Two days after I returned from my trip from Barcelona, I switched gears into a different kind of temporary daily lifestyle as I was thrust into the fast-paced, crazy life of Hollywood . . . in France. May seventeenth marked the commencement of the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival and I was lucky enough to participate in an internship at one of the companies at the festival which meant that I have been crazy busy these last two weeks. But the experience was amazing and I honestly wish that I could have that type of stimulation everyday because despite how exhausted I was at the end of every day and the early hour that I had to get up to go to work, I always woke up feeling like I’d had the best night’s sleep ever. So it is fairly safe to say that the festival is one of the best experiences I have had in my entire life.
On Tuesday, the festival had not yet begun but the companies in the film market were all setting up their booths in the Palais des Festivals or along the riviera where in just a day’s time, producers, buyers, sellers, and everyone in between would be roaming the halls and streets hoping to make a business deal. I had been in communication over email with my bosses at Vision Films, a distribution company based in Los Angeles, for about a month and today was finally the day we would meet. We had a rendez-vous scheduled for noon that day where we would meet at the palais after I picked up my badge. I left my campus at about 11:15 and took the bus to the crazy crowded streets near the palais. Cannes is a very small town and never had I ever seen the city so busy and full of so many tourists (little did I know on Tuesday, that it would only get busier and more crowded from there). Unfortunately it was also hot and humid out (a cruel temperature that lasted for the entire length of the festival), so I was sweaty and hot when I arrived at the Palais and stood in line to get my badge. The line was not too long but trying to get my badge ended up taking longer than expected because the employees, at first, thought that I could not pick up my badge until the next day. After a few minutes of panic, they fixed the computer error and gave me my badge. I then ran over to my boss’s AirBnB apartment across the street where both of my bosses greeted with a smile and a hug. After a half hour of stress, I was quite relieved at the warm welcome. Then one of my bosses took me back to the Palais and showed me where our booth was and I helped organize some DVDs for them and set up. They showed me what I would be doing everyday – primarily hostess work.
Afterwards, they took me out to lunch, where I was in such awe, listening to their conversations about the film business that I barely spoke two words. And that was the end of my first experience with my internship.
The next morning was my first real day on the job! I woke up at 7:15 a.m., did my make-up, put on my nice business clothes, ate a quick breakfast on the go then took the bus to work. Trying to find an entrance into the palais though was a nightmare, and that nightmare ended up continuing every morning. Luckily, I was with a group of other interns from my college and we waited in a long line together to get into the Palais. But security claimed that the line didn’t even open until 8:30 a.m., the time all of us were supposed to be at work. I approached a security guard to ask for an explanation as to where else we could go to enter the palais but no one seemed to have an answer, despite the fact that there was another salesman there, clearly very frustrated with the fact that employees could not get into their own place of work.
I texted my bosses asking if there was somewhere else I could go, but they both claimed they were having similar problems getting into the Palais. So I waited until 8:30 in the line, then had to wait even longer as the line moved slower than a snail. I finally made it to our booth at around 8:50 a.m. and got a bit of a late start on unlocking the booth and setting up all of the TVs. One of my bosses then told me that some workers had found an entrance by the casino and I made a mental note to use that entrance the next day. When my other boss arrived, she showed me how to make her tea in the mornings. After all, what is a first internship in the entertainment industry without the cliché of fetching tea/water/coffee? And obviously no tea-fetching cliché would be complete without the tea boiling over the edge of the tea pot and making a mess on a desk. Luckily, no papers or anything important was on the desk so I tried to hide my red, embarrassed face as I quickly cleaned up the tea.
The rest of my day consisted of sitting at the front desk and greeting clients who walked up for meetings, offering them water or coffee, and showing them where to sit. Occasionally I would schedule a meeting, and sometimes I would listen to my boss take a producer’s pitch on his/her film. A bit of background information: a distribution company basically sells/distributes already finished films to buyers on different platforms like VOD, DVD, or theatrical release, and they do this with companies from all over the world. But occasionally, or rather very often, a producer would come up to try to pitch a film for the company to acquire and distribute. This was always an interesting interaction to watch because, to my surprise, a lot of producers had trouble finding a good pitch for their film and my boss would help them try to clean up their pitches by giving them feedback. Of course, many producers would not really take heed to this advice but I guess that’s their loss.
The rest of my days were mostly like that. I greeted clients and producers and occasionally helped the lost passer-by find the exit or bathrooms. I tried not to make too many mistakes, but I am only human. Luckily my mistakes were not terrible at all, and I always made up for them. I was also relieved to hear, from my fellow interns, that they had made the same mistakes at their jobs too. For example, on my second day I accidentally scheduled a meeting with a producer who I, mistakenly, thought was a business associate. So instead of my boss taking the meeting and listening to the pitch, my boss suggested that I take the meeting and tell her if the pitch sounded at all interesting. So I did, and it was actually really fun getting to listen to the pitch and ask questions about the film. And for the rest of the festival, I ended up being the one who listened to all of the pitches from producers. My only other mistake that I felt bad about was when an insurance salesman came up, claiming to know my boss and asking for an appointment. When I asked my boss if she knew him she said she had never heard of him and I felt terrible. Luckily she just kind of laughed it off, and funnily enough there were plenty of people who claimed to know my bosses who didn’t, but I didn’t schedule appointments with any of them after that incident.
