Blog: Maximizing face time at the Cannes market

Picture Day producer Lauren Grant (pictured) discusses prepping for meetings with international producers and doc sales agents at the Cannes Film Festival.
Lauren Grant-1

This year, five TIFF 2012 Studio participants are attending the Cannes Film Festival and market. They have been blogging about their experiences and insights gained from conversations with international producers and industry execs, and from navigating the festival market. In this installment, Clique Pictures producer Lauren Grant (Picture Day) discusses planning for Cannes market and maximizing opportunities for meeting with international producers and sales agents.

This year proved to be the perfect time to tackle my first Cannes Film Festival and Marché du Film. The festival combines the glitz and glamour of the red carpet premieres that we see in the press with the very busy market where thousands of buyers, sellers and producers work to finance and launch their films. The market is huge and I knew it could be overwhelming without the right preparation so I did a lot of research and asked my TIFF Studio colleagues a lot of questions prior to getting on the plane.

My goal for the festival was to meet with fiction and documentary sales agents for a few of my projects. I also wanted to meet with international producers for coproduction opportunities.

My first Cannes started with what seems to be a rite of passage: having my luggage not arrive. Luckily, I only had to attend one meeting that day in my travel clothes. As it is a common occurrence to lose luggage and it was raining on the first day, my casual clothing didn’t stand out.

I had registered for Producers Network, which offers daily breakfast roundtable sessions as well as happy hour cocktails every evening. The roundtable sessions allowed time to meet eight other producers as well as the featured guest speaker. I quickly learned that I needed to arrive early for the 9 a.m. breakfast as the 20 tables of 12 fill up quickly. The list of guests is sent out prior to the festival, leaving plenty of time to research and target different sales agents, film festivals and film funds each day. In its 10th year, the Producers Network secures amazing guests from around the world.

My focus at Producers Network was meeting with documentary sales agents as I’m currently in post-production on Jennifer Sharpe’s feature documentary Traceable. The guests were really top shelf, including European-based sales agents First Hand Films and Rise and Shine. Discussions at the table ranged from the submission process, sales fees, expense caps and the state of the documentary market around the world.

I learned that a television cut-down version is essential to selling the film in Europe, even if it has a rare (for documentaries), theatrical release. Of course, introduction to these companies at the roundtables is a great way to start a dialogue about your own projects. I was surprised by how many documentary sales agents were attending the festival and was able to meet many more possible partners than I originally expected.

The breakfasts also have focus countries and I was chosen by Telefilm Canada as one of the spotlight producers for the Canada day focus. Spotlight producers are introduced to the group of producers and guests with short bios read out by Telefilm and SODEC representatives.

It was an honour to be included with Luc Dery, Kim McCraw, Paul Barkin, Félize Frappier, Daniel Bekerman, Christine Falco, Nancy Florence, Louis-Philippe Rochon, Eric Jordan and Jeremy Torrie. Hearing all of their impressive bios reminded me of the talent we have in Canada.

As an alumnus of the TIFF-OMDC Producers’ Lab, I was invited to the European Promotion Lunch for the launch of the new Producers on the Move candidates. It proved to be successful as I was able to connect with a producer I met at TIFF-OMDC Producers’ Lab last year and in 10 minutes we discussed the next steps for a project we may produce together as an Irish/Canada coproduction.

I loved how much work actually gets done at the market even over a glass of rosé. The lunch was wonderful, as the introductory speakers spoke about the tough job of producing in the current marketplace. It was nice to toast my international colleagues as well as meet Canadians from other parts of the country.

My advice for first timers: talk to colleagues before you go and have a plan to be shown around the first day as it makes picking up your pass and finding the Canada Pavilion a lot easier. Another great tip I learned was to leave some time in your schedule for additional meetings and screenings. I met with the same producers twice during the festival after the initial meeting proved to be so successful and we wanted to discuss a possible coproduction in further detail including casting, budget and timeline.

Next year, I plan to arrive a day earlier. The market starts on Wednesday but sales agents arrive Monday and Tuesday to set up their booths, which means larger companies that will be swamped with buyer meetings by Thursday and are more likely to have time on the first Tuesday and Wednesday for producer meetings. The market is the first eight days of the festival and most buyers pack up and head home by the following Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Studio program is TIFF Industry’s first year-round program, open to Ontario-based producers and aimed at developing next-level creative and business skills and knowledge of the global marketplace through panels, programs and seminars with Canadian and international film experts.