Recently, former VFS film student Mostafa Keshvari undertook an eye-opening trip to participate in the Short Film Corner at Cannes Film Festival. During his time there, Mostafa mingled with the famous event’s stars, film scene and nightlife. What follows is his first-hand account and impressions of Cannes, and the five most important things he learned as a director, writer and producer.
Guest blog by: Mostafa Keshvari
The dream is real! When I went to Cannes Film Festival for the first time, it was more like a surreal dream. I had just finished VFS and it did not hit me until we landed at the airport. Every star you could think of was there waiting for their luggage, hanging out like normal people. There were so many that it felt as if they invented a temporary country only for film stars for a few days to attend the festival. The first few days were overwhelming, but then I got used to it. I realized I’ve earned the right to be here like everyone else. It gets easier once you realize this is no longer a dream, but part of a reality you’ve dreamed of. Like that blue pill in The Matrix, Cannes is a dream that will defy your reality. Nothing will look the same after. Here’s what I learned.
Be prepared. Every glance could turn to an opportunity
Remember how we had the elevator pitch at VFS? Well, Cannes is like a fancy elevator ride that will last for 14 days, so be prepared to pitch. From morning when they have the workshops, to screenings in the afternoon and parties at night, you will meet people who have the power to literately change your life. All it takes is a brilliant idea and some preparation. Your short film got you to Cannes, and now your script can get you your next feature. Prepare, pitch, party… and repeat!
It’s easy to get too narrow-minded with your own project and ideas, but be open minded. There are many talented people who you can collaborate with in a potential bigger project. Think big and share ideas with extremely talented people that you are meeting for the first time. It might lead you to an even bigger project you never thought of. Be open to possibilities, and don’t be obsessed with the pond when you are in the ocean.
Once you are at Cannes, you have raised the bar for yourself for the rest of you career. This is a place where world-class filmmakers from all over the globe meet, and you should know world cinema to fit in. Educate yourself about the filmmakers who are attending and their work. You don’t want to miss the opportunity if you meet them. You’re in France, not Canada, so learn French or at least the basic greeting. It will earn you respect and open up many doors. And don’t forget the most universal language is a smile. Always smile.
No cutting corners at the Short Corners
The Cannes Short Corners is a place of gathering for many talented filmmakers and distributors. Cannes is the biggest film market in the world, and if you are planning to have a productive trip you should be ready to market yourself. My best advice is to have a poster of your film with all the details for potential buyers and distributors. I was shocked by how hungry the distributors were for new material, and yet how many filmmakers were not prepped to give them a decent package. I sold my short film to ShortsTV, which is the biggest short film channel. First time I was paid very well for doing something I love! Also, make sure you attend the workshops at the Short Corners as they have many award-winning filmmakers to help you be a better filmmaker.
Happy hour is also a great time to relax and make new connections
Don’t indulge too much in free food and drinks. Surprisingly, it’s one of the best times to pitch your ideas, as everyone is more open. Also, you can book the screening room to have a private screening for your new friends and potential buyers. In the end, remember that your short film is not the only film at the festival, and check out the premieres of world-class films on the red carpet. Cannes never sleeps, and at night time every pavilion is filled with filmmakers partying dawn to dusk. As much as you are there for fun, it’s best to not be hungover for your morning business meetings. I look forward to sharing more memories after this year’s 70th Cannes Film Festival. Hope to meet you there one day. Bon Chance!