Steve Curtis, a film maker based in Worcester, enjoyed an eye-opening first visit to the red carpet premieres of the Cannes Film Festival to promote his movie Adieu Marx. Here’s his diary...

If you’ve never actually been here and if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like, there is only one thing you need to understand about the Cannes Film Festival.

No matter how mad you think it all is, when you get there, the truth is even madder. Cannes is a quintessentially French film festival where all the deals are done in English.

For two weeks in May, every taxi driver in town doubles his fairs and the seafront is given over to men with fake tans and dodgy facial hair.

In the space of just 72 hours, I plan to sell our very own quirk-some British comedy, Adieu Marx, armed only with a box of business cards and a pile of brightly coloured flyers.

Not yet unpacked, I receive my first phone call.

“Steve!” says a voice I never met before. “I’m a close friend of your director and I’m a big time industry mogul. I’d really like to sleep on the floor of your hotel room in Cannes.

I only need a rug or something and maybe a spare pillow. I know Harvey Weinstein. And I don’t snore much. What do you think?”

I think no and quickly hang up.

Charis Orchard – my first time director from Paris – is just around the corner.

Minutes later, we meet to discuss tactics and she apologises for giving the guy my number. My director and I will wander through the festival and mingle, looking for film distributors.

Half a mile short of the Cannes Red Carpet, we begin to feel the vibes. This being France, the best of the drama is out on the streets.

 All around the seafront, rows of neatly attired policemen direct the traffic with utter contempt.

“The French,” my director explains, “live their lives as if on a stage.” And she’s right. Few, if any of the movies showing in Cannes will be as entertaining as the traffic police.

Closer to the beach, the American Pavilion is absolutely buzzing and I quickly find a seat on the terrace and check out the clientele.

People who make movies aren’t as good looking as the people who star in them. Seconds later, a guy from LA walks up to share his wisdom.
“Are you trying to sell a movie?”
I am.
“Well this is the place to be! I know film festivals and believe me, Cannes in the one to beat. Sundance? Don’t give me Sundance! Sundance is just a bunch of people skiing with attitude. Let me tell you, nothing beats Cannes!”

And he’s right. In Marche Du Film, there are stalls from every corner in the world where brightly colored posters have threaten to blot out the Sun and the makers of Adieu Marx are soon trying to pitch their film.

A sales agent from Vienna watches the trailer and takes our card. Maybe we will get lucky. Seconds later, an adjacent American salesman mistakes me for a buyer and tries to draw me in.

“Lesbian Killer Ninjas? 75 per cent of the web pages in the world are pornography. 

The web is a device that delivers the porn to man and then, as a minor after thought, it does everything else.” he nods at his own posters. “We’re always gonna sell this stuff.”

Charis drags me to a ludicrously grand hotel, nudges me and points. “Did you see that?” I had not. “That was Harvey.” She hisses. “Harvey always drinks in this place.”

It’s time to retreat to the British Pavilion and see if Adieu Marx will gain any followers there.

“Don’t worry about your Northern accent.” Says a floppy haired public school boy. “You know 20 years ago, a lot of the people in this tent would have been making run of the mill, middle class TV drama.

"Nowadays everyone’s trying to make stuff about ordinary people. You know, kids out of Comprehensive schools and places where they’ve got people on the dole. Obviously that kind of thing requires a terrific amount of research on our part, but we believe it’s worth it.”

He frowns. “Now it’s all about women being exploited by men? They say that if you make a film like that and go to parties in Hampstead and talk about it a lot you can get laid really easily. Do you have any scripts like that?”

I don’t. He seems disappointed.

The day drags on. A string of LA-based sales agents browse through our press pack material and ask if we’re trying to sell gay porn.

“No.” explains Charis. “Tim just happens to have his shirt off in the poster.” The sales reps are disappointed. “For a moment there, I thought that might be your unique selling point.”

Says one. “I mean, we don’t get a lot of gay porn in Cannes but if we did, I’m sure it would go down well.”

Night falls on the festival and Charis bluffs our way into a mindboggling glamorous party packed with hot 24-year-old chicks.

It looks too good to be true and I quickly discover that it is when aging female hedonist accosts me from the sidelines and tries to explain.

“A few years ago it was all about noses.” She points to her own, in case I miss it.

“Now it’s cheek bones. If you’re a gal and you want to get anywhere in this business and you don’t actually know how to write, produce, act or direct then you’ve got to have good cheek bones.”

The very next day sees our startling world premiere. Incredibly, every one of 50 seats are occupied. Within five minutes of the lights going out, at least ten people have walked out.

“Buyers!” whispers my director. 80 minutes later, the lights come back on and there are still 30 people left. I decide to describe it as a triumph.

Adieu Marx is a story about five young men having their left wing moment and we seem to have hit an unexpected button in the audience: nostalgia.

“Yes,” says a tearful sales agent from my home land. “you know, I used to be a Marxist at University. Obviously I live in Chelsea now, but you know, I think it’s important not to forget that time.”

Maybe that’s our unique selling point. Memories of a lost youth we were forced to leave behind.

* Steve Curtis is the writer/producer of the feature film Adieu Marx 

  www.adieumarx.com