It was again the time for the Iron Sky team to pack their stuff and head out for the Cannes Film Festival. For me it was the second time, but some of the people in the productions have gone to the festival for more than a decade.
This time we had some big news to publish, and managed to make a nice amount of noise.
Festivals Are Hard Work
It looks like there are some very understandable misconceptions about what it means to go to a film festival in French Riviera for a work trip. The top two seem to be that a) you’ll get to see a single movie and b) you’ll have time to hang around at beaches. In my experience both of these activities are in relatively short supply.
When you are in a movie festival promoting a film, that’s what you end up doing for most of the day. With Iron Sky we’ve had a lounge, which means a rented apartment in a central location, which for the last year has been next to Grand Hotel (where a beer is 20€ and a G&T 25€). The lounce decorated with film related stuff and equipped with a screening room and a big television in the living room, which are there for showing trailers, promotional materials and other stuff to distributors, who drop in throughout the day to check out all the different films and to decide, if they’ll buy the film to be shown in their territory.
The different members of the production crew have other stuff, like meetings with partners on diverse subjects, giving or chasing after interviews and publicity on the mainstream and trade press, and all that. Then there are parties, which are not just for getting smashed on free booze – they are networking opportunities, where the day’s work continues in slightly less official capacity. In our lounge we had “happy hours” every day from 6pm to 8pm, which meant that we had more or less open door party for movie people to come in, get some free drinks and meet the crew.
Promoting the Moon Nazis
This is the first year for Iron Sky when there’s an actual finished film to promote – kind of. Iron Sky is in a phase where it’s watchable from start to finish, although the post production is still on the way and the CGI still consists mostly of placeholders. More importantly since the film is shot, there’s a lot of live action to build promotional videos of. This year we also had to big releases: one of them was the new teaser with live action, the other one was the projected release date of the film, 4.4.2012.
For me this year’s Cannes was professionally very satisfying. I spent the first two days basically holed up in the corner of our lounge with my laptop, handing the launch of the teaser and other publicity matters. I mostly left the lounge only to get something to eat, and once to get my accreditation and tour the movie market with Essi. The market is the central place where films are sold and bought, and it’s 100% about business: the way I heard it, if you are not a buyer, no use going to talk to the booth people there.
The teaser took off like wildfire and seeing it spread around the world was again amazing. For the first 24 hours there was a tweet, a blog post or a news item about Iron Sky literally every 10 seconds, and Jarmo and I had to give up even trying to keep our press database up to date in anything resembling real time. We considered that a luxury problem.
Saturday Night Walk
On Saturday evening everybody headed out to some party or another. I considered going for a moment, but things got suddenly complicated with people dashing here and there, and I decided to detach myself from the flock.
I went for a long walk in the dark and balmy night. First I headed down Croisette, the seaside boulevard that’s full of film festival related stuff. The streets were full of people, both local and visitors, surprisingly many of them wearing tuxedos and evening dresses, everybody on their way to a premiere or pressed against crowd control fences trying to get a glimpse of a celebrity. I went to see the famous red staircase at Palais, which was surrounded by visitors ogling at the film people who were on their way to see whatever was shown that night.
My first destination was a geocache in the western end of Croisette next to Notre-Dame-de-l’Espérance. The place turn out to be really beautiful: Notre-Dame-de-l’Espérance is an old stone church on top of a hill, and the whole hillside is built full of tall and narrow houses. The road up was narrow and winding, breaking at times into a serious case of narrow stone stairways, and flanked by low stone parapets, cast iron railings or just prosaic chicken wire fences. The view from the top encompassed the whole Cannes downtown, which was covered in haze, with a few floodlights spearing up to the sky.
Getting the cache was a bit challenging, since there were a lot of passers-by and quite a few places to look for it. I found the cache and logged it, but when it was the time to return the can, a couple parked within a viewing distance for a bout of furious necking. They didn’t seem to be in any hurry to stop, so I just risked it and hoped they didn’t notice me hiding anything in a niche on a tall stone wall. I don’t think they did.
I returned through the outskirts of the downtown, through narrow streets full of closed stores, which surfaced now and then into an interjecting noisy and bright restaurant streets. I stopped for a piece of pizza bread on a slightly lo-fi and definitely cheaper cafe, sitting outside and enjoying my book and the atmosphere of the area.
The walk back home was quiet and uneventful. The air was humid and hazy, which made the streetlights and the Moon grow faint halos. The night smelled of plants I didn’t know.
When I got in to our accommodation and settled down to read, there was suddenly a sound from outside like a gunshot. Then another, then a whole burst. It took me a moment to realize I was listening to fireworks happening somewhere at the seaside. So, I ended the night sitting outside in our back patio, reading a book and watching fireworks illuminate the sky over the sea.
The Last Day
On Sunday morning I woke up before the others, feeling alert and energetic. I showered quickly and headed out before the rest of the group, stopping for a breakfast in the same reasonably prized cafe I had found in the previous evening.
The work day was easy. There was another press release to send and to tend to, in addition to which I tried to get some journalists on the phone. I finally had the time to take part in the happy hour, and the people who showed up were an interesting bunch, ranging from directors through producers to actors and other film professionals, including our assistant editor Courtney who dropped in with her boyfriend.
After the party was over and the people left, I grabbed my backpack, camera and stand, and started towards our accommodation. On the way I stopped for a light dinner in a classy street cafe for a dinner and a moment to quiet down with a book. When I was sipping my wine and waiting for the food I took a moment to savor one of those moments of clarity: if in 1994, when I was an angry unemployed 19-year old, someone had said that in 17 years you’ll be in French Riviera sitting in a restaurant with a ton of camera gear after a hard day working on a sci-fi comedy about Moon Nazis, enjoying some wine and foie-gras, and reading a book from a device that can hold a library, I would have given him quite a long look. And that was before the street performer suddenly appeared next to me to step-dance pretty well.
At our apartment I collapsed on the sofa to play some Hector (the humour was fun, but the puzzles were a return to the golden age of adventure games in the sense of being fucking random) and drinking some wine, and ended up being awake for long enough for the rest of the people to get home for an afterparty from celebrating Finland winning the hockey world championship.
In the far too early morning, when I was leaving the apartment for the airport alone, the bloody French locks did a number on me and I managed to lock myself out of the apartment, but inside our apartment complex yard. Getting to the airport taxi required climbing over a two plus meter high fence with a backpack and a full size suitcase, but I managed the hangover parkour with reasonably little damage.
That’s it for the Cannes for me this year. Film festivals like this are certainly interesting places to visit, although they are rather different from what you’d expect on day-to-day level stuff. It might be interesting to go see one as a tourist – or maybe not. After all, so much of what goes on in there is business that it makes one think what is there left for a “civilian”.