What is it really like behind the scenes of a major film festival?

cannes film festival ticket film festival

At the beginning of the summer I traveled to the French Riviera to attend the Cannes Film Festival with one of my best friends, Rachael, like you do.  Like one does, one who isn’t me.  Anyway no surprise: I loved it, every minute of it, especially the naked massage on the beach.  I might just up and fly to France one of these days just to experience that again.  The grocery shopping and resulting food purchases were ridiculous (insanely delicious.) France is awesome, and the Cannes Film Festival, the reason Rachael and I headed to the South of France in the first place, was otherworldly.

what it's really like at a film festival

I didn’t know this prior to heading into the festival, but one cannot purchase a ticket to the Cannes Film Festival.  Period.  You either are “someone” or you know “someone”.  I obviously belong in the latter category, which is awesome.  I was given a ticket to not only the film festival but all sorts of behind-the-scenes shenanigans as well, for which I’m super grateful.  I only had about 48 hours notice to get a red carpet dress, which proved trickier than you might imagine. I would’ve been in a huge pickle had I not found a clearance prom dress at Dillard’s and had not another best friend Carina offered the personal seamstress services, altering the dress in record time, making it Mormon friendly.

black tie dress red carpet

Didn’t Rachael look hot in her gown?

red cannes paparazzi

I’m no respecter of persons and don’t really love the celebrity crazed culture we live in; you definitely wouldn’t see me lining the streets of a film festival for a peek at Halle Barry and her new French beau, but I did gaze at her pregnant belly and fabulous haircut as she was leaving the hotel I was heading into for dinner.  And I did turn around a couple of times during dinner to peek at Denzel Washington a few tables over (he’s aged really well, that guy) but I didn’t whip out my camera to sneak photos of him, because what’s the point?  The streets of Cannes, all the streets, were roped off and stands full of celebrity watchers and their cameras lined both sides of the street, screaming on cue when someone special arrived.  It was pretty insane to be on the inside having people take my photo while I walked the red carpet.

cannes film festival

The Cannes Film Festival is obviously one of the biggest, baddest film festivals in the world.  It’s huge.  Actors the world over congregate in the South of France for 2 weeks in May to rub elbows and premiere their work to the world; it’s a little bit electric.  I’m super grateful to have experienced the behind-the-scenes action. The anthropologist in me couldn’t stop narrating in my head long enough to pay attention to where I was walking: I almost cut my head off on a low ceiling while riding an escalator taking photos of the thousands of people streaming into the theater.  It’s insane.  And totally non-stop, move, move, MOVE out of the way, the IMPORTANT people are coming!

cannes film festival

Before we actually settled in for the 3-hour premiere we were shuttled to the swankiest of hotels for pre-dinner cocktails and mingling in a roped-off lounge created just for HP, the sponsor of the Cannes Film Festival. There was an extremely famous French photographer offering to take photos of about 15 of us, one at a time, and one doesn’t say no to that sort of thing.

We definitely didn’t say no.

cannes behind the scenes cannes film festival

The photographer was super distractible and very, very French (he had no patience for the likes of us.)

cannes behind the scenes

I posed for a microsecond but I don’t know what to do with this photo.   Where does one put something like this?  Above the fireplace, life sized?

The rubber bracelet on my wrist is the golden ticket of Cannes.  With one of those babies you can go anywhere, anytime.  No rubber bracelet?  No soup for you


On a totally different note, how adorable is this guy?  I had to get a photo of him in his red carpet, custom-made suit. He was the boots on the ground coordinator for the HP team. I couldn’t handle how French he was.  So, so, SO nice and stylish and helpful.  I loved him, but I can’t remember his name so we’ll call him Pierre.

Fronch bread, Fronch dressing, Fronch fries (name that movie).  Pierre was super French.

After cocktails we headed to dinner and ate approximately 5 million calories in fatty foods including this foie gras.  I gave it a go; it was so rich!  Like a thick dessert mousse, only instead of chocolate, it was goose liver. The dessert was excellent and featured not only dried beets,
cannes film festival

The dessert was excellent and featured not only dried beets,


but edible gold as well. 

Like you do.

I ate the gold, hoping it would totally cure my Lupus.  (it didn’t cure my Lupus, maybe next time, France)

fancy french food

After dinner we walked down a roped off street, flashbulbs all aflutter, and I nabbed this photo of Rachael.  Do you see the flashbulbs? There were many, many flashbulbs.  And for some reason (the mohawk?) the frenzied mob thought I was “someone” so I got a lot of pointed fingers and photographs.  SUCKAS!  Just me!

red carpet ready

There isn’t a way to describe the red carpet at Cannes.  I’ve been to the Sundance Film Festival plenty of times, and it’s crazy insane, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the frenzy of international celebrities and filmmakers.  We had the added bonus of screening the winner of the entire film festival, a full house with no extra seats at an enormous theater, the winner of the Palme d’Or, so it was extra hot and heavy on the carpet.

film festival

Speaking of hot and heavy, I’ll let you decide what you think about the movie that took the top prize.  I’m no prude, but this movie was the most opportunistic, vulgar, disgusting piece of film I’ve ever laid eyes on, directed by a lecherous old man who (in my opinion) took advantage of two young girls in the name of art.  I was horrified.

Palme d'Or winner

But that’s neither here nor there.

Once you’ve run the gauntlet of the red carpet and you’ve secured your seat, that’s it.  There’s no going to the restroom or grabbing a quick snack. The movie we watched was THREE HOURS LONG after being edited down to fit the festival’s guidelines. I’m amazed I didn’t die.  When the stars of the film, the director, producers, and associated random people enter the theater, the proper etiquette is to clap and clap and clap some more until your hands fall off.  Then there’s more clapping, the movie is announced, and it goes dark.

film festivals

Here are some adorable gents from the HP board chit chatting with one another before the endless clapping (and even more endless movie) began.  They looked so dapper.

cannes film festival

After the movie ends there was an uproar of clapping and a standing ovation that goes on for daaaaaaaaaaaaays while all the celebrities kiss kiss, hug hug for the big screen.  When it was all done we headed back to the hotel for post-film-festival cocktails before ending the night in a heap of exhausted giggles and fluffy gowns.

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Hello there! I'm Allison Czarnecki, founder + editor of Petit Elefant, a blog all about style on a budget for every part of your life: style / home / travel / family. I do a lot of how-to beauty + style tutorials, travel posts, easy recipes, home remodel projects, and cool DIY crafts you totally want to try. I'm super happily married (to a hot Polish immigrant) and am the mother of two kids, a daughter and son, all of whom are featured here on the regular. We live in the country but we're a little bit rock + roll. Welcome!


  1. Erica F. :

    Who knew Rachael could wear an evening gown like that?! Lovely pictures, super fun descriptions of the experience!

  2. Rachael :

    Oh Erica . . . that’s like casual wear around my house! ;) I vacuum in that dress!

  3. Melody :

    I don’t know you, but this post makes me sick with envy. Also, delighted that someone local-ish attended Cannes and wrote about it. And took photos. And, yes, the mohawk is fabulous. And that portrait of you is stunning. Thanks. Well done.