For me perhaps the most interesting thing about the Cannes Film Festival each May is figuring out which critics have flown in and secured accommodations on their own coin and whose outlets are footing the bill. Which freelancers are making this their annual vacation (a “working vacation,” I guess), and who’s actually breaking even or turning a profit.
“Business travel” is a funny phrase when the business in question is the production of arts criticism; it’s hard to imagine any legitimate cost-benefit analysis concluding that it makes sound financial sense for a place like The L—or even the Times, which has a large readership to sustain an interest in most things, and historical responsibility written into its prospectus—to fly a salaried employee to the South of France to write about subtitled movies for two weeks.
I would caution against assuming this means that critics who whinge about the media industry’s declining investment in the profession are simply peeved that their meal ticket is slowly being taken away, however. An alternative conclusion, if you’re one of the relatively few people who care about what all these freeloaders are writing, and writing about, from the Mediterranean coastline, might be: that for all the weight we place on the value of the open market, effectively allowing it to dictate a preponderance of our choices as individuals and as a society, requiring that it pay for itself is an ultimately unfair and myopic measurement of a work’s worth, at least as unfair and inaccurate as the uniquely American assumption that enjoyable work is inherently less valuable than miserable, trudging grind.