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Diplomacy in Action

A Preview of Tribeca Film Festival 2018

John Murphy, Deputy Communications Director for the Tribeca Film Festival; Marlea Willis, Press Department Manager; Cara Cusumano, Director of Programming; Frederic Boyer; Artistic Director; Loren Hammonds, Programmer for Film and Immersive Programming; and Liza Domnitz, Programmer for Film, TV, and Now
New York Foreign Press Center
New York City
April 16, 2018

MODERATOR: All right. Good morning, folks. Thank you for braving the inclement weather to be here today. We really appreciate it and thank you for waiting and accommodating the late start, but we’re really delighted to have a group of programming and artistic staff from the Tribeca Film Festival 2018 here to talk about the festival and to talk about the many American and international film premieres, events, and programs that will be taking place this year.

We have Cara Cusumano, director of programming with us today; as well as Frederic Boyer, artistic director; Loren Hammonds will be joining us shortly but Loren is programmer for film and Immersive programming; and then we have Liza Domnitz, programmer for film, TV, and NOW – I think I pronounced your name correctly.

And with that, I will – oh, we also have with us today John Murphy and Marlea Willis, who are with the communications team, and we’ll turn it over to the group for an overview and then open for your questions. A reminder that this is on the record. A transcript of the engagement will be made available shortly after it concludes and it’s being livestreamed right now.

All right. With that, I turn it over to you.

MR MURPHY: Great. I’m John Murphy. I’m the deputy communications director at Tribeca. So I was just going to give you a quick overview of some facts and figures about the festival and then Marlea’s going to talk a little bit about the international films that we have at the festival and then our team here is going to talk about the programming and a little bit more background for Tribeca.

But just to give you a little background, our first festival was in 2002. We had 1,300 submissions and from those submissions, there were 116 films programmed in the festival and 36 short films. So that number has increased proportionately over the years. In 2015, we had 6,223 submissions and 101 films in the program and 60 short films. This year, in 2018, there were 8,791 submissions, so these folks split up all those movies amongst all of them, and we programmed 99 feature films, 55 short films. There were 35 Immersive programs; that’s our virtual reality and AR program that is in the festival. There are 21 television projects – Tribeca television projects in the festival, 12 new online works, which are the digital online projects that are in the festival, and we’ve also got 20 talks in the festival – professional talks and master classes.

So the festival – the submissions have increased quite a bit and we – the program has expanded into a couple of different areas with film as kind of the backbone of the festival, I would say, with television and Immersive and shorts and new online works expanding into – the festival’s been expanding into that – those platforms as well.

So that’s kind of an overview of some of the statistics. Now, Marlea is going to talk a little bit about the films that we have in the festival from – on the international side.

MS WILLIS: I know this year we have – we basically are featuring – and Cara will get into this more – 30 feature films, total 30 – from 30 different countries. Some of the countries that made top ones are from Chile, Canada, also Sweden, we have Germany, Greece, we have one from Israel, we have one from Italy, the UK tops it out with 12.

From our short films, we have – they’re from 22 countries. We have them – the main top ones are Ireland and also the UK. We also have South Korea, Singapore, Norway, Austria. For our Immersive program, VR program, that – 16 countries are represented and we have ones – majority are from France. We also have entrants from Greenland, The Netherlands, Somalia, South Korea. And as far as our TV totals, we have five countries: Australia, France, Israel, and the UK. The U.S. is the fifth one. And for the Tribeca NOW program, which is the new online works, we have – four countries are represented, the – Japan, the UK, Vietnam, and the USA.

So at this point, we’re going to turn it over to Cara Cusumano, who’s our director of programming for the festival, and she’ll take you through the – our films.

MS CUSUMANO: Great. Hi, everybody. Thank you for coming. So the festival kicks off this Wednesday. It will run the 18th to the 29th. This is our seventeenth year. We were founded in 2002 after the attacks of 9/11 as a way to bring community back to downtown New York, and as that mission has grown and evolved, the festival has grown and evolved as well. But we really consider community to be at the core of what we do in bringing people together around film and around storytelling.

So John and Marlea touched a little on what our kind of tent poles are. The concept of the program really is about storytelling, visual storytelling as a whole, and so film always is the bedrock of this but we have grown to be inclusive of television, of digital series, of virtual reality and augmented reality, as well as some sort of retrospective of events, kind of looking back on the history of film even as we look forward to new technologies and boundary-pushing innovations.

