The Cannes Film Festival – Maestros of Sponsorship – what’s DIFFerent in Dublin?


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Maestros of Sponsorship: What's DIFFerent in Dublin?

Our General Manager, Jackie Ryan is just back from Cannes where she shares insights into film Festival sponsorship – and what we might bring from the Riviera to Dublin…

For 68 years the Cannes Film Festival has been the heart of film firsts.  It is a film Festival that is emulated globally by others.  The glamour of the French Riviera has added an oomphhh factor that sponsors love.  In recent years Cannes catapulted the French (and global) fashion industries into an entirely different commercial (and accessible) world.  It brought a spotlight to luxury and glamour in the film industry. Think of the multitude of couture dresses gifted to stars to grace the red carpet since 1994, and Liz Hurley’s Versace ‘Safety Pin Dress’.  From then, Cannes and The Academy Awards became the place to discuss ‘fashion firsts’ alongside ‘film firsts’.  John Galliano at Dior, Tom Ford at Gucci, and Alexander McQueen at Givenchy were the artistic creators who recognised the importance of linking their creativity to commercial objectives.  

Given the importance of Cannes as a launching pad for world cinema – especially European film, it forms the starting point for film selection for Dublin.  Grainne Humphreys DIFF Festival Director picks keys films from Cannes every year to show here in Spring.  This year’s gems included Force Majeure and The Tribe – fêted at Cannes, and seen first in Dublin through the Festival here this Spring. Grainne shares the process:

'Cannes marks the start of the programming year for me... A place to see new work from around the world, to identify trends and catch up with international colleagues. It's the pre-eminent film Festival, combining world class cinema with international glamour... Always championing the art of cinema while celebrating its popular appeal.'

So what ideas about partnership in Cannes can we bring to Dublin,  and make sure we keep the heart and soul of Dublin’s Festival – the audience Festival?  People are what drives the atmosphere of DIFF, and while Cannes has the world’s wealthiest arriving in their yachts – Dublin has the most tech savvy, film loving audience anywhere.  They come in their droves, and their first look is around storytelling – what’s the first bit of news about this film?  How can I share it with my mates?  Over the short 13 years of Dublin’s Festival we have launched lots of stories, and the films that inspired them.  Who could forget Bryan Cranston on the way to the Oscars for ARGO, singing happy birthday to a fan wielding a ‘WALT’ Breaking Bad banner in O’Connell Street?   Our two audiences – the international guests who share their stories – and the audience who devours those stories, are at the heart of DIFF, and all our partnerships embrace that.

The Vikings recognised that Dublin was a prime city with a river at its heart, though the Romans decided it was too cold to conquer,  I’le d’Hiver – the Winter Island they called it.  Appropriately enough we celebrate film in the last vestige of winter, late February, on this wonderful island.  We need plenty of transport to get our international guests here, and over the years have had terrific support from airlines – Aer Lingus for the Albert Nobbs Gala with Glenn Close, and American Airlines celebrating Brenda Fricker in A Long Way from Home, where she shared stories with the press of flying home with her Oscar, post ‘My Left Foot’.

The next phase of the Festival is very bright in terms of airline competition to get guests into Dublin – and the increased routes gives us great options to increase our film guests in the years ahead.  Once the guests arrive they need to get from screen to screen.  At the Cannes Film Festival its tinted windows, and police with whistles all the way.  Hear a whistle?  Get your camera ready – there’s a gorgeous car heading your way in Cannes, with an important film guest within.  Dublin has the majestic support of Toyota, and as a small city those cars make great headway with the 100 international stars – without a whistle in sight.  What would it look like if you brought cavalcades in through the quays in branded Dublin vehicles?  What about using technology – and customise a vehicle to be a mobile projector?  Dubliners would love fleeting glimpses of their favourite films – popping up around the city.  In the years ahead, we have great potential around driving the guests from screen to screen.

Speaking of screens,  we have terrific cinemas here, and a cinema history that rivals the French, but our weather plays havoc with outdoor event cinema.  However – we are a nation of phone lovers – we all carry a screen around with us, and teamed up with that 4g magic who knows what Dubliners could carry around.  What first look film story would you like a password to?  Dublin was one of the first cities to roll out 4G WIFI, and this year our audiences embraced scanning technology for tickets too, rocking up to venues with their barcodes.  And sharing – oh man did they share – but not just the ticket holders – Kim Catrall tweeting about Dublin, and Russell Crowe thanking the good folk at Middleton (Jameson) for his gift.  And then the stuff happens that you plan for but can never predict -  - those 'golden moments' that Festivals produce.

While Cannes has its wifi, its expensive at 30 euro per day for fans.  I’m amazed with that, as we could never run our events without the audience having their connectivity. I love that Dublin gives wifi in exchange for loyalty and trust.  That’s a Dublin price structure – and we support that.

So Cannes has the Croisette, the beach, the glamour and the sunshine as the backdrop for a first look at the world’s new films.  Dublin has the audiences, the stories, and the soul that the city brings to the Festival, and that the Festival brings to Dublin.  We have had 13 extremely successful years with Jameson at the helm as title sponsor.  It was pioneering cultural sponsorship, and paved a way to show others how successful the good match was.  We all love a good match. We ran unique events, we hosted parties, and we gave Dubliners the first look at thousands of films.  Its been a blast, and one we are all very proud of.  The Festival soon enters its next phase of development, having had months of discussions with a small number of companies who have the vision and the energy to lead sponsorship with the Dublin Festival over the next few years ahead.  We look forward over the summer to unveiling the plans that will replenish us with new exciting ways to give Dublin audiences the film experiences they deserve.  On the road to our 68th edition, there will be whistles galore…

Jackie Ryan is General Manager with Dublin International Film Festival ltd, and lectures in Marketing on the MA in Arts Management at UCD.