PEI

'I feel like I'm on another planet': An Islander at the Cannes Film Festival

P.E.I. film producer Harmony Wagner is at the Cannes Film Festival this week for the second time and is feeling a little more comfortable, but it's still a crazy experience.

Producer pitching reboot of The Big Comfy Couch

Harmony Wagner in front of the Palais des festivals at the Cannes Film Festival. (Submitted by Harmony Wagner)

P.E.I. film producer Harmony Wagner is at the Cannes Film Festival this week for the second time and is feeling a little more comfortable, but it's still a crazy experience.

"I feel like I'm on another planet," Wagner told Mainstreet P.E.I. host Matt Rainnie.

Cannes is well-known as the place where many of the biggest films of the year will get their first major showing, and where the brightest stars walk the red carpet. But it is also a trade show, one of the world's biggest, where industry professional meet to make deals.

"Over a billion dollars worth of industry deals are made during this week," said Wagner.

"I'm just leaving the Palais [des festivals], which is a huge building, like, I don't know, maybe the size of the Eaton Centre in Toronto, and it's filled with sales distribution and everything, locations, everybody hustling everything to do with the film industry."

I'm accessing people that I would never have been able to cold call and be able to have a half an hour conversation with.— Harmony Wagner

Outside the Palais, along the beach, there are pavilions where different countries pitch their markets, industries, and locations.

"Right next to that there's a slew of yachts where a lot of partying happens, I guess, with the upper-level deals," said Wagner.

"I'm not there yet."

Much-needed guidance

Wagner was at Cannes in 2014 for a showing of her short film Queen of the Crows at a Telefilm Market Screening.

That experience was overwhelming, she said, but she has some help navigating her way through the festival this time. She is at the festival with a group of producers from Atlantic Canada.

They have paid their own way, but the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is helping by hiring the company Media Exchange, which has 25 years of experience at Cannes and specializes in helping producers meet the people they need to at the festival.

Harmony Wagner converted her best known film, Queen of the Crows, into a novel. (CBC)

Wagner said Media Exchange has been enormously helpful.

"Otherwise you're just like a sea of ants trying to speed date," she said.

"Media Exchange has connected us to experts, and we've had panels where it was specifically for our education about packaging your deal together and how to sell it, and so it's been really wonderful."

A family reboot

Wagner has a number of small projects she is talking about at Cannes, but her big goal is a reboot of the classic children's television program The Big Comfy Couch.

The show, which ran in both Canada and the United States from 1992 to 2006, was created by Wagner's mother Cheryl. She believes the timing for a reboot is right.

"There's a lot of people who remember the show and now of course they're having kids," she said.

While international partners would be welcome, Wagner said Cannes is also the perfect opportunity to meet with industry people from Canada.

"I'm accessing people that I would never have been able to cold call and be able to have a half an hour conversation with," she said.

Wagner said she is also spending time with the other Atlantic Canadian producers who are part of her group, and she believes the trip will lead to more co-productions across provinces in the region.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Mainstreet P.E.I.

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