We did get almost 9,000 total submissions this year and we’re showing under 100 features, which makes, I think, a – 2 percent acceptance rates. And we’re actually one of the smaller international festivals considering what – the actual number of features that we show. But this is, of course, supplemented by a lot of our other programming in different fields.

Another big, exciting occasion we’re – that we noted this year: 46 percent of our feature films are directed by women. So to achieve sort of a near-gender parity in the feature film program was something that we felt was really exciting and important and noteworthy. Also, almost half the program is first-time directors and it’s a pretty even split in the program between documentary films and narrative films, international films and U.S. films.

So that’s kind of the broadest overview to give you a sense of some of our tent pole events. We’re opening this year on Wednesday with a documentary called Love, Gilda that’s about Gilda Radner, by a first-time female director. And it really set the tone in a nice way for what the whole festival’s going to be about – really emphasizing new voices, the strong representation of women’s voices both behind the camera and in front of the camera with the amazing character of Gilda herself.

Our – closing with a film called The Fourth Estate, which is by Liz Garbus, the Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker, and she made this four-part series, of which we’ll be showing the first part, that looks at the New York Times in the first year of the Trump presidency. And she was immersed with those writers over the last year and will be debuting the first piece of that four-part series as closing night.

We also have a number of retrospectives. We’re going to be doing the 35th anniversary of Scarface with Brian De Palma, Al Pacino, and Michelle Pfeiffer in conversation and the 25th anniversary of Schindler’s List with Steven Spielberg.

I’d also mention a few for our live music events and live programming. We always like to sort of supplement films whenever possible with something that kind of jumps off the screen. It’s very much in keeping with our philosophy of storytelling as participatory and community-based and boundary-pushing, so we have live music performances from Patti Smith, from Robert Glasper. We’re doing an homage to Broadway-style musicals – that will be a live performance after the film Bathtubs Over Broadway, so I would definitely look out for some of these music events and conversations.

Our directors series is always noteworthy. We have Alexander Payne, Laura Poitras, Jason Reitman, a number of other major filmmakers participating in that and our storytellers series.

So those are kind of some of our biggest tentpole events and a little bit of the philosophy and backstory behind the festival, and I think Frederic is going to talk a little more specifically about the international films in our international competition.

MR BOYER: Yes. I mean, we have an international program of 12 film, but since many years I see most of the festival, but the internationals are infusing the festival. The best example is Nico, 1998. Is directed by (inaudible) woman. It’s a biopic of a German singer which was the singer of the Velvet Underground, and this singer is played by the wonderful Danish actress.

And we have also a French film – who made an American film, Blue Night – a French filmmaker and a Israeli filmmaker who made an American film, so – and we have a lot of international topic part of our competition, like a film about the poachers in Africa, Nigerian Prince, which maybe they are not in the list. And for – maybe you going to have some question, but we like to mix discovery. Sometime it’s a question of territory, because viewers of film might think we – it’s very interesting. It’s very rare, a film from Cyprus which is in the competition. And when we see a wonderful film which is an horror film from Austria, immediately we want to select it to have a – so international is not international competition. We have international everywhere, from Australia, from so many country and co-production and actors, so yeah.

MS CUSUMANO: Other specific films you guys want to mention?

MR BOYER: Yes --

MR HAMMONDS: I’d like to mention Night Eats the World.


MR HAMMONDS: That’s a – I’m a fan of that one for sure. So Night Eats the World is a French zombie film. I’d say it’s an elevated zombie film. Nearly dialogue-free, really stylishly directed, with a pretty amazing cameo – or maybe glorified cameo – from Denis Lavant as well, so I think that’s one to watch out for.

MS DOMNITZ: Yeah, and I’d also call out Tanzania Transit, which is a documentary about a train ride in Tanzania – from Kenya to Tanzania, I believe – and it is about four different subjects that the filmmaker concentrates on, including a Maasai warrior and his grandson, a preacher that’s sort of stalking the aisles in the train looking for new converts, and it’s just a very beautifully photographed, very immersive experience being on the train with all of these people. You get a really good taste of East African culture.

