After a decade with Tribeca Film, today is Nancy Schafer’s last day as executive director of the Tribeca Film Festival and executive VP of Tribeca Enterprises. She’s written a piece about her time with the organization, watching its evolution and where it might go in the future. We’re happy to publish it.
For the past 10 years, I have been part of an excellent team at Tribeca. In what is a bittersweet move for me, I have decided to step down from my position as Executive Director of the Tribeca Film Festival and Executive Vice President of Tribeca Enterprises.
In 2002, under the leadership of co-founders Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff, the Festival began and I was fortunate to be on the original team. The Festival started as a 5-day response to the attacks of September 11, designed to bring business back to downtown Manhattan and support filmmakers and artists. It has evolved into a major event both on the global stage and for film lovers in New York City. In my role first as a programmer, later as the Managing Director and most recently as the Executive Director, I have had the pleasure of helping the Festival grow into a 12-day event that showcases filmmakers from around the world, welcoming hundreds of thousands of attendees as well as filmmakers, speakers and special guests. From the variety of stories from around the world in each film slate to the free community events in the neighborhood, Tribeca has become a reflection of the city itself—diverse, passionate, engaged, creative, demanding.
Tribeca is a daring organization. Our sister not-for-profit, the Tribeca Film Institute, runs some of the most respected film programs in the country. Some encourage kids to develop an interest in film; others fund and support narrative and documentary filmmakers and emerging storytellers. Tribeca Enterprises, the parent company of the Festival, has created a partnership for a festival in Doha, Qatar; launched a film distribution company with our partners at American Express; hosted festival events around the United States; and become a partner in a media arts academy in Chicago. I have been lucky enough to be involved in aspects of all of these programs, particularly the distribution platform, Tribeca Film, which I oversaw and developed alongside my colleagues Geoff Gilmore, Chief Creative Officer of Tribeca Enterprises, and Todd Green, General Manager of Tribeca Film, among others.
For the near future, I’m going to continue as a consultant to the Festival. I also plan to focus on working more closely with filmmakers, using the experience I have had at Tribeca with identifying and building audiences, working with brands, and creating workable distribution models. The team at Tribeca has created a remarkably strong media brand and works daily to expand the audience for film. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to be part of that team.
When Jane and Bob were considering the first festival, the goals were simple – to bring downtown back and to unite the community through film. No one had any idea what would grow from that initial seed. Eleven years later, Tribeca has turned out to be so much more than just another film festival, and I am honored to have been a part of it. Through a combination of luck and hard work, I have been part of the inception of two of this country’s great film festivals, Tribeca and SXSW, which I produced for its first eight years. After 18 years in the festival trenches, I am ready for new experiences. The fun part is that I can be open to new opportunities as they arise. If there is anything my decade at Tribeca has taught me, it’s that. — Nancy Schafer