Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lessons from Tribeca

I've just gone through my well-worn festival program and determined that I saw 12 films in 11 days. It was a gluttonous feast. And satisfying. While I didn't love everything I saw, there wasn't an outright stinker. (Wait, there was. But I've nearly forgotten it!)

Since this year was the deepest I've ever sunk myself in the event, I figure I should summarize some of the things I've learned (both to remember them myself and to help future TFF goers).

1. Consider a festival pass if you plan to binge. I jumped into Tribeca planning late -- about a week before it opened -- and most of the interesting movies (including anything with a name actor or director) were sold out online. I finished nearly two books waiting in rush lines. While there was something Zen and communal about that experience, I wouldn't sign up for it again. If you want to see a lot of festival movies, mark your calendar for mid-March and sign up for one of the multi-ticket packages that allow you to reserve seats before the general online sale date. The premium you pay for these (about $20 instead of $15 for regular single tickets) will be well worth the time you save. If you're an AmEx member, definitely take advantage of your early purchase privileges. Assholes.

2. Skip anything with an imminent wide release.
I didn't necessarily do this, and I wish I had. It just doesn't make sense to kill yourself getting into something at Tribeca when it's going to screen in a regular (probably half-empty) theater in a few weeks. For example, why did I endure a fruitless 90-minute wait for The Girlfriend Experience when it's out in New York on May 22? The only reason to see something like that at Tribeca is so you can be the douchebag who tells all your friends you saw it four weeks early. That's not a good reason. I'd look on Yahoo! Movies (or whatever source you prefer) and cross off anything with a release inside of three months.

3. Stick to documentaries and foreign films. This is part individual preference, part savvy analysis of the film market. First, the subjective. I feel like you go to a film fest to discover cool stuff you'd never see otherwise. To me that means the newest thing by the Turkish master of zombie horror. Or a portrait of the lives of truffle farmers. Not a quirky romantic comedy with second-tier American TV actors. Which leads to the second point. Among indie movies trying to promote themselves in spring, Tribeca is third in the festival line behind Sundance and SXSW. The projects with the best pedigrees have already been skimmed off the top. Tribeca will still have some fun American stuff, but why cast about for the one decent title among 10 duds? I suppose the pecking order affects foreign and documentary fare as well, but the Hollywood popularity contest seems more strongly in play with the U.S. narratives. That said, my favorite movie this year (TiMER) was a quirty romantic comedy with second-tier American TV actors. So maybe you should ignore everything I've said.

Finally, allow me to suggest a bit of Tribeca etiquette. This has less to do with your enjoyment of the festival than improving the collective experience.
  • Cutting is a reality in the rush line. I wish the Tribeca organizers policed this to ensure complete fairness, but since that's never going to happen, I encourage all festival goers to limit place-holding to one or, at most, two friends. Letting in three or more is just egregious. To the few people who did this, I have no doubt that karma will catch up with you and it will be a bitch.
  • If you have extra tickets that you can't use, do the right thing and donate them or sell them to the front of the rush ticket line (or, in the case of selling, the first person willing to pay). Sure, you could walk down the line and play Santa Claus with the guy who looks like your brother or the girls in cute tank-tops, but that's a real kick in the balls to the person who's been standing there for two hours at the front of the line. A little decency goes a long way.
See you in 2010!

1 comment:

  1. Why didn't you warn me to not watch Marley and Me! C'mon Dustin...I need a reliable film critic...I'm giving you another chance!