MS CUSUMANO: A couple other in the international competition: The Party’s Just Beginning is a really special film from Scotland. It’s directed by Karen Gillan, who plays Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy and was in Jumanji and is very – and Doctor Who, so very well known as an actress, and here she’s making her first feature as director, which she wrote, directed, and stars in, and it’s a really intimate story of her hometown in Scotland, which is sort of an economically depressed part of the country. They have a high suicide rate, and she plays this larger-than-life woman who’s looking for the right opportunity to get out and get on with her life.

And we also have the latest film from Mads Brugger, The Saint Bernard Syndicate, from Denmark. He did Red Chapel and The Ambassador and some very kind of – he’s a – usually a documentary provocateur, and this is his first narrative film, which stars two Danish comedians playing versions of themselves trying to start a business in China and all the kind of --

MR BOYER: With real business (inaudible) in China is very hybrid. The actors, but the – they will mention Obey, which is a (inaudible) film I think extremely interesting. It’s a world premiere in competition, and it’s a film in the vein of the cinema from Andrea Arnold – very social, very tough, set during the fight in London in 2011, with I think the birth of a fantastic new actor, so it’s always exciting to show you.

MS CUSUMANO: And then Liza programs our New Online Work section and Loren our immersive, and they can both speak to those programs in a little more detail as well, whoever wants to go first.

MS DOMNITZ: Sure. So in our – Tribeca TV has existed – our Tribeca TV section, that is, has existed in earnest for three years, though we’ve had TV sort of woven throughout our program since the beginning of Tribeca. And this year we have a bunch of really quite amazing programs. All of the screenings in our Tribeca TV section will be followed by a conversation afterwards with cast, with the creators behind the scenes, making them sort of a very – very much a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

From the international side this year, we have The Staircase, which is actually a documentary series that first began I believe in 2003. This is the third part of this documentary series, which is true crime, sort of an early – the early – The Jinx or the early How to Make a Murderer (sic) – this was sort of one – this – the bedrock series of the true crime genre. This is, like I said, the third part of this. It’s about a man who is accused of killing his wife and actually went to jail for the crime and has been released, and this is the final chapter, where you get to see how it ends. And it comes from a French – French producers and director, so we’re very excited to have that.

MS CUSUMANO: There’s also Picnic at Hanging Rock and Little Women (inaudible).

MS DOMNITZ: Go ahead, yeah.

MS CUSUMANO: Okay. A couple other TV shows that I think weren’t on this document that are international – Picnic at Hanging Rock from – is an Australian production, a remake of the classic Australian film and book that stars Natalie Dormer. She’ll be here for that conversation afterwards, sort of a mysterious investigation into women in a women’s boarding school who went missing in sort of the turn of the century Australia. And then we also have Little Women, which is going to be a Masterpiece Theater presentation, a three-part series adaptation of Little Women that has premiered in the UK already, and that stars Maya Hawke as Jo March.

MS DOMNITZ: We also have a Tribeca – a – a program called Pilot Season within the Tribeca TV section. These are five indie pilots that are looking for acquisition, one of which comes from Israel. It’s called On the Spectrum. It’s about a group of adults living with autism that live together in a home and the various ups and downs of their lives. It’s very charming, very sweet, and gives a really nice picture of these people’s lives. And we have, obviously, a bunch of U.S. projects in our Tribeca TV section. We have The Trayvon Martin story, which is based on the book by Trayvon’s parents, and they will be there afterwards to talk about the episode that we’re showing. We have the second season of Genius, which we premiered last year. This last year it was about Einstein, this year it’s about Picasso. And it’s Antonio Banderas who’ll be playing Picasso. And a whole bunch of other things.

Our Tribeca NOW section is having its fifth year. This is NOW, New Online Work. And it’s 12 creators that we feature that are making work specifically for the online space. Internationally we have a series called Pig: The Dam Keeper Poems. This is based off of an Oscar-nominated short called Pig and Fox that comes from Japan. It’s an animated series about this little pig and his adventures, very, very beautiful animation, very sweet, no dialogue, but has – just speaks to sort of universal themes, overall themes. Not necessarily for children only, it is quite heartbreaking and wonderful. They are making – they’ve extended this into a series that will be on Hulu Japan, and we will be showing three episodes of it.

