CANNES — Clemence Lavigne, a sales agent at Hengameh Panahi’s Celluloid Dreams, won the second Cinando Awards — for her accomplished pitch of “Jumpman,” a new film project from Russia’s Ivan L. Tverdovsky (“Zoology”).
The Award, a statue, was presented to Lavigne at the Plage des Palmes event on Wednesday evening.
Made before a jury comprised of seasoned professionals such as IFC Films’ Arianna Bocco, Jean-Thomas Bernardini at Brazil’s Imovision, Eve Gabereau at the U.K.’s Soda Pictures and Guillaume de Seille, from France’s Arizona Pictures, the pitch was no slam dunk. “The was a difficult task,” Bernardini recognized.
Tverdovsky caught attention winning Karlovy Vary’s Special Jury Prize last year with the memorably high-concept allegory “Zoology,” about a woman who grows a tail, a lament for the crushing of individualism under a grossly conformist Russian system. “Jumpman” weighs in as another allegory, for an lost generation of young Russians, ethically numbed by corruption and a lack of guidance from their elders.
It’s hardly feel-good fare. Lavigne has had distinguished mentors along the way – from an internship at The San Francisco Film Society, managed that year by Ted Hope, to a degree in film distribution at France’s La Femis school, where her thesis on film sales was supervised by Cannes’ Marché du Film director Jerome Paillard, to eight months now at Hengameh’s Celluloid Dreams, which has produced many of the great young sales agents in France.
Her pitch also underscored at least five points about the art of great salesmanship.
1.FAIL TO PREPARE, PREPARE TO FAIL
Lavigne prepared her pitch down the last detail, including possible Russian cast for the wastrel mother of the protagonist (who can’t feel physical pain until he falls in love), to a possible French actress, whom could bring investment to the table, to play his young love interest.
2.DON’T GET BOGGED DOWN IN PLOT DETAIL
A sales agent should convey “what the emotion of a film is, what the film is really about, rather than going through plot details, which is a very common mistake in pitching a story,” Bocco said in a jury discussion after it had listened to 15 young sales agents, all pitching “Jumpman.” Lavigne dispatched the plot in half-a-minute or so.
3.SO WHAT MAKES THIS PROJECT DIFFERENT?
If you don’t have Will Smith, you probably won’t be able to sell a Russian arthouse project on the strength of its stars. All you have is the quality of the material, exceptionally the director (if it’s “Loveless’” Andrey Zvyagintsev) and above all the project’s originality. As Lavigne pointed out about “Jumpman,” this is s genre blender which surpasses normal social dramas.
4. STRESS WHY A FILM IS RELEVANT TO THE DISTRIBUTOR YOU’RE PITCHING
Sales agents need to convey “why a film is relevant to us as distributors, understanding whom your pitching to rather than just pitching,” Gabereau said. Lavigne – and indeed some other contestants – knew what distributors had bought the director’s film.
If you don’t write with passion, you will never write anything which has great style, Roland Barthes once wrote. Lavigne pitched with smiling passion. The jury was suitably charmed. “I’m looking for a kind of solid authenticity. Passion and authenticity grabs me,” said De Seille.