Effective Guerilla Tactics Revealed for the First Time Ever!

By Richard Schwartz

Like many of my college-aged peers, I spent most of the spring months wandering aimlessly around the European continent, living a gypsy-like existence in a world of chronically late trains, bad youth hostels and bulky rucksacks. So how then do I explain the amazing transformation that took place the second week of May, when I suddenly found myself living the high life among the black-tie glitterati set, rubbing elbows with everybody from award-winner John Turturro to porn star Serenity and toasting a glass of Moet on the Majestic terrace?

These are secrets that have never been told. You can heed the advice of our official Film Scouts' Cannes guide and ring up expenses in the thousands, or you can take the underground route and save money and energy while still experiencing the world's most prestigious film festival.

Getting in.

The official guide warns that if you haven't already secured credentials, then you're out of luck. Well, party-crashers, don't despair. Last year a study abroad chum tagged along as I made my way to Cannes despite my repeated caveats that he wouldn't even get near the festival grounds. And on the first day of the festival, as I was wandering around an exclusive cockail party on the beach, who did I encounter but ... Josh Levy! It seems my grungily-dressed, heavily-bearded traveling companion, fresh off the Eurail from Munich, had cleaned up, donned a new wardrobe and visited one of those do-it-yourself vending machines that instantly prints up business cards. He gladly handed over one of his cards, which announced he was a film producer from Highland Park, Illinois (Well, at least one of those was truthful - Josh does hail from a North Shore suburb of Chicago!) Apparently, Josh had used these to help talk his way into a part-time gig with a production company hawking its wares at the festival.

The moral: Creativity might not get you too far in Hollywood, but it sure will in Cannes.

Getting tickets.

Hey, even if you've made it into the festival there's no guarantee you've made it into the screenings. Tickets are still extremely difficult to obtain if you're not a member of the media or a high-level pass holder. Again, don't give up. So what if you don't have the correct pass? Get in line anyway and flirt with that French woman from Gaumont. Make small talk with that teenaged intern from Miramax standing behind you. Do whatever you need to do so that when you make it up to the front of the line only to be denied tickets, your new friend will offer a complimentary ducat out of pity.

Anything to get into an 8:30 a.m. screening of that highly praised Iranian docudrama.

Staying there.

Okay, so now you've made it to Cannes for the day, but where will you stay for the night? Hotels are booked quickly and condos are rented out months in advance. Check with the chamber of commerce, located in the building adjacent to the Palais and casino, for late openings. Walk up to the different hotels to find out about any last-minute cancellations. If you're persistent enough, you'll find a place.

Going to the market.

The most intriguing story of Cannes is not found under the spotlight or on the red carpet. Rather, it's lurking in the Palais basement, at back-alley theatres and on second-floor hotel suites. The Marche, or Market, is the real business of the festival - slimy video execs pushing lousy B-grade action flicks and artificially tanned adult video stars preening for randy Japanese distributors. But it's guaranteed to get a rise out of you, so to speak, especially if you're a first-time attendee.

Wanna have some real fun? Stroll around the suite-level floors of the Majestic where production companies looking to deal their straight-to-video offerings set up shop. Convince them you're a foreign distributor interested in their films (surprisingly, it's not that difficult). Sit down for a complimentary cocktail and an advance screening of their video. And tell them you're ready to make the deal but don't want to sign on the line until you get a chance to talk with the film's star.

Really, it's that easy to meet Alyssa Milano.


The Croisette is certainly renowned for its ability to throw legendary all-night mega-fetes, but you'll need an invite to take part. Smaller cocktail parties are easier to enter. Many are held on the beach and, if you're particularly enterprising and don't mind getting your feet sandy, you can access these seaside parties from the backdoor. If you want to make it into a marquee bash, such as the annual MTV fiesta or this year's Godzilla party, you'll need to somehow obtain an official invitation. Cozying up to the PR folks (they formulate the guest lists) has always worked.

Or you can choose a more unconventional route, as I did last year in my attempts to get into the "must-attend" party of the year, Howard Stern's "Private Parts" beach bash. As I loitered in front of the highly secured entrance to the Majestic pier, I spotted on the ground a "Private Parts" invite torn into literally hundreds of scraps. Returning to the hotel with scissors and tape in hand, I spent 45 minutes carefully piecing the fragmented invitation back together. It worked - the bouncer didn't even blink as I handed him the heavily taped piece of cardboard.


Cannes just might be the world's most expensive city during the festival. An extra-value meal at McDonald's runs in the $7-$8 range (so much for the "value"). The old routine of a baguette and bottled water wears thin after the first hundred times. My best bet in Cannes is a hidden fast food stand near the train station called Chick'n'Chips, which serves great sandwiches (with frittes on top!) for a reasonable price. After discovering the place while trying to find my way back to my hotel, I returned at least a half-dozen times.


If you've come here with the goal of getting ahead in the business, make that your number one objective. Don't waste your time attending screenings of films that you can catch at your local arthouse theatre next fall. Spend those hours getting to know people, volunteering to help out, becoming indispensable to some overworked, stressed-out studio flack. Making connections is key at Cannes - it just might get you that free meal, complimentary ticket, extra hotel room or party invite. Who knows? Maybe it could even pay dividends as well when you return back to the states.

Cannes is what you make it. Some are content standing behind hundreds of gawkers hoping to get a glance of Bruce Willis outside of Planet Hollywood. But if you truly want to experience Cannes, you must take part in an exercise that is based as much on creativity as it is on persistence. And luck.

Not to mention phony business cards.

Back to Cannes 1998

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