We also have a short piece from a filmmaker named Shal Ngo. It’s called The Last Fisherman. He shot this in Vietnam. It’s a post-apocalyptic story of a man surviving on his fishing boat, and a woman, a sort of soldier of the apocalypse, that he meets and tries to reanimate. It’s quite beautiful.

And we also have a very short piece called The 99 Names of God from a filmmaker named Yumna al-Arashi. She shot this in Oman, and it’s sort of a dreamy, atmospheric take on the mysticism of Islam. This comes from a website that we’re working with called NOWNESS, who makes sort of avant-garde short art pieces. They’ve commissioned Yumna to make this short piece for them and we’ll be world premiering it.

So these are just a couple of tastes of both TV and NOW, and Loren can speak to our VR program.

MR HAMMONDS: Sure. So Tribeca Immersive is really our section of the festival that celebrates the intersection of storytelling and technology primarily through virtual reality and augmented reality. This all takes place at our festival hub, which is at Spring Studios, and we basically take over the fifth floor with many, many immersive installations. We have just over 30 this year. And then we’ve also included a VR cinema this year for the first time, which I’ll get into in just a sec.

For the arcade, we have – well, actually, across the program we have several French productions and co-productions that are laid out here, but I’ll go through a few of them. So starting with BattleScar, which is a piece that’s actually based in New York, it’s based in the late ‘70s and the punk scene, about a young girl who kind of finds a surrogate family in the punk scene to create this band BattleScar. And it’s really a great narrative animated piece narrated by Rosario Dawson, kind of a leap forward in how to really present narrative storytelling in VR.

Campfire Creepers is an anthology series, a horror anthology series from the very notable French filmmaker Alexandra Aja, who will be joining us. It says this is a French and USA co-production, it’s actually also a co-production with Spain because Future Lighthouse was the company that produced this along with Oculus Studios. But it’s a throwback to kind of Tales from the Crypt, Tales from the Dark Side, horror anthology with a lot of humor and some good scares in it. And so it’s a lot of fun.

Chalkroom, we have, which is having its New York premiere, this is a collaboration between Hsin-Chien Huang and Laurie Anderson. It premiered in Venice last year, and it’s a really beautiful immersive experience, just kind of where you get to explore this world made of words and art that they’ve created.

Firebird: The Unfinished is from a great independent French studio called Innerspace VR. This is a wonderful melding of interactivity and narrative storytelling. The idea is that you are a curator in a museum and these Rodin-inspired sculptures come to life at night. The curator also – the ghost of the curator also visits and asks you to help him to finish his masterpiece. So you actually have to chisel away at a large block to create these sculptures that then have some beautiful choreography.

We have a piece from VR for Good, which is an organization that’s based within Oculus that pairs VR creators with nonprofit – nonprofit organizations to create mission-based nonfiction storytelling. And that one is The Hidden from Lindsay Branham. She was nominated for an Emmy last year for her previous VR experience. In this one, she’s embedded with the International Justice Mission in southern India and performs a live rescue of bonded laborers who have been enslaved for over 10 years for super-small debt.

My Africa is beautiful. Vision3 is based in the UK – that’s the production company – and this one is shot entirely in Kenya. It’s a 360 experience narrated by Lupita Nyong’o about a young woman and her relationship to an elephant sanctuary that is adjacent to her family’s land. And then there’s – Vision3 also created a companion experience to this in which you can care for one of the baby elephants from the sanctuary, so there are tracked items where you can feed them and bathe them. It’s pretty fun.

Yeah, Vestige is another one that’s quite beautiful. It’s a nonfiction experience based on a woman who lost her partner and has been grieving. It’s super-impressionistic in terms of visuals and something that I think is going to really leave a lasting impression.

Now, Storyscapes is our juried competition within the arcade. There are a couple of international pieces in there. First of all, Biidaaban, which is from Canada – it comes from Inuit experimental filmmaker named Lisa Jackson who has created this experience as a – she calls it an indigenous futurism to kind of look at Toronto and how it could – how it could be in the future based on kind of spiritual ideas and scientific ideas.

And then Terminal 3 is one that we’re really excited about from a young Pakistani creator – his name is Asad Malik – and he’s been having a lot of trouble traveling over the past year and he decided to address this in a documentary with augmented reality. This is one of the first AR pieces that will be premiering at the festival. The idea behind this one is it’s a reimagining of a TSA interrogation in which you are the TSA agent, you wear a HoloLens, and you are called upon to interrogate the holograms of Muslim travelers to decide whether or not they can come into the country or not. So, really innovative way to use this technology.

