By Jay A. Fernandez | Indiewire May 1, 2012 at 12:08PM
IFC Films, Paladin and Sony Pictures Classics all saw their earlier acquisitions get a nice bump from their Tribeca premieres. IFC played "Your Sister's Sister," "Polisse" and "Trishna," which drew broad multi-cultural viewers; Paladin launched Morgan Spurlock's new documentary "Mansome" and SPC screened "Hysteria" and "Chicken With Plums." In each case, a Tribeca launch either provided much-needed awareness in a specific community or places the film in the bloodstream of a larger cultural conversation.
On the other hand, most buyers found the program lacking in strong prospects. "It's 'South By: The Sequel'," cracked one would-be buyer, who described the selection as "a disappointment." At the same time, he noted that the public platform Tribeca provides new filmmakers, with attendant press and flash, is one of its strongest assets. "Tribeca programs around ideas for the people of New York, not just for the industry, which is good," he says.
There was limited consensus on individual films, though Ramona S. Diaz's Journey documentary, "Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey" hit a populist chord that a targeted distributor could parlay into a minor hit. Among the other films that prompted praise beyond award-winners "War Witch" and "The World Before Her" were Alex Karpovsky's "Rubberneck," Eytan Fox's "Yossi," Lucy Mulloy's "Una Noche," Arnon Goldfinger's "The Flat" and Kat Coiro's "While We Were Here." The young Latina actress who stars in David Riker's "The Girl," Maritza Santiago Hernandez, also received high accolades.
Another buyer noted the festival's heavy cross-promotion of its VOD initiatives, with every screening proceeded by countless bumpers promoting Tribeca titles. "It feels more and more couched in the overall strategy of Tribeca's distribution initiatives while the festival itself is skewing somewhat artier on the high end, in part due to Boyer, and somewhat broader on the low end (i.e., "The Avengers")."
Gilmore admits that they are still trying to balance their self-promotional efforts, something that Toronto and Sundance have sought to do as well. "I wish we had talked about Tribeca Institute as a year-round business," he says. "Maybe in hindsight we could rethink how we play our trailers."
Perhaps the festival is angling for a Toronto feel in its attention to both lowbrow/highbrow programming that brings a certain amount of red-carpet action if not hot-market action. The market's slow pace stemmed in part from buyers' preparations for Cannes. With that ticking clock, it's simply hard to focus on Tribeca's program.
"No one's been eager to make a deal, that's for sure," said one VOD buyer. Buyers such as IFC Films, Magnolia, Oscillscope, Radius-TWC and others will inevitably find Tribeca projects to scoop up; Gilmore claims nearly 20 are in different stages of negotiation with distributors.
"It's absolutely important," says Gilmore, who points to a dealmaking environment that demands patience. "We also understand it's just one part of evaluating what a festival is. Of course we'd love to see more announcements. But that they'll take place in the near future is what I'd expect."
But even if the sales don't come, "you discover a lot of major talent there," says one exec. "We'll hear from them later."
And if one of those filmmakers turns out to be a Tarantino or Cholodenko or Soderbergh, Tribeca will finally be putting on a tux for the prom.