Tribeca 2017 Critic’s Notebook: Performance Anxiety

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in The Trip to Spain

Ever searching for an identity, the Tribeca Film Festival returned — for a 16th time last week — to Midtown, the Upper West Side, Chelsea and, yes, the neighborhood for which it’s named. These days the festival never opens with a genuinely great (and thematically appropriate) film like Paul Greengrass’s United 93 or a goofy overstuffed blockbuster like J.J. Abrams’s Mission Impossible III, but usually with a low-key doc centered on iconic New York stuff: comedy (Bao Nguyen’s 2015 SNL doc opener Live from New York!), fashion (Andrew Rossi’s The First Monday in May, which opened last year’s edition) and music — the Nas doc which opened the 2014 edition or Chris Perkel’s Clive Davis: The Soundtrack to Our Lives, which opened this year’s. David Leitner…  Read more


Tribeca 2017: Alon Benari on the VR Thriller, Broken Night

Broken Night

Currently running at the Tribeca Film Festival’s Virtual Arcade, Broken Night is a psychological thriller featuring a quarrelling couple (Emily Mortimer and Alessandro Nivola), an intruder and a handgun. Distilling these elements into 11 taut minutes, the piece throws viewers not just into the action but into the unsteady point-of-view of the short’s protagonist, the wife played by Mortimer, who is trying to reconstruct the events of one violent evening for an investigating police detective. Using a VR headset and browser-based player, Broken Night allows viewers to slip in and out of the wife’s POV, making for her character the various choices she herself can’t remember whether she made or not. As Alon Benari, who, along with Tal Zubalsky and…  Read more


“Triangle Below Canada”: On Opening Night, the Tribeca Film Festival Marches North

Aretha Franklin at Radio City Music Hall, Opening Night 2017 Tribeca Film Festival

In the course of 85 years, the “Showplace of the Nation,” Radio City Music Hall, has hosted countless spectaculars, but few I suspect as geriatric as Wednesday night’s revue of strutting septuagenarians revisiting their classic hits from the AM radio era — Barry Manilow, Dionne Warwick, the late Maurice White (in the person of what’s left of Earth, Wind, and Fire), Carly Simon and Aretha Franklin. A few youngsters performed too, including Jennifer Hudson and Kenny G. You certainly wouldn’t mistake this for SXSW. Call it North by Northeast. (With a tip of the bowler to Hitch.) That would explain the choice of Andrew Cuomo, in full campaigning-for-something mode, to kick off the evening, the opening night of the 16th…  Read more


IFP Announces 10 Projects Selected for 2017 Screen Forward Labs

Angry Black Women

The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), Filmmaker‘s publisher, announced today the ten projects taking part in its third annual Screen Forward Lab for story-driven, serialized projects. Among the projects, which span web series, VR and cross-platform storytelling, are works set in the world of extreme sports, gentrified Brooklyn, and a youth rehab center. Characters include young scouts and their scoutmasters, a gay-curious heterosexual woman, and angry black women — the latter in the series, Angry Black Women. Screen Forward Lab creators begin their program today with five days of workshops and seminars at the Made in New York Media Center, where they will meet with Lab Leaders including Filmmaker 25 New Face Nadia Manzoor (Shugs and Fats), producer Jordana Mollick (Hello,…  Read more


Grass Roots Marketing, Speaking Fees for Filmmakers, Publicity Tips and the Release of I Am Not Your Negro at DOC NYC’s Marketing Bootcamp

I Am Not Your Negro

This is the third and final part of coverage of DOC NYC’s Marketing Boot Camp. (Read parts one and two here at the links.) Christie Marchese of Picture Motion, a marketing and advocacy firm for issue-driven films (Leonardo DiCaprio’s Before the Flood, Ava DuVernay’s 13TH, and Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next), gave a presentation on developing social action and grassroots marketing campaigns. She made the point that grassroots marketing and impact campaigns are two different things: grassroots marketing targets audiences who are pre-disposed to be interested in your film. Impact campaigns are geared toward those who aren’t organically interested. One of the key services Picture Motion provides during a film’s social action campaign is bringing on partners to help…  Read more