And then finally, I mentioned our Cinema360. So our Cinema360 is a new initiative for us. This is a 20-seat VR cinema that will also be at the festival hub on the first floor, the idea being that we want to convene people and have 20 viewers each with an individual headset come in and have a sync-start solution for these programs that are curated short-form 360 pieces. So we have one called 209, which is from Sweden and China, just a very sweet moment at the end of the world that takes place in China. The Last Chair is a really gorgeous observational documentary about an old man in The Netherlands and kind of – it’s an interesting approach to VR to do something that’s so seemingly mundane but really, really beautifully explored just through presence and character.

And This Is Climate Change is a series from Participant Media, which is – explores the three – it’s a trilogy, explores three different facets of climate change, quite beautiful. And I mentioned The Hidden already, I think – oh, and then finally, so one of our programs in Cinema 360 is a horror-themed program, so we do have one of Alexandre Aja’s pieces in there as well, and then we have a Korean – a really fun Korean horror piece called An Obituary. And that’s what we have internationally.

MS CUSUMANO: I think if anyone has questions, unless you think we skipped anything.

MS WILLIS: (Inaudible) I just wanted to let everyone know that we will be – we sent to Shana the entire programming briefing book so you’ll be able to receive that via email, so you can see our entire programs.

MODERATOR: And before you ask questions, if you can remember to speak your name and media affiliation for the sake of the speakers and the transcript.

QUESTION: Claudia Sandoval from El Tiempo newspaper, Colombia. I just want to know, when you are reviewing the 8,000 works submitted, what are you looking for to choose?

MS CUSUMANO: Mm-hmm. I mean, I think everyone sort of has different things that resonate with them specifically, but in the broadest sense, we’re looking for an original voice, something we haven’t seen before that feels like it’s new and fresh and has a point of view, especially I think with a lot of the new media that we’re working in who’s really using these formats in a different way and pushing forward the potential for storytelling.

MR BOYER: Yes, I think it’s a very good question. Oh, by the way, (inaudible) is a little bit less for the future because we – very short, but I don’t know, it’s very subjective. We are not trying to – we don’t have any agenda, no plan. Sometime, we like a film like this one, We Shall Not Sleep, which is co-produced – it’s an Uruguayan filmmaker. He did a fantastic film before called La Casa Muda. He made this film with Argentinian money, Spanish money, with a fantastic script, and a lot of film (inaudible) wow, we were excited. So it’s as simple as that.

But we are trying, of course, to have some different type of style of film, filmmaking. It’s different type of budget. We have super-cheap and low budget and we have also bigger budget with stars. So it’s a mix of balance, and so the most important is the group, the discussion, what we are talking about exchanging for more than six months because we are starting to watch film in the summer – I mean, during the summer. For nine months, we are programming.

MS CUSUMANO: I also think – oh.

QUESTION: Cara, I see you mentioned --


QUESTION: -- 2 percent were selected eventually out of the 8,000, right?

MS CUSUMANO: Yeah, something – something like that, yeah, it’s very – very --

QUESTION: And I’m always wondrous, is – me – is that how you assure quality if you have 8,000 films to review. And each year, the number’s getting bigger and bigger and bigger. So how many people – I mean, how many staff people are involved to selecting (inaudible)?

MS CUSUMANO: Well, this is mostly our core team. We have a couple other folks who are year-round and really conceptualizing the festival in the broadest sense and working together really closely, and then we do bring on a seasonal staff of screeners, many of whom are professional film programmers at other festivals, alumni filmmakers, they work in the industry, and they’re watching things, evaluating things. And that 8,000 number is inclusive of features, shorts, TV, VR. So for each of those categories, we’re finding folks who are well-versed in those worlds to kind of look at things and make recommendations for what we should consider seriously.

QUESTION: But presuming they’re going to see the whole – I mean, like the first 10 minutes, you say that’s enough? It’s not good enough. It --

MS CUSUMANO: We ask them to watch the entire --

MR BOYER: All the film are seen from the beginning to the end by one person minimum.

QUESTION: All of the features.

