Shooting on the red carpet
By Eric Gaillard, Vincent Kessler, Jean-Paul Pelissier, Yves Herman and Christian Hartmann
Each year in May dozens of stars and photographers converge on the French Riviera at Cannes to attend what is recognized as the biggest film festival in the world. Since 1985, a Reuters Pictures team has taken part in the extravaganza.
This year, a team of five photographers from France, Switzerland and Belgium set up their headquarters in the basement of the Festival Palace on the eve of the 63th Cannes Film Festival. With the help of Paris-based editorial technicians Gilles and Sylvain, the 15 square meters cell was quickly transformed into an editing center as well as a stock room for equipment and a changing room to put on tuxedos.
As soon as the office was ready, photographers cruised the Croisette (a prominent boulevard in Cannes) looking for illustrative pictures for the upcoming Festival. Eric Gaillard, a festival veteran with 27 appearances to his credit, started to prepare his traditional and famous photo of the Jury President posing with a cinema clapper. This year, Tim Burton kindly accepted to pose for Eric on the balcony of his suite at the Carlton hotel. The picture was widely used by newspapers and internet sites.
Photocalls, news conferences, red carpet arrivalsâ€¦. Each day is the same routine program in which we try to propose different picture ideas and find new angles. On some occasions this year one of us took up a position on a stepladder among the public and amateur snappers. It goes without saying that it wasn’t easy to be accepted at this spot as some of them get into position hours or even days before the start of the festival. On May 15, a picture of French actor Alain Delon and actress Claudia Cardinale taken from this uncomfortable position was used on the front page of the French Daily newspaper Le Figaro.
Remote cameras are also used trying to find different angles and unusual pictures. Minutes before the start of the red carpet arrivals, a camera and its 14 or 15mm fisheye lens is put into position. Two years ago as Jack Black and Angelina Jolie were joking on the red carpet one of these cameras took an unusual picture.
Twenty years ago, we shot on film, developed and printed at the Festival Palace. Some 20 pictures were transmitted on a big day. Today, with digital cameras and top technology some 150 to 200 pictures are sent each day to our clients. The latest development is the use of wireless transmitters on cameras combined with personal wi-fi routers using 3G technology, not bigger than a packet of cigarettes. This system allows photographers stuck on the red carpet, away from the Festival Palace or even away from Cannes to send pictures to be edited and sent to clients by the photographer in charge of the editing process at that time.
While some red carpet arrivals attract hundreds of photographers, other less glamorous ones such as a Thai film at 10pm will attract only the most dedicated. A Reuters team is always among them. Now, we must begin to get our tuxedos ready for next year.