When three Spelman students were accepted into The Creative Minds program at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France, they had no idea of the impact the experience would have on both their professional and personal lives.  The annual program offers film students from across the world opportunities to participate in internships with film companies, produce short films, and network with industry professionals.  Attending workshops and screenings and hobnobbing with international celebrities on the French Riveria made this particular professional development opportunity even more fabulous.

How did you participate in the Cannes Film Fest?

Hope Harris, C’2012: As an executive board member of the new Morehouse Filmmakers Association, I helped in bringing a representative from the program to speak to young filmmakers in the Atlanta University Center about the program. I was very fortunate to have had a short film ‘Saved’ in the festival last year, but unfortunately was unable to attend.

When I received word that I had been accepted this year, I worked very hard to submit proposals, and had many meetings to get funding help from Spelman. The day before the program fees were due, I got a phone call from the provost’s office saying they would be funding my whole trip. That was when the real excitement hit!

Why did you want to attend the Festival?

Raynette Palmer, C’2012: I wanted to attend the festival because it was something outside of anything I had ever done. I had never left the country and I had never attended a film festival before. About a month before I applied, I wrote and directed my first short film, ‘Forever with You,’ as a part of Campus Movie Fest, so I was already moving toward the path that I wanted to be on.

What was your reaction when you found out you’d be attending the Festival?

Zuri Adele Ray-Alladice, C’2012: When I got accepted to the Creative Minds program, I was beyond excited. The thought of attending the world’s most prestigious film festival, whose guests include Robert De Niro, Brad Pitt and Lee Daniels, told me that my dreams were transitioning from foresight to fruition.

What was your experience at Cannes?

Zuri: I am still trying to piece together the blur of my experience! It was incredible. We were going, going, going! Raynette Palmer, Hope Harris and I stuck together and attended film screenings, networking parties, workshops, and pitch meetings. We walked the red carpet, met top filmmakers and producers, saw some future Oscar award-winning films, and had the time of our lives.

What was the most beneficial aspect of the trip?

Hope: The relationships that I built with such strong heavy hitters in the industry still shock me. As I continue to keep in touch daily with these actors, producers, directors, and investors, I realize that these are the people I will be working with for the rest of my life.

Zuri: The most beneficial aspect of the trip was meeting two newly found mentors from Blairwood Entertainment and NBC Universal the first night of the festival. They immediately took us under their wings, giving us tickets to various screenings and access to the private film market, where we were able to set up meetings with international filmmakers, screenwriters, and producers.  I look forward to the day when I have more power in the film industry and can meet students in Cannes who I will take under my wing. There is no way that I would have gotten where I am now without the help of others.

Raynette: Traveling abroad gave me exposure to different cultures. Zuri and Hope were also there to dress, hug, support, and laugh with me every day as I found what it means to truly get up, out, and follow a dream. The Spelman sisterhood grew stronger, once we traveled abroad.

What surprised you most about the film festival?

Raynette: The lack of diversity within the festival. Most people who attended were French or popular American movie stars, few of whom are minorities. I would love to see more students from Spelman and the Atlanta University Center attend the festival, and even those who are minorities in the Atlanta film scene attend. It is important for diversity to thrive within the film industry to allow equal opportunities for diversity in films shown in movie theaters in America.

Zuri: I was surprised by how much more professionally prepared we were, in comparison to other students. We had business cards, websites, comp cards, evening gowns, business attire, and professional e-mail addresses. We spoke to industry professionals in a way that would identify us as their professional equals, rather than students or groupies. It was very clear that Spelman prepared us to carry ourselves in a way that allows us to stand out as professional, approachable women who are serious about their careers, rather than attending the film festival to take pictures with the stars.

How will your participation in the program assist you in your career goals?

Hope: The festival has been very motivating and inspires me to keep fine tuning my craft to create a skill set that cannot be denied.

Zuri: Attending various workshops and being surrounded by film professionals and scholars allowed me to strengthen my knowledge-base about the business side of the film industry and further motivated me to pursue my career goals. — Joyce E. Davis is the editor of Inside Spelman and associate director of Publications for the Office of Communications.