Once Kailyn and I were both free from interning at the market and volunteering with amfAR, we decided to try our hand at snagging tickets to some of the premieres at the Palais des Festivals! We checked the screening schedule, and the movies that would be premiering the next two nights were two that we were really interested in – The Little Prince and Macbeth.
Many of the companies who attend the film festival are given tickets to the premieres, but since they generally tend to be busy with meetings and various other screenings and what have you, they often are unable to use them. But since the theatres have to be full for premieres (how embarrassing would it be to have only a handful of people for a premiere?), they can get in trouble if their tickets go unused, so many of them take to giving away their tickets on the street.
I had asked both the people at The Exchange and Aude, one of the AIFS directors, for their advice on how to find tickets, and they all felt that it shouldn’t really be a problem – all you have to do is make a sign advertising what you’re looking for and go stand around in front of the palais in your premiere clothes, and eventually you will most likely be approached.
Aude recommended arriving at the palais about an hour and a half before the premiere, but since Kailyn and I weren’t sure if she was speaking more in French time (which is much much more relaxed than American time!), both nights we ended up arriving closer to 3 hours early just to be safe.
The film festival went through a bit of a controversy this year when they were super fussy about only accepting women wearing heels onto the red carpet. Apparently a group of older women were denied entry to the premiere of Carol because they were wearing flats (according to the news, some of them had medical conditions that would make wearing heels pretty unwise and unsafe), and the wife of the director of Amy was almost refused entry because of her footwear. Naturally, there was a load of backlash over this; at a press conference for Sicario, Emily Blunt discussed how disappointing this was given the current waves of equality, and director Denis Villeneuve said that he and Blunt’s co-stars, Josh Brolin and Benecio del Toro, would be wearing heels in solidarity when their film premiered (sadly, they weren’t – I kept a close eye out!). The whole matter of footwear is really kind of a shame, especially if a woman is appropriately dressed in black tie attire, and *especially* if a woman is unable to wear heels due to medical issues. And during a year that was kind of highlighting women in film, no less (La Tête Haute was the first film directed by a woman to open the festival since 1987, and a number of the films shown were very female-centric, from Carol to Mad Max)!
However, now did not seem like the time to rock the boat in this regard when we were going to be essentially begging for tickets (I’ll have to make a political statement with my footwear when I’m actually invited to the Cannes Film Festival sometime in the near future! 🙂 ). So I dug out my trusty and actually kinda comfortable pair of heels that I ran around Manhattan in for a week in high school, and Kailyn went into town to buy a pair that was on sale but unfortunately turned out to be increasingly tight and uncomfortable as the night went on.
And so both nights we set off, armed with our dresses, our teetery sticks of death attached to our shoes, and a sign Kailyn made with which we would attempt to claim our fortune!
The first night we walked all the way down to the palais, which was a feat in and of itself – the route into town from the collège is pretty hilly, there are lots of cobblestones and grates and uneven surfaces to watch out for, and my natural pace in heels is a good bit faster than Kailyn’s, so it was difficult for either of us to adjust our speeds without facing balance/comfort issues. The second night we wised up and took the bus into town, but this wasn’t quite the perfect solution either – we got honked at a couple times while we were waiting, and there were no open seats on the bus so we had to stand, desperately holding onto the poles on the seats to keep from toppling over as the bus went around every turn.
Guess which side of the heels debate I’m on?
But anywho, once we arrived in front of the palais, we started wandering around holding Kailyn’s sign, trying to find a place to plant ourselves that seemed to be getting a lot of foot traffic by people with festival access badges who might have had extra tickets. We ended up changing positions a few times each night, but funnily enough it was in pretty much the same location both nights that we were offered tickets!
The whole process of begging for tickets is quite an interesting one, and one that made me feel strangely both really uncomfortable and really competitive. Since we were there pretty early both nights, we started off with only a few other people milling around with signs, but as the premieres grew closer, more and more people showed up with the exact same intent.
It turns out that you get to meet a lot of people while you’re standing around smiling and trying to look sweet and presentable and approachable and eager but not overly eager! There were, of course, a couple of scammers who approached us trying to sell us “tickets” (which are entirely possible to get for free, and they only had pictures of the tickets they would give you later!), but it’s pretty easy to get rid of the scammers, and pretty much everyone else who approached us was nice. And it’s a great opportunity to practice my French! Several times each night a few French people came up to us and asked what movie we were hoping to see and when and where it was playing and who was in it and what nationality the director was and the like, and I was actually able to hold a pretty steady conversation with most of these people! When we were trying to get tickets for Macbeth, one woman approached us and told us in French not to bother because it’s horrible, and another fellow with a sign told us that we looked like we’d stepped straight out of a Shakespearean play and wished us luck (the both of us do look pretty Scottish, I guess!). There were also some people who came up to us to ask whether we were looking for tickets or trying to give some away, which was an interesting approach that I kind of doubt ended up working for them.
Some strategies we (think we) figured out for being sneakily handed premiere tickets:
- Be dressed up – once you get the tickets, you pretty much have to go straight in for the premiere, so you won’t have time to change, and people won’t give tickets to someone who’s just going to get turned away.
