Cannes 2020 Wrap-Up: The Online Marché, une bouffée d’air frais

There can be absolutely no doubt that, so far, 2020 has been a strange and difficult year. Before his online-concert at Virtual Cannes last week, Ryūichi Sakamoto — renowned and Oscar-winning composer — said “during the quarantine [he] has had a strange feeling… it’s quiet, powerless and irresistible. Kind of [as if], ‘I don’t know where we’re going’”. These words — and his gorgeous online concert with Laurie Anderson — capture a certain feeling that I am sure everyone has grappled with as we’ve worked to navigate this ‘new normal’. However, after months of quiet, rudderless uncertainty, closed theatres and stalled productions, Marché du Film Online was a breath of fresh air.

Last week, over 9,000 individuals from all over the world connected from their homes, offices and kitchen tables, and it was fantastic. Between online conferences, screenings and video calls, you could feel the industry start whirring again as we talked about the future. No one knew what to expect going into this online, virtual and wholly screen-based Marché edition, but it worked. Connections were made. Deals were done. Ideas were chewed over and debated. By many reports, the egalitarian nature of the online space also meant that attendees were able to connect with a wider network than they may have met if they were amidst the rush and fervour of the traditional market.

Collectively we examined the changing shape of audiences and investigated what the industry will look like after COVID. We engaged with new tech — both in practice and in theory — and navigated a frenzy of zoom presentations, panel discussions, chat-roulette style ‘flash meetings’ and online-rooftop dance parties. Most importantly, however, as an industry, we were given the space to connect with friends and colleagues — old and new — from all over the globe. It was energising, exciting, full of hope and felt, in some small way, that finally, we were moving in the same direction once again.

Of course, we missed being in Cannes on the Croisette. Of course, we missed the early mornings, the late nights, the rush from one event to the next and the constant search for a table or a quiet space to chat. And of course, we missed being able to meet in the flesh (and in the same timezone). But, it is also clear that what the organisers managed to achieve was nothing short of extraordinary. To bring together an industry and capture the same essence of excitement, optimism and joy that fuels the Marché crowd every May, is a testament to the organisers and attendees alike.

The program was stacked full of brilliant ideas and lively discussions. The constant rush and juggle between conferences and online meetings meant that even from home, we were always on the go. If we were to put together a list of highlights for the week, we would certainly have to include (but not limit it to!):

  • The incredible showcases from cutting edge innovators and startups at Media Meets Tech. (Hot tip: you can view the full session on Vimeo!)
  • John Sloss from Cinetic Media’s brilliant market keynote with Rosa Bosch — which not only explored the most burning issues facing the industry today but also dug into the most up-to-date solutions. (We loved this!)
  • The beautiful sunset drenched Nordic Party hosted by the Göteborg Film Festival. Streamed live from a glowing rooftop and featuring a DJ marathon with tracks selected by friends of the festival from all over the globe — we loved watching friends and colleagues connect via chat we all danced in our living rooms.
  • And finally— perhaps our favourite surprise from the online format — were the Flash meetings. Going into the week, we weren’t exactly sure what Flash Meetings were or how they would work — but it turns out that they’re the most fun you can have on a video chat in thirty minutes. In classic ‘Chat-Roulette’ style, for half an hour each day, you’d be thrown into 6 x 5-minute meetings with people you’ve never met before and may not have met otherwise. We connected with filmmakers, producers and festival programmers from Mexico, Uruguay, Australia, the US and all over Europe — our adrenaline was racing as new faces beamed into our homes and it was so much fun.

The bonus of the online format also means there are many great sessions available to view as catch-up too. Both the Marché du Film website and the Cannes Film Festival Facebook Live has a number of presentations, keynotes and concerts which are available to everyone. While, for those who purchased badges, you can watch Replay events for a few more weeks, directly from the Schedule on Match&Meet (by Talque).

As we wrote after our whirlwind effort at the 2019 Marché, Cannes is a festival that embraces innovation. This year’s Marché was, in concept and in practice, no different. In the lead up to the festival, the online-only format felt like a new frontier. However, once the festival was underway it was clear that the organisers’ swift pivot to the fully-digital-festival and their innovative and well-executed multi-platform (across Cinando, the website and Talque Match&Meet app) plan would ensure Cannes 2020 a game-changing success.

Festivals are an unparalleled opportunity to engage with not only our tech and new-media driven peers, but also the wider community of talented and dedicated screen professionals. Obviously, this year’s festival was different, but that’s not to say it wasn’t great. On the contrary — for us at FilmChain, this year’s festival was incredible, because it has highlighted how far we have come as a tech-supported industry and how open the wider business is to new models, new ideas, new platforms and new methodologies.

In the aftermath of the festival this week, we’re filled with renewed energy and optimism. Conversations are positive and forward-thinking. As a team and as an industry, it feels that there might even finally be a clearer sense of where we are going.

FilmChain is a collection agent for indie films and royalties management solution for enterprises.