How to Crash Cannes – a 101 guide

The Cannes Film Festival is an invitation-only, very glitzy affair which attracts hundreds of celebrities and elite guests from around the world. It’s no wonder that many of us fantasize about going. For most people, that dream may seem an impossible one. Well, guess what? It’s not.

This year, I was invited by Stella Artois, one of the main sponsors of the Cannes Film Festival 2010, to attend. Now, I’m not going to tell you “just make friends with someone at Anheuser-Busch.” No. And yes, I was afforded some privileges that crashers won’t be able to come by — but I did manage to figure out how a regular person could get there, attend the private screenings, and have a great time. So here we are:

How to Crash Cannes – a 101 guide

Get yourself to Cannes (obviously).

If you’re thinking about crashing Cannes 2011, book your flight now. The flights to Nice before and during the festival are booked solid and get very expensive if not reserved in advance. Cannes 2011 will be May 11 – 22. This is one thing you can’t get around unless you know someone with a private plane.

*Don’t* book a hotel.

Here’s where we get down to the business of skirting the system. It won’t work if everyone does it, but there are still some sorry folks out there who don’t read Gadling. Chances are, this will work …There are no hostels in Cannes. Some people go as far as finding campsites outside of Cannes and camping to avoid paying through the nose for a hotel when they all seem to be booked. That is not the glamorous kind of experience I’d want to have at the ritzy festival. What’s more, partying till dawn becomes difficult if you’re not staying in Cannes. Here’s something few people know: The Tourist Information Center right at the Palais de Festivals on Croisette has hotel rooms, even when the whole city seems to be sold out (ask for “Last Minute Accommodations”). Not only are there still rooms available — only for those who come to the Information Center and request them in person — but in some cases, they may have worked out deals which mean you’ll get them at discounted rates. Expect to pay about 150 euros per night to stay in the Cannes city center. While one shouldn’t count on it, you may get an even cheaper rate.

If that makes you nervous or is too expensive …

Booking now may save you a little cash, but to save more, you’ll have to stay outside of Cannes. Antibes is a good place to start, as well as Mandelieu. Be careful about transportation, though. Taxis are very expensive in the French Riviera, and having to take one could completely trump your savings. When booking a hotel outside of Cannes, ask specifically about whether Cannes can be reached by train or bus, what time of night the service ends, how much it costs and, most importantly, whether the train or bus stop is walkable to the hotel. If it’s not walkable, you’re not getting a deal. Expect to pay 60 – 70 euros per night for a hotel in a nearby town and be aware that most trains stop at midnight and most buses stop at 1:00 AM.

Getting into films and walking the red carpet — free.

All official Cannes Film Festival screenings are invitation-only. Invitations are given to celebs, friends of the filmmakers, locals, and other folks with connections. It is 100 percent illegal to buy or sell tickets to the festival, so if you see some on Craigslist, be extremely wary; either they’ve fallen into the wrong hands or they’re (probably) fakes. Here’s the good news; no one’s checking IDs or anything. It’s perfectly okay to be given a ticket or to give a ticket away. This results in people with signs like the one at right standing outside the Palais de Festivals during the day. Go ahead and give it a try; there are plenty of people with an extra ticket out there. A little patience could get you in to see a major film. Not only that, but according to the Tourist Information Center, a ticket alone entitles you to walk the red carpet right along with the celebrities. How awesome is that? Answer: I did it twice and it was totally, totally awesome. Be aware that the attire requirement is formal: mandatory tux and black tie or gown.

If that doesn’t pan out, you can still see films at Cannes — just not the official ones. For example, at the beach right next to the Palais de Festivals (below), they show classic films every night except the first and last nights of the festival. The screenings are free and folding chairs are provided. The only thing is, you have to line up to get in; space is limited.
Additionally, you can see films at Espace Miramar, just down the way, for free, or at La Malmaison, also on Croisette, where a parallel, fringe-type festival runs. You can attend for about 7 euros.

Lastly, if you don’t manage to score a ticket but want to tell all your friends that you did, fear not. There are red carpets everywhere, and even the ground along much of Croisette is painted red. A red carpet shot should be pretty easy to fake.

Well, that wraps it up! Cannes is definitely crashable if you’re in-the-know, and now, you are.

My trip to Cannes was sponsored by Stella Artois, but the ideas and opinions expressed in the article are 100 percent my own.