By Dannie Gruff
Adapted from my debut novel “How to look like you belong somewhere when you don’t have an invite.”
I realise the Cannes Film Festival finished about a month ago. But then it’s never too late to share hints and tips on crashing things is it? A wiser blogger than I would have written this blog as the Festival came to a close, and people still had some lingering interest. But I’ve always thought courting popularity and relevance is rather bourgeois..
After having worked with a family in Cannes for six months, I knew the town fairly well. I had asked the Grandmother of the kids I looked after, how easy it was to get into the film festival. Her answer left me sorely disappointed, apparently it was as tricky as I had heard with everything shut off to anyone without a pass.
An NUS extra card wasn’t enough either. Even if Pete and I had actually managed to arrange picking up our life memberships before we left. Apparently you needed a letter from a film school too to get a student pass.
But undeterred, we rocked up on the first Saturday night with little but our charms to recommend us. My companions Pete and Greg being sorely hungover from the previous night’s antics – while I was, well just probably doing that thing where I look bored, even when I’m not – so even attempting to look the part seemed like a dubious strategy.
Upon arrival at the front of the Festival Palace we saw what we expected; swarms of people in their best robes and tails holding up signs ranging from “travelled here from England – ticket please” to “will kiss for a pass”. The thing with Cannes is all you need is a ticket for a film screening to gain access. It really is that easy – at least in principle. But there were just too many people doing it, and they seemed to have been hanging round for hours. There must be a way to have more fun.
We had almost resigned ourselves to watching The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on the beach (the scraps thrown to the riff-raff of the Festival). But I didn’t come to Cannes Film Festival to sit on a beach and watch a Western. I knew we could find a way, besides I had read that it is possible to crash Cannes on the internet – and as we all know the internet is never wrong.
We had a glass of wine on the bench and discussed the situation. Pete was flaking having been out til at least 7am that morning partying away (classique Pete). We agreed on a collective recharge at McDo’s [French for McDonalds] and so set off with half-opened bottle of wine in hand.
Sorry if this tale is full of more ups and downs than you expected – but don’t fret too much for us – it was by no means a lost cause and suddenly our luck began to change. As we passed the Festival Palace (again), I noticed a group of policeman standing outside a door, who didn’t seem to be checking passes, unlike at the other entrances. It was clearly not an official entrance, but surely behind every door there’s another door waiting? I nudged to Gregor that this gap in the wall had some promise and before I knew it he had casually strolled past the policemen and through the gap.
We followed, trying to remain cool, calm and collected, although trying not to giggle at how “cool” this was, was by no means easy. We were truly giving the finger to the establishment, strolling past policemen patrolling, what turned out to be a car park.
Remember those wise words of mine, “behind a door there’s usually a door”? There’s logique to it. After a few minutes exploring this car park, and feeling like perhaps we were never going to make it – we climbed some stairs and Voila – we were in. There were some security guards at the entrance but I imagine no-one thought anyone would be so duplicitous and scheming as to “break-in” through the car park.
The game was on. Our next task was to try hide the fact we weren’t wearing passes, everyone else was – and there were still security checks going on. For the next hour I think I had my hand permanently attached to my neck, like I had a sore throat or something (rock ‘n roll).
We saw something resembling a party and Greg sniffed something resembling Moët (in joke). We headed in the Moët’s direction, finding ourselves in a party right on the coast. Nice enough, but we were getting hungry and the night was young. Alas, cursed for breaking in before our precious McDo.
We tried a couple more smaller parties, but too many had guest lists. One was for Finnish film, where we attempted and failed to convince them we were huge fans. Eventually we found one – I’d be lying if I remembered what it was about – but the main point is, is that they served wine and peanuts. No McDo, but it would do for now.
Feeling that rush one can only get from breaking into a Film Festival to gain access to peanut snacks, we decided we should try see a film. The entrance to the main screenings had heavy security, so we tried our luck at the exit, and voila! I think that can sometimes be a trend in society – while people obsessively check credentials at entrances, no-one is actually bothering with the exits.
We snuck into a film screening involving planes and much pretension (it really was awful). After about five minutes, Gregor loudly informed the entire cinema that he was leaving as this was “shit”, and by now Pete and my stomachs were rumbling too much to resist. Slipping out we had a last go in the enclosed area at a Russian film party. We gave fake names but no such luck. I can’t believe neither Countess Danna Grufferina, Count Pyotr Mercosky nor Count Gregory Daubski were on the guest list.. Even our self-assuredness wasn’t enough for them.
