Attending the 70th Annual Cannes Film Festival over the past week was a real treat, both as a filmmaker and as a lifelong film fan. I made numerous contacts to discuss possible distribution for the documentary I directed, "Lady Wrestler: The Amazing, Untold Story of African-American Women in the Ring."
Some of the best experiences at Cannes, which is held in the beautiful French Riviera each May, were those I stumbled onto:
A panel discussion about the need for more diversity both in front of and behind the camera in the film industry.
An information session on how to take advantage of tax incentives that countries such as France and England offer to support the international filmmaking community.
A presentation by a top Los Angeles financier, breaking down exactly how independent movies are funded in order to attract big-name actors and multi-million-dollar distribution deals.
The premiere of "Happy End," starring Isabelle Huppert, French acting legend and former Cannes Film Festival jury president.
A screening of "The Meyerowitz Stories," starring Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler.
There were so many informative programs and movie screenings, it was impossible to do and see it all. In addition to taking in as much as I could at the Cannes Film Festival, I tried to get out and see a bit more of Europe while I was there.
One morning, I left Antibes, the area near Cannes where my hotel was located, and took the train to Monaco. It was important for me to see Monaco, since it's one of the settings in my novel, "The Chloe Chronicles" (I'm going to release an updated version of the book later this year; details soon to come).
Although Monaco is the domain of the House of Grimaldi, the royal family that once included screen legend Grace Kelly when she married Prince Rainier III in 1956, I found the area to be very affordable. I browsed a mall that wasn't much different from those that can be found in any town in the U.S.A. It was also cool seeing crews setting up for the Monaco Grand Prix, the Formula One race held there each year.
On another day, I took an overnight train from Antibes to Paris. Getting to Paris was important, not only because the City of Light is also a key setting in "The Chloe Chronicles," but because it was the first international city I visited. I first went to Paris in September 1998 when I was an English major at Ohio State University.
I also got to see Madrid through a "happy accident" that happened on the flight home. My flight originated in Nice, the airport closest to Cannes, and I had a layover Madrid. I debated with myself about whether to spend god-knows-how-much money to try to book a later flight to New York so I could go out and explore Madrid.
The dilemma was solved when my flight from Madrid to New York was delayed, giving me a couple of hours to take a bus from the Madrid-Barajas Airport into the city and spend some time in a quaint little Spanish neighborhood.
My main takeaway from this entire experience is that the world is a neighborhood. For the most part, everyone I encountered went out of their way to be friendly and helpful. And no matter the language you speak, a smile and a positive attitude go a long way.