The Tribeca Film Festival, which opens tomorrow evening, is just in its 9th year (a baby by the standards of such veterans as Cannes, Venice, San Francisco and other 50 plus film events). In under a decade, the Festival has made a strong impression, being one of the few that is looking to create a brand name that is instantly recognizable and represents a particular kind of film culture (think Cannes, think Sundance). The Sundance connection is especially relevant, with this year being the first time that the recently hired Geoffrey Gilmore, a name synonymous with the Sundance Film Festival for decades, is taking the creative helm at Tribeca Enterprises, the parent company of the Festival and its multi-tentacled distribution, production and exhibition arms.
Tribeca has been able to move into new arenas because of a mix of its canny (some say ambitious) head office and its strong sponsorship base, particularly its unique alliance with American Express. The credit card and financial company was an early supporter when the Festival’s mission was to revitalize a badly battered downtown that included the financial district home of the finance giant. Now that this has become less of a compelling raison d’etre, American Express is looking to Tribeca to assist in its efforts to dominate the interactive market, by supporting a whole host of innovative ventures that enhance both the American Express and the Tribeca brands.
Tribeca Film is the name being given to the newly formed distribution initiative that will launches today. Sixteen curated films, including 10 titles from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, will be available on video-on-demand cable and satellite television platforms. This VOD exposure will also be enhanced by theatrical screenings in New York and Los Angeles, and very possibly a national rollout to a network of arthouse and multiplex cinemas. DVD and home video is also part of the initiative, although details of that alliance have not been made clear (a Tribeca DVD brand, anyone?).
A second initiative, also launching this Festival week, is Tribeca Film Festival Virtual, which will offer original content and interactive possibilities for those purchasing a $45 “festival pass”. What this does, obviously, is extend the Festival experience beyond the environs of New York City and make it, in theory, an instant global event.
“Tribeca Film and Tribeca Film Festival Virtual will benefit the filmmakers in building audiences and furthering the Tribeca experience”, Festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal announced in a prepared statement. “This new template allow access to view films prior to their premiere dates, be in the loop on Festival favorites and watch exclusive video extras on filmmakers and actors. Viewers across the country can create a festival experience in their own living rooms.”
The new distribution platforms have a direct link to the current challenges of releasing independent and international films in the USA (and elsewhere). “You can’t do what was archetypically done in trying to release a film theatrically and presuming that was sufficient and it would find an audience”, Chief Creative Officer Geoffrey Gilmore added in a prepared statement. “We know that system has been broken down so dramatically in the last couple of years that we have to try a number of solutions at the same time.” Gilmore believes that film festivals now have an important role in shaping the future of both film and new media. “You need a place where people are willing to take risks and showcase work that’s both to be discovered and to be popularized”, he concluded. “I think that’s what Tribeca does so well.”
The results of this bold experiment have yet to be tallied, but the Tribeca Film Festival, whether out of a sense of commitment, an inflation of ego or simply a smart corporate marketing strategy, wants to be at the forefront of these changes. In the end, the by-product is definitely a win-win….it brings more films to the attention of more viewers and expands the kinds of screening experiences beyond the local movie house. In a future article, I will give more details on the “Tribeca Ten”, the ten films from this year’s Festival that will have their world premieres on VOD platforms even before they unspool in the theaters…..now that is different.
For more information on this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, visit: www.tribecafilm.com