PARIS — At the Cannes Film Festival, what happens behind the scenes is as important as the action on the red carpet – and for 20 years, a woman has been the chief organizer for turnover, commerce and the A-party. industry listers.
Albane Cleret’s Terrasse by Albane lounge on the rooftop of the JW Marriott hotel has become an institution, hosting daytime press junkets and industry luncheons and glamorous parties hosted by major film studios or luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Dior, by night.
Meanwhile, Cleret has weathered her share of challenges, from the 2008 financial crisis, which nearly closed her agency, Albane Communication, to the coronavirus pandemic, which forced her to cut her team in half.
Now operating with just three full-time staff, she is nonetheless pushing ahead with plans to build her temporary €1.1million club in the sky, which this year will also host a special 20th anniversary party.
“I am proud to have managed to hold on for 20 years, starting from scratch. Looking back, I have to admit that I’m a bit surprised by this success,” Cleret told WWD in an interview at the bar of the La Réserve hotel in Paris.
“On the other hand, I feel the same stress, the same anxiety every year at this time, when I wonder if I will be able to make my budget, because I still lack 200,000 euros one month from the end. before the festival,” she said.
Indeed, Cleret’s attention span is tested by a flurry of text messages, emails and phone calls. She talks about names like David Cronenberg, who will be competing for the Palme d’Or with his latest feature, “Crimes of the Future,” in rat-a-tat conversations reminiscent of the Netflix series “Call My Agent.” ”
As well as jockeying for the film’s hottest after parties, she represents a roster of French actors including Benoît Magimel, Hafsia Herzi, Céline Sallette and Isabelle Adjani. The latter will star in “Mascarade,” a riff on the scam comedy genre filmed in nearby Nice, which is screened out of competition at Cannes.
A self-taught woman, Cleret clearly drives a tough business. “I started working when I was 16. That’s crazy. I’ve had 1,000 lives, 20 different jobs. I was salesman, receptionist. I do gift wrap for stores, I worked in fashion for years. I made jewelry with my own hands, working with welders, with glassblowers,” she recalls.
In the weeks leading up to the Cannes Film Festival, which runs from Tuesday to May 28, she was negotiating with contractors – and finding that inflation had made a complex project even harder to pull off.
“Since the pandemic, the price of wood has increased enormously. Raw materials are scarce and difficult to find in several sectors,” she said, noting that production costs have increased by at least 5% since 2019.
“We have to find funding for this pharaonic structure, which is stressful, but also pleasant, no one is forcing me to do so. But once you’ve created the framework, the cake has to rise, so you need the content, and the content is having the best movies or beautiful fashion dinners. It’s about doing my job as an event organizer, with my French signature,” she said.
Cleret prides herself on her attention to detail, which has earned her the trust of clients such as Chanel, L’Oréal, Pathé and Vanity Fair, among others.
“I work with the florists well in advance to create the best harmony. It’s about testing the food so that the chef and the menu are on the same page. Everywhere you look should be pleasing to the eye. The guest list should be a mix of young and old, of different generations and styles,” she described.
Its venue overlooking Boulevard de la Croisette has gone through different incarnations, starting with Le Jimmy’z and known as Heaven’s Floor by Albane and Club Costes by Albane – although one thing that has been constant is the strict policy of doors. Above all, she wants her VIP guests to feel at home.
“They tell me they feel protected. This word comes up often. And I think I’ve never forgotten where I come from, this little village in Picardy, and that I’m very lucky to be able to work in film and fashion,” she said. “And I think because I have a certain humility, my events are not pretentious, but always enjoyable.”
Asked to cite some highlights of the past 20 years, Cleret is an accomplished diplomat. “There are a lot of them and I can’t name them, because in fact there are highlights for each festival,” she hesitated.
But she conceded that one of her proudest accomplishments was the after party for 600 people she hosted with Sony International for Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood’ in 2019, which drew The film stars Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, as well as Timothée Chalamet, Marion Cotillard and Adrien Brody.
Cleret clung to the thank you email the studio sent her afterwards. “Sometimes I watch it when I’m feeling down,” she said.
Don’t call her the queen of nightlife. “I’m more of a day person,” she insisted. “Nightlife doesn’t interest me, because it’s not in my DNA. What happens at night is extra. What really interests me is seeing film crews at work and organizing business lunches where I can also do some work.
Right now, she is focused on rebuilding her business, which came to a halt during the pandemic as her three core businesses – public relations, event planning and talent management – were severely impacted. .
Cleret has survived on state-guaranteed loans, which she is struggling to repay, but her turnover has fallen from the 3.7 million euros she recorded in 2019. She does not won’t divulge last year’s numbers, which she calls “indecent”, despite a busy second half of the year.
“It’s unreal. You wonder, how did it come to this? And you have to roll up your sleeves and question yourself and have the courage to start again after these two years, which have also been extremely hard psychologically for everyone, ”she said. “It’s difficult to get back into the race. You can’t pretend nothing happened.
Still, it’s hard to imagine Cleret throwing in the towel, even though she hinted that she might be ready for a change of venue. Transporting materials to her rooftop perch requires three cranes and a permit from the city authorities, not to mention the 200,000 euros in rent she pays for the space.
“I think sometimes you need to change your habit,” she said. “It’s something I think about. I’ll see.” Whether she’s bluffing or really ready to pull the plug, Cleret will no doubt continue to attract audiences wherever she sets up her venue. “After 20 years, my name has become a brand,” said she said proudly.
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