MR BOYER: All. All. And it’s incredible. They are making notes like that. They are watching the film for us, and thank you because they are watching not always the best film. But it helps. It helps us to preselect the film. No, no, all the film are seen, and when it’s starting to be interesting, we are watching – exchanging the films or we are watching a lot of them --

QUESTION: And they’re being paid for watching them, right?



QUESTION: Everybody?



QUESTION: Yeah, I’m Bengt Oestling from Finland. Thank you for the opportunity to meet you here. Is there any trend or any way of doing film that you don’t like? This is nothing for us. Do you have any discussions of that kind, that that is an old way to do a film or --


MR BOYER: Yes, absolutely. I mean, sometime we say if it’s too TV because we – we like cinematic. I mean, I don’t know. Of course, we have a --

MR HAMMONDS: Yeah, I don’t know. I think that it’s hard to say that there’s a certain way that we don’t like film to be made.


MR HAMMONDS: Because I think ultimately it comes down to the story that’s being told. And sometimes you’ll see even reflective of our program. We have some documentaries that are super poetic and stylized and others that are – might be considered workmanlike, but they’re very compelling. So I think it comes down to the story and also what we’re trying to build and complement within the festival.

QUESTION: Thus you don’t enter with preconceptions, basically. The themes emerge from the program. (Inaudible) told me that, you know?


QUESTION: There are no preconceptions.

MR HAMMONDS: Yeah, I think it would be very hard to have a preconception. They would all be – we’d all be very disappointed early, I think.

MS CUSUMANO: I mean, I think that we come at the festival in the broadest sense with we want the program to feel relevant and timely and urgent, so there are – those would be themes, I suppose. But it’s hard for us to say this will be the year of the environment or this will be the year of that, because it will be up to the films to dictate that.

QUESTION: Over the last years you – that’s my other question. Over the last years you must have observed changes, obviously.


QUESTION: In the themes that are being approached. What are the most important changes you observed over the last years?

MS CUSUMANO: I think every year is different and the filmmakers have the right kind of impulses, and those themes emerge organically. I mean, certainly this year with the very strong representation of women directors and women’s issues, I think that that’s something that clearly was percolating. These films take more than a year to make, so those filmmakers had those ideas and saw that in the air well in advance of where we’re at to make this the timely program that it is.

QUESTION: Yeah. Is this the year of Donald Trump and Make America Great Again? (Laughter.)

MS CUSUMANO: I mean, I think you see the – there’s certainly political films in the program this year, and you see the kind of shadow of what’s happening in a lot of films that maybe on the surface are about something else, and then that will sort of kind of bleed in. But even last year I felt like our program had – you felt Trump in it, and he had only been in office for a hundred days at that time. But he is the culmination of trends that had been percolating for much longer, which the filmmakers certainly have tapped into.

QUESTION: Could any of you talk about the evolution of the festival, maybe not in themes but as a marketplace for filmmakers from the beginning 17 years ago?

MS CUSUMANO: Yeah. I mean, in terms of film sales and acquisitions, we see more every year. Typically, about two-thirds of the films that are available, feature films, are acquired within a year and find distribution. And we’ve also worked to build marketplaces and market exposure in these other arenas that we’re focusing on too. I mean, maybe you want to talk about the NOW market a little bit and some of the VR acquisitions.

MS DOMNITZ: Yeah. So our new online work section, which started five years ago, one of the things that we heard from the creators that we were including in this section was that they loved being a part of the festival and included despite not bringing a feature film or a short film, bringing these new online works, which five years ago weren’t necessarily so commonplace. Now it’s all about online work.

But as a result of them being in the festival, we listened to them, and they said what we need is we need to be able to get our next job, we need to be – we need exposure to the industry as online creators. So we created something called the New Online Work Creators Market, which essentially is a one-day event where you bring a whole bunch of industry with these online creators, and they have a chance to pitch a project – perhaps the project that they brought to Tribeca or a new project that’s in script phase. And it gives these particular filmmakers a chance to be in front of industry that they may not necessarily get to meet because, like I said, they are online creators. They aren’t – but they may want to make a feature film, they may want to make a television series, and this gives them a chance to perhaps make a connection that will get them their next job. So.

QUESTION: And these industry people includes Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, those kind of --

MS DOMNITZ: I don’t think those specific networks have come to the market, but there are a number of online networks. There are some traditional film distributors. There are brands that are looking for content creators. There are VR companies now that we’re including some VR creators in the market, and so it’s a very diverse group. So not necessarily those three, but about, I’d say, 30 to 40 different industry companies.

