Journalist Christopher Pickard was at the just-concluded Cannes Film Festival as part of a film crew shooting “Cannes Uncut,” a feature-length documentary celebrating the iconic festival that will be ready in time for its 75th edition next year. He shares his experiences of shooting during this year’s festival exclusively with Variety.
Like many others, even in the week before the opening of the 74th Cannes Film Festival on July 6, we were still not certain if we would ever get to the south of France. Would the French government close its borders to Britain, or would the U.K. government stop people travelling to Europe? And if a 10-day quarantine was imposed, we, like others, would miss most of the festival. Welcome to the new norm for global travel.
Not the most relaxing way to start a shoot as we — Special Treats Productions — were on our way to film for “Cannes Uncut,” a theatrical documentary that will attempt to delve way beyond the red carpet and go behind the scenes of the festival and market that have come to represent the best in cinema and the business of showbusiness. It will detail all the glamor, red carpets, craziness, deals, parties, movies and personalities that over seven decades and more has made the Cannes Film Festival what it is.
Despite having hours of amazing archive footage covering the entire history of the festival and market, we still wanted to get fresh footage from this year, which promised to be a festival unlike any of the 74 that had gone before. We, and anyone lucky enough to get to Cannes, were not to be disappointed.
We had three different crews shooting throughout the event, two from the U.K. and one from France, all veterans of many a festival, as were the creative editorial team with four of us — Colin Burrows, Mark Adams, Richard Blanshard and myself — sharing the interviewing duties across the festival, and with each playing to their respective strengths.
Nearly 80 interviews were completed with people that covered every aspect of the official section, the Marché, the alternative markets and deals, and all the support structure that goes to make Cannes (festival and town) work and enchant us, even during a pandemic.
Despite the core band of Cannes veterans that stretch back to the 1970s, it would be remiss of me not to give a tip of the hat to the student program of the American Pavilion that supplied us with four hard-working film students who we threw straight in the deep end and proved to be very adept at turning their hands professionally to any task placed before them. They gave us a fresh set of eyes to view the magic of Cannes and remind us of that first voyage of discovery through the world’s greatest film festival that many of us still remember fondly through the mists of time and another bottle of rosé, and often take for granted.
Cannes being quieter than normally experienced at festival time, and it being such a special occasion in so many different ways, played to our advantage. Everyone was incredibly kind with their time and recollections of past festivals. It seemed more than ever that we had all learned to appreciate Cannes, the festival — its history and foibles, and even ourselves — a little bit more as those that could came from around the globe to meet in person for the first time in 18 months. This is something many of us have taken for granted in the past, yet when we do meet again in Cannes in May 2022 it will be three years on since many of you have promenaded along the Croisette.
Many of the stories told to us about Cannes experiences will bring a smile or a laugh, others may have audiences reaching for the Kleenex. It was a lovely and entertaining mix of tales of the expected and, I have to say, unexpected. And we have many more interviews to come with people who could not get to Cannes this year, or simply in the cauldron of Cannes did not have the time they wanted or needed to sit down with us and do their memories of Cannes justice.
The lack of festival crowds (save for Bastille Day fireworks, which certainly brought a “few” tourists to town) did make filming a lot easier and allowed us to capture some spectacular footage of the festival and the town of Cannes that might not have been possible in a “normal” year. It shows a Cannes that many of us know so well, or think we know well, helped by the fact that the Croisette still boasts many of the buildings that were in place and pre-date Cannes Zero in 1939 and the first full festival in September 1946. Those buildings and the streets and beaches of Cannes still hold the ghosts, spirits and stories of past festivals and individuals. Stories waiting to be told.
Vive la France! Vive le Cannes! It was a privilege to shoot at this year’s festival and we look forward to joining as many of you as possible in Cannes in May 2022 for the 75th Cannes Film Festival, raising a glass of chilled rosé or champagne and unveiling “Cannes Uncut,” which we hope will help ignite many a memory of past festivals.