Rooftop launched illegally in 1997 on the roof of Rosenberg's apartment, a six-story walkup at 13th and 1st. That was the year's only Rooftop screening; this summer, Rooftop will host 47 shows that include 32 features and 15 short-film programs.
The company has expanded well beyond its initial humble program of short films: in addition to year-round entertainment that incorporates parties, Q&As and live music. it houses the AT&T-sponsored Rooftop Filmmakers Fund, an annual $10,000 grant that goes to a single Rooftop filmmaker, and a youth education program that brings film education and equipment rentals to New York schools.
Rosenberg credits Rooftop's long-term survival to a couple of key moments. "In 2003, we knew we had to find enough to get paid. It was an important time for us as an organization and we didn't try to start with a staff of five," he said. "We learned what would work and didn't before we committed too many resources. That carried us through many minor crises. When we lost some sponsors in 2009, we knew it wouldn't be the end of the organization."
Meanwhile, the screenings might include a haunted house or Nixon impersonators at an 'Our Nixon' screening. They're particularly looking forward to a July 14 screening of "Brasslands," a documentary about a Serbian brass band festival that will recreate the event with four bands at the World Financial Center.
"Largely, the vision is more of the same," said Nuxoll. "We care about the style of
exhibition we provide. The need for the kind of spectacle is important to the film world."
"'Beasts of Southern Wild.' We gave a grant back in the early stages of preproduction and watch it develop into the masterpiece," said Rosenberg. "There was a free screening in New Orleans community... that was a magical night."
Said Nuxoll, "Seeing films I love struggle in the marketplace having trouble reaching audiences after their festival run... I don't think people have a lot of answers in how to fix that entirely."
"From an organizational standpoint, we face logistic challenges that are legal and as a nonprofit we struggle to meet the needs from a financial standpoint," said Rosenberg.
Rosenberg's long-term vision includes taking Rooftop to other cities -- with Los Angeles at the top of the list -- and securing a permanent Rooftop home in New York. "We've done other screenings in the US and abroad, but we'd like to come up with something more formalized and long term."