MS CUSUMANO: And we’ve also --

MR HAMMONDS: I mean – oh, sorry.


MR HAMMONDS: Oh. I was going to – yeah, I was going to say, and just on the subject of including VR creators into the market, I think that there’s a big question about the monetization of VR and how distribution will work. And it’s really helpful for them to have an environment like this where brands and producers and agencies are represented so that they can actually have some visibility.

Last year at our festival we had our first-ever licensing and acquisitions of VR pieces, which was very exciting to us just to see that independent VR creators can bring their work to Tribeca and be recognized and then be distributed. So we’re hoping for more of that this year. Even earlier this year outside of our festival there were a few notable distribution deals that were made. So we’re always looking for more opportunities for the creators.

MS CUSUMANO: And we’ve included this independent TV pilots program for the past two years, so those are all projects that are looking for distribution partners; or talent discovery, that’s another layer of all this as well. Not necessarily the specific projects premiering at the festival, but folks finding management representation, their next project talent discovery. So we have tried to keep the – keep pace with how the marketplace is changing and what opportunities we can create for creators beyond just the selling a feature film.

MS DOMNITZ: I think that Tribeca in general is very passionate about keeping up with our filmmakers and treating our filmmakers right, and what goes hand in hand with that is helping to support their careers even after Tribeca is over. So that’s keeping in touch with them. That’s supporting social – putting out on our social media outlets, like when they have a new project, just staying in touch and doing whatever we can to help support them as they make the next step in their career.

QUESTION: Television is of growing import to the film fest. So the question I have for you is: Why did you then start setting up a separate television festival? Why?

MS CUSUMANO: Well, I think we saw a lot of success with our TV programming. There was an appetite with the audiences and with the networks to be able to come together as fans, as a community, watch something on the big screen. For the networks, there’s so much out there, so the value of being curated and having a festival, kind of put your work forward as some of the best, to connect with the audiences.

And because of the timeline, we don’t have access to all of the TV just in April. A lot of things that are going to be premiering in the fall haven’t even shot yet right now. So creating two moments in the calendar year that we can do that and make those connections between the work and the audiences felt like it added value, like there was an appetite for that.

QUESTION: Hi. You mentioned that the festival, as compared to other international festivals, this is a small – smaller. But still is 99 features for the – I don’t know how many documentaries. If you have to recommend for our readers one feature, one documentary, one international – (laughter) – please tell us because we cannot see – I mean, we cannot go --

MS CUSUMANO: Right, right. Well, the 99 is inclusive of documentaries as well. So that’s all feature-length films. I don’t – yeah, we can all mention a movie, right? We can’t say favorites, but we can say what we’re thinking of right now.

MR BOYER: We have a favorite film every day. (Laughter.)

MR HAMMONDS: That’s true. That’s true.

MR BOYER: Tomorrow is another film. We really love all the film. Sometime it’s a film – we love the film because of the actors, sometime because of the topic, sometime because of other side. The Blue Dot film about Blue Dot by the Swiss filmmaker is extraordinary, and plus you have a performance, a Blue Dot performance, after the film. It’s going to be a wonderful evening, but tomorrow I’m going to tell you about another film. (Laughter.) So it’s just difficult for me to choose three films, but I can.

MS DOMNITZ: I’ll give you one. I’ll do it. I’ll step up. (Laughter.) It’s my favorite right now at 11 a.m.


MS DOMNITZ: Okay. How about – it’s in the packet, actually. It’s a documentary called McQueen about the --

QUESTION: Alexander?

MS DOMNITZ: Yeah, Alexander McQueen. It’s a very, very beautiful, moving piece about his – the early days of his career as he developed into this superstar and how his life changed, his relationship with his muse, but has some – obviously some quite amazing footage of all of his incredible fashion shows, and how they – it really details how they were art in themselves. In addition to the clothes, they were performance art. It’s very moving and sad, but it’s sort of a quintessential piece about him.

MR BOYER: Loren.

MS DOMNITZ: Come on.

MR HAMMONDS: What could I say today?

MR BOYER: I have one. No?

