Tribeca Film Festival Migrates Programs Online, Founder-CEO Jane Rosenthal Devastated ‘We Can’t Gather’ But Wants To Keep Filmmakers Connected

Jane Rosenthal Tribeca Film Festival
Tribeca Enterprises

The postponed Tribeca Film Festival will roll out elements online this month with films, juries, awards and a virtual hub to streamline it all, trying to keep the filmmaking community connected in the midst of a global pandemic that’s halted most of the entertainment industry.

The 19th annual festival, a sprawling melange of films, talks, events and street parties, had been slated for April 15 to 26. Instead, select programs will migrate online during those dates. A jury of Danny Boyle, Aparna Nancherla, Regina Hall, Yance Ford, Lucas Hedges, Pamela Adlon, Marti Noxon, Asia Kate Dillon and Sheila Nevins will select winners of a feature and shorts competition. The Tribeca X Awards will be handed out to branded content, Tribeca announced Friday.

The Tribeca Industry Extranet Resource Hub will host participating films for industry and press. The Extranet is the Festival’s online hub providing accredited industryites with resources for the program including rights availabilities and sales contacts.

Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival Co-Founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal told Deadline that it’s to early to talk about dates or plans for the delayed live festival but Tribeca is exploring holding a shorter event in the September slot typically reserved for the Tribeca TV Festival, which would be in its fourth year.

Meanwhile, the N.O.W. (New Online Work) section, sponsored by HBO, will host its fifth annual private industry market that brings together leading online, episodic and immersive storytellers. It includes the 2020 N.O.W. Showcase creators, the 2020 TribecaTV Pilot Season creators and an additional curated group of online, indie episodic and VR writers, performers and influencers to pitch new projects to distributors, production companies, streamers, and online platforms.

Tribeca Immersive’s audience-facing Cinema360 will debut in partnership with Oculus with 15 VR films curated into four 30-40 minute programs. The public can access Cinema360 via Oculus TV, for Oculus Go and Oculus Quest and participate from home if they have Oculus headsets.

“As human beings, we are navigating uncharted waters,” Rosenthal said. “While we cannot gather in person to lock arms, laugh, and cry, it’s important for us to stay socially and spiritually connected. Tribeca is about resiliency, and we fiercely believe in the power of artists to bring us together. We were founded after the devastation of 9/11 and it’s in our DNA to bring communities together through the arts.”

The online festival follows initiatives by Tribeca over the past several weeks like A Short Film a Day Keeps Anxiety Away, a daily curated online short film series from festival alums; Soundtrack Sunday, live performances of celebrity soundtrack selections; and #TribecaTakeoutChallenge, an Instagram campaign to inspire people to support their local restaurants while watching their favorite film.

Helping organize events are circa 100 seasonal workers Tribeca hires each year in the build-up to the live festival. It kept them on after the event was postponed, Rosenthal said.

Describing how events unfolded, she said indications of trouble came early from the Tribeca Games Festival, which launched in 2017 as a two-day gaming event within the larger festival. “A number of the participants were coming from Japan or LA and Sony PlayStation had enforced a travel ban, Casey Baltes [VP of programming for games at Tribeca] started feeling it very, very early.”

“We are an international festival,” she said, and continued “to plan for the best festival ever and prepare for alternatives.” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s March 12 order against gatherings of 500 people made it clear festival couldn’t go. Broadway was told to shut down the same day. The NBA canceled games the night before. “Initially we were looking at moving it up a couple of weeks,” she said. But the rapid spread of infection and social distancing policies quickly froze events around the world indefinitely.

The postponement hit particularly because of the festival’s background, she said. It emerged in a rushed 120 days literally out of the rubble of 9-11 to give people in the city a gathering place.

“It was still smoking. People were afraid to come downtown. We wanted to give our neighborhood something to come out to do. To give them a reason to socialize and laugh. The coronavirus works completely against the activist spirit we were founded in. So I think that what I personally am struggling with in this environment is that the very thing that brought us all together – is just what we can’t do now,” she said. “We can’t gather.”

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