Talent, of course, goes by its own rules. Some are given protocol badges (with a blue circle) that act as backstage passes and allow holders to pick up tickets for red-carpet premieres. But the festival keeps tabs on who actually attends, MacDonald notes, so if VIPs ask for gala tickets, they’d better go. “The festival has gotten a lot better in terms of giving talent access; it’s usually no problem anymore getting people where they have to go,” says fest veteran Nikki Parker, a former PR exec with Rogers & Cowan.
Compare that to a few years back when a badgeless Faye Dunaway was seen screaming at a theater attendee who refused to let her pass. (This reporter, with his white badge, strolled right in.)
There are rumors — never confirmed — of an all-access top-level badge for the likes of Carla Bruni and Harvey Weinstein. This Willy Wonka-esque golden ticket is said to open up the most private of Cannes’ inner sanctums.
“Every year they reassess everyone, and you see people climbing up the ladder — or slipping down,” says MacDonald. Sliding down the color scale is Cannes’ ultimate disgrace. When this reporter spotted a colleague who moved from an august publication to a blog — and was downgraded from white to blue — it felt like seeing a former boss in the unemployment line.
Critics (Yellows and Blues mainly) complain that Cannes’ color coding is elitist and degrading. But most grudgingly acknowledge the necessity of a caste system for a fest that issues nearly 5,000 press badges each year. “Can you imagine the photocalls?” says Parker. “The system is strict and security can be overzealous at times. But without it, it would be chaos.