Cannes Lions: 5 Can't-Miss Sessions

Shonda Rhimes - Publicity - H 2019
Jay Goldman/ABC

Laura Dern, Kerry Washington and Jeff Goldblum are among the big-name stars hitting the stage at this year's confab, alongside such entertainment executives as Jeffrey Katzenberg and Lorne Michaels.

Falling just a month after the famed film festival, Cannes Lions, the annual advertising confab that has transformed into a "festival of creativity," will be packed with some of the glitz and glam that the May fest's slate somewhat lacked.

That is because it is backed by the big bucks of Facebook, Google, YouTube and other Silicon Valley big spenders, which erect splashy beachside cabanas and put out for private yacht parties during the week, plus hip pop-ups like SoulCycle offering free morning classes and American Express Centurion bringing the Michelin-starred New York eatery Carbone restaurant to the south of France for the event. 

The Cannes Lions gathering has added more media and entertainment to its schedule in recent years, and 2019 is no different. Pulling from film, TV, music and technology, this year's speakers include Kerry Washington, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Nicolas Winding Refn, plus Katie Couric interviewing John Legend ahead of his performance on the Cannes Palais' main stage.

Here are five key sessions not to miss at the Cannes Lions this year:

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman
Two years ago, former DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg took to the Lions stage to outline a vague vision of “new TV” he hoped to develop. This year, he's back with Quibi CEO Meg Whitman to discuss their ambitious shortform SVOD service that is set to launch next year. They will sit down with MediaLink's Michael Kassan to discuss how they see a market opportunity for Quibi's “quick bites” of content, how they plan to work with creators and the future of entertainment. The trio will take to the stage Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes may have a new $150 million Netflix deal under her belt, but she is still pushing boundaries. The Grey's Anatomy and Scandal producer will take to the stage to talk about how women have to continue to demand more diverse representation and challenge the beauty standards in media, along with the impact of positive inclusion on mental health. Her "Smashing Stereotypes" session is set for the main stage on Thursday at 11:30 a.m.

Lorne Michaels
Uber-producer Lorne Michaels, the man behind Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, Miracle Workers and Shrill, among other efforts, is being anointed the festival's first “Entertainment Person of the Year” and will receive the award Thursday night at the Lumiere theater. He also will take to the stage Friday at 1 p.m. with a talk titled “In a World of Disruption, Storytelling Wins” and address how to connect with audiences in the shifting media landscape.

Alfonso Cuarón and Participant Media CEO David Linde
Oscar-winning filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón (Roma) will take to the stage with Participant's David Linde to discuss how to spur social change through TV and film. Linde is also set to talk about the work behind the company's other Oscar-winning activist projects, including Spotlight, Green Book and An Inconvenient Truth. They will appear Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the Lumiere theater.

Sheryl Sandberg
Facebook has been under intense fire for the way it has handled the spread of misinformation ahead of elections and compromised user data and privacy in recent years. CEO Mark Zuckerberg's new mantra is “privacy first” for users, and as the company works on rebuilding trust, COO Sheryl Sandberg will take to the Lions stage to address the social media giant's role in society and its initiatives on Wednesday at 1 p.m. For those seeking a deep dive into the data scandal, Cambridge Analytica founder and former CEO Alexander Nix will be featured the following day to discuss the fallout a year later, the future of data mining and what it means for tech giants such as Facebook. He will appear Thursday at 5 p.m.