Tribeca Launches Forum for Fest Filmmakers
by Eugene Hernandez and Wendy Mitchell
The Tribeca Film Festival's inaugural Filmmaker Forum opened on Wednesday morning with a special DGA-East breakfast at the Tribeca Rooftop in Lower Manhattan. Festival co-founders Jane Rosenthal & Craig Hatkoff joined festival executive director Peter Scarlet at the event.
The Filmmaker Forum, an exclusive series of panel discussions and parties sponsored by Kodak, is welcoming all festival filmmakers and guests from the local film community. It is running concurrent with the public festival this year. Wednesday's breakfast buffet offered the filmmakers a rare chance to network and meet each other amidst the craziness of a film festival.
Among the films screening here in Tribeca is a New York City doc that has been shot in the city over the last few years. Stephen Kijak and Angela Christlieb's "Cinemania" looks at a unique group of locals: passionate cineastes who some call "film buffs" and others have fondly dubbed "cinemaniacs." The film follows some of New York's leading buffs as they travel throughout the city, from Lincoln Center to MoMA to Film Forum, for multiple screenings each day.
Now co-director Kijak is also wearing a distributor's hat. "This is the last thing that I wanted to do," joked Kijak during a conversation with indieWIRE at Wednesday's brunch. But when a window of opportunity opened up at Cinema Village the week after the Tribeca Festival, Kijak admitted, "The timing was just too good."
While "Cinemania" has been a hit at a number of film festivals around the world, including Locarno and the Hamptons, its screenings at this week's Tribeca Film Festival precede next week's theatrical debut at Cinema Village. For the release, co-director Kijak has secured the support of Dirty Rice, a New York company headed by partners Anne Chaisson ("Roger Dodger") and Scott Moody. Dirty Rice is underwriting the New York release of the film as a way of showing its support for the project.
Kijak worked the crowd on the opening night of the Tribeca Film Festival, handing out flyers to a number of the party's attendees. While he has been pounding the pavement quite a bit, Kijak admitted that his subjects are his best advocates. Many of the film buffs profiled in the film are handing out flyers to people that they meet at screenings.
"The cinemaniacs are there doing it for me," laughed Kijak, "That's our core audience!"
The Tribeca Film Festival isn't exactly a homecoming for first-time filmmaker Jennifer Elster -- only because she never left the neighborhood. Elster calls herself a "New York cliché" -- she was born at New York Hospital, graduated from New York University, and shot her first film here.
The director/actor lives in Tribeca and will only walk "about five steps" to world premiere of her film, "Particles of Truth," at United Artists Battery Park Theaters tonight at 9:30 p.m.
The film stars Elster as a New York woman who meets a neurotic recluse while struggling with her father's drug addiction. That recluse is played by Gale Harold, better known as the non-reclusive sexual predator Brian on Showtime's "Queer as Folk." Hanging out in the festival hospitality suite, Harold told indieWIRE that he's happy this smaller film (currently without distribution) is playing alongside the Hollywood fare in Tribeca. "It's nice to be in the same environment with [larger films], everyone gets helped out by that. We're all part of the same larger community. For one week, it gives us parity."
The three screenings of "Particles" are already sold out. Elster said, "We just finished the film a few weeks ago, and then we were accepted into the festival, which feels fantastic. The festival has been so supportive of my film; the film is getting the proper exposure that it needs." She'd love to leave with a distribution deal, she says, or at least after meeting some folks interested in her next project, a larger-budget narrative feature.
As for Harold, he seems content taking a break from playing a gay icon on the cult fave "Queer as Folk." "It's a new acting experience for me," he says. "All I care about is people's response to the movie. I'm on summer vacation [from the TV series]." Also, he added with a flirtatious smile, "It's not that hard for me to play straight."
SCRIPT PROGRAM WINNERS ANNOUNCED
The Tribeca/Sloan Film Program announced this year's winning screenwriters in the program: Nancy Isaak, an actress who previously made a short film, and Jonathan Morano, a script reader and editor. In addition to financial backing, the two budding filmmakers will get script development advice from Oscar winners Stephen Gaghan ("Traffic") and Eric Roth ("Forrest Gump"). Isaak and Morano will also work with an advisor from a relevant scientific field.
The program was started in August 2002 by the Tribeca Film Fest and Tribeca Film Institute with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to develop screenplays with scientific or technical themes. Isaak's script "Glow Worms" is about grade-school girls interested in science, and Morano's "Benjamin Garrett" is about a 12-year-old genius who befriends a 20-year-old misfit. The fest will host a reading of "Glow Worms," featuring Rory Culkin ("You Can Count on Me") and other actors today.