Filmmaker Simone L Smith tells us about her first Cannes adventure.

Hello, my name is Simone Louise Smith and I’m a filmmaker and theatre professional from Glasgow. After making a couple of music videos over the last few years, earlier this year I wrote, produced and directed my first short film entitled RED.

RED is an experimental, psychological drama in which a photographer is haunted by visions of war. See the trailer below:

RED takes place in an eerie quarry just outside of Stirling. Extreme wind and rain, broken umbrellas flying off the grid, a drenched cast and crew climbing back and forth over piles of rocks, a rifle (not loaded of course!) and a dark and confrontational storyline…  you could call it a crazy shoot over three weekends. Cast and crew performed amazingly throughout though. It felt like everyone just soaked up the pressure and channeled it into the craft. Everyone worked for free too which was amazing (super and forever thankful to all involved!)

Once I finished the edit, I decided to submit it to the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner. Organized by the Festival de Cannes, the Short Film Corner is the essential rendezvous for filmmakers. Directors get to show their latest work, talk to possible buyers and attract as much attention as possible to their shorts. It also increases the chances of seeing your film selected by other international festivals as many top festival programmers and directors are in Cannes on the hunt for fresh new films and emerging talent.

Wonderfully, it was accepted and added to the festival’s annual catalogue of films.

This was pretty cool! Suddenly I got very excited about going to CANNES! The biggest film festival in the world… I figured if RED got in then I’d promote it like hell and as a reward (from the stormy shoot in Stirling) I’d soak up the sunshine and dip my toes in the French riviera.

Topping up the good vibes was that I’d made RED on a zero budget and it was self-produced. All I could literally afford was money to cover petrol costs and snacks for the cast and crew so it was quite a feat getting to this point. The possibilities were now endless. Yeah, you could say I felt pretty unstoppable at this point.

On the weeks running up to the festival I mellowed out my Cannes thoughts. Other film projects ticking away were taking my full attention so I didn’t have time to think about the festival or devise any kind of plan…but now, with only a couple of days to go, my business brain snapped into action. I need flyers! I need accommodation! I need to pack my case.

I got my flyer designed by my designer friend Wil Freeborn and got around 100 printed off. I figured having a bunch of flyers to dish out to the big industry players wherever and whenever I’d bump into them was essential.

So here I was ready to brave the world of the Cannes Film Festival on my own.

Mon arrivée en France!

I arrived on Wednesday afternoon, having flown into Nice Airport the night before. I stayed with friends in Nice (thank you Johan and Ana Is!) and travelled back and forth to Cannes by train.

It’s a pretty surreal experience watching the film industry’s cream of the crop fluttering around in such close proximity. The street towards the Palais was packed with paparazzi, spectators and seemingly very important people. Lots of lavish middle aged men with suntanned skin, silver hair and quirky hats… women with dogs in handbags, fully clad in glittery frocks… so many people shoving and jostling, holding up placards with requests for invitations… all eager to get into a film screening or premiere. C’est bizarre!!!

I could feel myself slowly turn into a pap myself… (perhaps using my camera as some sort of defense mechanism)

Viggo Mortenson!

My next port of call was to explore the Short Film Corner. I arrived during ‘happy hour’ and with my first alcoholic beverage in Cannes, I began to relax and soak up the atmosphere. Everyone discussed their films and hopes for the future and it was clear that everyone was on it networking-wise. There was an amazing buzz in the air.

Numerous film flyers on the wall

Inside the Palais

Going to Cannes on my own was exciting but there were moments when I felt quite overwhelmed. Everyone seemed to be with someone and knew where they were going. I felt lost in the maze. The festival is HUGE by the way. It has a complex structure to it and more or less everyone I met was surprised that I came on my own so I felt a little out of it at points. However, that feeling soon transformed the moment I got a supportive text message from a friend. So I stood up and thought ‘Da hell with this, I got a film to promote.’ Liberated, I went for it and started dishing out my flyers, talking to everyone. Immediately afterwards, everything just flowed. I ended up meeting loads of people, getting invited to parties on the beach and was able to meet one person or another in the industry who would then connect me to another person that I could talk to about my film.

Rob and Richard

Another nice moment was meeting my friend Rob (by chance!) who was a sound recordist on a feature film ‘Sightseers’ (directed by Ben Wheatley) and his friend Richard (actor in Sightseers) I had such a good time hanging out with those guys. It was a relief getting the chance to share stories and laugh at all the madness, and again meet more contacts that night.

My big career highlight there would have to be attending a Short Film Corner breakfast. There I ‘speed dated’ with some of the biggest players in the short film industry (festival programmers, distributors and buyers). I pitched my film to a few of those guys and three distributors asked me to send it to them right away. Filmmakers and Producers came up to me randomly (and emailed) telling me that they “loved RED”, asking me where the idea came from. It was a great feeling.

What’s next for RED?
Through the Short Film Corner I’ve been invited to enter into other international film festivals. I’ll be speaking to distributors next week and one Producer asked me to be in his documentary when he shoots in Glasgow this year. Haha, no idea what I’ve to do though. Overall it’s been an awesome experience and I feel like I’ve learned loads. I understand how the festival works now and most importantly, I met loads of cool people who share the same dreams as me.

I didn’t get to see many films as I was busy fluttering around the marketplace but my fave short film was Tram directed by Michaela Pavlátová. A brilliant and bold animation about a sex mad tram operator. Hilarious.
My favourite feature film was Mud directed by Jeff Nichols starring Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, and Reese Witherspoon. A truly moving and inspiring story about life, growing old, love, and freedom. Still thinking about it. On the Road directed by Walter Salles (based on a novel by Jack Kerouac) was the perfect movie to end on before catching my flight home… got me thinking about the true meaning of adventure.

Tips for Filmmakers
Submit your film to the Short Film Corner, find accommodation in Cannes (book well in advance), bring plenty of flyers (even some screeners of your film) watch at least one film a day and believe in yourself. Believe in your film and know why you’re there. Talk to everyone. Enjoy the ride. And when it’s all over, go for a swim in the sea!

View Simone’s trailer for RED here and visit the production company website here. Follow the Production company on Facebook and keep up with RED film updates on Tumblr. Follow Simone on Twitter here.