“Bonnie is legendary for her boundless energy on the Crosiette,” AGC Studios head Stuart Ford said of his marketing head Bonnie Voland, whose 40th Cannes Festival was celebrated by Ford and friends at an elegant beachside cocktail on Friday evening.
“This is my 15th Cannes with Bonnie Voland and I’m not sure I still have the energy to keep up with her,” he confessed in a speech in her honor at the cocktail.
Voland has had a rich career to date, – she insists she’s certainly not done yet – graduating as a French major at Hunter College, and working as an actress in Paris before first attending Cannes in 1982 for Passion – The Magazine of Paris. She ran the Toronto Festival press office in the mid-eighties, then worked in Los Angeles for Samuel Goldwyn, Buena Vista International and Chris Blackwell’s Island Pictures, and created her own PR agency and consultancy B. Voland International.
She has worked with Ford for the last 16 years, first at IM Global and then AGC. Few like her combine her enthusiasm, energy and work ethic with a sense of fun, or can be so diplomatic. Few, Ford argued at the 40th “Canniversaire” or “Bonniversaire,” as he put it, can simply make things happen.
“Bonnie Voland is equally as renowned for her deep reservoir of expertise at ‘how to get things done,’” Ford went on asking the cocktail guests to play a call and response game:
“How do persuade a grumpy projectionist at the Riviera to get up at 5 am to test screen an AGC promo reel?
The audience answer, Ford volunteered: Ask Bonnie
“How do you get the Cannes authorities to let a boozy AGC beach party run until 3 a.m.?”
The answer: Ask Bonnie.
“How do you coax a Bollywood starlet out of her hotel suite at the Majestic and deliver her to a party in her honor at the other end of Croisette? In 15 minutes?,” Ford asked.
The answer: Ask Bonnie.
“Who would be crazy enough to work for a tyrant like Stuart Ford for 15 years,” Ford asked to rising guest hilarity.
The answer: Ask Bonnie.
After Ford’s speech, Voland was presented with 40 pink roses.
“40 years ago I came to Cannes to cover the Festival for the opening weekend and I said I can’t leave and stayed for the entire festival,” Voland told Variety.
She added: “I still feel as excited by the Festival and the work I do 40 years later. Stuart and everyone who have joined him in celebrating this milestone with me have made this the most memorable Cannes for me.”
Voland heads up worldwide marketing and publicity at AGC Studios. It showed in the broad gamut of guests, in generations, provenance and sectors, from fellow sales agents to distributors, journalists, PR execs and festival execs.
Some guests were there when Voland first hit Cannes “and the best-selling movie was a Liam Neeson action movie. Directed by the Lumiere Bros.,” Ford joked.
At the cocktail, DDA’s Dennis Davidson is now at his 50th Cannes; Beki Probst, also present, says she has stopped counting how many times she’s attended Cannes.
Other guests came on the scene slightly later: such as the stripling Jerome Paillard, Cannes Marché du Film executive director from 1995, now in his last year heading up the Marché du Film; Myriam Arab Rosenblum, who left the Marché a few years ago, and Maud Amson, who replaced her; producer Xavier Marchand; Mike Goodridge, now a producer at Good Chaos, once editor of Screen International; and Ruzanna Kegeyan, who used to head sales at IM Global and is now at Capstone.
The newest generation of guests who have accompanied Bonnie on what she calls her “journey” to date, took in, among many others: Gaga’s Kiyoshi Watanabe; actress and producer Victoria Hill; IFC’s Arianna Bocco and Matt Landers; Sardegna Film Festival’s Tiziana Rocca and TF1’s Cedric Troudet.
To music from a mellow three-piece band, many guests met for the first time in two years.
They may have shared what looks likely to become one of the defining sentiments of this year’s Cannes: The sense that many colleagues down the years have come to Cannes in 2002 to re-meet not just as colleagues but also friends at an event which has helped shape their lives.
“Cannes is a beautiful backdrop for business but it’s really about people: A rich tapestry of friends and acquaintances all over the world reuniting to watch, make, buy, sell and just love movies,” said Ford, catching this mood.
“Bonnie Voland is part of the ‘glue’ that bonds so many of us together at Cannes every year. Her energy, grace under pressure, sophistication and good humor remind us all what a special occasion each Festival is and how much we all love being part of this crazy circus. She is a true Cannes legend and we salute her.”
He added: “AGC actually booked six Mirage fighter jets to fly over the party at this point but they showed up two days early. We should have used Bonnie to make the arrangements.”