News Column

Former Saks student shares memories of Cannes Film Festival

June 23, 2013


June 23--For two weeks, Branna Burns, Saks High School class of 2009, lived la vie francais. As an intern at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, Burns walked the red carpet, attended movie premieres and rubbed elbows with some of Hollywood's elite at one of the most prestigious film festival in the world. Shortly after graduating with a degree in film from the University of Alabama in May, Burns bid adieu to college life and boarded a plane to France.

There, she participated in the American Pavilion Student Program at Cannes, whose notable alumni include filmmaker Morgan J. Freeman; director, writer and producer Jeff Nichols and actress Alexa Alemanni. Hundreds of students competed for spots in the program, and Burns was one of the lucky 150 who were accepted. Now, Burns is back, and she has some stories to share.

During the festival, each intern had the opportunity to sign up for a raffle to receive a premiere invitation to a film screened in the Lumiere Theater, the largest at Cannes. Burns said she was lucky enough to get an invitation to the premiere of "Michael Kohlhaas," a movie about a 16th-century French horse dealer who sparks a rebellion after being wronged by a lord. The film stars Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, who, with the rest of the cast, attended an earlier screening of the film. "It was such an incredible experience being able to walk the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival," Burns said.

Margo, who worked as a part of the staff at the American Pavilion, acted as a confidant for Burns during her internship. "She was like everyone's grandmother and always made sure we were taken care of and well rested," Burns said.

During the festival, the hotels located down the Promenade de la Croisette, which runs along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, served as the headquarters for all of the production companies in attendance. Burns said the Ritz Carlton, one of the most famous hotels in Cannes, hung banners for "After Earth," "Monsters University" and "The Great Gatsby," which was the opening film for the festival. The banners spanned from one end of the hotel to the other, Burns added.

Interns with the American Pavilion had the opportunity to attend special round-table discussions sponsored by SAGIndie, a division of the Screen Actors Guild that connects professional actors to small-budget productions. Burns said the discussions typically included industry agents, producers and directors. "We were lucky to be able to hear from James Franco," Burns said. "Although he is most known for his acting, he is also a writer, producer, director and film professor. It was really interesting to hear from someone who wears so many hats within the industry." Franco's film "As I Lay Dying," based on William Faulkner's 1930 novel of the same name, competed in the Un Certain Regard category of the festival, which features unique films seeking international attention.

"Cannes is a city that fully immerses itself in film during the festival," Burns said. "Every store window has a festival poster displayed or film-related window decoration." Some of the city's hotels even feature permanent displays dedicated to film and music. This piece was just to the left of the entrance to the red carpet that leads to the Lumiere Theater. "I thought it was such a cool piece. By having the film entangled all around the camera, it perfectly describes the chaos of the festival and film market."


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