Does it not seem likely (if not inevitable) that the Tribeca Film Festival will soon decide to become a mid-fall film festival, launching sometime in mid-October or thereabouts? I’ve been hearing that one for…I don’t know, two of three weeks? Or maybe it started when Geoff Gilmore left his Sundance post to become the new TFF honcho, and the talk just didn’t around to me until last month.
As the Tribeca Film Festival launches this evening with an opening-night screening of Woody Allen‘s Whatever Works, the back-in-New-York John Anderson essentially argues for a fall switchover in a Village Voice piece.
“Right now, fall is the New York Film Festival’s turf,” he explains. “Started in the ’60s, the NYFF — built around about two dozen of what are deemed the best films of the festival year — represents a kind of classic, Cannes-style, two-week-long soiree: black-tie on opening night, an audience largely of subscribers, and a selection of films that have either gotten distribution already, or probably won’t. As such, it’s a purely cultural event.
Tribeca, however, “currently dwells in no-man’s-land,” he says. “It hardly wants to be a springtime NYFF, but at the same time, it can’t be a major player in April because it doesn’t have the cachet to draw films away from next month’s Cannes, and is too long after January’s Sundance to get producers to hold off premiering there.
“[But] if Tribeca moved to the fall, it could free itself from the spring season’s logjam, wherein SXSW, the Los Angeles film festival, and even less competitively minded fests like San Francisco and Seattle vie for the same films. ‘It would be a roll of the dice,’ said Variety critic Todd McCarthy, ‘but if studios knew they could open films in November at Tribeca, they wouldn’t have to show them early in September at Toronto.’
TFF co-founder Jane Rosenthal “makes the very valid point that much of Tribeca is weather-dependent — the annual street fair and even the drive-in movies are springtime events. But the cachet of a late-October/early-November TFF — when distributors would be falling all over each other to premiere their awards-season films at a major New York festival — might be more than its organizers could resist.”
Rosenthal’s weather argument has convinced me that TFF is definitely planning a fall move because it’s so specious. Yes, New York City weather is a tad warmer in April than October, but not dramatically. Both months lean more towards pleasant and/or palatable than not. Okay, so you’d wear a sweater and jacket to a TFF street fair or drive-in movie in October…big deal.
“‘I think there are old models here,’ said Gilmore, asked to survey his new city and the future of festivals in general. ‘To be honest, that’s the kind of question I think about a lot: how to reinvent festivals, what they should be doing, whether or not their agendas– which have evolved greatly — need to be rethought completely.’
“It’s worth noting,” says Anderson, “that one of the things that occurred over the course of Gilmore’s tenure at Sundance was its transformation from a ‘discovery’ festival to a market and showcase. It’s probably a symptom of success, but thanks largely to Sundance, there’s no such thing as a discovery festival anymore. The feeding frenzy goes on all year long.”
The big Gilmore quote in Anderson’s piece, already pointed out by Spoutblog‘s Katrina Longworth, is a lulu: “When one considers what’s going on technologically and commercially, [Gilmore] said, there’s a real question about whether festivals ‘are going to be obsolete in a decade, because people won’t find them valuable anymore — they won’t be the platform from which people need to operate.'”
Oh, sure — let’s start junking all the film festivals as we approach 2020 and henceforth just stay indoors and watch all the new independent movies on our iMacs. Who needs to discover new movies communally? Who needs to fraternize, gauge the mood, sip wine, laugh, exchange opinions, and get an organic sense of things? Let all of that go. In fact, if we plan it right it ten years from now we can limit our social-contact activities to (a) grocery-buying, (b) visits to 24-Hour Fitness, (c) the occasional play, and (d) family and in-law visits.