Written by Jennifer West
In late March this year, I received a call from a number in Los Angeles. I quickly learned that a film I produced called The New Orleans Sazerac (directed by James Martin) was accepted into the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at the American Pavilion as part of the Cannes Film Festival. I had the honor of getting to call James, who also happens to be my boyfriend, to tell him the good news. I’m pretty sure we both cried.
A few days later, I got a phone call from the same Los Angeles number. Another film that I produced called Bottomless (directed by Birmingham native Véronique Vanblaere) was also accepted into the same prestigious program. Vero and I were speechless.
We had roughly a month and a half to get a game plan together. Getting to Cannes last minute is quite a challenge financially. Vero decided quickly that she would run a crowdfunding campaign (which offered fun things like a private tour de chocolate in her home) to help her and Clint get there. They reached their goal in less than two days. James and I immediately started brainstorming sponsors. We were very fortunate that Airbnb, Lucid Absinthe, Bourbon Columbia, and a few generous friends came on immediately to make our dreams come true. We were all going to the Cannes Film Festival!
Fast forward to May 15. Vero, Clint, James, and I all converged in Cannes, France, for what would be an experience of a lifetime. James and I had already been in other parts of France for about a week, while Vero and Clint were fresh off the plane. It was so great to have Vero by our side since she speaks fluent French. That was a game-changer. The four of us loaded into a bus that would take us to our apartment in Cannes, which just so happens to be owned by someone in Birmingham. On our way there, we passed directly by the entrance to the festival, which was adorned with fancy yachts, beautiful people, and reddish-orange carpets nearly the color of a Sazerac, ironically. Our heads were spinning.
The festival itself was a little hard to navigate at first. However, we found an immediate home in the American Pavilion, which sits only 15 feet off of the Mediterranean and hosted our screenings. With the waves gently swaying in the distance, The New Orleans Sazerac and Bottomless both played to a hungry audience. Both were received with rave reviews. James even got to serve Sazeracs while his short documentary on the cocktail screened, as well as at the private reception afterward next to the sea. It was a dream come true.
We got really lucky finding a spot in Cannes that was only a 10-minute bus ride from the festival itself. Most people are stuck no less than 20 minutes away by train, which all go on strike on random days throughout the festival. Our apartment had two cozy bedrooms, a kitchen, and a wrap-around porch where we dined al fresco each morning. We were officially spoiled. Outside of the screening, the four of us romped around Cannes and the surrounding cities, even going as far as Monaco. We had enough bread and wine to last us a lifetime. It was five days of magic.
Bottomless was an official selection of the Sidewalk Film Festival in 2015 and will be available online later in the year. The New Orleans Sazerac will screen at Sidewalk this year; show times are available at sidewalkfest.com.
More on Sidewalk Film Festival 2016:
- Screwball Sincerity: Daniel Scheinert’s Swiss Army Man
- Wild, Wild West: In the Valley of Violence Opens Sidewalk Film Festival
- 6 Can’t-Miss Sidewalk Feature Films
- 5 Reasons Not to Miss This Year’s Sidewalk Film Festival