Paula Weinstein can’t remember the last movie she saw in the cinema.
“Oh, man,” Weinstein, chief content officer of Tribeca Enterprises and organizer of the 20th Tribeca Festivalhe said in a video call last week. “I don’t remember – it just went out of my head.”
The 12-day festival, often held in April, was canceled last year due to the pandemic. But with coronavirus cases plummeting across the country, he hopes this year’s event, which kicks off Wednesday with the world premiere of the musical film “In the Heights,” will once again help provide a catalyst. for the recovery of the city.
“I’m so excited to see people again, to hear them laugh, get together, have fun,” said Jane Rosenthal, co-founder and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises. “Everything the past 15 months have taken away.”
Rosenthal, a longtime film and television producer, first staged the festival with her production partner Robert De Niro and then-husband, Craig Hatkoff, in 2002, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. They wanted to bring people back downtown and stimulate the economic and cultural revitalization of Lower Manhattan, he said.
More than 150,000 people attended that event, and Rosenthal and Weinstein are hoping for a rerun this month. They scheduled nearly two weeks of in-person and online screenings of 66 feature films, selected from a record 11,222 submissions.
In separate video conversations last week, Rosenthal and Weinstein discussed changes at this year’s festival, how the challenges they faced are similar to those of the first Tribeca, and which films they are looking forward to. These are edited excerpts from conversations.
Tribeca normally takes place in April, so yours was one of the first events affected by the pandemic.
JANE ROSENTHAL We knew that if New York schools were going to close, we would have to make a breakthrough. Then came the order to stay at home. It was very sad, but we were going back to our origins of diving into the unknown.
What did you do instead?
ROSENTHAL We started publishing a short film a day, and then we figured out how to get film festivals around the world to participate curating a huge online festival together. We worked with YouTube and were one of 21 festivals – Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Tokyo, Sydney, Toronto, Sundance – which each handled about 10 hours of programming.
WEINSTEIN We are grumpy by nature. The only thing we know how to do in a crisis is to stand up and put one foot in front of the other.
What was happening in the world when you were planning the 2021 event?
ROSENTHAL It was shabby. Biden had not yet been elected. We were looking at how many people would go to the hospitals. Would it actually start to drop in warmer weather in the summer months? Could we do the festival outdoors and socially spaced?
WEINSTEIN Of course, there were moments of “OMG, will this really happen?” But when we opened submissions, we received more than 11,000 from filmmakers around the world, 7.5% more than last year and more than we’ve ever received.
What was the most challenging part of planning this year’s event?
WEINSTEIN We couldn’t run into each other’s offices and say, “I have this idea, what do you think?” Everything was so disciplined. It was like, “If I forget something in this meeting, I have to wait until the next Zoom.”
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ROSENTHAL The evolution of health and safety protocols.
The first Tribeca Film Festival was conceived as a way to bring people back to Lower Manhattan after 9/11. Jane, it was your idea, right?
ROSENTHAL I was obsessed with getting people back downtown. I said, “Why don’t we do a film festival?” I knew we would have at least one movie, “About a boy. ” [She was among the producers of that movie.] I felt that if I could produce a film in three months, I could do a film festival in three months. It’s really good that I was blissfully unaware of many of the problems we would have to face.
Do you have a similar goal to spark a recovery this year?
ROSENTHAL We have outdoor screenings ranging from Battery in Brooklyn to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx – we’re not alone in Lower Manhattan anymore. We are bringing films that will bring joy and importance to those communities and hopefully help stimulate some local economies and communities in a similar way to the first festival.
Do you think people are ready to return?
WEINSTEIN They are definitely ready from our response to the ticket. The directors are all from outside the state. One of them told me: “I don’t care if I have to rent a camper and sleep on the road, I’m getting there.”
What precautions are in place?
WEINSTEIN Where we can, we are expanding the number of posts to allow for more audiences. We will tell people to wear masks, but we will not limit it. We are following every possible guideline.
What will this year’s training be like?
WEINSTEIN A good portion of the films we wanted in 2020 will premiere at this year’s festival. We have 56 world premieres and 23 countries represented.
ROSENTHAL I am really proud of our representation. Over 60% of this year’s feature films were directed by women, people of color and LGBTQ + artists.
What are the films you are looking forward to the most this year?
ROSENTHAL One of my favorites is the documentary on Dick Gregory [“The One and Only Dick Gregory”], More “Marco, Maria and other people” by a young woman, Hannah Marks. It’s ours Virtual reality movies, edited by Loren Hammonds. There are so many great new voices.
WEINSTEIN I don’t want to choose! I feel so optimistic about all the young directors represented. So many of these films have been finished or shot according to Covid protocols and have done such a good job that I’m excited about the future of storytelling.
You removed “Film” from the festival name this year. Why?
ROSENTHAL We are looking at different ways to create an immersive experience, and as long as people tell a good story this should be part of what we do at Tribeca. This year we have stories based on games and podcasts from the competition. Ten years ago we screened our first video game, The black. We have always been at the forefront of seeing how we could shift our narrative to reach an audience.
WEINSTEIN We were simply looking for a way to embrace everything.
Could the transition to a summer festival be potentially permanent?
WEINSTEIN We haven’t discussed it yet. We did it this year because we knew we had to be outdoors to protect our audience. June felt right because we thought it wouldn’t be cold [and] the audience will be ready.
Will you continue to provide a streaming option for years to come?
ROSENTHAL It is definitely something we are trying to do. That said, I love the experience of sitting in a theater and watching movies with an audience, especially comedies. You don’t get the same pleasure from comedies alone as when someone next to you starts laughing because they suddenly get the joke.
Fill in the Blank: In ten years, Tribeca will be _________.
WEINSTEIN Open to new voices and new ways of telling stories, because we know the world will expand tremendously over the next 10 years.
ROSENTHAL Maybe we’ll make a movie in Fortnite or show movies from Mars!