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Joanne Butcher: Key Takeaways from Tribeca 2019


If you are a filmmaker and can get to the Tribeca Film Festival, I highly recommend that you go.

Why?  Because this is a great film festival for filmmakers, and if you wait to go until you have a film accepted there, you will find yourself wasting time just getting your bearings.

It’s common for filmmakers to tell me: “I’m not going to Sundance, Tribeca or some other film festival, until I have a film accepted there.”  What this doesn’t take into consideration, however, is that attending the Festival is a great way to network - and filmmaking is all about relationships - and a great way to learn your way around what is on offer.

The Festival describes itself as having been “Founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in 2001, following the attacks on the World Trade Center, Tribeca has evolved from an annual event to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan to a gathering place for filmmakers, artists, innovators, and the global creative community.”

In fact, in 2001, I was there.  As the Executive Director of IFP/Miami, every year, I attended IFP Week in New York towards the end of September.  The 5 of us IFP E.D.s met there each year as we worked on our plans to create and develop www.ifp.org to provide services to filmmakers anywhere in the world.  As everyone was still in shock over the 9/11 attack in 2001, our first conference call afterwards was to discuss what we thought would be the cancellation of the event.  But as we talked, we decided that we were going to move forward. It was a scary decision. Many people were not flying anywhere at the time, and especially not to New York.  But almost immediately, Robert de Niro and Martin Scorsese said they would attend our event. To this day I will never forget being at the gala event that year, only 2 weeks after 9/11, in the actual piers where the morgue was supposed to have been until it turned out there were no bodies after the attack, and listening to de Niro and Scorsese talking about doing everything they could to bring New York back to life.

And so we have, the Tribeca Film Festival.

Wherever you are, you can download the app and look at all the offerings available. The app is labeled The Festival Survival Guide, and I’d have to agree that that is the appropriate name.  This Festival is huge with more than 20 movies playing at any given time. There are multiple venues throughout the East Village and it’s common to travel 30 minutes or so between venues. There is no printed program, and hasn’t been for 3 years, so the app is the only way to go.  However, if you do want a full printed program, then you can buy an industry badge for either $400 or $600. (Filmmakers often think that it costs hundreds of dollars to attend an elite Festival, but usually it doesn’t. Tribeca has donor packages up to $25,000! But for the average Joe, you just buy tickets for each movie.  At Tribeca, tickets cost $12 to movies, although I paid $24 for a weekend screening which was priced higher. There were some special events that cost $40. If you want to attend the parties and so on, you will need a badge of some kind. These are the higher price items, but not necessary.)

My particular interest is what is available for filmmakers - whether they have a film in the festival or not - and how they are treated when they do.  

At Tribeca, a short film that is accepted into the Festival is one of about 60 films chosen from more than 5,000 shorts.  Over 9,000 films in total are submitted to the Festival and 103 feature films from 124 filmmakers are selected.  As you can imagine, that is a lot of viewing and selecting! There is a team of programmers who work year round watching films.

Every film festival is different, and it’s good to know the differences.  For a short filmmaker who gets a film into Sundance, for example, the Festival flies you out and provides accommodation and meals.  This is not the case at Tribeca, nor at most Festivals. However, as soon as you are informed that your film has been selected, you are assigned a publicist.  This is an incredible perk that I have never heard of at any other film festival and may be the best of all!

The films in competition will compete for cash prizes totaling $165,000.  For comparison, the Miami International Film Festival offers $115,000 in cash prizes.  Of course to win $5000, $10,000 or $40,000 prizes, your film not only has to be good enough to get into the Festival, but then to be the best of the best of the best!



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