The old Cannes clapper-board

May 28, 2013

Cannes, France

By Eric Gaillard

In 1987, I covered my fifth Cannes Film Festival. I really wanted to find THE original and exclusive photo to announce its opening.

“The cinema Clap” – An idea which became evidence: Take a photo of the President of the Jury holding a cinema clap. The show begins for another 12-day festival.

At that moment I could not imagine the work and the stress behind this challenge and how far I would have to fight to succeed. Anyway, it was the start of an exciting experience, that I’ve continued every year since.

Walking with the clap on the boulevard on my way to an exclusive photo shoot with the President, a real challenge!

The Cannes Film Festival is really tough but at the same time a wonderful experience. With its protocol and its secrets every year, it’s like a commando operation to obtain my famous clap picture.

A few points are crucial to finalize it. I need to be aware of the arrival time of the President. It’s even better if I can be advised of his schedule. A critical moment arises when I have to deal with security and bodyguards. It is the last minute of the operation which is really decisive when I must be very discreet and ready to shoot. Believe me, they will just give me a few seconds to immortalize the famous moment, and that’s it!

May 12, 2013: I had just arrived in Cannes for my 30th festival. The challenge this year was huge. Renowned U.S. Director Steven Spielberg was chairing the jury this year and all the photographers, reporters and television crews were hoping to see him upon his arrival. Security measures were tough and I faced a total black out. I couldn’t get any information from my contacts.

It was impossible to know when Spielberg would show up and where he would stay. Rumors suggested that he might be on a yacht offshore in the bay of Cannes. A source told me that the jury would have dinner in a Palace on the Croisette. They usually gather for the festival’s eve kick off. I finally got confirmation at very last minute and received the green light from officials. I would have Steven Spielberg available for what I hoped would make a great picture!

No time to lose, I needed to run to arrive in time and sneak discreetly into the lobby of the hotel. It was very exciting to be alone, waiting for a unique photo call as all the other photographers had no choice but to just doorstep the restaurant, without being sure of seeing anything. I always feel a bit stressed that my appointment might be cancelled.

My contact came to meet me and asked me to wait discreetly in the restaurant. Celebrity jury members arrived and I had the feeling that the President was not far away. Australian actress Nicole Kidman offered me a nice smile. It was a great privilege to be so close to such a big star without shooting a picture for once!

Finally Steven Spielberg arrived and his PR led him towards me. Now, I was surely in business. A last check of the clap to be sure that all was fine. Spielberg was really relaxed and posed perfectly with the clap. Yes, I got a great picture! He offered me 10 seconds but really behaved as a professional.

Now, I had my picture and the 66th Cannes Film Festival could begin…

While chasing this famous photo in the past, I encountered some nice surprises and some disappointments.

In 1988, the film director Ettore Escola told me that a film director could not hold a clap: No photo this time.

In 1989, I met Wim Wenders at his hotel. He was a real gentleman, relaxed, and very open. He offered me a big smile, while posing with the clap.

1991, was not my year. I rushed to Nice airport to meet Roman Polanski. Believe it or not but I was not really welcomed. Nevertheless, I tried all the possibilities to change his mind and have him accept to pose for me. I ended up sitting next to him in his car and despite not really appreciating it, he finally accepted to pose. Once again I had my picture!

In 1993, Louis Malle posed for me but it made a boring photo. He was not really convinced by the idea or motivated.

1994, was a great year. Clint Eastwood was the President. As he left to the Palace of the festival, I managed to catch him. He took the clap, gave me three seconds but threw the clap to the fans waiting for him. I had to fight hard to get it back from the crowd.

For the 50th anniversary of the festival Isabelle Adjani chaired the presidency. I was convinced that she would never pose for me… What a surprise! It worked and she offered me a good series.

In 2000, Luc Besson declined my proposal. The only chance to get something was to push and insist. I held the clap myself and he finally posed behind it!

In 2004, twenty photographers were expecting Quentin Tarentino at the airport. I needed to be very discreet to avoid having my idea stolen. I decided to wait near his car. When he sat down, he took the clap and I grabbed my picture.

I often think of abandoning the photo with the clap, when I think of the constraints, the negotiations and the time consumed.

In 2001, the Jury President Liv Ullmann found my idea of the photo with the clap quite nice, she posed and asked me to offer it to her. I hesitated and with a smile I politely refused. The excitement and the challenge that this story provides me every year at the start of the Cannes Film festival remains too strong.

Let’s wait for the next one…

One comment

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It’s a great write Eric, thanks for sharing! I just was looking for this story recently. I remembered you mentioned it previously but didn’t find it with this great detail – until now!

Posted by volgyiattila | Report as abusive