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My Tribeca Film Festival Adventure Part One (probably 16th annual) started on Friday taking a two-hour train from Port Jervis, New York to Hoboken. There, I was able to afford a place to stay hopping over to Manhattan via the PATH train. My goal, such as it is for any film festival outside of my daily driving ability, was to find the Registration room, pick up my badge and get the lay of the land, jumping right into the action as the first weekend is usually insanely fast-paced.
According to the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival (April 24th to May 5th), info on their Squarespace redesigned website (for the second year as a sponsor), the 18th annual festival planned a showcase of works from emerging and new works from returning filmmakers. It was programmed from more than 9,295 submissions. “Our goal each year is to strike a balance between discovering new talent and showcasing new projects by notable filmmakers and storytellers.” I really don’t know how that would be possible. During the months before the festival, I had been inundated with press releases, updates, invites to the “red carpet only” (which I always markdown as “not interested”) special events and, what I had hoped for, more networking with the film industry, hence my upgrade to an Industry pass, this year.
The lineup included 81 World, three International, eight North American, one U.S., and ten New York premieres. Also, 42 first-time filmmakers and 19 Tribeca alums returned to the Festival with their latest projects. Why does this matter? Most film festivals strive for being the first to show a film believing it draws people to purchase tickets, most likely online purchases. It becomes a game for their competition as other festivals plan and promotes their line up and the timing of films finished and released is paramount for the next step. Timing is everything for when and where films screen often so they may be in a solid place for contention whether it is for an Oscar, a great international distribution deal, or streaming VOD deals.
This year’s features program included 103 films from 124 filmmakers. 50% of the films selected in the three competition sections were directed by women filmmakers. 40% of the feature films have one or more women directors, 29% of the feature films are directed by filmmakers of color, and 13% of the features are by individuals who identify as LGBTQIA. This too, matters, because the glass ceiling remains an elusive call for these filmmakers to come out and shatter it once and for all. While I was a bit surprised that there wasn’t a United Artists Centennial component to the schedule, it reminded me of the Universal debacle a couple of years ago where the moderator of the Universal Centennial panel discussion was totally unprepared for any discussion of cinema history and Robert DeNiro looked so uncomfortable tolerating the awkward topics brought up by Judd Apetow. However, panels were extremely popular and quickly sold out. A bit pricey at $40 per ticket.
Keeping an eye out for the women directors in features, I found that documentaries ruled in this weekend and evening schedule. They opened the festival and maintained its hold over the course of the first seven days with Opening Night film The Apollo; Friday night Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice; Saturday and Critics Week choice, American Factory; Sunday afternoon, Dog Doc; and in the evening, Halston; Monday, Inndda Back Yard+Performance and Tuesday, Say Anything, retrospective with Cameron Crowe, James L. Brooks, Ione Skye and John Cusack on a Skype screen. Wasn’t sure if I would get to see the premiere of Framing John DeLorean taking it in during a morning Press & Industry screening. The formula works for getting people to come out and stand online, despite the cold, raw rainy Friday night for the Ronstadt film. Many who tried to buy tickets online found it was Sold Out. As I note in many of my earlier blogs and podcasts, the Sold Out makes the screening more desirable. There isn’t any way out of that, but just as I say “there is always a parking spot,” there is always an extra ticket, somewhere, an empty seat, somewhere, at film festivals. Not everyone can make it and usually the people who have early access to tickets either don’t show up or hand them off to their publicists.
Fortunately for me, the publicist had a ticket for the World Premiere of Dog Doc on a Sunday afternoon, a packed house in Village East Cinemas. Check out the podcast with director Cindy Meehl and an incredibly hard-working and funny person in real life as he is in the documentary, Dr. Marty, veterinarian extraordinaire. Coming soon, Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Part Deux.