Two weeks ago, I discovered that the short film I wrote, the one that is already remarkable for the fact that one of the biggest actresses in Hollywood, Robin Wright directed it, the crew from the Emmy award-winning House of Cards volunteered their time and resources to breathe life into it, and Sam Rockwell, Leslie Bibb, Callie Thorne, Michael Godere and Nini Le Huynh agreed to star in it, would make its red carpet debut during the 70th Anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival.
No matter how many times you may have rehearsed your Academy Awards acceptance speech in your pajamas, nothing prepares you for a moment like this. I spent my formative years in Hollywood, so red carpet premieres in and of themselves are not a big deal bearing in mind I’ve been the one who made sure celebrities like Michel LeGrand and Jerry Weintraub made it to the festival venue, the green room, and the after party. Michel LeGrand still owes me for the bow tie he wore to the Palm Springs Film Festival, not that anyone is asking, and Jerry Weintraub may never have found his way to the men’s room at the Palm Springs Museum of Art if it weren’t for me.
The truth is, I was on the fence about going. The ticket from Asheville to Nice was $1700, and frankly, I am at the point in my “career” where I have spent more money pursuing the dream of becoming a writer than I have actually ever made AS a writer. I’ve had exactly one paying writing assignment for low-budget indie producer, Larry Levinson, and that was years ago. But my husband knew, even if I didn’t at the time, that this was an experience I would regret not having taken part in, so he bought the ticket, and I had the panic attack.
I haven’t gone clothes shopping in years and I needed everything. I found an evening gown on Rent The Runway, then had a panic attack about getting it back to the US before the deadline. They charge $50 a day for every day its late, not including the additional daily rental charge. So I found the dress I wanted on ebay, a floor length Badgely Mischka that might cover up the fact that I no longer have much of a waistline to speak of, a pair of spanx that ran from my neck to my thighs, and a pair of flat sparkly shoes so if I fell off them I wouldn’t have far to go.
I made arrangements to stay at an Airbnb a “bus ride away” from the Croisette, bought my first set of grown up luggage, installed a global plan on my phone, and boarded a plane for Charlotte, destination, Nice, France.
When I got to Heathrow Airport, I received a text from Nini Le Huynh; The Festival de Cannes was putting us up at the Grand Hyatt Martinez from Tuesday to Friday, so I let my Airbnb host know and headed to the Martinez, which, as it turns out, was the host hotel for the festival. Everybody stayed there; Jessica Chastain, Will Smith, Elle Fanning, Julianne Moore, Marion Cotillard, Pedro Aldomovar, Fan Bingbing, Victoria Abril, Sara Sampio, Monica Bellucci and Robin Wright. I had a front row seat to all the insanity, from the crowd of paparazzi and fans gathered behind barricades outside the front door, to the entrances and exits the stars made, to sitting down to breakfast with Robin like it was an every day occurrence.
Wednesday afternoon, I got another text from Nini. We had been invited to attend the seventieth anniversary dinner for the festival in the Grand Ballroom of the Martinez. The stars sat together at a long table in the middle of the room; the other tables fanned out from there. The room was cavernous, and it was hard to hear anything, but the experience of being there was unforgettable. Especially after Robin introduced me to Harvey Weinstein, who was kind enough to engage me in conversation for a few minutes.
The next morning, I accompanied Robin and Nini to the Variety/Kering Women in Motion interview at the Hotel Majestic where the main focus of the conversation was the upcoming season of House of Cards and Wonder Woman. When she was asked about our film, she introduced both Nini and myself to the room, then made sure to mention all the people from House of Cards who volunteered their time to work on the movie. We ended up having over 125 crew members involved in the film, not the least of which was a young editor named Alfonso Carrion, who spent hours and hours making sure the film was perfect.
We left for the Palais at 6:15 and were delivered directly to the red carpet. Two lines of people with invitations to the opening night film feed into the red carpet from either side, and risers packed with reporters in tuxedos line either side of the red carpet. Behind us, more reporters on step ladders, to get the best possible vantage point, and more security than you could shake a stick at.
Robin was announced, and all four of us (Robin, Nini, Alfonso and myself) stepped onto the red carpet. Everyone started screaming her name. We made three stops on the red carpet, since its not very long, and there are reporters on both sides. We turned to face one set of photographers, then on a signal from a man in a tuxedo on the carpet itself, we turned and faced the other set of photographers. We repeated that move two additional times, them made our way up the steps of the Palais where we were greeted by Thierry Fremaux, the head of the festival, who ushered us upstairs to a private cocktail lounge where we drank champagne and waited for the film to begin.
A short time later, we took our seats in the Salle Bunuel Theater where Thierry introduced each of us before inviting Robin on stage to talk about the film. She was so complimentary about the film and gave Nini, Alfonso and I credit for the roles we played in making the film possible.
And then it was showtime.
The film looked marvelous on-screen. People reacted the way we had hoped they would in all the right places, and when the final scene cut to black, the woman beside me, an agent from CAA, said to herself, “God that was GREAT’.
We went to dinner afterward, just the six of us at a little seaside restaurant. It was lovely, just sitting around a table, watching the sunset over the ocean and sharing a bottle of wine. It was definitely a night for the record book.
I am back in North Carolina now, back to my day job, trying to make sense of the events of the past week, and how to move forward. The film was accepted into the Palm Springs Short Film Festival in June, which is an Academy qualifying film festival with a short film market (the only one of its kind in the nation). I’ve been invited to an event hosted by the Athena Film Festival, who arranged pitch meetings for Athena List winners with Amazon as well, and hope to set up some meetings with agents and managers while I am there.
In the meantime, I am working with a TV producer for a series based on the short film, and a new project about an award-winning screenwriter who returns from a red carpet event and goes back to work fixing toilets and refrigerators in the RV repair business she owns with her husband. Because there’s nothing like hearing the sound of God’s laughter after telling him your plans.