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The Influence

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." 

Biggest Success

"'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."

Biggest Disappointment

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."

Biggest Challenge

"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.

What's Next

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."

The Survey
My Biggest Career Break...
Sending out a mass email on April Fools Day 2006 saying that Rooftop Films had been sold to Miramax. The head of the Sundance Institute at the time, Ken Brecher, saw the email, loved it, and got in touch.
Best Filmmaker Working Today...
Brent Green
A Guilty Pleasure Movie...
"What Is Paper Mache?"
My First Job...
Bike messenger
The age that Mark Elijah got his first job
5 Festivals
Attended this year by Mark Elijah
The average amount that Mark Elijah travels for work each year
Mark Elijah has been to the Sundance Film Festival
The Survey
My Biggest Career Break...
Having an oddly permissive landlord. I converted some warehouses to loft apartments in Bushwick after college and the landlord agreed to let us use the magnificent roof for free, which allowed us to continue Rooftop Films screenings from 1998‐2002. We eventually had to move on to other locations, but those were important years.
Best Filmmaker Working Today...
I generally decline to answer this question, but I suppose if I was forced to chose one I would say Michael Haneke. I realize it isn't a bold choice, but you can talk to ten different people who love Amour and have ten entirely different conversations. I think he creates films as psychologically complex as anyone working today.
A Guilty Pleasure Movie...
Any Verhoeven film made between 1987 and 1997. I will never comprehend how those films got made or how they turned out so perfectly.
My First Job...
When I was in elementary school I helped out at the family‐owned deli down the block from my house in exchange for free Yoo‐Hoo and Yodels. One summer the owner committed suicide with a shotgun and that was the end of that. A little dark, I know, but you asked...
The age that Dan got his first job
Attended this year by Dan
The average amount that Dan travels for work each year
Dan has been to the Sundance Film Festival