Is Cannes really a film friendly location?
As I amble along the blissfully crowd-free Croisette in Cannes, I can’t help but wonder if this town, best known for its film festival, is actually geared up for everyday filming. There’s no doubt that this glittering stretch of the Mediterranean - with its pristine palm trees and grandiose hotels lining the sea front - rarely looks bad. It's bathed in this eternal glow of glamour and sunshine that would look great on-screen.
Does the local industry actually put its money where its mouth is? When it comes to the crunch, is Cannes really film friendly?
Cannes is, of course, home to the film festival, while it also hosts Cannes Lions, which celebrates the advertising industry in a similar way. This year the film festival's 64th annual event will run from May 11th to May 22nd with Robert De Niro as President of the jury.
Founded in 1946, it’s one of the world's oldest and most prestigious film festivals, even though I’m loathe to say the Palais des Festivals et des Congres (pictured), which always hosts the show, is a rather ugly building.
It's set in a beautiful spot, granted, but I’m not convinced by the concrete giant, built three years after the first festival as its home.
The Palais is also where Cannes’ other big show takes place: MIPTV. The entertainment content marketplace for TV, film, digital and audiovisual draws the crowds and the big names in the industry.
So far so good - Cannes is at the forefront of the entertainment business.
But does the local industry actually put its money where its mouth is? When it comes to the crunch, is Cannes really film friendly?
On a mission to find out, I got in touch with a few people who should know.
During the festival it is much harder to organise a filming permit. But it is not impossible and they really do try and accommodate everyone as best as they can.
Sue Elliott, of Bay Vista Production Services
Sue Elliott, of Bay Vista Production Services based in Nice, a stone’s throw away from Cannes, is a local expert. Shooting a movie during the Cannes Film Festival last year, she juggled the highly complex production during the event and is known as an expert at filming in iconic buildings like The Carlton Hotel (pictured top).
So, getting straight to the point. Is Cannes a film friendly location? She acquiesces:
“Yes! Cannes really is as film friendly as it seems. At the town hall they are extremely helpful and getting a permit to shoot in Cannes outside of the festival is relatively easy. Obviously during the festival it is much harder to organise. But, having said that, it is not impossible and they really do try and accommodate everyone as best as they can.”
Reassuring words from Sue who goes on to explain:
“During the festival there are quite a few limitations in terms of access, but then if you've ever been to the festival this has always been the case! Special passes are always needed and of course the same rules apply for filming. Large portions of the Croisette are closed off to traffic from 4pm until 8pm when only official cars can circulate. Being able to shoot on the steps of the Palais de Festivals requires a special permit too.”
To put it simply, Sue says:
“Cannes is a great place to shoot, but I would suggest you avoid festival time!”
The entire French Riviera has long welcomed feature films and commercials and has built a very film friendly reputation. Organising car chases, boat chases and other large location-heavy requirements is simple, says Sue:
“It’s just a question of having enough preparation time to enable the town to accommodate the filming requirements.”
Working in Cannes, she adds, is a pleasure.
“I have always had a very good experience. No problems! People are very helpful.“
Any favourite spots?
“The Carlton and the Majestic are both stunning locations and their communication departments are extremely helpful and attentive to requirements.”
In my quest to get the inside track on the city side, I first talk to Michel Brussol, Film Commissioner for the neighbouring Var region, who puts me onto Sophie Mouysset in Cannes’ town hall. Eventually I reach project leader Stéphanie Gac at the mairie, who oozes enthusiasm.
So, how does it all work?
“It’s very simple to come and film in Cannes. Just download the forms online and we’ll respond within three days maximum, depending on how complex the request is.
"We endeavour to welcome shoots all year around, but it’s true that during the festival we have a lot going on and there are access issues with streets being shut down and the area around the Palais cordoned off."
We have great production companies, Location Managers and technical crew and technical staff who live locally so Producers can find everything right here.
Stéphanie Gac, Cannes Town Hall
I ask Stephanie what she thinks is Cannes’ USP that helps distinguish it from, say, nearby Nice. Without hesitation she says:
“What people love about Cannes is that you can do everything on foot. It’s a ‘walking city’ – it has an almost villagey feel to it, with a cosmopolitan edge. And our airport is perfect to welcome VIPs.”
As far as locations go, Cannes is also spoilt for choice.
“We are lucky to have really iconic locations, from sandy beaches with palm trees to the Croisette with its luxury boutiques and palaces, authentic cafes, gardens, the Forville market, pedestrian streets, the ballroom at the Carlton, St Marguerite island with its fort and prison cell (where the man in the iron mask was held), forests, the monastery on St Honorat island, the sea, beautiful architecture such as the Bellini chapel, the château de la Castre, the old fishing harbour and the casinos… to mention just a few!"
Anything else we should know about? Stephanie adds:
“Yes, we have great production companies, Location Managers and technical crew and technical staff who live locally so Producers can find everything right here. But the greatest thing about the city is that we’re blessed with incredibly intense natural light. And we’re all set up to welcome shoots of course. We have a whole team dedicated to logistics, from liaising with local police to booking parking and so on. We are real facilitators.”
Now, this argument isn’t very well balanced...
No one seems to say Cannes is a tricky location. Not the mairie, not the independent Producers, not the local hotels. Could it simply be that Cannes is as film friendly as it looks?
Images courtesy of www.frereimages.com
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