Feeling flush? Toting up the tab for Cannes

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Coming to Cannes with a movie in competition next year? Don't forget your black-tie best for the red carpet -- and above all, don't forget the money. You'll need a lot of it.

"Everybody thinks that if you're in Cannes and in competition, you must be rich -- but it's the other way around. You're broke!" says French producer Jean Brehat with a laugh.

Brehat should know. He's been haunting the Croisette since 1996, bringing a total of five films to the French Riveria so far to be considered for the Palme d'Or and other honours.

They included Bruno Dumont's "Humanite" in 1999 and "Flanders" in 2006, both of them Grand Prix winners, and Rachid Bouchareb's "Days of Glory" (2006) and "Outside the Law" (2010) in the parallel Directors' Fortnight series.

This year Brehat's baby is Dumont's "Hors Satan" in the avant-garde Un Certain Regard category.

"When a film is in competition, the festival puts up the director and two or three actors for three nights and pays the cost of the trip from the airport" a half-hour away in Nice, he said.

"You pay for everything else," including air fare, which can be pricey if a film's core team is scattered around the world.

What's more, "three nights is too little to meet all the demands of the press" who come to Cannes in force and represent a unique opportunity to plug a picture that was very likely shot on a shoestring budget.

So that means an additional two or three days in Cannes, adding up to "five or six hotel nights at 300 to 500 euros ($425 to $710) a night" for perhaps a dozen people if the screenwriter, lesser actors and co-producers join in.

"For example," he said, "you systematically have to bring a cinematographer to oversee the projection, even if the festival has its own dedicated team" to ensure the best image on the big screen.

The stakes are high, because any gaffe could handicap a producer's ability to sell a feature to distributors from all over the world who also descend on Cannes for its hugely important film market.

"It's like being a painter who gets ready for an exhibition and personally checks the way the canvases hang in the gallery," he said.

Then there's the publicist, more often than not a freelancer who brings along his or her own team and rents space for interviews -- often an apartment that can be hired only by the fortnight, not the week.

And finally, there's the small matter of a big party -- no small consideration at a festival where the talk of the Croisette can be as much about last night's fabulous soiree as it is about tomorrow's world premiere.

"For something barebones, it's 20,000 euros," Brehat said. "For something proper, you're looking at 70,000 euros."

"On the beach with 300 guests is 100,000 euros -- and at the Majestic (arguably the best hotel in Cannes) it can go up to one million euros with champagne and hors d'oeuvres."

Not counting the party, he said, having a film selected for Cannes can cost 120,000 to 130,000 euros for a big production, around half that for a smaller picture -- "and the return is zero".

"But the official competition here is the best in the world," the producer said. "There's nothing that tops it, except the Oscars."

© 2011 AFP

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