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Cannes Film Festival…HOW TO?

Look, it’s tough and it’s not easy….. the reality is if you’re just going to Cannes just to try and spot stars, the best you’ll do is standing (for hours) outside some of the bigger hotels such as the Martinez, Carlton, Majestic or the Grand and hope to catch a glimpse of a star emerging from the main entrance – and you’ll be there along with several hundred other fans – you won’t get close, but if you’re tall enough (or close enough) you may get lucky with a photo.

You want to go to Cannes Film Festival to be part of the infamous parties – but you’re not a filmmaker? It’s still tough – but less tough if you are either wealthy or very well connected with filmmaker friends who have invites to various cocktail and black tie parties (festival guards and doormen have been known to refuse admittance to people whose attire doesn't meet their high standards).
If you are well connected, make sure you bring a suit or chic dress for parties – image is everything in Cannes, nearly as important as your connections. And make sure you organize your accommodation before arriving – average costs for a even just a simple studio in central Cannes are 2-3000 euros for the duration of the festival so if you’re paying less (and it’s still a lot) just grin and bear it, because you actually got lucky!

You want to go to Cannes Film Festival and you’re a professional (or aspiring filmmaker) or actor with accreditation?

Game on!
Now we’re in business.

Cannes Film Festival is made up of several major sections for films and access to Festival de Cannes screenings is upon presentation of either a badge or is invitation only. Access to the films in Official Selection screened in the Theatre "Lumière" is upon invitation only. These invitations are Cannes version of gold!

In Competition: Films screening In Competition are nominees for the prestigious Palme d'Or film prize (the prize that can literally change your life if you’re a filmmaker). About 20 feature films compete each year for the hugely coveted prize. A win can have a major impact at the box office and the competing films make up the main part of the Official Selection. They are screened in the Théâtre Lumière.

These are the prizes of Cannes Film Festival:

• Palme d'Or – Golden Palm
• Grand Prix – Grand Prize of the Festival
• Prix du Jury – Jury Prize
• Palme d'Or du court métrage – Best Short Film
• Prix d'interprétation feminine – Best Actress
• Prix d'interprétation masculine – Best Actor
• Prix de la mise en scène – Best Director
• Prix du scenario – Best Screenplay

Out of Competition: Many great feature films are shown Out of Competition, these are usually films the Festival feels deserve a screening at Cannes, but cannot justify a position in the official program. Out of Competition films in the past have included world premieres and footage of works in progress from respected film-makers – and these films are also projected in the Théâtre Lumière.

Un Certain Regard: Un Certain Regard is where you will find most of the world cinema. It is the main ‘showcase’ section of the festival but no awards or prizes. Screenings are at the Salle Debussy.

Cinefondation: this category presents around 15 short films selected by the festival from around the world. The Cinefondation has its own jury, and there are three awards for the best films in the section which are screened at the Salle Buñuel.

Special Screenings: The selection committee chooses for these films an environment specially adapted to their particular identity.

Short Films: Shorts competing for the Short Film Palme d'Or are screened at the Buñuel and Debussy theatres. There are around 10 films in this competition.

Critic’s Week: Critics' Week is the oldest of the festival side events - and is a launch pad for new film-makers from around the world who compete for the prestigious Grand Prix.

Director’s Fortnight: This part is traditionally the most radical of the Cannes sub-sections, and is open to both feature-length and short films. This is the place to meet those more avant garde film makers. Get there at least 45 minutes before things kick off.

The official jurors on Cannes film competitions are all people in the film industry, and it is an honour to be invited to sit on one of these juries -- even greater one to be jury president; this year it’s Spielberg – 2011 was De Niro, 2006 was the Chinese film director Wong Kar-Wai. You get the picture (pun intended).

Marche du Film: The world’s biggest and best place for buying and selling films. Wheelers and dealers of the film world flock to the Marche du Film - or The Film Market - where films are bought and sold, and foreign rights are traded. This is where the serious money changes hands. The Marche du Film is open to anyone who pays the registration fee to buy or sell a film and the Palais is where all this action happens.

There is so much more to Cannes than the screening of films though, from Masterclasses (given in public by well known filmmakers), tributes that honor internationally recognised artists with the Festival Trophee, following the screening of one of their films. The Producers Network is an opportunity to meet movers and shakers behind films to make international co-productions. Exhibition each year showcase an artist, a body of work or a cinematographic theme.

But what if you don’t have accreditation?

The "Cinéma de la Plage" (Cinema on the beach) is available to the public with open air screenings of films Out of Competition as well as Cannes Classics. Invitations to these screenings are at the Cannes Tourism Office. Also free is Cannes Cinephiles showing films at four cinemas. The Cannes Cinephiles tent on the Pantiero is the place to secure your ticket (9am – 5pm). Tickets for films shown as part of the Directors' Fortnight are available from the Croisette Theatre (JW Marriott Hotel) or through Cannes Cinephiles and cost 7 euros or 30 euros for six screenings.

Lunch is a big deal in Cannes – in fact it seems to be the time of day when most of the deals are done and lunch is always cleverly scheduled around screenings. If you’re in Cannes as much for the sun as the deal-making and movie-going, head to one of the beach clubs such as the Martinez - open to both hotel guests and non-guests (for a fee).

As day turns into night, it’s all the ‘Party’. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself standing next to Brad Pitt in the lobby of the Martinez, or sipping champagne next to Spielberg (well, this year anyway). This is THE ultimate film festival where anything is possible – and usually happens especially when you know who else will be there this year: Leonardo Di Caprio, Matt Damon, Ryan Gosling, Clive Owen, Orlando Bloom, Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Carey Mulligan, Audrey Tautou, Berenice Bejo, Jane Campion, Forest Whitaker, Emma Watson, Marion Cotillard, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Lea Seydoux, Benicio del Toro, Mathieu Amalric, Tahar Rahim, Guillaume Canet, Clive Owen, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, James Caan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Roman Polanski, Emmanuelle Seigner, Louis Gareel, Robert Redford, Jerry Lewis, Michael Douglas, Kristin Scott Thomas, Danny Glover, Mads Mikkelsen, Charlotte Rampling, Toni Servillo, Stacey Keach, Bruse Dern, Michael Shannon, Vincent Lindon, Chiara Mastroianni, Joaquin Phoenix, Valeria Golino, James Franco and many more...

Excited yet?
Whatever your reason for attending Cannes Film Festival; fun, sun or film – your best accessories will be your best outfit ... and a camera to catch some of the most photogenic crowds on the planet.

*Photo credits: Cannes Film Festival 2013

Photo © Washington Post 2013
Photo © Express / afp.com/Loic Venance

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