This story first appeared in the May 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Some lessons are learned the hard way. In the 1980s, Tom Bernard and Michael Barker, co-presidents of Sony Pictures Classics, were invited to a yacht party during Cannes. It was being thrown by the Young Millionaire Club, and several theater owners attending the soiree were eager to see the duo. Barker and Bernard agreed to go and took a tender to the yacht -- where they later found themselves stuck and missed an important acquisition screening of a movie that was quickly snapped up by a rival. (Bernard won't say which film it was but admits it became famous after the rival bought it immediately following the screening.) "Since then, we never go on boats that aren't parked," he says.
Yachts at the Cannes Film Festival are a culture all their own. There are party boats like the one Barker and Bernard were on, and there are the superyachts anchored in the Cannes harbor, but it is the yachts parked in prime berths along the jetty Albert Edouard in the shadow of the Palais that are the most famous. About 60 vessels converge there every year, turning the jetty into something akin to a luxury trailer park on water.
Many of the yachts are rented by banks, private financiers and film commissions from around the globe. "Hollywood agents go up and down the docks and see if these people want to invest money in their movies," says one veteran indie film executive. Yacht rental is not a cheap proposition. Prices range anywhere from $130,500 a week to $400,000 -- and more if it's a larger, top-of-the-line yacht.
Maggie Monteith, president and CEO of Dignity Distribution, is a longtime yacht denizen at Cannes. This year, she's renting the Clara One, a spacious 150-foot yacht that sleeps seven and comes with Capt. Pascal and a staff of three. (Clara One rents for roughly $10,000 a night.) Monteith says renting a yacht actually can save money because it can be used for so many different purposes -- a place to sleep, have business meetings and entertain in the evening. "I think it's the cost-effective way of setting up shop in Cannes, but maybe that's the Scottish in me coming out," says Monteith, who is from Glasgow. "You can keep a control on costs, particularly food, which we are paying supermarket prices for. And rather than all peeling off to sleep in different hotels, we can all stay on the boat. There's an amazing camaraderie. Investors like it, too."
Other familiar faces on the jetty Edouard include Monteith's former partner, Jeanette Burling of Magnet Media Group, as well as representatives from Isle of Mann Film, U.K. bank Coutts, Tim O'Hair, Pinewood Studios, Future Film Group and Seven Arts. Jean-Claude Van Damme also has been known to take up residence on the VIP Belgium yacht. This year, Lleju Productions will have a yacht to promote their films, including market title The Baytown Disco, starring Billy Bob Thornton.
Securing one of the prized berths from the Port of Cannes is not for the faint of heart. The application process is daunting, and one mistake can cause the entire application to be returned (berths are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis). This year, the application itself is 16 pages, while instructions for applying are 14 pages, including directions to use only block print. There's also this ominous warning: Anyone who says they have a berth before it is officially announced will be banned from applying for one year with the exclusion being widely publicized. A berth itself costs roughly $1,000 a day -- relatively modest for a slice of the French Riviera.