Natasha Howes relays fun times At Cannes Film festival with Deborah Lampitt-McConnachie.
There are worse places than Cannes for a business trip; and (if like CAT instructor Natahsa Howes) you have a film to shop, it’s the ONLY place to be.
iF: Was this your first time at Cannes?
NH: This was my 4th time in Cannes, and each time with a movie to sell. I attended Cannes in 2008 and 2009 to promote and sell The 13th Day, and 2016 and 2019 with FATIMA. In 2016 we produced a project launch event at the Notre Dame de Bon Voyage cathedral right on the red carpet, and an international press conference at the Italian Pavilion.
iF: In what capacity were you attending the Film Festival?
NH: I was not actually attending the Film Festival, but the Marche Du Film, which is the world’s biggest international film market that runs alongside the Festival. The Festival is the glam add on for most working Producers, unless you have a film ‘In Competition’ when you can walk the red carpet and generate impactful publicity for your newly released movie. Of course, one can be wooed by a Red Carpet premiere invite and champagne cocktail cruise. But, Cannes is not really the place you go to watch movies, it’s where you go to fund and sell your movies for both domestic (North America) and International (rest of the world) markets. I was there to promote and sell the FATIMA movie.
iF: Tell us about your film project ‘Fatima’?
NH: For me, FATIMA is the culmination of 13 years of development, in various incarnations, from an original commission of a 10 minute short film for $35,000 in 2006, which we released as a $2million digital feature in 2009, which has become a major studio sized movie by 2019. I have served as Producer on all versions of the project. The film is based on the true story of Fatima, where 3 young kids in 1917 Portugal had supernatural experiences with a ‘Lady from Heaven’ which culminated into a prophesized miracle, the Miracle of the Sun, that was witnessed by over 70,000 people. The 2009 version of the film, The 13th Day, was based on the Catholic version of this story, and sold in 11 territories worldwide, 3 theatrically; it screened in over 500 venues throughout North America, and is available in 8 languages. It’s called an evergreen movie, and we still sell lots of DVDs every year, because this story has an evolving audience. Last year alone 10 million tourists and pilgrims visited the site of the apparitions in Portugal. FATIMA, the 2019 film, has been created as a cross-over movie, so to appeal to a general worldwide audience. It features Harvey Keitel, Sonia Braga, Goran Visnijc and Joaquim de Almeida, is directed by Italy’s Marco Pontecorvo, with Andrea Bocelli on the soundtrack. We shot the film in Portugal last year. I joke that we just filmed Ben Hur as it was an epic scale shoot in size and scope. FATIMA is a historic drama featuring huge crowds, in rugged terrain, many special effects, a major set build, children, animals, stunts. Simulated rain for 6 days. Awesome!.
iF: What was the purpose of taking the film project to Cannes? Ç spotlight
NH: We wanted to create a publicity platform in Cannes to celebrate the completion of the film, and so we worked with the Portuguese Government to promote their cash rebate by presenting about our experiences of filming there, as the first film through their new 30% Cash Rebate incentive program.
iF: Were you successful?
NH: If success is marked by an offer from a major domestic distributor at the event, then yes. Absolutely! For the Portuguese, the event filled to over capacity with international producers, sales agents and distributors (all of whom decide where a movie shoots), and all the wine was drunk. It was very satisfying.
iF: What was your personal highlight from the event?
NH: The stars aligning and our preferred distributor arriving. Watch this space.
iF: Was there anything that surprised you about the event? Something you didn’t expect?
NH: Screening in a venue on the beach is always interesting from a technical perspective. Especially during a downpour. The PR event on the beach was a mix of a presentation by the FATIMA producers and director, the President of the Portuguese Cinema Institute and the PT Secretary of State, with a short screening of film tourism videos, cut with scenes from the movie. It was a networking, publicity rich, environment featuring Portuguese wines and delicacies. And everyone was very closely confined due to the weather which enhanced relationship building. We are officially premiering FATIMA at another major international film festival in the Summer.