I was studying at a university in Aix-en-Provence when I applied for accreditation. Aix is a small town in the south, blanketed by golden sun and the bluest skies I have ever seen. It's the hometown of painter Paul Cezanne and hosts the towering rock—Mount Saint Victoire—that Cezanne immortalized in several paintings. To explain why I even thought to apply, we'll have to step back a minute into a year earlier, when I first started working as an entertainment reporter.
It began with writing films reviews for the university newspaper at the University of Maryland. Reviews quickly—within a week—lead to interviews. My first interview was in Chicago with rapper/actor Ice Cube and comedian Mike Epps. Enjoying it, I went on to interview Viggo Mortensen, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob, Jim Carrey, Elijah Wood, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Slater, blah blah blah. I had so much fun doing it that I wanted to continue. Part of the fun probably came from how impressed my mom would get by the person I was interviewing that week. At the time, entertainment writing was a great way to write, connect with people, share stories. To a large extent, it still is all those things.
So when I left the U.S. in 2003, I discovered a wonderful world of art and history in Europe. A part of me, however, lamented the loss of connection to the thriving entertainment industry. Using my 1-hour daily allotment of internet time at the French university, I scoured the internet for a way to write, report, tell stories about movies and moviemaking. It was an epiphany when I remembered the Cannes Festival, a perfect way to keep traveling and stay involved in entertainment, to share the stories of one of the world's most prestigious and culture-filled movie festivals.
I applied in mistake-ridden French, which I rationalized would show my desire to use the French language and also maybe foster some much-needed pity on the part of the press accreditors. I don't know whether it was my misspelling of "aussi" (I opted for the australian-themed "aussie"), or my pathetic enthusiasm for entertainment events, but someone in that office in Cannes decided to take pity on my pour soul. I sent them handwritten "mal mots" and a couple interview clips with big names, and they sent along a press pass, schedule, and plentiful information. They clearly understood that I require as much information as possible to accomplish even the most rudimentary task.
The festival is conveniently located at the beginning of Summer, so when university classes ended I took the train East. I stayed for a night in Nice, with a friend who thought that sharing a studio would mean an intimate evening together. I suffered through the night, turning down every advance, and happily left him for Cannes. I had a friend in Aix whose girlfriend's friend's brother's parents owned a place just outside of Cannes. I'm not even making that genealogy up. This was a precarious arrangement at best.
I arrived at the Cannes station knowing that the son of the parents was meant to meet me there to take me to the house. Yes, I have in fact dodged death several times in my life, and arranging to meet a stranger in a French train station and getting in said stranger's car might be one of those times. But it worked out wonderfully. The parents were fabulous, I was able to attend the festival, and the parents had a daughter named Anne-Tiphaine. I have since absolutely adored that name.
The festival itself was a blast. Celebs everywhere, everyone with a general spirit of creativity, solidarity, and excitement to be exactly where they were at that exact moment in time. Celebs in the bathrooms, on the streets, in limos driving back and forth on the main drag. There were events, parties, and people having a great time. There was a lot of networking, and true connections being made.
Anyway, that's my story of getting to Cannes. Sundance was actually a lot easier, but in a way I miss that innocence and gumption that lambasted a road to the famous French festival.