My Trip to the 2018 Nice International Filmmaker Festival

When I left Italy in 2007, after having been stationed there for three years while serving in the military, I always wondered when I’d be able to travel back to Europe and under what circumstances if afforded the opportunity to do so – perhaps a jaunt to Germany to visit friends I was stationed with once upon a time or even a Parisian honeymoon? I never thought it would actually be to attend an international film festival, where a short film I’d written and directed for a contest was going to be screened and was also nominated for three awards. In fact, I was actually away on business in Hawaii back in March when I found out that “Frankenfriend” got accepted into the  2018 Nice International Filmmaker Festival. And yes, for the record, I did get my passport expedited in spite a small hiccup where I found out that I could no longer wear my prescription eyeglasses in a U.S. passport photo. Oh, how times have changed.

Well, as you can probably imagine, I spent the next several weeks after receiving notice doing things like scrambling to make travel reservations, writing a half page article for the festival’s magazine, working with a graphic designer to create a large standing banner for my short, and also ordering a tuxedo (along with all of the accoutrements) to attend the awards dinner at the culmination of the week-long festival. Worse yet, I was going alone!!! I don’t have a great track record traveling by myself overseas, and was pretty nervous about making the solo trek across the Atlantic without a trusty companion / sidekick to help me out and provide general moral support. I may be an introvert (INFJ), but sometimes it’s good to have some company when heading into foreign territory. Luckily, I would soon meet a few friendly faces during the festival at screenings and mixers that I could chat with at length . . . so I wouldn’t exactly be by myself.

My adventure began on May 4th (May the Fourth Be With You!) when I hopped on a plane from Baltimore to New York after work, and then took a night flight from JFK to Nice, France. After landing in Nice around 10:30 a.m. local on the 5th, I ordered an Uber car and soon checked into my hotel, which was a five-minute walk to the festival hotel, and had a few hours to relax before the start of the festival’s opening mixer that evening. The next seven days to follow can only be described as a dream come true and a milestone for me as an artist and independent filmmaker . . . days filled with films, food, friendships, and fun in the heart of the French Riviera. It was also the start of the Cannes Film Festival and where preparations were underway for the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix later in the month. It was also one of the most beautiful places I’d traveled to and soon made the love-hate relationship I have with la Ville Lumière a thing of the past. Bogie and Bergman may always have Paris, but I’ll always have Nice and the rest of the Riviera to reflect back on in the backseat of my memories with great fondness . . . I’ll let the pictures speak to this sentiment.

Here are the a few pictures of the hotel I was staying at, which was the Hotel Novotel Suites Nice Aeroport Arenas. The breakfast was spectacular (especially the mini cream-filled donuts you just can’t get at Dunkin’), the staff very accommodating, and the birds in the courtyard were quite friendly.

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Now for a few pictures of the festival hotel . . . as you can see, the banners turned out really well and one I ordered for “Frankenfriend” was placed in a very excellent spot.

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The food at this hotel was exceptional and they made a pretty mean cappuccino. Coffee and wine were chief staples throughout the week – the red Côtes du Rhône a friend turned me on to was a worthy discovery. Suffice it to say, unlike some questionable culinary experiences I’d previously had during my trips to Paris, no food poisoning or GI trauma was inflicted for the duration of my stay in Nice.

The set of pictures includes a couple from the festival mixer, where I picked up my VIP badge, my awards dinner ticket, and a copy of the festival’s magazine featuring my half-page article. I also took a picture of one of the screening rooms and a few in black and white for the “Frankenfriend” screening on May 9th.

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On Wednesday, May 10th, I took a mental health day and a much needed break from watching a number of shorts, features, and documentaries, and set off on a day-long guided tour of the French Riviera thanks to the festival hotel’s outstanding tourism services. I wanted a little taste of everything, so I selected a bundle that included stops in Nice, Cannes, Atibes, Saint-Paul de Vence, Monaco – Monte Carlo, and even a visit to the Fragonard Laboratory Factory in Eze where I was able to pick up some great perfume for my girlfriend and my mother. Although it was overcast, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking and made me wish I could spend more time in these wonderful places taking in all of the sights and sounds. If you can’t tell, I didn’t have a good time . . . no, not at all!

After a couple more days of watching films, we had Saturday to ourselves to take some downtime and prepare for the festival’s award ceremony that evening. I decided to get some fresh air and took a walk along the Promenade des Anglais. What a view!

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I must confess that heading into the awards dinner, after signing with a distributor earlier in the day, I did not think “Frankenfriend” stood a ghost of a chance of winning any of the three awards it was nominated for because it was competing against a number of very good shorts (as well as features for “Best Visual Effects and Design”) that all deserved to be recognized in their respective categories. What transpired that night was probably one of the greatest moments in my life to date, right up there with my college graduation from Full Sail University in June 2014, when it was announced that “Frankenfriend” won “Best Editing of a Short Film” . . . no words can describe the feeling of that exact moment when everyone seemed to erupt in a cheering roar (myself included!) and my heart was racing in my chest as I walked up to accept the award on behalf of my wonderful editor and friend Thomas Ferguson. It was both thrilling and overwhelming, and my girlfriend called me all the way from Florida right after I texted her to congratulate me. I truly felt on top of the world . . . little did I know the tremendous surprise that would drop on me 72 hours later. But in the interim, without knowing of what was coming down the pike, I felt like I was on top of the world. A special thank you here to Steve Grossmith, the festival’s Director of Marketing and interviewer, for bequeathing me with an extra pair of his Lego cufflinks – they were my lucky charm!

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Now that the festival run for “Frankenfriend” has ended on a high note and the short is now in the hands of a distributor, I wanted to take a moment to thank my cast and crew (especially Thomas Ferguson (pictured with the award below), Dewey Tron, and Michael Conlon) for helping me making this dream possible. I would also like to thank the Nice International Filmmaker Festival staff for a remarkable experience and all of the amazing filmmakers, actors, writers, and producers I met over the course of that week – you know who you are!!! Perhaps we’ll cross paths again someday at another festival or convention. Cheers!

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