The Festival Experience: One Blogger, One Day @ Tribeca

by Shala · May 5, 2014 · Articles, Features · No Comments

Tribeca_Film_Festival_2014It’s Shala from Life Between Films. Here for you to enjoy is another edition of ‘One Blogger, One Day’, the collaboration series by bloggers attending film festivals. This year for the recent Tribeca Film Festival, the festival started by Robert DeNiro as a way to support NYC after 9/11, four bloggers (Iba, Shane, Erica, and I) got together to document their personal experiences. Here is our stories:


THURSDAY, APRIL 17, 2014
Shala (@shalathomas) from Life Between FilmsOBOD - Tribeca 2014.005

Gabriel: The film opens with Gabriel (Rory Culkin) on a bus home from the asylum that he has called home for years. He is being released into the care of his family to see just how capable he is in assimilating and taking care of himself in the real world. This will be his last chance to prove to everyone that he doesn’t need constant supervision. However, the first chance he gets, Gabriel escapes to the college of a girl named Alice, someone with who he shared a childhood romance but lost contact with after his unnamed mental illness drove him from the life he knew. His sole mission become apparent: he is looking for her in order to find the happiness and stability that he feels eludes him and which he feels only she can provide.

Gabriel makes a number of attempts to find her but is thwarted at every turn by his older brother Matt (David Call) and mother (Deirdre Call) who sees in Gabriel the same anguish that befell his father. Because of it, they make concerted efforts decipher just want would make Gabriel happy but miss the mark every time. 

Only two things stand out in Gabriel: Rory Culkin’s commanding performance as the ticky, mentally disturbed young man who looks for love in the wrong place while his family’s love is apparent to everyone both him and said family dynamic which lifts the film to its peak when all involved are confronted with each, and in turn their deficits in helping him. Unfortunately, the film as a whole is listless as it favors long sequences of Gabriel’s long journeys when the action at the destinations are far more interesting.

As a credentialed member of the press this year for TFF, I covered the red carpet of Jesse Zwick’s debut film About Alex. I had some much fun interacting and photographing this great cast (in my opinion, the best of the entire festival), especially Jason Ritter and Max Greenfield. Here are my favorite shot of the night:

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-–> I posted a mini photo album of my entire time at Tribeca 2014 including more photos from the red carpet. Start here.

About Alex: We meet Alex (Jason Ritter) has the film opens, dressed in a suit, climbing into a filled bathtub and leaving a Shakespearean quote on social media, all in preparation for his suicide. One by one, his college friends, who have since avoided his calls and neglected remaining in close touch as their own disappointments and shortcomings take hold of time and energy, hear about his attempt to take his life. This spurns them into action to gather together at his country cabin to surprise him when he is released from the hospital.

The cast who take on the roles of Alex’s old friends are stellar here. They come to represent different aspects of people who have all known from our school days, with fresh takes and modern ideologies. You have Sarah (Aubrey Plaza), the one who takes on the role of Alex’s overbearing caregiving much to the chagrin of those around her, potentially to fill her own need for connection; PhD student Josh (Max Greenfield), the obvious smarty of the group, whose lack of academic achievement has turned him cynical; moneyed Issac (Max Minghella) whose business savvy has made him the envy of his friends; Siri (Maggie Grace) and Ben (Nate Parker), the group’s prom king and queen or sorts whose fairy tale romance is not all it seems.

We come to learn, question, and debate a number of issues surrounding human relationships during their time together that have colored many of our own experiences. Things that include the real motivations behind Alex’s actions and just what he comes to represent to each of his friends; passing social media off as an adequate replacement for deeply personal phone calls and face-to-face visits; messy sex and love entanglements that infuse friends with tension.These are not new ideas but using them to frame this group of almost-30s as they enter a new chapter in their lives is what arouses interest in About Alex. It stands as a great entry into the reunion dramedy genre that veils its commentary on the disconnective digital age with witty banter & care. 

 

FRIDAY, APRIL 18, 2014
Iba (@iluvcinema) from I Luv Cinema

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My Tribeca 2014 experience was jammed full of wonderful journeys into the world of film; this “Day in the Life” contribution was just one of them.

