It is the dream of many filmmakers to walk the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. In May, Media X Program Director Kevin Pontuti was at the festival to promote his new film, generate interest in two new projects and gain film business experience he will share with his students.
“It’s the biggest film festival and market in the world,” Pontuti said. “It was my first time at Cannes. So, it was very educational for our team and me in terms of figuring out how to best position ourselves in these sorts of markets.”
Pontuti traveled to the French Riviera to present his new film “Vanita” in the festival’s Short Film Corner. That gave him and his fiancée, Alexandra Loreth, who appears in his films, access to the rest of the festival.
That access allowed Pontuti to network and promote two upcoming projects, “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Witch and the Burning Branches.”
Pontuti is adapting “The Yellow Wallpaper” from the 1892 story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman about a new mother’s descent into madness. The film will be shot and produced on Pacific’s campus. Pontuti is looking for funding and other support.
At Cannes, he tried a guerrilla social media marketing plan to attract attention. Loreth held a sign that read #SaveJane, referring to the story’s main character, and they approached people at the festival to see if they would take photos with her to post on social media. It sparked questions about who Jane was and why she needed saving.
“I knew it was going to work, but I didn’t know it was going to work as well as it did,” Pontuti said. “Everybody we talked to wanted to know more about the project.”
Learning how to strike up conversations and establish contacts at festivals are key skills in the film business, and Pontuti teaches them to students in his Media X courses where students learn the business side as well as the creative side of the media industry. Even in the just completed first year of the program, some students were able to participate in festivals in California, including the Mammoth Film Festival.
Every film festival has its own culture, so a single approach doesn’t work at all events. Still, Pontuti says networking comes down to one basic thing.
“It’s about how to be a good communicator and a good person,” he said. “It’s like dating. You don’t just come out and ask for the kiss.”
During the day at Cannes, Pontuti worked the marketplace where he met representatives from film commissions and production companies. After 5 p.m., the glamour side of Cannes took over.
“Each country has their own pavilion where they’ll host happy hours and parties,” Pontuti said. “A lot of the business connections that we made actually happened at the social events as much as it did on the market floor.”
This year, Pontuti attended the second week of the festival. But now that he knows how to navigate the event, he’d like to attend the first week when there’s more energy. And he does intend to go back.
“People kept saying, ‘Oh, this is a once in a lifetime experience! And I’m like, ‘I’m going to keep going back. This is not once in a lifetime.”