The film festival is an important networking event in the life of a movie professional, and France’s annual Cannes Film Festival, or Festival de Cannes, offers some of the best exposure in the industry. The festival, first established in 1946, hosts film competitions in many genres and features the Marché de Film, a film industry networking venue that brings together directors, actors, producers and other industry professionals. Students of traditional film schools and even online schools are taking any opportunity they can get to attend these important industry events.

Though many students will not be able to submit and compete, industry events are hugely beneficial for those looking to make their debut. The film industry, like most others, is fueled by networks and inside tips to where the best auditions are held and who does the best audio-engineering. Meeting someone in a setting like this could be the difference between waiting tables and making movies for many students.

A strong performance at Cannes, or even just a particularly memorable interaction with the press, can be enough to spur some huge industry buzz. Part of the coverage by the Los Angeles Times on the most recent Cannes Film Festival in May 2012 featured Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, a lead in the recent Jacques Audiard film Rust & Bone. The film is the actor’s first that will be released in the United States, as the film will be distributed by Sony Movie Classics.

“Last week, they called me to star in Rambo 34,” Schoenaerts said to the Times reviewer. “I told them I wouldn’t do it unless I could get 35 and 36 as well.” Along with a good sense of wit, the review cited a strong performance in Rust & Bone and his strong English-speaking ability as signs that Schoenaerts star may be quickly on the rise.

Wes Anderson movies are often a crowd favorite because of their quirky sensibilities and aesthetic. The most recent Cannes Film Festival saw a screening of the latest Anderson release, Moonrise Kingdom. Bill Murray, one of the film’s stars, attended the festival and told the Boston Herald about his working relationship with Anderson. “I don’t really get any other work outside of Wes. I just sit by the phone,” Murray said. “The making of these films is just a fun adventure. It’s an honor to be asked back.” Murray has appeared in every single Wes Anderson film since 1998’s Rushmore.

In the movie industry, networking with other successful professionals is so important and it takes time. When a young director or actor is just starting out, he needs to work incredibly hard to receive notoriety from more entrenched professionals who may have extra work. Often, it’s toughest to pay for the time and travel to get to film festivals like Cannes when a career needs that exposure the most.

Many film students find it difficult to attend the Cannes Film Festival and its world-class educational programs, even when selected to attend by the festival. Noah Petrie, a student at the Burlington College Film School, was selected to attend the festival’s “Creative Mind in Cannes” program. This year, the program included workshops hosted by Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. “This is a huge opportunity for my film career and has been a dream of mine ever since I discovered my love for film back in high school,” Petrie said. Petrie began an online donation campaign in order to raise the $3,000 needed to cover attendance costs.

Networking is crucial in the entertainment world. To be successful, many have to scratch and claw their way to festivals like Cannes for years. Otherwise, film students are depriving themselves of some of the most important career fairs in their industry.