Chapter 26: Yes, We Cannes!

Greetings from Tromaville! Here is Chapter 26 of my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER. This chapter talks about the residual value of trade shows and conferences, the Cannes Film Festival, and Market, and the only time I ever was in a fist fight (thanks to Toxie!)

If you haven’t done so already, you can read the Foreword by Troma co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, and the Introduction to the book as well as Chapter 12345 and 67 ,8910111213141516, 1718192021222324 and 25. You can also see me read a few chapters live, along with Lloyd and Toxie, at Florida Supercon as well as a few chapters I read on Facebook Live. Stay tuned for additional chapters to be published here. If you like what you read and can’t wait for more, please don’t be shy. You can buy the book now on Amazon (and also please don’t be shy about sharing, and reviewing the book when you do read it.) Both Toxie and I greatly appreciate your support! – Jeff Sass

Chapter 26: Yes, We Cannes!

2017 marked the seventieth anniversary of the Cannes International Film Festival. This means Troma has been around for more than half of the illustrious festival’s existence. What most filmgoers don’t realize is that behind the glitz and glamor of the stars and awards, the juries and red carpets, the yachts and parties, there is a vibrant film market going on along the Promenade de la Croisette. Behind the closed doors of suites at the Carlton, the Martinez, and countless other locations along the lovely French Mediterranean backdrop are hundreds of hustlers hawking their films to buyers from all over the globe. Hollywood goes to Cannes to celebrate, Tromaville goes to Cannes to sell!

There are so many stories I have and lessons learned from Cannes that it could be a separate book in its own right. The only time I have ever been in a fist fight in my life was in Cannes, where I was ultimately banned from a restaurant I’d been frequenting for years (starting in my Satori days). A simple, poorly placed Toxie sticker caused a chair-throwing, table-tumbling, all-out brawl. But I digress. I’ll tell you the Toxie sticker story another time.

Attending the Cannes Film Market (not the Festival) is intense hard work, made even harder by the realization you are indoors, pitching your celluloid dreams, while outside you are situated in one of the most beautiful places in the world, surrounded by some of the most famous and wealthy people in the world, and representatives of every and any company that means anything in the entertainment world. It is truly heady stuff, and then there you are, hondling over the minimum guarantee for theatrical rights to Big Gus, What’s the Fuss? in Indonesia. That’s show business.

Attending the Cannes Film Festival each year was a very costly endeavor for the Troma Team. Flying four or more Tromites to France was just part of it. Hotels, food, an office suite at one of the main hotels such as the Carlton, all added up to a huge expense for a small, self-made and self-financed entity. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars for a two-week stay, and while the goal is sales, oftentimes the hard results that could be specifically attributed to our attendance at Cannes were quite elusive.

Until one year.

We were set up at the Carlton Hotel, the most expensive, but also most impressive and convenient, place for one to hold court during Cannes. It helped that nobody really understood Troma’s business and all were dazzled simply to see this lowly, low-budget outfit offering their wares in the Carlton, alongside the “real” players in international film sales. Of course, in Cannes showmanship is king, and just about anything goes, so it was a perfect venue for the Troma style of guerrilla marketing. Every morning before dawn we blanketed every car parked along the Croisette with flyers for the latest Troma releases. During the day, scantily clad actresses (Tromettes) and costumed creatures (Toxie, Kabukiman, and more) would stroll along the French Riviera along with the Hollywood stars, posing for the press and paparazzi and generally causing a ruckus.

We put on a great show and fought tooth and nail for every foreign market advance we could get—typically we were thrilled to get our hands on checks ranging from $500 to a few thousand bucks, praying they would actually be good when we deposited them back in New York. One year a quiet man, conservatively dressed in a tailored summer suit, came wandering into the Troma suite at the Carlton. We assumed he was lost and looking for some other company. He looked far too normal to have intentionally sought out the Troma team. He soon made it clear that indeed he was in the right place.

“I would like to buy a large package of Troma movies for my territory,” he stated.

“What’s large?” we wondered.

He went on to put together one of the biggest deals, hundreds of thousands of dollars, that we had ever made in a single sitting. A seriously big deal for the likes of Troma. And we didn’t have to sell him. He knew what he wanted, and he wanted it all.

After the agreement was prepared and signed on the spot, and a deposit check was paid, and Lloyd had picked up his jaw from the floor, we asked the gentleman why he was spending so much money on Troma movies? With barely a pause he replied.

“I have been coming to the Cannes Festival for years, and every year I see you guys working it hard and promoting your films. You are always back, reliably, year after year. I have always admired how you promote your brand, but I was never ready to buy any Troma movies for my territory. Now I am ready. I know you are real, and I know you will support your films, because I see you here, doing it year after year.”

We shook hands with our new friend and customer, and it was the start of a long and fruitful relationship. It was also a lesson about trade shows and conferences that I have never forgotten.

In most cases, it is very hard to see direct results from attending a trade show or conference that covers the cost of being at the event. On the other hand, if you return to a show, year after year, there is a residual value to being there that doesn’t go unnoticed by your customers. If you can be patient, that residual value can pay off years later, and big enough to make all the earlier “dry” years worthwhile. Yes, you Cannes!

•••

That’s Chapter 26  –  How do you approach trade shows for your business? Do you try a show once and give up, or are you slowly building that residual value, year after year? Something to think about… Stay tuned for Chapter 27: “Putting Out Fires (Literally)” in which we discuss dealing with “Celebrities” and my heated encounter with legendary producer, Samuel Z. Arkoff (R.I.P.).

The book in previous posts:

Foreword, by Lloyd Kaufman
Introduction: Lights, Camera, Action!
Chapter 1: Welcome to Tromaville!
Chapter 2: The Troma Building
Chapter 3: Meet the Moguls
Chapter 4: Trailer Trash
Chapters 5 and 6: Working FREE-lance & Becoming a Full-time Tromite
Chapter 7: Branding Begins on the Ground Floor
Chapter 8: The Power of We
Chapter 9: Old Yeller (and Be Your Brand)
Chapter 10: Find Something to Believe In
Chapter 11: Show Up!
Chapter 12: Sink or Swim!
Chapter 13: Embrace your Vision and Culture!
Chapter 14: Strategic Partners – Burn Houses, Not Bridges
Chapter 15: If You Don’t Want to Swallow a Frog, Start with a Stunt
Chapter 16: Repurpose, On Purpose!
Chapter 17: Always Salute the Schwag!
Chapter 18: Playing by the Rules
Chapter 19: Fix it, or Forget it… Fast!
Chapter 20: This Means WAR!
Chapter 21: Delegate or Die!
Chapter 22: Location, Location, Location
Chapter 23: Everyone is Expendable (Especially if you Wear a Mask!)
Chapter 24: Be Open to the Unexpected
Chapter 25: Influencing the Influencers

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