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No budget? No stars? No problem! How to REALLY sell a film at Cannes

By Mairi Mackay, for CNN
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
A surprising omission from this year's Palm D'Or shortlist, 'Bikini Swamp Girl Massacre' tells the harrowing tale of a group of beautiful bikini-clad girls who go on a vacation in the swamp of the Florida Everglades, never to return (at least until Part 2).
A surprising omission from this year's Palm D'Or shortlist, 'Bikini Swamp Girl Massacre' tells the harrowing tale of a group of beautiful bikini-clad girls who go on a vacation in the swamp of the Florida Everglades, never to return (at least until Part 2).
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cannes' film market is one of the world's biggest and movies of every kind sold there
  • More than 5,000 movies were vying for sales at the market in 2013
  • So, how do filmmakers get attention?

Editor's note: Click here if viewing on mobile

(CNN) -- Away from the manicured glamor of the Croisette, there's another Cannes -- a Cannes that lies beneath. Beneath the red carpet of the Palais du Festival in the basement, that is.

It's a seething, throbbing film market alive with b-movies -- low-budget features with no big name actors attached -- often horrors, thrillers, erotic movies or "mockbusters" (more on those later).

THIS IS THE CANNES YOU THINK YOU KNOW ...

Eva Longoria stuns on the red carpet at the premiere of "Saint Laurent" at Cannes 2014.
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

BUT THAT'S JUST CANNES FOR THE A-LISTERS -- THIS IS WHAT IT'S LIKE FOR EVERYONE ELSE ...

People visit the Marche du Film at Cannes 2014.
GUILLAUME BAPTISTE/AFP/Getty Images

It's a galaxy away from the movie screenings of the Official Selection -- the elite group of films chosen by the festival's selection committee from the thousands submitted each year -- of which just 18 go into competition for the feted top prize, the Palme D'Or.

THEY MOSTLY LOOK LIKE THIS ...

Tilda Swinton in Jim Jarmusch's impossibly cool vampire flick "Only Lovers Left Alive," which was in competition in 2013."
From Sony Pictures Classics

OR LIKE THIS ...

Sean Penn in Terrence Malick's 2011 Palme D'Or winner "The Tree of Life"
From Fox Searchlight Pictures

So if you find yourself not among those with Nicole Kidman on speed dial and if your budget is a few zeros short of a few million, then head to the Marche du Film you must, to make or break your fortune.

Although it's in fact one of the biggest film markets in the world, in reality it's just a sprawling global bazaar, where filmmakers and distributors come and set up stalls and negotiate. But instead of selling electronics or questionably-sourced handbags, they sell movies. Lots and lots of movies.

FILMS LIKE THIS ...

"
Courtesy Troma Entertainment Inc

AND THIS ...

Thriller "10 Ways to Die." It asks: How far would you go to become famous?
From East End Films

In 2013 alone, producers, distributors, financiers, video-on-demand providers and other representatives from more than 1000 companies in 108 countries (including places as far-flung as Albania and French Guiana) came together to haggle over 5,364 films, according to official figures.

So, how does an ambitious filmmaker get noticed in this mass of movies? We asked a couple of Cannes veterans and a young Welsh man who made a splash at Cannes a couple of years ago with a Zombie movie called "Colin" that he made for $70.

STIR UP SOME CONTROVERSY ...

"
CNN

Rupesh Paul Productions have announced that they are making a thriller based on the disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370. The film's promotional pamphlet says that it "tells the story of five people who seek revenge for the death of their loved ones. They hijack a plane... " Paul denies that the timing of the movie could be considered offensive of the families of the 239 men, women and children aboard the airliner that disappeared on March 8.

IF YOU CAN'T MAKE A BLOCKBUSTER, MAKE A MOCKBUSTER ...

Courtesy The Asylum

Paul Bales is a partner at The Asylum, a movie production and distribution company based in Burbank, California. The Asylum is known for producing low-budget movies (around $500,000) that riff off big-budget blockbusters and are often released around the same time.

On the books this year are "Sleeping Beauty," a twist on Angelina Jolie movie "Maleficent," and "Apocalypse Pompeii," another take on Paul W.S. Anderson's disaster epic "Pompeii," which cost between $80 to $100 million to make, according to Forbes.

"We would love to be able to take credit for the mockbuster. The practice is called drafting ... it's been done almost since the industry started. Just like in bike racing, one racer will ride behind a faster racer and they benefit because there is less wind.

"We've Just been a little more outrageous. Our (movie) titles try to get as close as possible."

AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE AN AWESOME POSTER ...

Courtesy The Asylum

Make them as outlandish as possible, adds Bales. At Cannes, the trade press pick them up and it's a great way of getting your name out there if you don' have a big budget or a high profile cast.

GET A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FANS ...

One of Troma's most beloved characters, The Toxic Avenger out in the street in Cannes 2014.
Ali Jalisani/CNN

U.S. indie label Troma are famous for making low-budget satires with a '50s flavor with titles like "The Toxic Avenger," "The Class of Nuke 'Em High."

The movie studio has been running for 40 years and, according to co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, Troma's secret weapon is their fans.

At Cannes, Troma fans help the company put on the Troma Parade and street theater they've become famous for, where characters like The Toxic Avenger act out scenes from movies.

"This year, the Toxic Avenger and I have been asked to lead the zombie walk -- there's a zombie walk (at Cannes) that's been going on for about 10 years -- we've been asked to be parade masters.

"That's how we get attention because we cannot afford to take the big billboards."

NOTHING BEATS PERFECT TIMING ...

People visit the Marche du Film at Cannes 2014.
Courtesy Marc Price

Marc Price didn't expect much when he took "Colin," a zombie movie he made with a $70 budget, to Cannes in 2008. It was a movie he was proud of, but he also realized the timing of his no-budget horror happened to catch the zeitgeist at Cannes that year.

"The global economic crisis was at its pinnacle," said Price. "So, our story fit very snugly into a success out of that." The press picked it up and the rest was history: Price says the film picked up limited theatrical release in the UK, Japan, the U.S. and Australia.

See more from the Marche du Film:


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