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New York is the city that never sleeps, so why would it wait a night to start celebrating the opening of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival?
Vanity Fair threw a gala at the State Supreme Courthouse in downtown Manhattan that included a red carpet line just beyond its massive, lit-up front steps. Festival co-founders Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal were on hand — with varying degrees of press availability — while Katie Couric, Oscar nominee Demian Bichir, Billy Crystal, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and director-producer Judd Apatow, whose film The Five-Year Engagement opens the festival Wednesday night, also made appearances.
As reporters jockeyed for position, The Hollywood Reporter was able to speak with a number of the big names who made time for the press.
THR: What’s your favorite New York movie?
Apatow: My favorite New York movie might be The King of Comedy. I love King of Comedy. Martin Scorsese, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard and [Robert] De Niro, he’s here tonight. Everyone here is better dressed than me. What’s happening? I thought this was like a film festival and you don’t dress up.
THR: I think you look the part. [note: Our reporter was dressed exactly the same as Apatow: plaid shirt, jeans and sneakers.]
Apatow: I didn’t know. I guess, right? I look like you. Maybe I should just get behind this bar and interview people.
THR: What do you think makes the perfect New York movie?
Apatow: That’s a very good question. It has to be packed with Italians or Jewish people. That’s pretty much it. Who are either neurotic or violent.
THR: You showed A Better Life at Tribeca last year. What is the journey like, showing a film at all these festivals and riding it all the way to the Oscars?
Bichir: It’s always really interesting, taking your film everywhere, having screenings here and there, Q&As and hearing what people have to say about your film and being at beautiful events like this. This is really cool. This is an extra gift that your profession gives you, that you can attend these kinds of places, walk the same side of the street as Robert De Niro, that’s really great.
THR: How have the scripts that you’ve received since the Oscar nomination changed?
Bichir: That’s interesting. There are many, many interesting things out there, and we’re reading a lot. There are many opportunities, and we’re trying to make the right choice.
THR: Are your phones all of a sudden ringing a lot more?
Bichir: Not really. Pretty much the same. But that’s OK because I’m doing this play in Mexico City, and it’s been great. People are packing the theater, and that’s a good thing.
THR: What can you tell us about Savages?
Bichir: Savages is going to be ready in July, I think. And I haven’t seen the film, but I talked with [director] Oliver [Stone], and he said he was very happy with the results. He says it was pretty savage.
THR: How was it working with him as a director?
Bichir: He’s an experienced guy; he’s really, really great. He’s made some of the films that I grew up loving — that I still love — and he’s intense intelligent, clear, very direct kind of director. You want that in a director.
THR: Are there any other directors you want to work with going forward?
Bichir: Oh, many. Robert De Niro is one, because I love his films, too. But yeah, Jim Jarmusch and of course Woody Allen and Scorsese and all those guys. Terry Malick. You know the list.
THR: What’s your favorite film set in New York?
Bichir: Ahh, ha. Manhattan could be one of them. Taxi Driver, of course. What else … Annie Hall. I mean, Woody Allen, I’m telling you.
Jane Rosenthal, co-founder, Tribeca Film Festival
THR: When you started the film festival, did you imagine it getting this big?
Rosenthal: When we started, all I could imagine was just trying to bring people downtown after September 11th, and quite honestly, after that first festival, I didn’t realize that I had signed multiyear deals with sponsors and I had to do it again. So that was a big surprise to me after the first one. That said, to be here 11 years later is pretty extraordinary and quite a testament to our extraordinary team that has built the festival.
THR: You have a mix of big box-office movies and indie films; how do you strike that balance?
Rosenthal: The big pictures draw attention to the festival, and they draw attention to what else you want to see at the festival. And that’s the film that you’re going to discover, and that’s a discovery picture that’s a wonderful doc, a wonderful narrative, and that’s what we’re about. New Yorkers wouldn’t settle for one or the other, and New Yorkers are game for anything, and I think that’s what’s special about what we program.
THR: Have you noticed a difference in submissions during the past11 years? How have things changed?
Rosenthal: The first festival we did in 120 days. We were lucky to have a movie in the festival that first year, and now filmmakers plan for us. What’s wonderful is to be able to have returning filmmakers and filmmakers that plan for being in Tribeca. We’ve grown, we’re stronger, and we’re more mature now.
Geoffrey Gilmore, chief creative officer, Tribeca Enterprises
THR: What does it take to be a Tribeca film versus being in other festivals?
Gilmore: You know, I think there’s a lot of different agendas at every film festival that are unique. I think the thing about Tribeca that makes it feel so special is that we’ve got no boundaries. We can do whatever we want. We can showcase that big studio film and we showcase — really, I think — small, interesting, independent works and a lot of international films. There’s a sports documentary program that we have, and we have documentaries on the opening of the Metropolitan’s new Ring cycle. It’s really the spectrum of what we can do. You don’t feel any constraints in terms of what you can program and what you can think about.
THR: Eleven years in, what’s the difference in what you’re receiving in terms of submissions?
Gilmore: I think every festival goes through a kind of trying to find itself. When this festival first started, it had a really specific agenda, which was how are we going to revitalize the downtown community after 9/11? That was a very specific agenda, and in a short period of time, it grew out of it. And then it was sort of searching at different times for what it was going to do, and now we’re really in the festival that you might say is about three different things: It’s about discovery; it’s really, in many ways, about industry; and it’s about what it’s always been about, which is community. And to the degree that we can be innovative and that we can really help reinvent what film festivals can be about, we’re really looking forward to that.
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