18 June 10:30 pm
The lamp hanging from the wire stared in silence. The air conditioner underlined the silence with a muffled hum. The room television was alive but mute. Pictures colors, advertisements flickered through one’s consciousness like a meaningless collage. Am I awake? Maybe. The day that just run past at hurtling pace, left me in a daze.
Coffees, cookies and films were laid waste in a crushing twelve hour bout. The voting tablets were silent for minutes, more often than not! Astonishing, given that it was beeping every five seconds the last few days. Arguments, discussions, debates circulated furiously across the dark room punctuated only by the invisible Anna Tomasetti’s voice – “Nike Possibilities, it’s in the shortlist…”. “Lemme Caution, Lemme Caution…” the machine barking out loud in Goddard’s Alphaville did flit across the mind once in a while, but it was impossible not to admire the Apostles’ determination and commitment to filter out the very best work from the list. And Brian the bearer of the cross was terrific as the moderator.
Cultural connotations, strategic maneuvers, production logistics - everything was up for discussions, nothing left unturned. The benchmark, as Jenny Gadd put it - a shortlist in Cannes should be a gold or a metal at least elsewhere. Not that I necessarily agreed but there you are. Higher the stakes, harsher the microscope.
We wrapped at the stroke of nine thirty in the night. The coveted shortlist would be out tomorrow for the world to see. Twelve hours of incessant judging, decrying, lauding and finalising. Largely satisfying but also a touch disconcerting. Not that much could be done about that but it felt a bit out of tune.
Insignificant participation from Asia and Africa at least in Film Craft. Even the organisers were surprised by the paucity of Southeast Asian entries this time. The best showcasing of Africa was in a Guiness film from London! Latin America was scarcely visible. Is that a true reflection of where film craft is going across the world? I wonder.
VFX as a category is ruled by the Gaming Industry. Can others have a voice in that at least? Just to encourage film makers not fortunate enough to direct a Playstation or Xbox spot to look at visual effects for crafting good films.
Improvisation is not considered a tool for your craft anymore. When the chips are down I thought improvisation underlined how good you really are. Innovation by inference therefore, becomes the means to hone perfection and not necessarily to express yourself differently. I think that is a problem.
I missed my dinner at Sushi. Too tired for anything but a bowl of soup which hopefully is on its way up to my room.
Night creeps in gently over the buildings by my window.
19 June 7:30 pm
Not much today except the voting tablets spoke differently. “GOLD, SILVER, BRONZE, SHOTLIST,” they said. And the only Indian film running for a metal was the Nike ‘Make Every Yard Count’ for editing.
Quite a unanimous choice for editing and probably a bit obvious too, the film for me personally scored well as a piece of great improvisation. They say editing and VFX, if they show in a film, is not craft well done. But then…
Slipped out for a while to find some friends gathering at a pub to catch a world cup match. Rajiv Rao managed to join in too. Their jury president is a football fanatic. Rumours are doing the rounds that he and his team paid for a TV and a round of pizzas in their room to watch Germany decimate Portugal the other day as they judged Film Lions. Brother Brian though believes differently. No fun n games.
19 June 11:30 pm
Sushi at last. The enamel painted walls, the twisted red lamp shades and the old couple behind the mahogany counter with the abacus leaning on it. Wong Kar Wai’s favourite haunt at Cannes stood frozen in time. Charming though deserted.
Celebration and redundancy coexist in Cannes like none other I have seen. They have learnt to come to the fore and retreat in cycles - like seasons. A routine occurrence.
Met Prasoon Pandey on my walk back to the hotel. He has the gift to always make you smile.
Will I have the time to walk the cobble stoned lanes of the old town this time? Just to breathe in its quaintness and magic. I don’t know.
“What do you mean no Grand Prix?”. We expect Terry Savage to storm in to the room any moment. It’s 10:30 in the night. The Apostles wait in hushed silence as Anna our ‘manager-in-charge’ explains the situation to him over the phone. Will he freak? Will he relent? The tension is palpable. Then ‘click’. The conversation is done.
“Terry says it is a huge disappointment. But he will live with it,” she declares. A sigh of relief echoes across the room. But then there was no other choice.
It was a tussle between three pieces. The ubiquitous Van Damme ‘Split’, the very innovative Bob Dylan interactive music video and the lovely Lurpak commercial. After three hours of arguments and deliberations the room was split in three. No matter how hard Brian and us tried to rationalise there was no unanimous winner. Not as far as craft was concerned. We all thought those three were the best work but none agreed to one of them for the Grand Prix.
So we decide to revoke the decree. A show of hands for ‘No Grand Prix’ says it all. For once the voting tablet remains quiet. Somewhere in our hearts we know it is the right decision.
The Apostles decide to meet for one last drink at the hotel lobby before the grand show tomorrow.
A time to say our goodbyes? Already? Did it happen too soon?
How was it? The Cannes Lions? The festival of creativity? One is tempted to say it was dark rooms, a lot of coffee and a wee bit of the evening Riviera sun. But it was much more. At least for me, it was not just an honour but also a terrific opportunity to be abreast of the cream in advertising film making. And if nothing at all then just to know a lovely bunch of people - my colleagues in the panel - it was worth every penny.
Learnings? Personally I thought, many. Some to be internalised, some I would love to share. But I think I have spoken enough about them already.
Cote de Azur memories? I still cherish the ones I have when I came for the film festival. But then this one is yet to become a memory…
(QED’s Abhijit Chaudhari, or Dadu as he is fondly known, is on the Film Craft jury at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2014.)