On Friday evening, April 25th, I attended the panel entitled Shooting and Scoring, moderated by journalist Wesley Morris and featuring ESPN Films’ Vice President/Executive Producer of Original Content Connor Schell and filmmaker Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, State of Play documentary series for HBO). 

The online Tribeca Film Festival Program Guide best synopsizes the conversation:

What makes the audience leap out of their seats in victory? What makes us cheer with every goal, touchdown, or homerun, and our hearts drop when our favorite teams lose? And just how do you tell a true sports story? 

The evening started with the panelists establishing the benchmark or standard-bearer of the best contemporary examples of sports films. From their collective points of view, Friday Night Lights and Hoops Dreams stood out above all other films of the past 20 years as achieving the goal of telling groundbreaking sports stories through the medium in a compelling way. 

The talk then broadened out and centered on how the collision of culture, society and sports combine to enrich their stories and the audience response and reaction that follows from the experience. One concept that struck a chord with me focused on the sports film as just one of “our windows in” to examining our world at large. 

Mr. Berg elaborated further as he discussed his experiences making Friday Night Lights, first as a motion picture and later as a TV program. He credits a college course in cultural anthropology as key to giving him the ability to gain the necessary insight and skills immerse himself in and observe the rites and rituals of a group of people. This was, in his opinion, allowed him to bring the story of Friday Night Lights to the screen and could possibly explain why the film and television show connected so strongly with the audience. So while the viewer was brought in by the tension and excitement of the sports action, the show also operated on an emotional level by making the audience members connected and invested the interpersonal relationships portrayed. He also talked about some of the more technical aspects of the production process they used in the Friday Night Lights television series that gave it a grounded, cinematic look that had not previously been seen in the format.

For his part, Mr. Schell discussed the overwhelming popularity of ESPN’s “30 for 30” series and what he thinks makes it tick.  Schell shared with the audience anecdotes of how the runaway success of their original content development has led to suggestions and recommendations from all corners of the sports world. He also revealed that when they were initially developing this documentary series for ESPN, they targeted their outreach to a select set of filmmakers, based on their strength in bringing sports stories to the screen. Among the first in the crop of directorial talent they called upon? – co-panelist Peter Berg. 

There was certainly several more points brought up in the hour, but as the conversation continued, I stopped taking notes altogether and just sat there, reveling in the moment.

It was a lively engaging talk, followed by an equally enthusiastic question and answer session. For a lover of sports and a lover of sports films, this was a great and rare opportunity to hear from the creators how they decide what stories they need or want to tell and how they go about that process. 


SATURDAY, APRIL 19, 2014

Erica (@theNYCFilmChick) from The NYC Film Chick 

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Thank God for VOD. Seriously, it’s a blessing. The fact that I can watch films from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival and not have to leave my room is a luxury. Sometimes I have seen films and thought, “Man, I wish I had actually experienced this with an actual audience.” This is not one of those times.
I was really looking forward to seeing the Irish comedy The Bachelor Weekend. It seemed like a light hearted, funny, brofest from across the pond, and it was on the top of my “must see” list. I chose to watch it On Demand, since I had fallen ill that week, and couldn’t make it to any of the screenings.
The Bachelor Weekend (or formally titled The Stag) is a story about a group of friends who decide to go out into the wilderness to celebrate their mate’s pending nuptials. However, each one of them has their own respective issues that are soon dealt with while braving the elements and trying to survive the weekend. “Uninspired” is the word I would use to describe this film. It has all the basic components of your typical “male bonding” film like The Hangover (nudity, sex jokes, gay jokes, crazy hijinks, ect.), but it just wasn’t all that funny to me. Some of the characters were very one dimensional with no real development whatsoever. It felt like I was watching an incomplete film, and I was just waiting for something more (anything really!)
I did have a few chuckles, however. Peter McDonald (The Machine. Yes, that’s his name throughout the entire movie) who plays the crass older brother of the Bride, is really the only person carrying this film (and seems to overshadow the rest of the cast.) Which is disappointing, because you have some really talented actors, who could’ve been used much better. This film would be perfect to view on Netflix, on a lazy afternoon. The Bachelor Weekend is not bad, but it’s defiantly a missed opportunity for what could’ve been a really funny film. 


