By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire March 3, 2008 at 5:02AM
In a time of persistent change for nonprofit organizations that seek to support independent filmmakers, two New York City based entities are merging, with the hopes of creating a more viable oufit for the field. Robert DeNiro and Jane Rosenthal's Tribeca Film Institute (a sibling of their for-profit Tribeca Film Festival) will join forces with Renew Media, the organization that has funneled millions of dollars in funding to indie filmmakers and artists over nearly twenty years. The news comes as arts funding for organizations and individual filmmakers seems to be in an increasing state of flux and as the changes have even sent some groups into extinction.
Hoping to "break the tradition" of nonprofit groups to create "an unprecedented arts organization," the new Tribeca Film Institute will begin detailing ambitious goals on Monday morning as they announce the marriage of TFI and Renew. The organization will be lead by Renew Media's Brian Newman, capping a deal that took more than a year to arrange. It combines the programs, staff, and boards of the two organizations. The move, which has no direct impact on the leadership of the six-year old Tribeca festival, seems aimed at launching a major organization to rival such established entities as the Sundance Institute, Film Independent, and the Independent Feature Project (IFP), although it will not be a membership group.
"What we are trying to say is that the Institute is a year-round home for filmmakers and new media artists," Brian Newman told indieWIRE this weekend as the Tribeca Film Institute began to get the word out about its move. "We are developing it into a true institute, based in New York, with an international focus."
Among the major goals for TFI is the creation of a permament downtown home for the organization, but because some plans for the high-profile venue have proven somewhat controversial in the local media, Newman declined to comment in detail about any plans. He referred instead to the carefully worded language of a press release that will be distributed widely this morning (Monday). "The primary objective is to create one institution dedicated to innovation in film and media, the enrichment of audiences and the promotion of education, understanding and creativity through the media arts," according to the TFI statement, noting that the new physical space in lower Manhattan -- pursued in conjunction with the Tribeca Film Festival -- would include, "cultural exhibition space, screening venues, as well as artist and industry workspace."
Recent discussions have surrounded the development of a space at Pier 40 on Lower Manhattan's Hudson River waterfront. However, residents have challenged the move, according to various media reports.
The marriage will see the combination of the boards for both groups, with Rosenthal and De Niro serving as co-chairs and Alberta Arthurs (former board chair for Renew Media) becoming vice chair. Brian Newman has been named CEO of the Tribeca Film Institute and all existing staff from both organizations have been unified (see lists below). The pact is expected to close next month.
Conversations about the evolving needs for independent filmmakers intensified after last year's closure of the more than 30 year-old Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF). Newman (who previously worked for the IFP and also headed IMAGE Film & Video in Atlanta) was vocal about the state of nonprofit organizations in an indieWIRE first person article two years ago and also in writings on his own blog. During the conversation with indieWIRE this weekend he noted that Renew, which was recently re-named after a long run under the moniker National Video Resources, lacked a distinctive brand indentity. He continued, "We give away a million dollars a year and have a hard time getting press. We needed that broader reach in the field that a name can bring you." The organization was also seemingly facing potential challenges for its signature Media Arts Fellowships.
The substantial annual grants for filmmakers, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, will continue for the time being as a key program for the new TFI, but the Renew/TFI combination comes after Rockefeller's decision to shutter its creativity and culture department under the leadership of president Judith Rodin, instigating questions about the future of the funding for filmmakers. While the foundation is seen developing new ways to support artists, the renewed Tribeca Film Institute has money in place for the next round of funding and intends to pursue long term committments from Rockefeller to support the coveted annual grants.
However, should the Rockefeller support wither, the new TFI seems focused on keeping the filmmaking support alive and insiders appear determined to pursue aggresive fundraising for such support, as well as the development of new intiatives. And, the TFI campaign will no doubt be bolstered by a statement from Judith Rodin blessing the marriage of TFI and Renew, saying, "We hope their strategic vision will be a model for other forward-thinking entities that share common goals."
Pegged as a $5.5 million not-for-profit organization, the new Tribeca Film Institute has set a goal to, "quadruple that in the next five years and to build a substantial base of support for artists," Newman told indieWIRE. Its existing programs are detailed below in information provided via today's formal announcement.
Newman added that he also intends to pick up the mantle for the sorts of advocacy and programs once championed by other organizations. "We will definitely include putting our support behind things that matter to filmmakers, in a way that AIVF tried to do and also to try and think of new models," he emphasized.
"The models for the film world are broken," Brian Newman told indieWIRE, "Digital has shaken even the biggest companies to their core." And he added that such changes are coming at a time when support of non-for-profit organizations seems increasingly tough.
Reiterating the mantra for the new TFI, Newman noted, "There is a new force hoping to create substantial programs year round, [with] significant new financial support for filmmakers." He added that TFI intends to, "launch significant funding sources for filmmakers at all stages."
Program and staff information:
(provided by Tribeca Film Institute)
Board of Directors
Serena Altschul, Alberta Arthurs (Vice Chair), Peggy Charren, Robert De Niro (Co-Chair), Martin Edelman, Eli Evans, Craig Hatkoff, Lisa Hsia, Jennifer Maguire Isham, Brian Newman (CEO), Norman Pearlstine, Sam Pollard, Schott Rechler, Laurie Racine, John G. Roche, Jane Rosenthal (Co-Chair), N. Bird Runningwater, Martin Scorsese, Judy Tabb, Jonathan Tisch, Todd Wagner, Diana E. Williams, Jeffrey Wright.
Brian Newman, CEO; Eileen Newman, Deputy Director; Helen Lang, Director of Finance; Lucila Moctezuma, Media Arts Fellowships Director; Anita Serwacki, Reframe Project Manager; Daniel Su, Technical Strategist – Reframe; Leah Giblin, Program Associate for Media Fellowships and Office Manager; Alison Greenberg, Assistant to the CEO; Beth Janson, Program Director; Lisa Lucas, Youth Programs Manager; Tamir Muhammad, Tribeca All Access Manager, Annie Leahy, VP of Original Programs, Alexandra Chaden, Coordinator of Original Programs, Hoyland Ricks, Production Coordinator, Brian Kuan Wood, Web & Publications Manager.
- Alfred P. Sloan Screenplay Program: science based screenplay development and lectures.
- Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund: offers finishing funds to feature length documentaries which promote social change and highlight critical issues currently absent from mainstream media.
- Looking At: an educational program that curates, promotes and distributes collections of documentary films in New York City and nationwide.
- Media Arts Fellowships: supports the creation of new works that bring innovation to the media arts. Artists who receive Fellowships are encouraged to redefine, invent, explore, create and recreate visions and stories that reflect our diverse culture.
- Reframe: soon to launch initiative funded by $1,000,000 in grants from the MacArthur Foundation. The program makes vital media arts from independent filmmakers, artists, distributors and archives available to the consumer by digitizing the content and making it available to the public.
- Summer Arts Institute: a youth-focused summer film intensive.
- Tribeca All Access: networking meetings and mentorships for traditionally underrepresented media artists at the Tribeca Film Festival.
- Tribeca Film Fellows: youth selected to attend the festival, attend workshops, watch films and meet with mentor filmmakers.
- Tribeca Teaches: provides youth with the resources to create a documentary about living in New York City and exposes youth to independent films.
- Tribeca Youth Screening Series: a recently launched initiative that introduces students year round to relevant films and pairs them with an educational experience that offers a deeper understanding of the material.
- Where Content Meets Intent: a panel series on distribution through new technologies.