Inside view: Judging Cannes Lions Film

by Alistair King, Chief Creative Officer, King James Group (@alsparkles) The last time I judged Cannes Lions Film I swore never to do it again. I found the process political and argumentative, and many of the jury members devious and full of agendas. I found letters in my room from production houses telling me what work to look out for and hardcover books, elegantly printed by holding companies, showcasing their finest work. Party invites inevitably came with a 5 minute sales pitch on which ads they had entered. All in all I found the whole thing sickening and desperate and so I decided to approach this Cannes with a sense of calm and humour. As it turned out my pre-judging-self-pep-talk proved to be unnecessary. Apart from an early effort to establish alpha dog supremacy in the room, (which Sir John Hegarty won convincingly) the entire process was smooth, friendly and massively constructive.

After 4 days of hearing people motivating for work they admire, you do start to see patterns that mostly fall on nationalistic lines, but generally speaking this year’s panel was wonderfully neutral, with few signs of the block voting and favour trading that typified my previous experience. This time I left having made a few good friends and feeling that the best work won.

By its very nature, the award process is flawed. There are 3500 commercials and films to view over the first 3 days and one can fully expect the opinion of 22 jury members to differ vastly from that of a different set of 22. With so many films to view, many of which are between 30 and 90 minutes in length, judges are initially split into 3 groups to filter out what will eventually become the long shortlist. I have a feeling judges are put into filter panels that minimize the chances of them judging their own country or agency group’s work as I saw very little South African work in my slots, and very little again when I eventually got to view the long shortlist. Much of what I considered to be the best South African work was eliminated at those early stages. It is brutal to say the least. Just like that, your 640Euro entry is gone at the press of an iPad screen. After 3 full days of judging, the jury was put together for the first time to view, in one 14 hour sitting, all 385 films that had made it through. Of these a further 100 would be culled leaving you with what is commonly known as ‘The Shortlist’.

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