Wheeling and dealing for Cannes' red carpet

CANNES: Even ordinary people get to walk up Cannes' fabled red carpet and rub shoulders with the stars at the world's top film festival. But it takes luck and a lot of perseverance.

The same scene replays each day outside the festival building ahead of the screenings of top world movies -- crowds of young and old, many decked out in evening finery, wave home-made posters saying "Invitation please!"

They are hustling for tickets to the festival movies, a privilege restricted to the 4,000 accredited press and some of the thousands of film industry people who descend on the Riviera city each year.

"It looks a bit crazy but it works, sometimes," said a young French woman in Cannes with fellow students from America's Penn university.

She said she had managed to see all the films screened in competition to date thanks to her hand-held poster.

The vast majority of the black-tie set who make it up the red carpet and into the 2,400-seater "Lumiere" theatre each night are stars, producers, people on the crew of the movie showing, or VIPs.

That means the only alternative is to buy, beg or steal an invitation from someone else.

French media studies student Benjamin Moisy has his own successful strategy. "I try to home in on people wearing red badges because I know they're from the film industry and are most likely to have extra invites. I also try to put a joke on my poster to draw their attention."

Another young woman said many of the industry people were automatically given two invites per person but came alone. "They look around for someone they might like to sit next to," she said.

Some of the fans working the pavement for the select tickets wear sought-after white film-lover badges that the city of Cannes gives for free to film clubs around the world, as well as to local residents.

"Cannes doesn't want to shut out its residents from a festival first and foremost reserved to industry professionals," said deputy mayor David Lisnard.

As a result, it has launched a number of initiatives to bring film to the people, including screenings on the beach and in cinemas across town.

"Rather than handing out invites only to friends, the town holds a raffle of 1,500 tickets for the official screenings," Lisnard added.

But that enables only 30 local residents to walk up the carpeted steps each night.

And this year, the battle for extra invites hotted up when organisers clamped down on the number available for the 4,000 white-badge-wearing film-club members.

As a result, there's a scramble for the remaining places available, and it pays to be imaginative.

An 18-year-old hoping to see horror thriller "Antichrist" by Lars Von Trier drew a skull on the poster he is waving around. "An invite against two cigarettes," he said to passers-by.

But when the doors closed and the lights went off an hour later, he was left standing outside.