It was a Friday. Landon Morgan and I from StudioNow met up at the office with multi-NOWWIE-winning editor Brian Cooney. We'd stuffed every bit of movable gear into our bags along with a few toothbrushes (2 of the 3 of us) and a change of underwear. Considering the places to go and things to do in a world, we were all pretty pumped about flying to France for a week of shooting and editing AOL content at the 60th annual Cannes Lions International Festival. What an adventure for a group of super smart, cunning, young individuals from StudioNow to be a part of.
We got to the Nashville airport early to accommodate for the amount of time it would take to check all of our bags (It's worth mentioning now that one of these items was a crucial element to the whole onslaught of video productions we'd scheduled to start and finish while in Cannes - Brian's supercharged computer with all of his editing software and plugins). Bags got checked, security was a breeze, we got to the gate with plenty of time - there was every reason to feel good at the onset of this adventure.
Then an hour passed - no plane.
No big deal, have a beer, some Neely's BBQ.
Then two hours...
It became apparent that getting to Philadelphia was not going to be an issue - the problem was that we'd have no time at all to get to the connecting flight (to Zurich) several concourses away in Philadelphia once we landed. US Air seemed pretty confident that they'd get us there on time so we rolled the die (with the only other option being to wait two whole days until Sunday to leave). We got up in the air, flew in slightly ahead of schedule - all was back on track. We dropped down a few hundred feet to prepare for landing when the intercom came on.
"Hi folks, it's your captain speaking - sorry to say we'll be circling around the airport like idiots for at least 15 minutes until we're cleared to land."
Son of a...
Landon, Brian and myself were dispersed about the plane. We shared looks of confident let's-do-this-ism as we prepared to land later than 'later than expected' in a gigantic airport in a crowded plane where we as a group were not anywhere close to being the first ones into the terminal.
To compound the already pressing issue of time, we had been forced to valet our carry-ons when we took off, meaning we'd have to wait for them to be taken out of the plane and handed to us upon landing. US Air strapped a blue tag on each bag to 'move us to the front of the line' but whoever was unloading/unloading bags that day must have been a new hire or blind because they were definitely as far back as a bag could possibly be on a plane.
We landed. We got off the plane, and got in line to receive valet bags. Brian's came first - I told him to sprint to the next gate as fast as he could to try to hold the plane for us. He did.
Then we waited.
Eventually, after what felt like hours but was likely 5 minutes in real life, Landon and I received our 'front of the line' tagged bags and we were off. We sprinted like absolute crazy people from concourse to tram to concourse, flailing arms and legs with the grace of a crippled baboon running from a cheetah. Somehow the bags stayed up with us (this time).
We clamored up to the gate breathless, exhausted - defeated. Brian just shook his head. He had actually made it just in time, having left with his bag moments before us at the previous gate. When he got to the gate destined for Zurich, the security guy told him to make his decision - on or off - as he repeatedly tried to call us as we ran toward him.
He opted to wait.
Alas, we were all stuck.
US Air did not present many viable options - the best they could ensure would have us landing in Cannes after we were scheduled to begin shooting the next day.
Although he thought he was being gruff and demanding, Landon was extremely nice to the US Air lady who I wanted to punch right in the mouth for letting us watch our plane take off to Europe in the first place. We were added to a standby list, Landon at the top, then Brian, then myself. If we didn't make this flight (to Dublin) we'd push another day, taking off late the following evening from Philadelphia).
I think I passed out here.
When I came to, we'd somehow made it onto a flight to Manchester. As luck would have it, Landon and Brian ended up in first class. I was in the absolute back of the plane next to a not-so-recently-bathed, old Irishman. While they were laying down flat being served champagne and filet at the front of the plane, I was crammed into the window trying to avoid a hairy arm, eating some sort of warm baby food and chunks of what really did look like nuggets from a chicken in the back. For what it's worth I don't believe any of us slept for that 8 hour jaunt regardless of the posh v. peasant situations we were experiencing.
We landed in Manchester sometime the next day, mostly just happy to have some sort of trajectory toward Cannes. We didn't have a flight when we arrived - we were told to go to a US Air desk to find out what our options were. We were routed to Frankfort on a different airline where we planned to fly to Paris, where we'd rent a car and drive an additional 8 hours to Cannes.
We were put onto a standby list for Frankfort, Germany, where we'd be placed on another standby list for Nice.
Somehow, through a series of running, begging, crying, flying, running, sleeping? no sleeping, and running, we standby/wait-listed ourselves onto flight after flight (thanks Landon) until we reached Nice, 24 hours after leaving Nashville.
