Film Scouts Diaries

1998 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Cannes Diary #2: The Calm After the Storm

by Steve Berman

CANNES, May 22 - It's easy to lose true focus in a barrage of free wine and chicken wings. Starting off as an idealistic film student, I transformed into a party-and-papparazzi-hungry, nude-sunbather-gawking, Cuban-cigar-smoking idiot. I forgot about films, the pressing matters became, "Do you got 'Godzilla' party tickets?" and "I don't want to wear the blue shirt, everyone's got a blue shirt?" What could salvage me from this superficial free fall? None other than Spaz of Ivan Reitman's "Meatballs."

Spaz reminded me of the excitement and passion created by films. "Spaz," former actor Jack Blum, is now a feature film writer/director. I briefly met him to discuss his Director's Fortnight entry "Babyface." Within five minutes of our encounter, I had happily returned to my unjaded love of movies. Mr. Blum's persuasive power was simply his sincerity and compassion in relating how he had devoted four years of his life to bringing a story he cared about to the screen. I know it's schmaltzy, but whether he's winning the tea cup stacking race or promoting his film, Spaz can always pull my heart strings.

Okay. Now, thanks to Spaz, my head was twisted back on straight. Sure, I still went to the parties and puffed on those tasty Cubans, but my focus was back on movies and the movie business. Some highlights: John Boorman's "The General," the Troma party and Rufus Sewell's Christopher Walken impression.

In gazing back on my week at Cannes, I hesitantly strung together my conclusions - the parties are fun, the women are gorgeous, the films range from brilliant to ass-numbing, seeing celebrities is cool, but speaking with passionate filmmakers and actors is the coolest.

Now that I am a seasoned Cannes pro, I offer some tips to make the most of your experience.

1. Bring comfortable shoes! You will tread several miles every day.
2. Bring cool sunglasses.
3. Talk to everyone. You never know who you'll be meeting and almost everyone is friendly. And check your ego at the door.
4. First thing in the morning, read the trades. Know what's going on, know what movies are playing. In Cannes, the early bird definitely gets the worm.
5. Bring hundreds of business cards.
6. Pace yourself. If you want to go to a late night showing or beachside fiesta, take a nap or sit in a quiet cafe for some coffee.
7. Don't bring traveller's checks, you'll get better exchange rates on your credit card.
8. For a good, reasonably priced meal, go to North Beach. The dancing owner/manager can cheer anyone up.
9. Try everything once.
10. Get over your fear of little dogs.

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