- Don’t bring your dog – we saw one woman holding her dog as a tactic to get tickets! She made a little sign for him that was asking how you could say no to that little face, which is a very valid question. At first glance this seems like a brilliant strategy, because who doesn’t want to meet a cute dog! But, tying in with strategy #1, what are you going to do with your dog if/when you get the tickets? Dogs are allowed everywhere in France, but I think they’re frowned upon in the palais.
- Don’t keep moving – people with tickets aren’t going to chase down a moving target. Once you find a place that suits your liking, plant there for a while and give people a chance to approach you.
- Pick your spot wisely – you want to stay near the crowd, but not be enveloped in it. Staying a little bit outside of the throngs of people is where we got our tickets both nights, I think because people giving away tickets know that this is where most people will be (since it’s close to where the lines to enter the theatre start), but they understandably don’t want to go through the desperate masses. You also want to be sort of near the entrance since you won’t want to have to fight your way through the masses either!
- Keep waiting – we got there far earlier than we needed to and were beginning to get frustrated about waiting for so long for seemingly nothing. But more and more people come out to give away their tickets the closer the premiere time is. The first night, we weren’t offered tickets until just a few minutes before the carpet was set to close for the cast to arrive!
- Stay kind of low-key – when you are given tickets, you will be approached quickly and out of nowhere and quietly so as not to draw attention to the giver, who will be swarmed if a big deal is made out of them having tickets. Be sure to thank the person, but don’t scream or jump up and down or whatever else you’re internally doing!
- Make your sign creative – this is more of a theory, but if I were giving away tickets, I would look for somebody who obviously put some effort into their sign and didn’t just scribble it into a notebook or onto a torn sheet of paper a minute before they left (and there are plenty of those wandering around!). Luckily for me, Kailyn is a talented artist and was able to make calligraphy-esque signs – my artistic talent is limited to stick figures and clouds, and while I’ve received some compliments on my handwriting, it can just as often be illegible to people who aren’t me!
Our first night, for The Little Prince, we were given Balcony tickets, so we were sort of in the stand-by line (from what I gathered, we waited in line, and as long as they had more balcony seats, they let in more people in the balcony line). We were ushered up the side of the red carpet, behind a line of security guards, and were shown to two seats, one behind the other, at the very far left of the theatre.
I read Le Petit Prince in my French 3 class in high school, and it’s probably one of the most meaningful books I read in my 4 years there. To start with, there was the obvious thrill of being able to read a book in a foreign language! But beyond that, the messages about the importance of imagination and childhood and friendship really moved me. So that my first film premiere was for an adaptation of this book, and that it was at the Cannes Film Festival, no less, made for a very special experience!
The Little Prince was such a sweet movie! The original story has an added framework of a little girl whose mother controls every aspect of her life so that she will become the perfect adult – until she meets her next door neighbor, an aviator who teaches her the importance of embracing and holding onto one’s childhood. He also tells her the story of the Little Prince, and the traditional CGI animation of the girl’s story is replaced with truly gorgeous stop motion animation during the Little Prince’s story. I was a little surprised by some of the extra liberties they took after they finished telling the Little Prince’s tale, but in total it was very moving. The audience loved it and the movie received a standing ovation!
The next night, for Macbeth, we were given Corbeille tickets – we had no idea what this meant until we showed the security guard our tickets and he ushered us to a line that led straight to the beginning of the red carpet! Sure enough, after a minute we were making our way up the red carpet, trying to take each others’ pictures as quickly as possible before getting shooed along up the stairs. It was a very fast but very cool experience! It was so unexpected and so exciting that it was kind of difficult to take everything in, from the walls of paparazzi surrounding the carpet to just relishing following the path of all of the incredible directors and actors who climbed those exact stairs.
Our seats were sort of in the balcony again, but we were pretty much exactly in the center of the theatre, which made it much better! The actual film itself was a more frustrating experience, however. I could tell that it was a really really great movie – the cinematography was stunning, the score was dramatic, and the performances by Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard were fantastic and occasionally chill-inducing (I predict an Oscar nomination for at least Cotillard!). However, having not read the play yet, I wasn’t as familiar with the story as I wish I was, and following along with the spoken Shakespearean English was made more difficult because I kept getting distracted by trying to read the French subtitles along the bottom of the screen. I could tell how strong the movie was, which made not being able to entirely follow along with the story even more aggravating. Needless to say, Macbeth is now higher up on my To Read list, and I definitely want to see the movie again when it comes out!
I feel so fortunate to not only have been able to work at the festival, but to have experienced the more cinematic side of it, too. As a film student, I feel as though I was able to have the best of both worlds in this regard. The whole thing feels very surreal, especially now that I’m back in the States! But to have been able to experience an event that so embraces and celebrates film, an event that I studied and dreamed about in high school, was so motivational and inspiring. Hopefully it’s just a hint of what’s to come!
(Thanks to the always fabulous Tom Haverford from Parks and Rec for saving me from having to come up with an original title!)