*Flying in over Cannes/Nice was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen and I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge that, amidst all of this craziness.
We touched down in Nice and went to find our checked bags. To nobody's surprise, they were not there. Nobody knew where they were. Brian and Landon had the foresight to pack at least one change of clothes in their carry-ons. I did not. Air Lufthansa filed a claim for us and said they'd bring the bags asap.
24 unshowered hours after leaving Nashville after (very literally) sprinting through airports and sitting next to smelly Irishmen had taken its toll on my appearance, odor and general aura. If they called me a 'stinking American' it was a fair assessment. We hailed a cab and sought food, shelter and bathtubs as quick as possible down the road in Cannes.
100 Euro and 20 minutes later we were to the apartment where Brian was going to be editing and sleeping all week. Chad Fortenberry from StudioNow would join him a few days later. We opened the door to find a flooded floor from where the newly broken air conditioner was pumping out more water than I'd ever seen on a floor in France. We left to let the rentor deal with that, assuming that with the very hot weather in Cannes, she would. Stay tuned.
In the cab, Landon discovered that his McGuyver-ed international phone plan was null. Fixing that became #1 priority. We left the apartment and wondered the city streets for maybe a mile before we pieced enough broken french-english together to realize all of the stores capable of solving that problem were closed.
So instead I bought a toothbrush.
Landon and I shared some very expensive deodorant.
Everything is very expensive in Cannes, except wine.
We found ourselves at a small sidewalk restaurant for dinner in Cannes which was very much a relief and a good platform for beginning to laugh at the atrocities of getting there. The house wine cost as much as the Coke (or 'Coke Light') and tasted better than the best wines I've afforded in Nashville. Dinner was nice.
We took Brian back to his apartment to find the air conditioner still very much broken. Long story short, there have been many visits from h-vac repairmen to the apartment, still no air conditioning. The 'edit suite' is very much a sweat box and StudioNow is likely violating many labor codes in forcing Chad and Brian to edit under such conditions but whatever - it's France.
*It's also worth noting that Chad and Brian just met each other. Now they're sharing beds about 6 inches apart from each other. Very European.
So, we dropped Brian off.
Landon and I, about to collapse, took a cab to our hotel, 'The Pullman Casino.' It's right on the beach outside of Cannes (about 15-20 min. by car) and it's beautiful. It's also about 50 Euro by car. Doing the math, we quickly realized that daily travel by cab to and from the festival was not feasible. Again, stay tuned.
We went to the bar, laid out a plan for the week, drank a large Heineken (because that and 1664 are the only beers they drink in Cannes) and absolutely crashed as soon as we got back to our rooms.
The next day (Sunday), we woke up some kind of refreshed and went to solve the expensive taxi problem.
Nothing has ever felt so good as the shower I took that morning, and nothing so bad as putting on the same stiff, stinky clothes from the crazy two days prior (as my suitcase had not yet arrived). We walked to a nearby Moped shop and rented two mopeds for the week.
This was the best idea, ever.
Getting around Cannes (especially during the festival festivities throughout the week) is largely impossible by cab/car, but with these zippy, crazy little scooters we're able to bypass all of that mess (and look super cool).
Again, I digress.
We scooted into town to meet our very awesome crew from Paris - Le Petit Studio (http://www.lepetitstudio.eu/) at the AOL Suite in the Majestic Hotel. It's amazing and right across from the beach.
We were supposed to build a set for one of the shows we're shooting, but the backdrops did not arrive. So, we used hand gestures and our new friend Sophie (from Petit) to chat with the crew about what to expect production-wise throughout the week and made the best use of our time that way.
Also, my laptop died in that last scene. Not super convenient.
Cut to Monday - Aside from a few schedule shake ups, production from Monday to Friday has been amazing. Our luggage eventually showed up along with Brian's computer a few days after that. This was a real pain in the ass and I was 100% convinced he'd never see it again. It was especially problematic with my laptop having died, Landon's laptop the only other plausible editing machine, and Landon's not having any connection to the world outside thanks to his faulty phone plan (that still only works about half of the time).
Once more, I digress.
To wrap it up, shootingCannes Lions has been an adventure. We're out daily meeting brilliant people, shooting great footage and really capturing the amazing vibe that the festival exudes. People are here from agencies and other digital entities around the world - networking, brainstorming, arguing and partying. It's truly incredible and I feel very lucky to be here capturing it. It is a ton of work and we are all quite exhausted - But it's a much different, better kind of tired, which comes with a strong sense of satisfaction and pride. I'll come year after year despite the amazing race they put you through to jump the pond.
See you on the other side.