So now to the highlight of the evening – our recharge at McDo. That’s when we began the fake stories. Hearing British accents almost everywhere we started chatting to randoms and making up histories. This was better fun than the parties – yet this was to be short-lived. We were in cocky-mode now. We needed to do more crashing to fulfil our inner desires for anarchy and rebellion.
Through the process of… telling porkies, we began to stick with our stories. I was soon to be appearing in the new Star Wars – “Shouldn’t you be in London?” A common response. Pete “hipster” Mercer was a composer for some low-budget independent films, though I was sure to inform them that he had turned down “lots of big names”. [Yes I am cringing as I write this]. And Gregor? Well Gregor was of course a published poet. [Alas for Pete and I - this remains the only one of these histories to be actually true.]
Further along the promenade, we saw a large tent and a large queue outside it. So we slipped around the back where a kitchen appeared to be and followed some random chap in. “Besides queuing is for riff raff” we convinced ourselves. The woman stopped me at the kitchen door asking me who I was, and I just pointed at the chap who had gone in just before me and simply said in most probably awful French, “Bonjour, la meme Madame” (the same), I don’t understand how it worked, particularly when I am convinced I must have seemed like a right wally – but it did.
This party was ok, I suppose. I think you should judge a party by the length of the queue, and I’ve never had to queue for a party I really enjoyed. The length of this party’s queue was certainly not correlational to how good it was. It was actually shit, mainly due to the people, the music and the.. well the whole thing in fact.
This can be summed up by a British man I met inside who actually claimed to be “Mr Glastonbury”. As in, that he could get anybody in. (I hope this includes the Abbey as National Trust prices can be extortionate.) He was possibly the most annoying person I’ve ever met, and I’ve met Lembit Opik.
We soon got bored. Next we tried the world famous Carlton, where Harrison (my co-star) was staying. We tried the front door – no luck. So we walked along a few hundred metres and found a small hedge. Judging my chances of jumping over without being seen, I waited for a waiter to turn his back and we were in, strolling up to the hotel like we were the coolest kids in town (writing this all is painful, believe me – but my crashing tips need to be spread to the masses).
We met some nice, funny people but alas they were all meant to be there and so were slowly heading out to invite-only parties. So we next tried our chances at the beach parties. Now this is what we were waiting for.
Live music, dancing on the beach, unpretentious people (in the main) – generally lots of fun was had. We tried our chances at the next party along the beach but couldn’t get in (I’m not sure why we did that – as the party we were at was perfectly fine – I suppose it’s again that addictive quality to “crashing”). But as folk started leaving, we heard Bohemian Rhapsody at this more exclusive beach party – knew it was our last chance – I mean it’s hardly a middle-of-the-night song is it – and so we jumped the hedge and were in.
And then there was another party at a hotel. Was ok. I mean parties are parties eh?
By my calculations we “crashed” five. Yet ironically (or perhaps pitifully) my favourite party was the one that didn’t require sneaking past security guards. Bored, we three musketeers slowly drifted off to the train station and happened across a cute little bar with people spilling out onto the streets. No crashing required, and the people were cooler. Another correlation perhaps?
In typical fashion we lost Greg – so Pete and I began the journey home, as the commuters were off to work. Rock ‘n’ roll! (It was actually Sunday so that line doesn’t really work). Luckily I was with Pete when he fell asleep, otherwise he could have ended up in Italy – tempting though that was. Besides, he would have been fine – like that time he got the London night bus and ended up in Stanstead airport. He only had to wait there seven hours before he could get a bus back.
So what did I learn? Crashing is fun, there’s a sort of addictive thrill that goes with it – and an almost toxic thirst for more – but the most important lesson I learnt was friendship, love and solidarity, with my fellow nobodies.
It was the company that made it. Each party was cool but we got quickly bored and wanted to move onto the next adventure. And the less exclusive the party, the more fun we had. No jokes.
Hang on no. That’s not the most important lesson I learnt at all. The most important lesson I learnt was that if you dress relatively well and act like an arrogant, rather conceited partygoer, it’s pretty easy to crash Cannes.
See you next year for more tales of how to do a “f**k you” to the establishment! (In short – through lying to people, while accepting their hospitality, peanuts and wine.)