Invitation Only. Some are planned in advance and some are spontaneous. And any party that has a limited invite list, no matter who is throwing it, becomes a hot ticket. (The Velvet Goldmine Party we threw at Cannes two years ago was incredibly exclusive—people were actually beaten down by security guards as they tried to climb over the fence.)

Cannes Note 6: There is always some other great thing happening that you have not been invited to.

Cannes breeds this feeling, no matter how secure you think you are. You walk around sensing that, at any moment, there is a lunch, a party, a press conference, a meeting that you have been excluded from. You try to stay above it, but then someone says, “I’m heading off to the Luxembourg Film Financing Website Lunch!” and your stomach lurches—even if you have no inclination to make a movie in Luxembourg.

A primary example of “You Only Want To Go to the Party That Didn’t Invite You”: Darren Aronofsky’s much-anticipated second feature, Requiem for a Dream, is showing tomorrow. We casually ask producer Palmer West if there will be a party (the point, of course, is to cadge an invitation) and he says, “Oh, just a really small dinner for the people who worked on the movie.” Fair enough. Then, later on, Micah Green of Sloss Law asks if he’ll be seeing us at the “Requiem bash.” Ouch! Killer is off the list! I mean, we’re already going to other parties—and, I might add, far cooler, more exclusive ones. But we spend the afternoon obsessing over why we didn’t make the Requiem cut.

The rest of our day passes in a haze—we have pitch meeting after pitch meeting and they all start to blend together. Brad takes notes just to keep straight who is interested in what.  Exhausted and sunburned, we make plans to escape Cannes and have dinner at the Colombe D’or, an old farmhouse/inn in the hills past Nice. Relaxing with amazing food and good wine, we avoid talking about the festival.

Cannes Note 7: If you can—even if it is only for a few hours—don’t forget that you are in the South of France.

Four hours later, we wonder where to conclude our night. After parties or dinners, we usually end up at the Petite Majestic, a tiny bar away from the Croisette that stays open until dawn. Around one or two every morning, people head over and the crowd spills into the street. This is the most egalitarian place in Cannes: Anyone can go to the Petite Majestic. Schlock filmmakers, lower level executives, and major stars all stand in the street drinking big glasses of beer.

The other extreme in late-night options is the bar at the Hotel Du Cap. We know people who have been coming to Cannes for ten years and have never made the cut for the Du Cap. The entrance to the grounds is strictly guarded by large men with muzzled dogs and a list. The list is more terrifying than the dogs. If you aren’t on it, you don’t get in.

The Hotel Du Cap is legendary for several reasons: 1. They do not accept credit cards—cash only. This means hotel guests have to wire the money for their stay before they get there. 2) The drinks are astronomically expensive. The bartenders seem to have a hard time keeping a straight face as they tell you that will be thirty dollars for your glass of Evian. Legend has it that one major talent agency’s Du Cap bill was over one million dollars.

Set on a cliff in Antibes, the Du Cap is an imposing structure that Leni Riefenstahl would have loved shooting. It is also the primary spot for stargazing. We end up at the Du Cap because Tim Blake Nelson is staying there. Contrary to what our editor inserted in yesterday’s diary, Tim did not direct our Crime and Punishment in Suburbia. He will be directing a film for Killer this fall. At the moment, he’s starring in the Coen Brothers latest, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Ethan Hawke, Nick Nolte, Uma Thurman, and George Clooney are here. The rest of the crowd is an odd mixture of industry bigwigs (Bob Shaye, Harvey Weinstein.), hangers-on who can’t believe they’re in the same room as all these celebrities, and a surprising number of women who seem to be practicing the world’s oldest profession.

Pushing through the bar past this insane scene, we settle on the terrace with Frances McDormand, Joel Coen, and Tim. They are glowing after a good screening. Frances is incredibly down-to-earth and unaffected. She reminds me that she worked for me in a short Tom Kalin directed in 1995. Tomorrow, she plans to travel to Nice to go thrift shopping and tells us about the great French nightgowns and fabrics she collects from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Some women with bleached hair, stilettos, and Moschino clothes sit down next to us. Pam wonders if they are prostitutes and Frances says, “Hey—there is a fine line here.”

Cannes Note 8. This is maybe the most important rule at Cannes. In a market like this one, you are a hypocrite if you accuse anyone else of being a prostitute.

We spend the evening talking on the terrace and getting people to buy us drinks. The trick is to try to get on the tab of a bigwig. We get Dan Cox from Variety to buy us a round. Next, Laird approaches the bar and tells the bartender to put our drinks on the tab of a bigshot film executive who’s staying at the hotel. (We can’t name him.) The bartender asks Laird to point him out. Laird points over to Brad who smiles at the bartender and returns to the table with four drinks (tab: $125). Truth is, the bigshot would probably not mind that we charged drinks to his room–but he would be incredibly shaken that the bartender did not know what he looks like.

Cannes Note 9: Never pay for anything. In a town where an ice cream cone can run $9, you can save your child’s college tuition by having distributors and foreign sales companies picking up your dinner or drinks tab. Try to get people’s room numbers so you can charge drinks to their rooms from hotel bars. (Note: Only do this to distribution executives who are in town on fat expense accounts.)

As we head out around 3 a.m., John Lesher of UTA (he represents Kim Peirce, director of our Boys Don’t Cry, and Paul Thomas Anderson) asks us if he can buy Killer lunch at the Du Cap on Tuesday. Taking note of rules numbers 8 and 9, we quickly rearrange our meetings for the day so we can take him up on the offer. One must keep one’s priorities straight.