The Cannes Film Festival has released a lengthy statement that explains its controversial new press screening rules for its 71st edition (8-19 May).
Earlier this year festival director Thierry Fremaux announced that Competition films will now no longer screen for press in the morning, ahead of their world premieres in the evening.
The statement, sent to accredited press, explains that the new screening rules are a response to “the massive incursion of digital technologies”, and attempts to explain in more detail how the new schedule will work.
See the full statement below:
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To the journalists accredited to the Festival de Cannes 2018
Ladies, Gentlemen, dear friends,
The 71st edition of the Festival de Cannes will start in a week, and we eagerly look forward to seeing you all again.
The Festival celebrated its 70th anniversary last year, a venerable age that might foster a degree of immobilism. Yet our wish and ambition are quite the opposite! We want to make the most of this new decade to explore, experiment, question our customs and practices. Some changes are dictated by the times, including the considerable reinforcement of security measures over the last two years; others will be more lasting, like the upgrading of facilities that are currently insufficient properly to welcome the 40,000 festival-goers from around the world (160 countries represented this year!).
The 2018 edition will feature various changes, of differing importance: the dates of the Festival, which begins one day earlier to be more in step with the pace of film programming; the red carpet, where selfies have been banned; the ongoing reform of professional protocol; and finally, the screening schedule, which has triggered a number of queries on your part, and which we would like to explain.
The schedule has not changed for decades. The underlying logic was based on usages blown to bits by the massive incursion of digital technologies in our professional and personal lives over the past fifteen or so years. Basically, as soon as a film is screened, the social networks turn it into confetti-like strips of rumors.
It was thus necessary to rethink the Festival’s manner of programming with a view to a more balanced usage for the full range of audiences at the Festival. As you already know, the principle behind the change we have introduced this year is simple: make the gala session, attended by the team that made the film, the veritable first screening of the film.
Indeed, up until last year, there were several screenings of a film before the official “première”: screenings for the press, professionals and festival-goers, that is, some 5000 people, who “previewed” the film before it was shown in the presence of the filmmaker and the cast.
The gala sessions thus closed a long series that began the day before or that very morning. Henceforth, they will begin it. The “Première” will be a genuine première. When the team walks the red carpet and enters the room, as the press gets ready to see the film, the moment will be far more powerful as no one will have already seen the film.
We realize, of course, that this new schedule means everyone will have to change their habits, beginning with you journalists.
We tried, following the proposals of FIPRESCI and the French Critics Union, to intoduce a general embargo. Given the number of journalists accredited in Cannes, a 24h embargo was impossible. And it did not solve the problem of the other screenings before the Gala evening.
First, we know most of you work non-stop for a fortnight. We are familiar with the challenges and difficulties you face. We are trying to help you in your task by offering you the best possible conditions of work: by providing you with dedicated working areas (Press room and Wifi area); by reinstating since last year a third area set aside for you, the “Journalists’ Terrace”; by continuing to accredit, despite capacity problems, critics who are no longer active, out of respect for their past in Cannes, for their dedication to films and their makers. Having, over the years, let exceptions become the rules to the extent of ending up with a modus operandi that is no longer suitable. There are more and more journalists in Cannes while the number of seats has not increased!
Yet, above all, we guarantee you the best possible access to films. It appears necessary to dwell on this last point, because it is of paramount importance and also because it is the subject of most of your queries.
It is worth noting that, on average, two out of three requests made by a professional festival-goer are turned down; critics, however, benefit from dedicated sessions with sufficient capacity to accommodate all those who wish to see the films in the official selection and, in particular, in competition.
There are 4,000 people accredited in the “press” category, a substantial figure. Contrary to certain affirmations going round, there are not, however, 4,000 critics who want to attend the same screenings at the same time. The real average number of journalists at press screenings over the last few years is between 1,100 and 1,200, while the available capacity is 2,300 seats in Lumière and 1,300 in Debussy-Bazin. And other press screenings or screenings open to the press are offered here and there throughout the Festival.
Acces to films has therefore always been one of the pillars of our commitments to journalists, and it will remain so. And with the new schedule, this access will even be reinforced.
Some of you have asked us for details about this new schedule:
- concerning the film screened at 7pm at the gala evening in Lumière: it will henceforth be screened at the same time for the press in Debussy and Bazin rooms. This additional screening in Bazin is thus a new 2018 feature. It will add 300 seats for journalists (to the detriment of professionals), fulfilling the request for greater comfort. The press screening at 10pm in Bazin the same day will of course remain. As this 10pm session is hardly ever full, it will enable you to choose the time at which you wish to see the film.
- concerning the film screened at 10pm at the gala evening: it will be screened for the press the following morning at 8.3 in Lumière, which has a sufficient number of seats to accommodate all the journalists who wish to see it.
- concerning the film screened in competition in the afternoon in Lumière, the setup does not change: the press has its usual access and even takes priority over professionals. There will also be an additional screening in Bazin or Buñuel.
The embargos thus become simpler:
For the film at 7pm in Debussy, you are requested to respect an embargo until the end of this press screening.
For the film at 8.30am in Lumière, the embargo likewise finishes at the end of this screening.
For the afternoon films in competition, the embargo finishes at the end of the screening in Lumière.
Un Certain Regard and Special Screenings remain unchanged: they factored in this modus operandi long ago since their first screenings mixed together the press, professionals and public. Those are the details of this reform.
We firmly believe in its benefits for the Festival. Mindful of the organizational changes it will imply, we shall do our utmost to facilitate its implementation for you. For this reason, ever since we confirmed these new measures, we have talked at length with some of you. These conversations have enabled us to pinpoint certain improvements, sometimes in terms of detail, to be introduced in the services rendered to the press:
- opening of the Palais until 12.30am via the main entrance (and later via the entrée des artistes),
- around the clock accessibility of the media area on level -1,
- opening of the press room and Wifi café until midnight (instead of 11pm as in the past),
- when journalists leave Lumière or Debussy rooms, they will now be able to go straight into the Palais instead of having to exit the building and go through security again.
All these measures should enable you to circulate more freely and rapidly in the Palais; in so doing, we hope they will remove certain practical constraints which were an obstacle to your work.
Over and beyond these measures, our press services remain of course at your disposal to answer any questions and assist you throughout the Festival.
Critical work is essential, and we know it is becoming an increasingly delicate task in a world in which communication is in the grips of immediacy and approximation. We are thus fully aware of the importance of your work and its constraints: we are apprised of the economic difficulties affecting the media. And we appreciate your boundless engagement during these 12 days to cover the event.
It is because we are aware of these difficulties that we are receptive, and wish to convey our recognition and our support.
With our very best wishes for an excellent Festival!
The Festival de Cannes team