MR HAMMONDS: I don’t know. Sure, sure. I guess I’ll talk about Mr. SOUL! Mr. SOUL! – also I think it’s worth noting it’s one of our documentaries that’s in the TV section, but it’s a feature-length film, and it will have a full performance afterwards. It’s about a variety show that was launched in 1968, which was such an interesting year in American culture and kind of a turbulent time. This was an opportunity for black culture and black artists to be seen on television for basically the first time, and something that was really just unapologetically theirs. And it’s really just a – it’s a really great, compelling film. And there’s a character at the center of it who kind of conceived of the show, Ellis Haizlip, who I think is really a fascinating character as well. So yeah.

MS DOMNITZ: And this is exemplary of what we do with events at Tribeca. So we’ll be showing it, and afterwards we’re sort of going to recreate a SOUL! show. So there will be music performances, spoken word performances, I think some dance performances.

MR MURPHY: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah.

MS DOMNITZ: So again, one of these events in our TV section that is sort of – you have to be there to experience it.

MS CUSUMANO: If you can see only one thing, I would do something that comes with some of this had-to-be-there programming. I think a lot of films hopefully will find their way in the world, and you’ll have opportunities to see them at more festivals, or eventually in their release. But some of the way that we present films with music and talks and events is really special, and it just happens that one time.

QUESTION: Frederic, you were about to tell --

MR BOYER: Ah, no. Just my – I love all the film, but there is one film that – I love the film. It’s called Sunday’s Illness by Ramon Salazar. It’s --


MR BOYER: Sunday’s Illness, Enfermedad del Domingo. It’s a Spanish film, going to play in competition. It’s one of the most beautiful portrait of woman I’ve seen – I saw since a long time. And he looks like (inaudible) kind of (inaudible), and Ingmar Bergman. Seriously, it’s a really unique, beautiful, moving – go back to the filmmaking, the mise-en-scene. I don’t know, it’s – I think it’s a superb film.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the funding basis of the festival? Where’s the money coming from – percentage of those derived from ticket tales, from foundations, or from the private sector?

MS CUSUMANO: Yeah, we actually as the creative team don’t have all of the details on this. I don’t know if we have something that we can share later. I think it’s a combination of ticket sales, partnerships.

MS DOMNITZ: That’s it, yeah.

MS CUSUMANO: Ticket sales and partnerships. (Laughter.)

MR HAMMONDS: Yeah, the partnerships.

MS DOMNITZ: Yeah, that’s it.

QUESTION: Do you have a breakdown?

MS CUSUMANO: We can look into that, I think. We don’t know --

MS WILLIS: We get back to you with that information.


QUESTION: Yeah, I’ll give you my card. But the same question was raised last year, but you were also – I was also told you would get information afterwards, but I never got the information. So you were too busy. (Laughter.)

MR HAMMONDS: We’ll have to give it to you this time for sure.

MS CUSUMANO: Yeah, we’ll get it to you.

QUESTION: The readers are interested in that. I mean, how do you fund the festival? It’s growing all the time.

MR HAMMONDS: No, we definitely rely on our partners. Our partners are very important to us as a festival.

QUESTION: So what’s your overall budget?

MR HAMMONDS: (Laughter.) That --

MS CUSUMANO: We actually don’t know. (Laughter.)

MR HAMMONDS: Yeah, I don’t – I’ve never seen the – we know our – we might know our individual --

MS CUSUMANO: And it’s actually nice that we – for the creative side, it’s – we rarely are told no, we can’t do things that we – ideas that we have because they aren’t in the budget. So that is thanks to all of the amazing partners and audience.

QUESTION: You can do anything you want to do, right?

MS CUSUMANO: So far. (Laughter.)

MR MURPHY: But we’ll get back to you with some sense of that.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay. Yeah. Other festivals, like the Berlinale, they’re pretty open about that – how much they raise, where the money’s coming from, et cetera, et cetera. It’s not a state secret.

MR MURPHY: Right, right. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Are there any additional questions?

QUESTION: We have more questions, but it’s okay. (Laughter.)

MODERATOR: Well, with that, thank you to all of our guests from Tribeca. Thank you for braving the rain to be here. We’ll produce a transcript, as mentioned at the top of the briefing. And good luck this year.

MS CUSUMANO: Thank you so much.

MS DOMNITZ: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Oh, and if you would like to cover the festival and have questions, please speak to John or Marlea.