28 Tips on Crowdfunding and Promoting Your Film via Social Media from DOC NYC’s Marketing Bootcamp

(Photo: Hadrian / Shutterstock.com)

Continuing my coverage of DOC NYC’s Marketing Boot Camp (read part one here), this installment focuses on two information-packed presentations dealing with crowdfunding and promoting on social media. First up was Liz Cook, Director of Documentary Film at Kickstarter, who talked about the marketing and audience building and engagement aspects of crowdfunding. First, some basics. Most people know that Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing fundraising platform: if you reach your goal, you’ll receive all the money raised, minus fees. If you don’t, nothing will be charged to those who pledged, and you’ll get no money. Cook also relayed some interesting stats: • 30% of backers will be strangers • One in ten who back a campaign on the site back a…  Read more


Tribeca ’17: Five Questions with Water Warriors Director Michael Premo

Water Warriors

I saw Water Warriors in February, just a month after Donald Trump’s inauguration, during its world premiere at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Montana. The short film and multimedia photo exhibition provided an element of much-needed hope at a time when the environment is increasingly imperiled by big business interests. But rather than focusing on dire statistics and predictions about climate change, Water Warriors highlights a rare success story of ordinary citizens — including members of the Mi’kmaq Elsipogtog First Nation, French-speaking Acadians and white, English-speaking families in New Brunswick, Canada — who fight to protect their water from the oil and natural gas industry. In addition to doing the film festival circuit, Water Warriors is being presented in schools and communities around…  Read more


How To Cut a Trailer, “Audiencing” as a Verb, and Branded Content: A Report from DOC NYC’s Marketing Bootcamp

The Greatest Story Ever Sold (Daniel Marracino/Sony Pictures Classics)

On Thursday April 13, DOC NYC PRO put on an all-day conference they dubbed the “Documentary Marketing Bootcamp.” It was a densely programmed event promising filmmakers insight into audience building for non-fiction films as well as career development. The various speakers indeed had much insight to share to share on these topics, and my takeaways are below. Following an intro by DOC NYC Artistic Director Thom Powers, who promised a cocktail reception after the long day (well played!), there was keynote speaker Morgan Spurlock, who kicked things off with a roundup of his work. Like Alex Gibney, Spurlock is as much brand as filmmaker. Building on the success of his 2004 hit Super Size Me, he is one of a…  Read more



An audience at the Ragtag Cinema (Photo by Billie Stock, courtesy of Ragtag Film Society)

Projecting Outside the Echo Chamber

In the past decade, I have screened thousands of documentary festival submissions. That amounts to countless hours of observing — or, more often than not, being told about — the horrifying effects of war, discrimination, depression, censorship, animal slaughter, plastic bottles, shoddy reporting, asbestos and…  Read more

Apr 13, 2017

Festivals & Events

The Protectors: Walk in the Ranger's Shoes

28 Films, TV and VR Pieces We’re Excited About at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival

Kicking off tonight with an all-star Radio City concert following the premiere of the Clive Davis doc, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, the Tribeca Film Festival once more offers a near-overwhelming array of new work spread across not just film but TV, VR, gaming and…  Read more

on Apr 19, 2017

VOD Picks

  • La La Land Drama Musical Romance
    Official site
    4/25/17 MOD VOD
  • Jackie Biography Drama
    20th Century Fox
    Official site
    3/7/17 MOD VOD


Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle in A Quiet Passion

“The Language is Being Destroyed”: Terence Davies on A Quiet Passion

A Quiet Passion is a film of many firsts for Terence Davies: his first biopic, his first all-digital-feature, and — unexpectedly — his first work which, for a time, could pass for a comedy. Davies introduces Emily Dickinson as a young girl, spends the metaphorical first…  Read more

on Apr 13, 2017


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