Paula Weinstein can’t remember the last movie she saw in a theater.
“Oh, golly,” said Weinstein, chief content officer of Tribeca Enterprises and organizer of the 20th Tribeca Festival, said in a video call last week. “I can’t remember – it’s gone so much out of my head.”
The 12-day festival, often held in April, was canceled last year due to the pandemic. But with cases of coronavirus across the country, he hopes this year’s event, which begins with the world premiere of the film musical “In the Heights” on Wednesday, will once again help provide a catalyst for the city’s recovery. Will do
“I’m so excited to see people again – to hear them laughing, gathering together, having fun,” said Jane Rosenthal, co-founder and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises. “The last 15 months have taken everything.”
Rosenthal, a longtime film and TV producer, staged the festival with her producer partner Robert De Niro and then-husband Craig Hattoff in 2002, shortly after the September 11 attacks. He said he wanted to bring people back to the city and promote the economic and cultural revival of Lower Manhattan.
More than 150,000 people attended that event, and Rosenthal and Weinstein look to play again this month. They have taken nearly two weeks of individual and online screenings of 66 feature films from a record 11,222 submissions.
In separate video conversations last week, Rosenthal and Weinstein discussed changes to this year’s festival, how the challenges they faced are similar to those of Tribeca before, and what films they are most looking forward to. . These are edited excerpts of the conversation.
Tribeca usually takes place in April, so yours was one of the earliest events affected by the pandemic.
jane rosenthal We knew that if New York schools were going to close, we had to pivot. Then came the order to stay at home. It was so sad, but we were going back to our core of diving into the unknown.
What did you do instead?
rosenthali we started putting out a short film one day, and then we thought about how to get to film festivals from all over the world organize a big celebration online Together. We worked with YouTube and were one of 21 festivals – Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Tokyo, Sydney, Toronto, Sundance – each of which did about 10 hours of programming.
weinstein We are timid by nature. The only thing we know how to do in a crisis is to get up and put one foot in front of the other.
What in the world was happening when you were planning the 2021 event?
rosenthali It was dark. Biden had not yet been elected. We were seeing how many people were going to hospitals. Will it really start going down in the warmer climates in the summer months? Can we do the festival outside and socially distance?
weinstein Of course, “OMG is this really going to happen?” What were the moments? But when we opened for submissions, we got more than 11,000 from filmmakers around the world — 7.5 percent from last year and more than we’d ever received.
What has been the most challenging part of planning this year’s event?
weinstein We couldn’t go 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’ll have to wait until the next Zoom.”
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rosenthali Changing health and safety protocols.
The first Tribeca Film Festival was conceived as a way to bring people back to Lower Manhattan after September 11th. Jane, that was your idea, wasn’t it?
rosenthali I was passionate about how to bring people back to the city. 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 thought if I can make a film in three months, I can do a film festival in three months. It’s really cool that I was unaware of many of the issues we were going to face.
Do you have a similar goal for recovery this year?
rosenthali We have outdoor screenings that go from Battery to Brooklyn to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx – we’re not just in Lower Manhattan anymore. We are bringing films that will bring joy and importance to those communities and hopefully help stimulate local economies and communities like the first festival did.
Do you think people are ready to come back?
weinstein They are certainly drawn from our ticket response. The filmmakers are all coming from outside the state. One of them told me, “I don’t care if I have to hire a camper and sleep on the way, I’m getting there.”
What are the precautions?
weinstein Where we can, we are increasing the number of seats to allow more spectators. We will ask people to wear masks, but we are not going to ban it. We are following all possible guidelines.
What does this year’s lineup look like?
weinstein A good chunk of the movies we wish we had in 2020 are premiering at this year’s festival. We have 56 world premieres and 23 countries are represented.
rosenthali I am really proud of my representation. More than 60 percent of feature films this year were directed by women, people of color and LGBTQ+ actors.
Which movies are you most looking forward to this year?
rosenthali One of my favorites is the documentary about Dick Gregory [“The One and Only Dick Gregory”], As well as “Mark, Mary and a few others” A Young Woman, by Hannah Marx. and our vr movies, curated by Lauren Hammonds. There are lots of great new voices.
weinstein I don’t want to choose! I feel very optimistic about all the young filmmakers I represent. Many of these films were finished or shot under the COVID protocol, and they did such a good job that excites me for the future of storytelling.
You have removed ‘film’ from the name of the festival this year. Why?
rosenthali We are looking at different ways to create an immersive experience, and as long as people are telling a good story, it should be part of what we do at Tribeca. This year, we have stories based on games and podcasts in competition. Ten years ago, we showed off our first video game, la noire. We have always been at the forefront of seeing how we can transform our story to reach the audience.
weinstein We were just looking for a way to embrace everything.
Could the move to the summer festival potentially be permanent?
weinstein We haven’t discussed this yet. We did it this year because we knew we had to be out to protect our viewers. June looked right because we thought it wouldn’t be cold [and] The audience will be ready.
Will you continue to provide streaming options in the coming years?
rosenthali This is definitely something we are looking to do. That said, I love the experience of sitting in a theater and watching movies with an audience – especially comedies. You don’t automatically get as much enjoyment from comedy as someone laughing next to you because suddenly they’ve got the joke.
Fill in the blanks: Ten years from now, Tribeca will _________.
weinstein Open to new voices and new ways of telling stories, as we know the world is going to expand greatly in the next 10 years.
rosenthali Maybe we’re making a movie in Fortnite, or showing movies from Mars!