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Sartorial Losses and Nervous Excitement: Producer Stephanie Roush’s’ Cannes Diary #1

The Cannes Film Festival and Market

I somehow lost my Sundance 2024 hat before arriving in Cannes. I was forced to take it off for the automated passport control in Paris, as it would’ve obscured my face too much for the fancy camera technology that only worked for about every third person in line. Walking to my next terminal with my luggage, it started raining and I went to put my hat on only to realize it was no longer poking out from the top of my purse. How is it that I managed to lose my one token of legitimacy immediately upon arriving in France? Of course, a baseball cap is far afield from what I’ve been told “Cannes attire” is. One exec friend told me her mantra is “linen by day, silk by night,” while someone else I spoke to told me “the coolest people there are just wearing jeans and a  t-shirt.” I am, obviously, prepared for both realities. Although, I will have to make do without my emotional support hat which, looking at the forecast, would’ve also served me well for other purposes, like keeping my head dry.

This is my first time at Cannes Film Festival and I’m excited. It’s the same kind of nervous excitement felt on the first day of shooting a film. There are a lot of people gathered in one place, worried about the weather, and you’re not sure yet what is to come. A lot of this job of producing is about figuring out the group dynamic before others do, staying ahead of the curve, making proactive choices. I have struggled with how to prioritize my time here, not wanting to take too many meetings for fear that an inability to be spontaneous will somehow mean I lose out on “fun stuff.” In my experience, preparation begets spontaneity, which often begets great art. How can you be prepared enough to forego all preparation? This is a question I will be answering to for the rest of my career.

I’m not here pitching any particular project on my slate. I’m here to meet people, hang out over coffee or drinks, bond over the movies we’ve seen, and hopefully stay in-touch with the people I connect with most.  After a recent trip to L.A. I felt overwhelmed by the not-so-quiet whisperings of “this market is weird” and “everyone has money but no one is spending it.” Hollywood loves vague platitudes, as well as its proximity to the beach. I hope I can avoid the former and at least see the latter while I am in Cannes. I’m also here to be inspired by the movies playing and the artists who made them. A dip in the Mediterranean once the sun comes out won’t hurt either. Being here as a Gotham Producer’s Network Fellow feels like the ultimate choose your own adventure. I don’t know exactly what mine will be yet, but I hope it will be shaped by fortuitous friendships and provocative films.  Those two things will always be my buoys of stability in this often unstable industry.

Stephanie Roush is a Brooklyn-based independent producer and filmmaker. She produced Theda Hammel’s Stress Positions, starring John Early, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival (2024) and played Closing Night of New Directors/New Films (2024). Stress Positions is being distributed by NEON and is currently playing in select theaters across the U.S.

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