The hot tourist destination of Cannes, along the southern edge of the French Mediterranean, is enticing year-round with consistently warm sunny days and the aura of a sumptuously romantic European paradise, but during two weeks at the end of May the cozy town is a Mecca for film industry professionals, film students, and common tourists who wish to stumble upon the most reputable celebrities. The Cannes Film Festival is the most renowned film convention in the world, temporarily morphing the seaside splendor into an Americanized extension of Hollywood aptitude during the most prestigious yet chaotic two weeks in the entirety of France – which, attracting the element of industry players from all around the world, enables the local businesses, restaurants, nightclubs, and souvenir shops to thrive in a small town embedded with old fashioned tradition.
The film festival is a venue displaying short films, documentaries, narratives, and fiction – whether it be independent or studio-based. For example, Quentin Tarantino’s first successful hit, Pulp Fiction, debuted here and won the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm Award, the most honorable award a film can achieve at the festival) in 1994. Many of the most popular films are granted red carpet premieres, which naturally attract the attention of hundreds of tourists and press from around the world. Many films, such as We Own the Night in 2007 (starring Joaquin Phoenix and Robert Duvall), begin as independently produced features before they are shown as market screenings at the Cannes Film Festival and purchased during the two week period by studio distributors, who swarm the festival like locusts. During its brief time span the festival harbors several astounding events, such as nightly beachside concerts by popular worldwide artists, cocktail parties on private yachts, and press conferences featuring some of the most knowledgeable professionals in the film industry. Many films and network shows, such as HBO’s Entourage, shoot on location in Cannes during the festival.
The parties that are sponsored by Hollywood bigshots, though they are very difficult to gain access to without formal invitations, are among the world’s most phenomenal VIP-type festivities…picture a highly animated yet classy party environment where everything is free…waiters walking around with trays of champagne, snack food vendors of all types, girls in bikinis dancing on poles, loud Euro-techno music, and multi-million dollar décor (such as entire patios and outdoor bars built with ice). It is, by far, an experience of a lifetime.
One way for film students to gain access to such a wildly vivacious, yet educational, environment is to enlist in the student internship program sponsored by The American Pavilion – which, during the festival, is a venue that provides communications and hospitality to the international film community. During the program students gain work assignments either directly through the American Pavilion or a company they sponsor, which grants them access to powerful chiefs of the industry and celebrities alike – one of the greatest opportunities for networking. Not only this, but the student interns are given badges that allow them to attend festival screenings, press conferences, seminars, and practically every venue or event on the festival grounds. The American Pavilion, which over the years has become a prominent innovation of the festival, sets up a tent alongside the beach where a conference center, wireless internet access, office and exhibition space, and a bar/outdoor patio restaurant is provided. For the students the Pavilion also provides seminars hosted by the most polished professionals (such as Brent Ratner), media junkets, receptions, special screenings (some of which the student films are screened), and parties. This fast-paced upbeat environment is one of the best ways for students to observe the turmoil of industry fervor up-close and personally, experiencing the way things work in Hollywood rather than distantly learning about it from a book or college professor. Cannes is a wondrous place where the possibility of making dreams come true is as tangible as the effervescence of the seaside resort, especially for students who want to find a quick boost in reputation.