We went to the Cannes Film Festival. What does that mean, what was it like, how do we feel? Here’s how it all went down.

We had a fun pre trip to Paris and Cassis before our grand adventure to Cannes. While wonderful, I’d be lying if I said that our minds weren’t already at the film festival. It was kind of like pretending that a major life event wasn’t looming in the very near future. We were full of anticipation. So let’s jump straight to the big event!

We arrived by train around 2 p.m. to Cannes on May 15th and met Vero and Clint at the station who had arrived just 30 minutes before us. Vero’s film Bottomless was also an official selection of the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase, so we had two projects to celebrate. Seeing them was a big turning point in the trip for us.

The four of us traveled immediately to our apartment rental about a 15 minute bus ride away in La Bocca. We were VERY fortunate to find a place so close that was affordable for us. Turns out the property owners are from Birmingham, and Vero is 100% responsible for us finding that spot. I won’t say how much it was, but it was about half the amount of the discounted filmmaker hotel. Not only that, but the apartment was so amazing!!! It had two bedrooms, a big living room/kitchen, and a wrap-around porch where we had breakfast al fresco every morning.

On the way to the apartment via bus is when we got the first glimpse of the festival. We saw a huge red sign covering the front of a building marking the central area. White tents and red (well, more like orange) carpets covered the sidewalks. We got a surge of adrenaline for what was to come.

Later that day we ventured back to the festival campus and took in our first up-close experience. Fancy people. Fancy yachts. Insane, but warranted, security. Beautiful sights. Film everything, everywhere. Our first destination was the American Pavilion where our screening would take place in a few days. The pavilions line the coast where the festival campus is located, and a lot of countries are represented there. The American Pavilion is known for hosting some of the best parties, panels, and screenings (including the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase).

After we entered the American Pavilion, we saw seven people that we knew immediately. One of those was Eliza Hajek of SAGindie who proved to be a great friend over the next five days. This was her 10th year at the festival and she was a wealth of information. We loved hanging out with her. She also got us an invitation to the official Sundance party at Cannes, which basically blew our minds.

Our first Cannes Film Festival experience was one of learning and trial and error. It’s really, really, really hard to get into screenings that have the red carpet. There are basically levels of credential importance, and we were not near the top. But on the flip side, WE HAD A CREDENTIAL to the Cannes Film Festival!! Wow. There were plenty of people who would have given an arm just to have access to what we did.

It’s easy to judge the success of your trip by how many meetings you had, how many important people that you met, what parties you were invited to, and what high-profile screenings you were able to attend. And while we had a few of each of these, we mostly spent our days exploring and just getting to know our surroundings. When I say that learning the ropes to how things work around there is complicated, that would be the understatement of the year. Even people who have been to the festival for years and years don’t quite understand the system. If we get the opportunity to go back, I would do a few things differently. It’s really important to have a plan and agenda before you go. What are your goals? If you think that you can figure it out on the fly while you’re there, good luck. If you are a filmmaker, this is basically a work trip with a lot of fun mixed in. Plan big, keep expectations low. Enjoy every minute regardless of where you land.

The Emerging Filmmaker Showcase was so very special. It was an intimate experience with about 150 people in attendance. We were able to serve Sazeracs beforehand and attendees sipped on it while they watched the film, which was first in the lineup. We won’t soon forget it. Bottomless screened about halfway through the block to rave reviews. We also learned that I am the first producer in their 19 year history to have two films in the block within the same year.

Without our trip sponsors, we surely wouldn’t have been able to make this experience possible. Major, major shout-outs to Airbnb, Bourbon Columbia, Lucid Absinthe, and a few dear friends for making our first trip to the Cannes Film Festival a reality for us. Be sure to check out all of the images from our trip on Instagram here: @iamjamesmartin @thejenwestquest

We finished everything up with a few nights in Amsterdam. It was the perfect cap to a whirlwind two weeks. I adore that city. I love the bike culture, the architecture, and the general attitude. I can’t wait to return when we have more time to explore.

Now that we are back stateside, we are hitting the ground running. Electric Bleau is generating some activity and we have a few more smaller projects up our sleeve. We also have the pitch/lookbook complete for James’ cocktail series on city drinks. I’m ready to make some big things happen.