MIPCOM – A PRIVATE VIEW
Le Palais Des Festivals, Cannes – a kind of NEC x 1000
It’s the day before I fly to Cannes for Mipcom. This is the annual TV Industry bash where everyone has brilliant meetings to tout their brilliant ideas to an array of jaded, hung-over distributers and broadcasters, who’ve seen more brilliant ideas than they’ve had stiff gins. They commission about 1 in 2,000 of them. If that.
But optimism prevails and you’re certain, as you stuff your pants and Ibuprofen into an Easyjet carry on sized bag, that your brilliant idea will be THE ONE. You’ve spent the preceding weeks buffing it up and bracing yourself to join the 15,000 other delegates who’ve spent the preceding weeks buffing up theirs. Once in Cannes, everyone has a brilliantly successful time. There are receptions, there are parties, there are dinners, there’s karaoke, there’s enough wine to flood a continent. And this year there’s even Simon Cowell.
For a woman who spends most of her life chained to her computer with a dog on her lap or harvesting dahlias or trying to do something interestingly gluten free with kale, you can imagine how at home one feels. And a mere 1,400 euros will get you into the six story Palais des Festivals to battle your way round a gazillion stands covered in garish posters on which everyone, but everyone, looks like Dora the Explorer. This year we had the added bonus of apocalyptic weather, the biblical rain rendering it impossible to actually hear anything anyone said during a meeting about your brilliant idea. But you still manage to lip read “Oh My God! I absolutely LOVE it!”
Chin up, keep that grin going, girl. You have an epic idea. Some meetings are better than others, of course. There’s always the odd waste of time. One year we set up a meeting in the Gray D’Albion (posh hotel) bar with someone we’d never previously met. I was accosted by a mild mannered woman in the lobby who admired my glasses. I’d sent an email earlier to the person we’d intended to meet, describing my glasses, thereby using them as an easy form of identification. Good idea, eh? I dutifully went to the bar and bought beer for our prospective broadcaster. Then, after the essential preliminary chit chat (mostly about cheap spectacles in this instance) I started to talk about our new show. It turned out that this mild mannered woman was not in Kids’ content. She was in pornography. The mistake didn’t emerge immediately because I was pitching a show called The Ha Ha Hairies, which she clearly thought was well within her remit. Even when I spoke of the Hairy Fairies, the Flufferpufferpoop and Boris Boo Hoo’s Clatterbanger, she was still with me. But the mention of a pre-school curriculum and the importance of teaching kids right from wrong exposed me for what I was. An imposter. Meeting over. And I’d bought her beer. Do you know how much beer costs in the Gray D’Albion bar?
So, it’s the day before Mipcom and I’m tearing around writing notes for the house sitter and the garden waterer and the dog walker, and I’m taking photos of plates of dog food to demonstrate required quantities. (Recent tooth extraction in our elderly canine has necessitated a change in the feeding regime. Dog care now involves boiling up small quantities of rice and chicken, with a few peas. FFS.) But all is under control – passport, ticket, money, and we’ve booked an apartment in Cannes through Airbnb. This outfit was recommended by a host of seasoned Mip-goers as the latest “thing ya do.” Always ones to be up there with the zeitgeist, it’s what we did. And, what’s more, we did it early to ensure that we booked somewhere close to the centre. Smart, eh? I mean how many times have we read “five minutes walk to the Palais Des Festivals” when, in reality, it’s a ten mile hike or you have to hitch a lift home in the small hours with the garbage men. So this year we were absolutely on the case. However, here we are, about to leave, and we’ve failed to get anything out of the owners, whom we have had to contact via the Airbnb site, as to arrangements for key collection etc. I’m beginning to get a bit nervous particularly as we suddenly spot a recent review of the property in question saying that the owners had cancelled the booking on the day of arrival. This is the kind of news that knits your colon into a large strangulating scarf. Just then an e mail pops into the inbox from Airbnb. “We’re sorry to say that your apartment in Cannes has been cancelled. We are giving you an extra £110 to spend so you can go on the web site and choose an even nicer apartment!”
Cue meltown. CHOOSE AN EVEN NICER APARTMENT? IN CANNES? THE DAY BEFORE MIPCOM? ARE YOU INSANE! (I’m paraphrasing for a pre-watershed audience.) As luck would have it, our daughter is at home. She has experience in war zones, working as she does in prime time light entertainment. Within minutes she’s gone on line and found an apartment (not through Airbnb, I hasten to say) for an extra £300. We’re pathetically grateful as it was either that or the Cannes bus shelter. Various chums, on hearing of our plight, e mail to say that their apartment has a spare bedroom. But we all know, don’t we, that when the French say “spare bedroom” they mean “small moth eaten futon on the balcony.” Bah!