SUNDAY, APRIL 20, 2014

Shane (@filmactually) from Film ActuallyOBOD - Tribeca 2014.008

Sunday April 20th was my first official day at Tribeca, after using the previous two days to watch some films in the Tribeca Film Festival Online Competition (a very convenient service, especially if you can’t make it to the festival). I got up bright and early, grabbed a bite to eat at Zucker’s Bagels & Smoked Fish (the Grand Central location) and headed to the AMC Loews Village 7 for my first screening at 11:30 am- Alex of Venice.

The film was quite enjoyable, mainly for the strong performances from its cast. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was particularly good in the titular role (a workaholic attorney whose husband abruptly leaves her) as well Don Johnson, who plays her aging father. The script struggles to support the subplots surrounding Alex’s son’s issues at school and her sister’s involvement in their lives, but the acting definitely elevates the material.
After the screening I went back to my friend’s apartment to write my review and then we had some delicious Thai food in Midtown (I can’t remember the name of the restaurant). I then prepared for my 2nd screening of the day – Every Secret Thing.
This buzzy film (starring Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks and Dakota Fanning) was having its red carpet world premiere at the BMCC Tribeca Performance Arts Center and of course, it was “sold out” pretty quickly and I couldn’t get a ticket. Fortunately, Tribeca is famous for its rush ticket system so I tried my luck in the rush line. As a first-timer I was still a bit skeptical, but I made sure to be there at the suggested time of 45 mins prior to the screening. I was about 20th in line and the rush line indeed lived up to its reputation. Nearing showtime I was promptly ushered in to buy my ticket.
As it turns out, Every Secret Thing ended up being my favourite of the festival. It’s a chilling, disturbing crime drama but its reels you in from start to finish. Based on Laura Lippman’s novel of the same name, it tells a story of missing children with a pair of young women at the center of it as the prime suspects. I haven’t read the novel, but Nicole Holofcener did a fine adaptation. It strays into pulpy territory at times but the filmmaking is impressive overall.
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 With about 1 1/2 hours to kill before my last screening of the day (another world premiere at the same venue), I grabbed dinner at the nearby Shake Shack. After devouring my meal, I had my first minor crisis of the festival. To explain, the Tribeca Film Festival uses a handy mobile app (Eventbrite) to have your tickets scanned straight from your phone. It’s very useful but unfortunately for me, my phone’s battery was dying! Completely flustered with no printed copy of the ticket, I decided to hail a taxi back to Midtown for a quick 10-minute recharge. After all this hustle and bustle, I thankfully managed to make it back at 9:30pm sharp, just as the film was scheduled to begin.
The film was Boulevard and it starred Robin Williams as a married man who finally comes to terms with his homosexuality after meeting a young male prostitute. Now admittedly, I was a bit lethargic at this point (a result of the long day and the double cheeseburger and fries). I therefore struggled to fully engage with the film and its exceedingly sombre tone didn’t help. I was quite underwhelmed by it, apart from Robin Williams’ excellent performance. 
The excitement surrounding the premiere ended up being the most memorable aspect for me. The film’s director Dito Montiel is a local New Yorker and he clearly had a lot of support in the crowd. I had never experienced something like this before, where persons were applauding each name that appeared in the opening credits. At the post-screening Q&A there was even more cheering when Montiel himself came on stage. I don’t know if these fans were just part of his production team, but I could definitely feel the love. 
After the film, I headed home and soon passed out, thus completing my eventful day at the Tribeca Film Festival.

–> Shane wraps up his festival experience here

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If you are planning on attending a major festival in 2014 and beyond, please contact me at lifebetweenfilms@gmail.com or hit me up on twitter (@shalathomas). We are keeping this thing going and would love to have you participate. 

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