Things I’ve overheard at the Cannes Film Festival

12 May '24 1 Comment on Things I’ve overheard at the Cannes Film Festival

I have been attending the film Cannes Film Festival for almost twenty years, and over that time, I’ve heard some pretty mad things. I used to keep a loose list of the funniest and most revealing comments, as a part of my lessons to film students and to share with readers of my film data newsletter.

I have been asked a number of times to combine them in one place, so today, for the first time, I present my collection of very real, very revealing things I have overheard at the Cannes Film Festival.

More serious stuff first

Between earwigging on public conversations, I have also found a bit of time to do some real study. So here is a collection of articles I’ve written about Cannes, if you’re interested in the more serious side of the industry:

Ok, now the conversational snippets

One of the features of Cannes is the International Village, where most countries have a tent to promote their country to the industry and also provide a home for native filmmakers.  The UK tent is notorious for housing UK-based filmmakers who spend the whole festival just talking to Brits who live and work in the same town as them.

If you are feeling like you’re missing out on the Cannes experience this year then fear not – I have started to jot down some of the things I’ve overheard said in the UK tent.  I promise these are verbatim conversations by British filmmakers in Cannes…

  • “Stick it in a box and people will buy it”
    “Cool, so a physical release on DVD?”
    “No, a metaphorical box”
  • “I’m doing a private screening this afternoon in my flat. I can see if I can squeeze you in, if you want to come?”
  • [Two people who have made enthusiastic small talk for about ten minutes – about the weather, parties, films – and then they got onto what they do for a living. It turns out they’re both composers. The disappointment in both of them was palpable and they parted ways soon after]
  • [Actor showing off about the films he’s been in] “And that film has just won an award at a major festival”
    “Which one?”
    “Best Editor”
  • “Who’s directing?”
    [Says a name]
    “Great, great, I totally respect him, totally. Would you consider changing to someone else?”
  • “I love that party. Every year I go and get so much arse”
  • “I’ve discovered that during Cannes is the worst time in the world to be trying to sell a film”
  • “Your film is the exact type we finance”
    “So will you fund us?”
    “I’m afraid not”
  • “And then we discovered that the producer had been lying to us the whole time”
    “So what did you do?”
    “Well, nothing, because to be fair to him we hadn’t really been telling him the truth either. Still, what a bastard!”
  • “There’s two ways the script could go. Personally, I think the flashbacks slow the film down but we’re happy to do that if the investors want to spend more”
  • [Huge Hollywood star] is very interested. In fact, he’s completely ecstatic about the script and his agent said that he’s in as soon as we have the money for his quote”
  • “There’s a big investor in the background of this one who is completely willing to fund it”
    “So it’s fully funded?”
    “Well, no, he’s wants to get other people to share the opportunity and he’ll be the last in”
  • “I haven’t actually read the script but I really do think it could be the next ‘The King’s Speech’”
  • “The good thing is that it’s the first of a planned trilogy”
  • “We’ve had a breakdown of the special effects and amazingly it came in at just £5 million, which is less than half the total production budget”
  • It would be good to shoot in Asia so it will instantly have an original look. Or Malta”
  • “This is going to be a very original Richard Curtis style rom-com”
  • “It’s set in an ambiguously nowhere town but when you read the script it’s obviously London”
  • “We think our promo is good as no one has looked too bored when seeing it”
  • “The soundtrack is incredible so make sure you focus on that when watching the trailer”
  • “Our budget is [£x]. It’s inflated but not wildly. Just padded”
  • “What’s your budget?”
    “Yeah, that’s one of our blind spots”
  • Person 1: “Have you thought about shooting in [COUNTRY]?”
    Person 2: “No, it’s important that we use the authentic location the story actually took place in, and we’ve already secured that”
    Person 1 talks about tax credit in [COUNTRY] for ten minutes
    Person 2: “Um. Ok”
    Meeting ends.
  • “Your budget seems to have gone up by over 60% from the last time you told me about the project. What accounts for this?”
  • “It’ll be historically accurate but not, you know, too much”
  • A British filmmaker talking to a French professional. At the end, as they said goodbye the French pro said (in English) “Your use of French is novel”.
    The filmmaker Brit-splains what the word ‘novel’ means in English.
    After waiting patiently, the French pro replied “I know”.
  • [Talking about the length of a script]
    Person 1: “How many characters?”
    Person 2: “Oh wow, I dunno. Tens of thousands. I can check”
    Person 1: “….”
    Person 2: “Is word count important?”
    Person 1: “No, how many roles are in the movie?”
    Person 2: “Oh. Two”

Finally, so many of the conversations I heard in Cannes followed this script:

  • “Hi”
  • “When did you get here?”
  • “How long are you here for?”
  • “Wet/Sunny, isn’t it?”
  • “When do you leave?”
  • “And when did you arrive?”
  • “Lovely to meet you, let’s stay in touch.”


1 comment
  1. Thanks again for another great article (insight). Its stuff like this which makes me want to sell a script and stand aside. I don’t want to be a part of the rest of it. Probably why I’ll never sell a script.

    Oh, and you must be happy Gooner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stephen Follows