Lessons Filmmakers Learn
From Cannes 2011

By Elliot Grove

Cannes 2011 was really good for me this year. I've been going long enough (since 1995) that the lure of the mega party has lost it's allure.

Cannes was good for me this year because for the first time I wasn't chasing the deal - deals seemed to come to me. And that was very gratifying. And for certain won't happen again.

Here's my summary of what I observerved this year at Cannes:

1. Buyers Are Back

It has been years and years since I have seen so many of my sales agent friends smiling so broadly. And about time too! The big change I believe is that the American buyers were back in force.

Lo To No Budget Filmmaking with Elliot Grove 2. The Power of the Tuxedo

My colleague James Cooper came up with the phrase: The Poweer of the Tuxedo. And it works. Want a few more party invites? Get out the penguin suit, and talk to the right people and almost certainly you will get invited in.

3. Trans Media is Hot

Buyers are falling all over anything with the word 'transmedia' in it. It's almost as hot as '3D'. Of course it's a bullshitter who claims that transmedia is new (it's been around since ancient Greece. So beware the bullshitters, but see if you too can incorporate multiple entry points into your story.

4. The Power of Private Equity

Private investors now become more important. Cannes, Berlin and the American Film Market are ideal hospitality venues. Splash out a bit and see if that helps close your deals. Of the 3 markets, Cannes is definately the most glamourous. The cost of entertaining can be staggeringly expensive, however.

Raindance Film Festival 5. Content Content Content

Sure it helps to have stars in your film. Buyers are also very interested in the story.

6. Genre Genre Genre

As above, make sure your story fits easily into a genre blend like romantic comedy, action adventure, or very popular right now - horror blended with another genre.
Family genre is also a sure fire winner for the American Walmart Christian crowd - a major American market.

7. 3D is Hotter than ever

Make sure 3D is a natural for your genre before you start production. Action, Horror, Sci-Fi, and Animation are the obvious and most in-demand 3D genres. Sony predicts over 13 million 3D enabled screens in America by the end of next year. And there just isn't enough product.

8. Presentation

Sales agents I met were very amazed that filmmakers still don't know how to visually present their film properly. Clear pictures, well designed titles and properly thought-out graphics for posters, postcards and DVD jackets are a must.

If you want to make an impression amidst all the chatter of a film market, make doubly certain your film is accompanied by distinctive and beautifully designed marketing materials.

9. Hybrid Makes Sense

Cut three versions of your film: One for cinema/DVD, one for television, and one for the web. Sales agents will love you.

10. Beware the Back End

After uncleared music rights, sales agents next big whine is how filmmakers don't understand or appreciate the importance of the deliverables.

11. VOD

Yes it's picking up in the States. It will get big in Europe. Remember that VOD is just another way of saying 'digital distribution'. Digital distribution is the way everything is going. Don't fight it. Observe and try to understand. And never forget that there are many different methods available for digital distribution beyond VOD

12. Media Experts.

Cannes was overrun again by self-appointed media experts and self distribution gurus giving talks and pressing flesh all over the festival. Interestingly, I met one such person whose life-style has been funded by talks all over the world for the past three years. Interestingly enough, this person has just under 500 Twitter followers. I'm no media expert, but see how many more followers at the Raindance Twitter profile! Am I bitter? No - just bemused at the sight of the blind leading the blind.

I go to Cannes to meet people face to face. And to meet new people. I track down people I want to meet 3/4 weeks ahead of time on www.cinando.com (yes it is expensive, but very accurate and powerful). I am still regularly trading and collaborating with people I met at my first Cannes in 1995. And hope to work with new and talented filmmakers I met this year.

Maybe one of them is you!

Your Comments Please

Hi, I was in Cannes for a screening of my feature REBELS WITHOUT A CLUE.
While in Cannes I have various meetings.

One meeting was with a large US sales/distribution company.
They informed me; Sci-Fi and Fantasy is "in".
Horror is over-saturated.
Romantic comedy is dead in the water unless it has major talent.
Family films still sell.
Ian Vernon


In a conversation I had with a sales agent, I was told "historical action" is the hot selling genre.  

Doug Smith


This year was my first Cannes and I went on a bit of a busman's holiday. I had nothing to sell, no meetings arranged and nobody I particularly wanted to meet.

It made for a really relaxed enjoyable time spent reading the free film mags in the sun on the beach, flitting off to watch a movie if I felt like it, touring the market halls and seeing how to (and how not to) do it, and talking to some really nice genuine people.

I also found it hugely inspiring. By the time I left I had written my second script for a short film and had it read by a couple of people who offered great feedback. I achieved more in those seven days than I would have over several months at home.

I aim to make it an annual holiday now that I know what goes on and next year, I should have something to offer people who look like they have a spare couple of bucks!

For anyone who hasn't been yet - it's not just players and parties.  Cannes is an eye-opening, inspirational movie playground!

Martin Walton



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About Elliot Grove

Elliot GroveCanadian born Elliot Grove founded Raindance Film Festival in 1993, the
British Independent Film Awards in 1998, and Raindance.TV in 2007, the Raindance Postgraduate Film Degree in 2011 and Raindance Raw Talent in 2013.

He has produced over 150 short films, and 5 feature films incuding his latest feature film, Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey. He has written eight scripts, one of which is currently in pre-production. He teaches writers and producers in the UK, Europe. Japan and America.

He has written three books which have become industry standards: RAINDANCE WRITERS LAB 2nd Edition (Focal Press 2008),  RAINDANCE PRODUCERS LAB (Focal Press 2013) and 130 PROJECTS TO GET YOU INTO FILMMAKING (Barrons 2009). His first novel THE BANDIT QUEEN is scheduled for publication next year.

Open University awarded Elliot and Honourary Doctorate for services to film education in 2009.
He is regularly interviewed. Here is an interview for Canadian television


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Lessons Filmmakers Learn From Cannes 2011