Cannes Film Festival was this month. Thousands flocked to the town of Cannes, France to preview new films, sell their scripts or to distribute their finished film. It was one of my biggest dreams to attend. Ever since I was a little girl I had dreams of creating something for the movies. You could find me watching VHS tapes in my family basement most weekends.
Fast forward a few years. I married talented filmmaker: Aaron Craig. He and I wanted to make a film together. On a lark, we traveled to my family farm in Illinois and created a short film. It was a fun side project to see what we could do. Somehow, we pulled it off. Our actors were a funny mix of family friends and the local postmaster. My mom and dad served as our sound person and location manager (plus dog wrangler). Filming was a great experience, full of lots of laughs and learning. We took our footage back to New York City not expecting much.
While editing the film we discovered,”Hey, this might not be as bad as we thought!” In the end we had a short film we were both pretty proud of, but now what to do? We thought through a few festival options, but we both had our hearts set on one in particular: Cannes. Cannes has a section of the festival called The Short Film Corner where you can submit your short film to be played at the festival. We figured it was a long shot but what the heck, why not?! We submitted … and we got in! So, we were off to France.
Walking up to the festival, I knew it would be different from what I imagined. People were everywhere. Tons of people were holding up signs requesting movie tickets. Cannes is different in the fact you can’t buy tickets to attend the festival. You have to be invited to the premieres to see the screenings. So, loads of people hold up signs, hoping some ticket holder will pass them an extra ticket.
We headed to the accreditation line to pick up our festival badges. We wore these badges throughout the whole festival. They were our ticket into talks, special events, and screenings. It felt really cool to have a badge with our pictures on it for Cannes. (I can’t lie!) After this we got to pick up our tickets to the two red carpet movie premieres we were invited to. We were surprised by this; even people who have badges have a hard time getting into red carpet events without a ticket. I guess we just got lucky! People who don’t have tickets but have badges can still wait in a line in advance to try to get into premieres. Just wear a tux if you’re a guy, and a nice dress or evening gown if you are a lady.
The first thing we did after we got our badges was to watch our own film. We were so excited to see it. The Short Film Corner has its own section where you can view your movie. We loved seeing ours. Next, we grabbed lunch at a local brasserie. Cannes can be so crazy for food. I highly recommend having some granola bars or small snacks stashed in your purse. Or else you could get hangry … which is no fun!
After this, we caught the screening of Paterson. Paterson starred Adam Driver (Kylo Ren from Star Wars) as a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey (a place very close to us in NYC). The film was about a man with a seemingly normal life as a bus driver, who has a huge love for poetry. We loved this movie because it displayed real, sometimes overlooked life moments so beautifully. Plus, there was a pretty stinking cute bull dog in the movie. Bonus!
We loved this movie because it displayed real, sometimes overlooked life moments so beautifully.
After Paterson got out we ran back to our hotel. Downed a few granola bars and got ready for our red carpet premiere of Loving, directed by one of my favorite directors, Jeff Nichols. Aaron got in his tux and I got into my bright yellow evening gown. The Palais (the theater where all the premieres are shown) was a ten minute walk from our hotel. So, I walked it in whatever crazy heels I was wearing that night. It’s funny now, but was not so funny when I was walking across cobblestone streets tripping on my dress.
When we arrived we were directed to a line for ticket holders. And then we waited. During this time you could see everything from ladies doing their makeup in line, photographers snapping starlets, to your neighbor next to you in line snapping a selfie (we took a few of those, too). Real cameras aren’t allowed in the Palais unless you are a press photographer, but a quick iPhone shot can be done. We maybe snapped a few.
We were waiting for what seemed like forever, but in reality it was probably only a few minutes. While standing in line I was so nervous. Will I trip on my dress was definitely a thought going through my mind, because at the end of the red carpet were some steep stairs leading up to the Palais. Then, the men who were in charge of the line ushered us onto the carpet. It was go time.
Next time I do this I will be wearing Birkenstocks, I thought as we walked.
A new red carpet is put out for each premiere and this one was bright and beautiful. The cameras flashed around me. I had always wondered if the camera would hurt my eyes, but they didn’t bother me. Aaron and I both soaked in the moment as we walked. Me, making sure I didn’t fall on my face during my red carpet debut and Aaron also making sure I didn’t fall on my face like a fool. (What are husbands for, right?) Next time I do this I will be wearing Birkenstocks, I thought as we walked.
Once inside the Palais we both took a deep breath. Our first red carpet premiere was really magical. I know it sounds cliché, but it felt that way to us.
Ladies in black and red outfits ushered us up pretty spiral stairs to the theater. All the seats in the theater were red velvet and super comfy. All I kept thinking was YAY, I can sit down now. A few selfies and maybe a Snapchat later, the movie started. When we sat down we didn’t know what we had got ourselves into. We didn’t research the movie beforehand. Before I knew it I was crying in my seat. Loving was the most beautiful movie. I’m so happy we got to experience the premier.
Loving is all about the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving who were an interracial couple that were sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married. They were arrested and then banished from the US state of Virginia for breaking its laws against inter-racial marriage. Nine years later, Mildred and Richard Loving won a ruling at the Supreme Court declaring this legislation unconstitutional. The movie was a beautifully depicted triumph. This sweet and humble couple inspired me so much.
The movie was a beautifully depicted triumph.
After the movie we decided to celebrate with a proper French dinner. We went to one of the local restaurants where it was loud and yummy and so fun. Then, we went home and happily (and VERY eagerly) changed into our comfy clothes. Sweatpants on sweatpants. Then, precious sleep.
The rest of Cannes was much like the first day. With the cameras flashing, celeb sightings, blazing sun and many, many people. We had a great time. We met some great connections, saw beautiful films and learned how to navigate a very intimidating film festival. What made this experience all worth it, though, was definitely not the fancy premieres. It was the fact my husband and I created a film together we are proud of.
I don’t know about you, but when the glamour fades, experiences are what really matter.
Is there something you don’t think you’re good enough to go out for? What would it look like to just do it?
Images via Aaron Lee Craig