Industry experts share their best deal-making stories from Cannes.

Screen asks: What’s your best deal-making story from Cannes?


Rebecca O’Brien, co-founder, Sixteen Films (UK): In 1999 I did a flying visit to Cannes to drum up more interest for Ken Loach’s film Bread And Roses (pictured above), which was to shoot in Los Angeles later that year.

Miserably, I ended up leaving with less money than I’d arrived with as our regular French backers pulled out — leaving both me and them in tears and the cost of an airfare wasted from the budget. I’ve never been to Cannes to raise money since.

Mimi Steinbauer, president and CEO, Radiant Films International (US): One of my first years of Cannes, the company I worked for rented a relatively small yacht for our more important sales meetings. We had a chef and it all sounded like a fabulous plan until we actually left the port…

It was a windy, stormy festival year in Cannes, and we had to go below deck for our first dinner party. That particular dinner was with a large group of buyers from a well-known Japanese company. They were all exhausted with jet-lag and long nights of screenings and early morning company meetings.

I’m lucky that I don’t get sea sick, but I looked up at one point during the meal, and noticed two of the gentlemen had their heads on the table with their arms folded over their heads, while two others were staring straight ahead, looking dazed, and were a shade of green I’ve never seen before or since.

The seas were incredibly rough and I think they signed the deal memo on that lurching ship table just to ensure we would turn back quickly, skip the rest of the meal and get them to dry land.

Ryan Kampe, president, Visit Films (US): It was in the locker-room, post Cannes soccer match. I put the big sell on and the fact he probably wanted to get out of there made the deal much quicker to close.

Lisa Wilson, partner and co-founder, The Solution Entertainment Group (US): In 1993 I was working for Nu Image and my two-and-a-half-year-old son, Josh, and his nanny came with me to Cannes.

They would spend the day at the beach and come to my office at 6.30pm to wait for me to finish work. Josh would play on the floor, where I could keep an eye on him. Late one evening, I took a meeting with a client from Scandinavia.

I was showing him flyers for several available titles but there was an additional film for which we had run out of flyers for that day and I forgot to mention it.

I ran through the list of avails with the client. When I had finished a small voice called out from the floor: “Don’t forget Cyborg Cop II, mummy, that’s available for Scandinavia.” The client bought that film and insisted that Josh initial the deal memo for luck.

Frank L Stavik, MD, Fidalgo Film Distribution (Norway): In 2005 we bought the rights for Manderlay for Norway from Trust Film Sales [now TrustNordisk]. My colleague, Arild Froyseth, and I discussed this film with Trust at the Scandinavian terrace, and we agreed on a four-digit sum (in US dollars) we were very pleased with.

As we walked along the Croisette, a strange doubt crept up on us: did we really talk about the same figure? So we went back to check, and as we feared, our friends at Trust had understood it as several times as much, so instead of getting the fi lm for way under $10,000, we had agreed to pay around $50,000.

The whole thing came down to a misunderstanding between Norwegian and Danish pronunciation of numbers, and was easily solved, but for a bit we were quite stressed that we’d made a deal we would find it difficult to pay.