Cannes Lions: 7 Can't Miss Sessions

Photographed by Mike Rosenthal
Ellen Pompeo

From 'Fire and Fury' author Michael Wolff to Hollywood heavyweights Ellen Pompeo and Tyler Perry, the "festival of creativity" has a packed entertainment slate.

Cannes Lions, known as the “festival of creativity,” honors the ad industry with an astounding number of juries and awards, and the byzantine entry system brings in fees to the tune of $23 million a year for organizer Ascential.

The pay-to-play aspect brings a different kind of delegate to the Croisette. In recent years, Lions has grown to include tech and social media companies, emerging blockchain platforms, the deep data miners and "martech" companies that back the information economy.

As it has shifted to be more Silicon Valley than Madison Avenue, the event has in some ways become the Cannes Film Festival’s cooler cousin, with the still-flush tech companies funding the splashy yacht parties that film companies have long since abandoned. But that’s not why Hollywood should pay attention: The companies are also bringing industry heavyweights, thought leaders and stars to discuss the future of entertainment.

Here are seven can't-miss sessions at this year's Lions:

Michael Wolff

He’s already written 336 pages about his time in Donald Trump’s chaotic White House, so what more is there to say? Knowing the author, probably plenty of quips and incendiary anecdotes. With a talk titled “Fire and Fury: The New Normal?” the Hollywood Reporter columnist is set to talk about what has changed since the book’s release six months ago, his predictions for the future of the Trump presidency and the evolving role of journalism in the age of social media. Grab your coffee - Wolff kicks off the week, taking the main stage Monday morning at 11 a.m.

Edward Enninful and Thandie Newton

When Edward Enninful took over the top spot at British Vogue last year, some may have expected him to stay focused on fashion in an industry that in some ways has a bigger diversity problem than Hollywood. But the first black editor-in-chief of the Brit style bible threw down the gauntlet with his first cover, featuring mixed-race model and feminist activist Adowa Aboah; articles about politics and culture; and features on Zadie Smith, Steve McQueen and London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Enninful’s set to discuss diversity with Westworld star Thandie Newton, who has spent much of the last year speaking out against the lack of roles for women of color and even criticized the #TimesUp movement for lack of inclusion. Her TED Talk "Embracing Otherness" has been viewed more than 2.5 million times. The two will take the main stage Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Ellen Pompeo

TV’s $20 million golden girl Ellen Pompeo (Grey's Anatomy) made headlines when she talked about her big payday and how she got there with THR back in January. After the revelations, the actress was attacked on social media and subsequently blamed for the departure of co-stars Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew. The outspoken Pompeo will presumably address her critics in a talk titled “Fame or Fail? Promoting, Protecting and Entertaining in Untrusted Times” on the main stage Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Susan Wojcicki, YouTube
 CEO
With millennials cord-cutting, or even skipping cable services altogether, YouTube has emerged not only as a competitor in its free video, but launched its OTT YouTube TV and its own YouTube Premium with originals to compete with Hulu and Netflix. Not only does the Google division host its own beach, complete with volleyball tournaments and a smoothie bar, during the fest, CEO Susan Wojcicki will also take the main stage Tuesday to talk about, simply, “What Matters Next.”

Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry has a billion dollars of box office under his belt, just inked a massive development deal with Viacom and is building his 330-acre studio in Atlanta. The prolific multihyphenate (producer-director-actor-writer-author, for those keeping count) is set to talk about IP ownership and maintaining creative control in conversation with MediaLink’s Michael Kassan. He’ll also address how his mindset took him from a childhood of poverty and abuse in New Orleans to the heights of Hollywood in “The Art of the Hustle” on the Debussy stage Wednesday at 4:15 p.m.

Sir Martin Sorrell

Last year, Sir Martin Sorrell interviewed Ron Howard on the main stage in the Grand Palais, but after his unexpected departure from global ad giant WPP in April, the exec who turned the former basket manufacturer into one of the largest ad companies in the world has been plagued by a prostitution scandal and rumors of financial misconduct, all of which he denies. Despite the swirling controversy, Sorrell is scheduled to speak twice during the fest, first at the series of talks hosted by digital magazine The Drum at the slightly-lower profile Quay Irish Pub, and later in an interview on the main stage by New Yorker journalist Ken Auletta. It’s worth showing up just to see if he addresses the scandal. Thursday at noon at the pub; Friday at noon on the main stage.

Parkland Survivors Kai Koerber, Madison Leal and Sam Zeif
The February tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida unleashed a wave of activism by the students, and they have gone on to create campaigns and speak out against gun violence in the U.S. School shooting survivors Kai Koerber, Madison Leal and Sam Zeif will take to the stage in a Friday afternoon session to talk about “The Real and Raw Power of Conviction” in creating campaigns. Since the tragedy, Koerber has appeared on CNN and The Daily Show, as well as started his own Societal Reform foundation to create mental health programs for students; Leal founded Branches of Bravery, an organization dedicated to planting trees in memory of the shooting victims and other local beautification projects; and Zeif, who gained national attention when he challenged President Trump during a “listening session” at the White House, is a spokesperson for the anti-NRA political action organization Change the Ref. The trio will be on the Debussy stage Friday at 4:15 p.m.

This year's Cannes Lions runs June 18-22.