So now we get to the Easyjet bit of the journey. Along with other hopeful, intrepid Mipcommers, we board the flight at Gatwick on time. This is heartening. We’ll be at the agents to get the key to the most expensive apartment in Cannes when we said we would. We taxi to the runway and then we “take a left.” It becomes clear that the Captain has had a change of heart. And then he speaks to us.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m sorry to have to say that I’m making my way back to the stand as I’m not at all happy with our second engine.” Ok – so when you hear that kind of announcement the whole aircraft, as one, thinks “Fine! Back to the stand! The sooner we get back to the stand the better. We’re really cool about getting back to the stand.” Once back at the stand he has to call the Easyjet engineer to come and have a poke at the suspect engine. This takes about 45 minutes. (We’re assuming at this point that the Easyjet engineer is searching for string and sticky backed plastic.) I contact my long suffering daughter to get her to phone the apartment agent to say we’ll be late. She does. The apartment agent is beginning to think I’m a hysteric. I am. However, about an hour and a half later, our Captain announces that there had been no technical problem with the second engine – it was just a matter of a piece of missing paperwork from yesterday’s inspection. At this point the whole aircraft is less chilled. A dodgy engine is one thing – I mean you could potentially die, right? But an idiot engineer who hadn’t filled in the form properly? This is a crime punishable by death. Then we’re told that we’re in a queue to take off. Another half hour goes by. Then we have to change pilots because ours has “run out of hours.” Haven’t we all, luv? Hours, patience and, indeed, the will to live. Then we set off again towards the runway but grind to yet another halt. Gatwick has closed the airspace because of the bad weather.
It’s at this point – a good two and a half hours in with no offer of so much as a plastic cup of water from the Easyjet cabin crew – that a child sitting across the aisle from us loses the plot. Her Bo-Ho, French, vegetarian (possibly even vegan – there was no sign of any humour) parents can find nothing in their Bo-Ho, French, vegetarian rucksack to placate her. My colleague has an idea. He whips out the Ipad, clicks on an episode of “Grandpa in my Pocket” (no – it isn’t porn, it’s a little show we’ve made for Cbeebies) and passes it over. The effect is nothing short of magical. Small child goes from screaming hysterics to total bewitched silence in an instant. She remains glued to our show for the full 12 minute duration. Oh! How we glow with pride. I’d go as far as to say that a modicum of smugness sets in. On an aircraft full of industry pundits we have demonstrated the effect our little show can have on its audience and proved ourselves enormously popular with other passengers for silencing the screaming. What a great start to MIPCOM. When the episode ends we enthusiastically offer to put another one on but this is politely rejected by the Bo- Hos. They pass the tablet back to us with a polite but somewhat arch “Non, Merci.” It’s only then that the ugly truth dawns. This is a child who is NOT ALLOWED TO WATCH TELEVISION. C’est interdit! We have just corrupted her. Ruined her for life. And, more to the point, we realise that she could have been watching anything – The Ebola News, Nigel Farage on Panorama, Dora the Explorer. ABSOLUTELY BLOODY ANYTHING! Our balloon has burst.
When we finally arrive in Cannes, the agency with the key to the most expensive apartment in Cannes is locked up. Of course it is. Eventually we locate the agent by means of another borderline hysterical phone call. And so it begins. The week of upbeat, optimistic enthusiasm. The week of the jaw numbing, perpetual grin. We take solace in the fact that we’re not alone. This is how it is for everyone.
Finally, home you come, exhausted, exhilarated and poised for the next triumphant phase of your career. And the weeks go by and you hear no more from anyone; you get no replies from e mails or phone messages, and gradually you watch your brilliant idea quietly rot like a prize apple in a fruit bowl surrounded by bananas. So what do you do? You rationalise. You persuade yourself that the timing was wrong. Then you read in the trade press what actually DID get commissioned. Bananas, of course. Always bananas. Low hanging fruit. You wail, you rail, and you bemoan the loss of integrity, taste, vision, innovation. You weep, you bang your head on the desk; you gnaw off your own leg. And then what? Well then you do it all over again the next year.
I’ll leave you with the story of one occasion, (in a year when we’d had a big commission so were feeling pretty chipper), when our Accountant, having dutifully studied our annual accounts, pushed them across the desk to us and said quietly and without so much as a hint of irony “Why do you bother?” Well, we bother because it’s something to get up for in the morning. We bother because it’s a drug. We bother because in some perverse, stress provoking, self-harming way, we kind of love it.
I’m pretty sure that’s Simon Cowell’s boat in the bay. Teeny tiny isn’t it?