Here is an awkward picture of me at work:
After work each day, my boss held little cocktail parties at her apartment across the street for her clients where we could watch the red carpet from her balcony. So I went over each night and helped prepare the food and wine and then would stay a bit longer and listen and occasionally participate in conversations with the film industry professionals. My boss even let me bring friends each night and it was always a very fun and interesting time.
And that is what my last two busy weeks have been filled with. But now for the fun parts. My bosses are, clearly, very generous and nice people so they gave me their company numbers to request any red carpet tickets that I wanted. So I put in requests for several different tickets, assuming I probably would not get that many. I mostly wanted a ticket to The Beguiled, a new movie by Sophia Coppola, but I knew that it was in heavy demand so I was not holding my breath until, on Sunday afternoon, my boss turned to me and said, “Oh by the way. I just got an email and you got that ticket to see The Beguiled.” I tried not to squeal with delight as I replied, “Really?!” And I excitedly went to pick up my ticket and on Wednesday night, I was fortunate enough to be able to walk the red carpet – or half of it anyway. Security only lets us common-non-celebrity folk in by the stairs, about fifteen minutes before the celebrities even start to arrive, and security is constantly yelling at you to keep moving, despite the fact that everyone just wants a quick picture on the carpet. But it is still a really fun experience. We were then ushered into the theater. I sat in the “nosebleed” section of the balcony in the Grand Théâtre Lumière, which is the main theater in the Palais for the festival films.
While we waited for the stars to arrive and the movie to begin, they displayed the live footage of the celebrities arriving on the red carpet right outside. I watched stars like Gwendolyn Christie and Elizabeth Moss, among others, arrive before the cast of The Beguiled (Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Collin Farrel), accompanied by Sophia Coppola arrived, walked down the carpet together and then entered the theater. And I got goosebumps as the camera followed them into the theater and everyone stood up and clapped for Coppola. Then the film finally began and it was amazing! I definitely suggest that everyone see it when it comes out on June 30th!
So after my exciting night at the red carpet, the next day I was lucky enough to be able to volunteer at the AmfAR gala in Antibes which is a huge gala that raises money for AIDS research. It is at one of the most expensive, exclusive hotels in the world, Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc. It was beautiful and enormous and the decorations and dresses worn by some of the guests made me feel like I was either at a Gatsby party or a Capitol party from The Hunger Games. Clearly, it is safe to say I have never been around that much money in my entire life. Our jobs were really to just stand there and help guests if they needed anything, like to take their photos, which we barely did. We mostly watched the celebrities we saw walk by. I saw Diane Kruger, Bella Hadid, Will Smith, Jessica Chastain, Nicole Kidman, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan. Not to mention all the people I missed in the crowds like DNCE, Dustin Hoffman, and Leonardo DiCaprio. It was an interesting and fun night.
I could not take pictures at the gala with all of the celebrities or the amazing decorations (but you can google those pictures!). I did snap a couple images of the beach by volunteers’ rest area.
After that, I was done with all of my film festival duties and I got to observe the insane festival culture from the perspective of a Cannois local. And honestly, I got really tired of all of the tourists really fast. Everyone always made passing comments about Cannes being a small town but I never really realized how small of a town it was until it was being overfilled with tourists from all over the world. The buses were so crowded that there were several nights I rode home on the bus, stuffed up against a window. And while the festival is a fun time, I am very ready to spend the rest of my time in France in the Cannes that I know – sans tourists.
But my festival festivities were not finished yet. I was happy to find out on Friday afternoon, that I had gotten two tickets to the closing Palm D’Or ceremony of the film festival on Sunday night and this time they weren’t nosebleed seats! So on Sunday evening, my friend and I got to walk the entire length (not just the stairs like last time) of the red carpet, which was still crowded and there were still security guards yelling at us to “Allez! Avancez!” but it was very fun. Our seats were in the Mezzanine section, very close to the Orchestra section, where all of the stars were seated. Plus we were on the side of the auditorium that was facing the judges’ seats on the stage which meant that we were yards away from Will Smith and Jessica Chastain! The stage was decorated so beautifully and it was amazing to be present for a ceremony that honored so many amazing filmmakers.
And that wrapped up my Cannes Film Festival experience. I walked the red carpet twice, saw the red carpet premiere of a Sophia Coppola film, attended the Palm D’Or ceremony, volunteered at the AmfAR gala, and I know have the ability to say that I worked at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.