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(More) Talk of Change as Tribeca Fest Gets Underway

(More) Talk of Change as Tribeca Fest Gets Underway

Festival exposure doesn’t guarantee a film’s success in the marketplace, explained former Sundance Film Festival chief Geoff Gilmore today in Manhattan. Since his days with Robert Redford’s Utah event the business of festivals has evolved, according to Gilmore. Now, he’s in New York City alongside Robert De Niro as a brash, relatively young festival expands and redefines itself.

While a fest like the Tribeca Film Festival has primarily focused on showcasing films and trying to match filmmakers with buyers, this week the event takes a step in a new direction, hoping to help filmmakers monetize their movies by acquiring and releasing them on new digital platforms created by festival organizers.

In a Q & A with press Tribeca founders De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, filmmaker Alex Gibney, TFF director Nancy Schafer, Craig Hatkoff and others, various topics about this year’s festival, which opens tomorrow with “Shrek Forever After,” were discussed. It was the organization’s new initiatives that grabbed most of the focus Tuesday morning.

“We’re really in the process of trying to reinvent what festivals do and how they reach audiences,” Geoff Gilmore, who is heading up the Tribeca initiatives, explained today at a press conference touting tomorrow’s launch of Tribeca Film, the new VOD platform that will release seven movies concurrent with their festival premieres. An additional five other films are also on tap for the program.

So this year, the event is not only taking place in Manhattan movie theaters, but also on demand (through Tribeca Film) and online (via Tribeca Film Festival Virtual over the Internet). Debuting on VOD tomorrow from this year’s fest itself are Jeff Tremaine’s “The Birth of Big Air,” Brian Hill’s “Climate of Change,” Josh Appignanesi’s “The Infidel,” Dev Benegal’s “Road, Movie,” Mat Whitecross’s “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,” and Jacob Tierney’s “The Trotsky.” Also on the roster are Julian Kemp’s “My Last Five Girlfriends,” David Russo’s “The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle,” Måns Herngren’s “The Swimsuit Issue,” Julien Nitzberg’s “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia,” and Jac Schaeffer’s “Timer.”

“For most of a century film has been driven by its theatrical release,” offered Gilmore, “Well, that’s all changing.” Gilmore spoke of a generational shift that is, in part, driving changes in how movies are released.

“I’ve been in this film business for quite awhile,” Gilmore added, “This moment feels to me like a real moment of change. It feels like where we were 20 years ago when the industry went through a huge change.” He said he saw the studios shift to embrace specialty and independent companies. Continuing he noted, “We are trying to reinvent the ways and avenues of reaching new audiences.”

“The old model is over,” Gilmore declared. Then, he paused and added, “It’s not over for everybody,” but, he clarified, “It’s no longer the only dream that people will have.”

While other festivals have undertaken experiments in releasing programmed films on VOD and online, Tribeca’s move not only involves a larger list of movies (that have been acquired by the event itself), but includes a marketing push from fest sponsor American Express. Geoff Gilmore said yesterday that that would make all the difference. It is non-recoupable P & A, he touted, meaning that it won’t be held against the filmmaker’s earnings.

“Distribution is not just a question of what avenues exist,” Gilmore explained, “It’s the marketing.”

As with almost everything this festival does, these new initiatives have stoked a conversation. But this year, rather than pushing forward with blinders on, organizers seem to be trying to manage expectations.

‘We’ll see how it works’ seems to be the operative phrase. Elaborating, Gilmore noted, “It’s not a silver bullet or an all-purpose solution.”

“We know that we haven’t found the solution yet, we know that we have to build this,” Gilmore reiterated today, “We’re in a process of building this and we’re in a process of reaching out to audiences and building audiences. It harkens back to two decades ago.”

“Change makes some people nervous,” Gilmore warned, and he said that the moves Tribeca is undertaking gives him hope for the future of independent film.

“We look forward to seeing how this is all going to come out this year,” Gilmore concluded.

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