Kyan Krumdieck: Kiwis at Cannes

  • 28/05/2016

Kyan Krumdieck is an American-born but Christchurch-raised writer and director.

His short film The Grind about the gay dating app Grindr, played in the Cannes Short Film Corner this year in May.

If you're the average human, you've probably heard of Cannes, but you might not know exactly what it is, and you likely don't have the confidence to try pronouncing it.  Do not worry. You are not alone.

For the last two weeks, my film partner Annie Dick and I have learned a lot, running around Cannes with our film The Grind at the Short Film Corner. You may have seen our film last year at the Show Me Shorts, it was the one about the gay dating app Grindr. You'll know if you've seen it.

Now if you know anything about Cannes, you probably have a vague image of stunning starlets strutting down red carpets, yachts, and aggressively artistic films. That is only the most photogenic face of what is one of the most confusing cluster bombs you can imagine.

Around the daily red carpet gala premieres of the Official Selection films, is one of the world's largest film marketplaces. Cannes is where many of the films you have ever seen has been pitched, financed, bought, sold and distributed. There are hundreds of simultaneous events, screenings and business deals going on. It takes thick daily issues of Variety and the Hollywood Reporter to cover all of the simultaneous screenings, parties and business negotiations going on. You haven't experienced FOMO until you've tried to decide what to do for a day at Cannes.

Kyan Krumdieck: Kiwis at Cannes

Resist that glamorous image that's settling in your mind, of swanky businessmen popping champagne and making deals. That too is only a fraction of what really goes on. Just picture the Marche du Film as the swankiest high school careers day. For every impressive stall with a star-studded slate of films, there's another with posters that look like a Year 11 student did them at the last minute. 

I love schlock, so I of course collected the worst pieces of promotional material I could find. But this can be a dangerous game to play for a budding filmmaker like myself.  The exercise felt like a visitation from the ghost of Christmas Future. I wondered, will all of my hard work eventually amount to one of these comic sans, stock-image posters? Or can I, like old Scrooge see my tombstone, learn, and somehow make something that someone might want to watch?

Only time will tell, but while you wait to find out, look upon my new motivational tool, the winner of my "worst promo material of the year" award.

Now what did a couple of young New Zealand filmmakers get up to in the middle of all this mess you ask? Well, I took part in the Producer's Workshop. I networked with other first time producers from around the world, learned what it actually means to be a producer, how to find financing, sales and distribution. I competed in a surreal short film pitching reality show competition for Shorts TV. I had a bunch of business meetings, pitched my completed and in development films, but most of all I was pitching myself. At times Cannes feels like two week long job interview. At others it's the first day of high school, where everyone's nervously trying to make friends.

Silly as it may be, it took flying to the opposite side of the world for me to meet kiwis that live minutes away from me at home. The New Zealand short filmmakers banded together, going to movies, meals and parties. Tom and Mata, the Shmeat filmmakers had a tiny flat near the Palais which became our headquarters. Dubbed "The Clown Car", it only had two chairs and was smaller than most vans and hosted half a dozen, but that just made it cozy. We had our expensive novelty escargot, but we compensated with two-minute rice dinners and microwaved egg breakfasts.

For me, Cannes has confirmed what we tell ourselves as a nation, that we are a country of chill, talented people. Every kiwi I met had exciting abilities and the ambition to do something with them. They were nice, engaged people, with no hint of that horrible Tall Poppy.

Cannes is an exceptional place, where every organism in the filmmaking ecosystem comes out of the shadows.  Many of them are ugly, egotistical, selfish and shallow. Thankfully I had the pleasure of only meeting creative, like minded professionals that inspire me to get home, get my hands dirty and just get shit done.

-Kyan Krumdieck