“It was incredible.”
So said Terri Ann Driggs when asked about her experience at the Cannes Film Festival.
This past summer, CSUN had two very fortunate students, out of 120, who were able to actively participate in the Festival; Driggs and Kaileigh Martin, a senior CTVA major.
The Cannes Film Festival is more than festival; it is also a market, where most motion pictures are sold. This is where people go to sell and promote movies.
The American Pavilion (AMPAV) serves as a communication and hospitality center for journalists, publicists, celebrities, film makers and motion picture executives working at the Festival. AMPAV offers film students all over the country the opportunity to participate in what they call Student Program, an internship where students participate in seminars, roundtable discussions, and screenings. During this time, students like Driggs and Martin gain a greater understanding of the business side of the film industry.
AMPAV is the only North American student program that is recognized and accredited by the Cannes Film Festival. So what does it take to be an intern there?
First of all, according to Student Programs director Walter Harris, the students are not called interns; he refers to them as young film makers or student film makers who happen to be doing an internship at the Cannes Film Festival.
AMPAV looks for students with a good attitude and good work ethic, because according to Harris, those are the main qualities that you need to get ahead. He said that the program aims to give the student film makers a feel of reality when it comes to working for the film industry.
In order to get into the program, students need to fill out an application form, with their basic information and they are given five essay questions to answer. The students also need to turn in a résume and recommendation letters from their professors and employers.
Aside from asking the students questions about themselves and their work, AMPAV employs the phone interview to talk about what it does and what it can offer to the students.
According to professor Nate Thomas of the CTVA department, the application process is highly selective. It takes about three to four weeks, with two deadlines; early deadline is in the fall semester and late deadline is around February.
The students have to pay for their trip to Cannes. AMPAV charges a program fee, which includes housing, one meal a day and of course, an all-access badge for events and seminars at the festival.
The program cost about $5,000.00 for Driggs, who graduated this May with a major in CTVA film production; the program fee alone is $2,995. Driggs still had to pay for her own airfare, food, souvenirs, etc. Financial aid is available for students, according to Thomas, but it is very limited.
The interns fly to France a few days before the festival opens in order to prepare for the work that they will be doing. Then, the students are given a pre-festival tour of the city. Martin said that this past summer, they attended classes for the first two days, and listened to speakers talk about production, the market, etc.
After the introduction to the festival, the students start working six hours per day.
“They make them work,” Thomas said. “It could be hopping tables but the point is you’re meeting people because you’re hopping tables. You could be delivering varieties to all these studio executives. But after the job, you’re free to mingle and network and do all these things.”
Aside from learning the business of filmmaking, interns have the opportunity to see and meet famous people, people that they look up to and admire. For example, Thomas said that director Martin Scorsese gave a seminar at last year’s festival. And Driggs met Eli Roth, who has directed several horror movies and is one of the lead characters in Inglorious Basterds.
The students also have access to attend screenings, parties and red carpet events.
“It is more than just an internship,” AMPAV director Harris said. “It is not a vacation, they really work hard.”
Driggs said that a variety of things kept her busy at Cannes.
“There are a lot of roundtables held at The American Pavilion and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Indie,” Driggs said. “I was able to sit in roundtables where I learned a lot of valuable information about the business of filmmaking and not necessarily about the art of filmmaking.”
Martin also gained a lot of knowledge from the program and said that if she has a film to make, she will know how to sell and market it.
AMPAV also wants to expand this program to other students, besides film majors.
“It’s about marketing,” Thomas said. “They are trying to get journalism students interested in this. Journalism students can go and learn how they cover it. They are trying to expand it to other students and give them that opportunity.”
Harris said that AMPAV encourages journalists, public relation students, communication arts students and marketing students to participate.
Students will be able to apply online through AMPAV’s website (www.ampav.com) starting Sept. 21. They will also conduct a presentation in campus later in the fall to talk about the program and answer questions from the students and staff.