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Live From Cannes: The Perfect Storm

Live From Cannes: The Perfect Storm

Festivals

“Do you want to see the Lakers game?” Brad Krevoy, CEO & chairman of the Motion Picture Corporation of America, asks and smiles disarmingly, the corners of his eyes flashing and crinkling boyishly as he apologizes for being late to our Sunday afternoon interview. In the recesses of my mind, which may still be floating out somewhere across the Atlantic, having yet to adjust to French time—or festival time in this case (festival time = up all night, up all day, sleep a wink if you’re lucky)—I recall that the Lakers are scheduled to play the Houston Rockets in several hours.

“See, I have this thing called Slingbox, so I’m the only one who has the technology to access the game on the Internet. One friend of mine who I’m a partner with in a lot of endeavors said ‘Let’s do it,’ and all of a sudden everybody started telling people. We’ve had about 100 calls or so and the news has spread. Essential Entertainment’s office is here, and it’s bigger than ours. Jere, (CEO of Essential) is in Boston at his son’s graduation, so we’re calling it Jere’s Party, even though he’s not here,” Krevoy confesses. “I thought we should get some drinks, we don’t have enough,” he elaborates on his tardiness for arranging the party plans. “More business will get done at that party than has gotten done thus far. There could be 100, 200 people showing up, but we only have enough room to let 50 in…. Hey! Are you the technician?” he calls down the hall to an unassuming gentleman.

Krevoy is at Cannes selling Crazy on the Outside, a film starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Ray Liotta, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Kelsey Grammer, as well as The Slammin’ Salmon, a new film from the comedy troupe Broken Lizard, creators of Super Troopers and Beerfest. Krevoy is also currently in development on a remake of the Japanese film Resurrection, a co-production with DreamWorks. The first draft of the script is penned by Academy Award winner Bill Nicholson.

One certainly can’t fault Krevoy for his industry festival spin on the traditional “meeting” circumstances. The murmurs are low but persistent—the crowds are thinner and the market is tougher as piracy and a worldwide recession lead to record extinctions among movie distributors, studios and companies. Budgets are being scaled back. Yes, the evening red carpet appearances and festival screenings with the stars are moving forward with the same pomp and circumstance ritual that is to be expected, reported on and fed to celebrity-hungry cultures everywhere. Yet few people not part of the movie industry realize how much business is conducted at Cannes and how much that business is changing this year.

In the market, movies are truly born—bought, sold and financed. Amid makeshift offices in swanky hotel suites at The Carlton, The Majestic and booths behind the red carpet stairs at The Palais, creative impetus meets financial reality.

“It’s anxiety-provoking because the stakes are high and there’s much less room for maneuver. Financing is a much more complicated affair,” says John Kochman, executive director of UniFrance USA, veiled in sunglasses shielding the strong southern sun as he holds meeting after meeting. “Selling films is a much more difficult and complicated task than it has been, so it’s kind of make or break time for a lot of people in the independent sector,” the 30-year Cannes veteran continues. “Pre-sales has always been a really important part of the festival and they have fallen. So what you have is a lot of films chasing after buyers that have become more and more selective. A lot of films in the market are being refused and passed over, and there’s only a handful of projects that the bigger distributors actually try and go after, from a pre-sales point of view. The level, the volume business that used to go on at Cannes, has been reduced drastically.”

“This is the tipping point,” adds Krevoy. “There’s been a perfect storm of changing technologies, of high Internet penetration, of increased piracy in three or four major territories. All of this, combined with the demise of several studios and the economic crisis and recession, has caused broadcasters around the world, but particularly outside of America, to reduce their spending, particularly their acquisitions budgets, in some cases by 50 percent. With piracy compounding everything, these factors mean doomsday for many companies that don’t have a product that is studio release caliber, theatrical release caliber or a primetime TV product that’s priced inexpensively.”

Evelyn Brady-Watters, executive director and founder of The Golden Trailer Awards, now in its 10th year, hosts an annual live event in Los Angeles of the best trailers, rated by a panel of prestigious judges such as Quentin Tarantino, Paula Wagner and David Geffen. This year marks a record in studio and independent worldwide submissions for The Golden Trailer Awards, with categories ranging from “Best Romance” to “The Golden Fleece Award” (Best Trailer for a Bad Movie) to “Best Trailer—No Movie,” often resulting in the winner in the last category obtaining financing as a result of winning the competition. With the Internet surge over the past decade, trailers have become the third most viewed category of the estimated 10 billion videos viewed online each year.

“There’s no point in doing a movie if no one’s going to see it,” says Brady-Watters. “If you don’t know how you’re going to market it before you shoot it, then you need to rethink it. From a consumer standpoint, the most important person is not the person with the PhD in marketing, but the person who’s going to watch the movie. No matter what changes over time, what remains consistent is the need to entertain.”

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula as to which movies will make it and become huge successes. There’s still a week’s worth of wheeling and dealing to be had in Cannes, so mum’s the word on yet-to-be-inked brokered deals, even those completed under the auspice of the Lakers scoring 89 points to the Rockets’ 70. In the meantime, a great love for cinema unites Cannes festival and market-goers and the attitudes remain uniformly positive and hopeful.

“Everything goes through cycles,” says Krevoy. “I think the next cycles are action and action-adventure as opposed to horror and gore, and I think comedy is also going to continue a strong comeback. The only trend I can spot is that there will be movie stars of the future and that some current movie stars are less popular,” he laughs.

One thing that is predictable at Cannes is the inevitable sashay of not only badge-sporting men but also badge-sporting women in brightly patterned blouses and dresses and high heels making their way up and down the Croisette, to and from lunches, meetings, screenings and premieres, most of them working hard and working long. “I found myself eyeing an ugly pair of Dr. Scholl’s yesterday and then I was thinking about them all morning,” Brady-Watters laments wistfully.

I saw her in front of The Palais this morning, bag slung over her shoulder, computer tucked away, making her way to a meeting. Brady-Watters seemed to have opted for a slightly more comfortable shoe, but she was definitely still holding out on the Dr. Scholl’s. MM

Ashley Wren Collins is an accomplished actress and writer living in New York City. She welcomes your comments and thoughts at ashley@ashleywrencollins.com.

 

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